iAlja's blog

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M-learning (short for mobile learning) is another form of learning I’m really interested in. As a matter of fact, I’ve been a real fan of mobile phones for a few years now - which is funny because when they first became popular I didn’t want to have one for quite some time (that was because I actually don’t like having phone conversations much). I think my love affair with mobile phones was born when they started adding extra features like e-mail reading applications that suddenly made me feel like I can connect to the Internet! And nowadays we have even better access to the Internet and many other features that don’t have much in common with telephony. For example, I recently got a new mobile phone (Sony Ericsson Z610i) and I’m just amazed at what this small beauty can do - the web browser can pick up RSS feeds (that’s something even Internet Explorer didn’t do until recently!), it has a special RSS reader, the memory card can be upgraded upto 1GB, the phone connects with computers through USB and can charge its battery this way and even work as an USB storage key, it supports java applications, video calls, direct picture blogging (to Blogger), quite comfortable browsing speeds in the UMTS network, and I can use it to listen to podcasts! With these advanced features that make mobile phones much more than just phones - they are now slowly transforming into small portable computers - I see a lot of learning possibilities both for individuals and for educational institutions.

A practical example - when I was an online tutor last year, there were days when it was not possible for me to get to a computer and so I simply used my mobile phone to log in to our virtual classroom, read new posts and reply to the most urgent ones. Surely, doing that on a mobile phone takes a bit more time, but when you’re waiting for an appointment or traveling on a train you are actually happy to have something to pass time with :) The greatest problem I see is the fact that virtual classrooms are made for big desktop screens and working with them on tiny mobile screens can be a bit frustrating. However, I think that this problem could be solved in a number of ways - maybe by providing a mobile friendly version with less graphics or even by having a java application that just collects new content (like the Gmail mobile java client - I just installed it today and it looks great!) and perhaps even saves new content on the phone so that it is available when the network signal is low or in a foreign country where the connection costs are too high. Nowadays the technology enables many things and I really hope that LMS providers will start thinking about mobile devices as well. After all, why shouldn’t we have a “large screen” and a “small screen” version of the same system?

But of course - I think mobile phones can be much more than just a supplement to web learning. I think that the specifics of mobile phones could be used to connect and interact with other people and the environment in new ways - especially by using location based services. And that’s something I’m patiently waiting for mobile providers to develop. Much of the technology is already at hand - we just need great ideas to transform existing technology in services that connect people and allow new forms of interactions and knowledge construction.

(Footnote: For anyone looking for more resources on m-learning - here’s an interesting blog about mobile learning that I found today during my morning news reading routine :) )

Originally published at http://ialja.blogspot.com/2006/12/m-learning.html