Mobile technologies are constantly changing and getting better. The variety of devices available in today’s market is huge and includes mobile phones and smartphones, tablet computers, e-readers, portable sound players and handheld gaming consoles. However, it is certain the list will be different tomorrow as a result of daily innovations.
An increasing number of projects show that mobile technologies provide an excellent medium for extending educational opportunities to learners who may not have access to high-quality schools (UNESCO, 2013). Also, because mobile devices are portable and owned by their users, they may be customized and decorated with a personal touch in a way that shared and connected technologies cannot. Mobile devices are also used to create virtual communities of learners. Leaders of huge open online courses (MOOCs).
Estimates made by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU and United Nations, 2014), shows there are nearly 7 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide, equivalent to over 95 percent of the world’s population. Developing countries are home to more than three-quarters of these subscriptions. By 2016, Africa and the Middle East will overtake Europe as the second largest region for mobile subscribers. The ICT landscape is also changing as a result of newer technologies such as touchscreen tablet computers.
Mobile networks are nearly universal. Mobile networks supply coverage to 90 percent of the world’s population and 80 percent of the population living in rural areas. Learners, who might not otherwise have access to high-quality education, schools or even books, generally have access to working mobile phones. According to a 2014 UNESCO report, ‘United Nations data indicate that of the estimated 7 billion people on Earth, over 6 billion now have access to a working mobile phone. To put this number in perspective, worldwide, only 4.5 billion people have access to a toilet collectively, mobile devices are the most ubiquitous information and communication technology in history.
Several countries and companies have recently advanced the development of high-quality digital resources and educational materials optimized for mobile devices. Ambitious projects in Asia, particularly in the Republic of Korea and Singapore, use mobile technology to make education more personalized and collaborative. The Government of the Republic of Korea has launched a nationwide initiative to move from paper to digital textbooks by 2015 with textbook content displayed on a variety of mobile devices including tablet computers. Although critics of mobile learning claim that digital devices can be socially isolating and are a poor substitute for face-to-face interaction with teachers and peers, mobile phones can increase collaboration and teamwork among students. Learning projects in Latin America employ mobile phones to help students work together to solve authentic problems. Similar projects in Africa have moved away from one device per student models of education to arrangements where multiple students cooperate while sharing a single device. These projects have proven effective in enhancing collaborative learning and are also less expensive than 1:1 model-based programmes (UNESCO, 2012).
Finally, student safety is a key component of any discussion about mobile learning. Many school districts and governments have banned or seriously restricted the use of mobile phones in educational settings. This approach, however, is counter-intuitive. Students worldwide currently use mobile phones and will continue to do so regardless of whether or not schools prohibit them. If schools ban mobile technologies, these devices will not vanish, nor will the potential risks associated with their use. Instead, sweeping prohibitions have driven a wedge between formal education and the realities of life outside of school (UNESCO, 2012). A more appropriate stance is to position schools as the place where students learn to use mobile technologies responsibly. When students are given appropriate instruction on good digital citizenship and allowed to use such devices in school, these devices become learning tools ideal for sharing, communication and information discovery.
Today’s students want an active learning experience that is social, participatory, supported by rich media and within learner control. The continual growth of web-based multimedia and social media incorporating text, audio, photo and video capabilities provide increasing opportunities for educational institutions to integrate these technologies into teaching, learning and assessment (McLoughlin and Lee, 2010). Such technologies and platforms must be integrated with sound pedagogical strategies and tied to learning goals, in order to facilitate genuine communication and interaction among students and to support their creation of user-generated content.