Eric Klopfer, MIT professor and director of MIT's Scheller Teacher Education Program, thinks so and has recently authored a new book about mobile learning to argue for their use in education.Cell phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices are generally on the "do not use" list when it comes to the classroom. Teachers ban them. Students put them on silent and tap away. But instead of fighting the students' addiction to their phones, could the devices instead be used for learning purposes?
For Your Next Lesson, Please Take Out Your Phones
On Smart Mobs, Judy Breck points to a new book by the MIT Press called Augmented Learning by Klopfer. In the book, Klopfer makes a new argument for the untapped potential of mobile learning games which would use the strengths of a mobile platform - that is, "its portability, context sensitivity, connectivity, and ubiquity." These features, he says, would make it ideal for learning games from elementary school all the way through college.
The games themselves could be participatory, involving interaction with other players, or augmented reality, meaning set in a virtual world and they could be produced at a much lower cost than traditional PC or console games.
What's most important about them, though, besides their ability to solidify information the students were introduced to through traditional methods, is that the games help teach "21st century skills" like the ability to "tackle complex problems and acquire information in just-in-time fashion." In other words, start training the kids young for their future hyper-connected, multi-tasking, digital lives.
Klopfer believes that mobile learning, or m-learning as he calls it, is just another means of e-learning, and one that just moves off the internet-connected PC to the more common mobile device.
For students, teachers, researchers, and game designers, the book may be a compelling read since it delves into the design, research, and implementation of how mobile learning games could work in the classroom.
Issues With M-Learning
Although mobile phones are nearly ubiquitous these days, introducing mobile learning into the classroom as early as elementary school, may be a bit too soon for some parents, who don't believe their kids should tote cell phone at age 8 or, if they do, then it's a phone designed to call mom and dad and/or 911 only.
Even as children get older, there are still the issues of various mobile plans and the cost of data use - details that the students may not be aware of, racking up charges that parents won't be happy about all because the child's teacher told them to break out their phones for today's lesson.
Finally, the digital divide between the "haves" and "have-nots" would become more apparent in a classroom if students had to provide their own phones. Imagine the privileged kids pullinig out their iPhones, others pulling out ancient clamshells, and still others having to raise their hands because they are without.
Still, the idea has merit - it's definitely an interesting take on e-learning, but there are definitely challenges to its real-world use that must be overcome first.