Teaching and Learning in a Net-Centric World

New Open Access M-Learning Book

This is the second book in the series Issues in Distance Education from Athabasca University Press. I am the series editor, and wrote the forward to this text, so obviously there is lots of room for conflict of interest (though no pecuniary gain) in this review.

The book is edited and contains an introduction by Athabasca University professor Mohamed Ally. The text consists of 3 sections:

Section 1:  Advances in  Mobile Learning might better be titled ‘Where we are at – an overview and theory’, in that it contains only two chapters, one over-viewing the field, the second providing a model for thinking about that field. The first chapter by John Traxler nicely overviews current work, conferences, models, issues and applications contexts for mobile learning. If you are looking for the executive summary of m-learning this would be the chapter to read. Marguerite Koole authors the second chapter and expounds upon her FRAME model. This model uses a familiar 3 circle Venn diagram to detail the technology (device aspects), user (learner aspect) and context (social aspect) that define the salient variables of mobile learning. She uses these contexts and their various intersections, to create a checklist and a holistic mnemonic for planning and delivering  m-learning  applications.

Section 2  – Research on Mobile Learning presents  four chapters , but I had trouble differentiating this sections from the case studies, as each involves a look at a particular context with various levels and quantities of research to defend the claims for efficacy and interest. The first chapter relates the work of NKI and the infusion of some EU dollars to study impact of M learning on ‘traditional’ distance education. The second looks at an applied, professional degree nursing, and how mobile learning bridges (or tries to) the chasm between institutional and practicum learning.  The third chapter in this section covers m-learning in its natural domain of informal learning. The final chapter in this section describes interviews with m-learning’s current establishment, the manufacturers, businesses and professional educators, showing that e-learning is most important  outside if its still limited  and constrained role in formal education.

The final 3rd section Applications of Mobile Learning, presents  seven case studies demonstrating m-learning. The context of these cases ranges from museums, to teacher education, to tourism. Each has an interesting tale to tell. I was especially interested in the chapter by the folks from London Metropolitan University on design of multimedia learning objects and the description of design tool to aide in developing learning objects.  Obviously, we need to move beyond early innovators “rolling their own” to economies of scale and useful tools that allow and invite the majority  into the m-learning game – as creators, learners and teachers.

In summary this is a good read and reference – full of theory, stories and tips from the bleeding edge. The text is very professionally produced with abstracts, glossary and index. I could whine on and on about the lack of rigorous empirical study, deep ethnographic analysis or even engaging critical studies. However I’m sadly aware that government, business  and educational institutions don’t get either m-learning nor the educational tools developed to measure their effect – yet! In the meantime these are interesting and valuable small scale implementations, pilots and tests – forecasting  a world infused with mobile communications technologies and thoughtful educators and trainers.

Of course the price is right – free download as an open educational resource with a Creative Commons license! But keep in mind the opportunity you may have of supporting an open access press by purchasing a copy or two as a gift, for your institutional or personal library or just to pay for good value. Available for  $39.95 Canadian  paper or free download (click on ebook).

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