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Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training


reviewed by Nabeel Ahmad - July 01, 2010

coverTitle: Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training
Author(s): Mohamed Ally (ed.)
Publisher: AU Press, Edmonton AB T5J 3S8
ISBN: 1897425430, Pages: 297, Year: 2009
Search for book at Amazon.com


Mobile devices and education are not often heard in the same sentence. But that is beginning to change as the ubiquity of the devices presents a strong case for use in “transforming the delivery of education and training,” as the book’s subtitle states. Mobile Learning, edited by Ally, is an overall strong book that presents a multitude of examples and case studies supported by theory and research demonstrating the power of context and ability to conquer physical and technical limitations. Mobile learning books are a dime a dozen these days. The first book on the use of mobile technology in education and training was published more than four years ago (p. 2). For perspective, the iPhone was first released three years ago. Advances in mobile technology have brought broader applicability of their use for educational purposes.


Ally’s volume presents an overarching selection of chapters drawn from academia and industry. The book’s three sections – Advances in Mobile Learning, Research on Mobile Learning, Applications of Mobile Learning – provide the reader a logical flow in understanding thought leadership and challenges on the topic, what studies have uncovered, and how mobile learning is used with different subjects and in various contexts throughout the world.


The audience is a bit too broad to keep a reader’s attention for each chapter. Faculty members, along with educators, teachers, researchers, and instructors, can use it to learn how to design materials for mobile delivery. Business and workplace readers will benefit from a few chapters focused on just in time information delivery and workplace training. The editor misses a key segment that can benefit from the book: Information Technology (IT) practitioners with high interest in education, whether in an academic or corporate setting, can take the information in this book and work with the intended audience to implement a mobile learning solution.


Arguably the best chapter of the book is the first, covering the current state of mobile learning. While the chapter is a reprint from a journal, it fits well in the book, presenting a balanced introduction to what mobile education is and its history. It appeals to proponents and skeptics of mobile learning by drawing in its relation to a variety of learning theories, some of which include situated, collaborative, constructivist, and informal learning. The chapter makes a case for mobile education on “purist” or theoretical pedagogic grounds that are akin to learning styles (p. 18). Conversely, the chapter also presents the argument for mobile education on practical or “impurist” grounds, recognizing that learning takes place in a wider social context, which impacts learning on many levels (p. 19).


These two views form the basis for the rest of the book. Together, they allow for a greater holistic framework that embodies and expands the current mindset of what mobile devices should be used for in education and training. This is often greatly needed in many parts of the world where resistance to the technology can inhibit rich and engaging learning.


Findings from the Research section are generally in line with mobile learning practice today. The overall lack of references to articles in the past five years is unfortunate. Some chapters contain heavy technology jargon and are intimidating to the target audience. The focus on informal learning opportunities, leveraging the multimedia capabilities of mobile devices and the increasing importance of mobile learning in the workplace are topics covered in journal articles and presented at academic conferences. The narrow focus of the chapters makes it difficult to determine how to apply some of the results in your institution. The book, like many, lacks the connection between theory and practice. The numerous case studies cited provide far more information about the background and construct of each study rather than focusing on the findings and their general applicability. Thus, it is difficult to determine how those results can be applied in the reader’s learning environment. The chapters focusing on workplace mobile education do contain implications for practice, but are more the exception than the rule. Those looking to apply findings and recommendations from the book will leave disappointed.


The chapters omit the need to discuss the contexts in which mobile devices should not be used. The Research and Application sections are filled with findings that work in a specific setting and may not contain the cross-capability needed for broader application. In many instances, it seems that mobile devices can be used in any context, whereas the truth is quite the opposite. Keeping a more balanced approach can help win over skeptics and allow readers to think on both sides.

The concept of just in time performance support systems with supported examples resonates well in the text. Accessing information quickly and in a timely manner is both practical and simple. The editor makes good use of integrating a few chapters focusing on this while not undermining the importance of other types of mobile education delivery.


There could have been much more integration of the discussion on the effects of how society and culture play into the context of use. One chapter captured it well; it became the hidden gem of the book. The editor could have sought to more tightly integrate chapters based on this topic or at least provide a discussion on the importance of it.


While the book does display an impressive cast of global contributors, it is heavily weighted on authors from the UK, who contribute more than half of the book’s chapters. Canada, Scandinavia, and South Africa each contribute two chapters while Asia is sorely omitted.


Overall, Mobile Learning presents a well-structured argument for the use of mobile devices in education and training. Just as the research in the past four years has significantly altered the mobile learning landscape, so too will the need arise for more research-based insights over the next four years. This book may be irrelevant by then, but for now it serves the purpose of getting us to think a bit differently about new ways of delivering education across a broad spectrum. The next edition should cover the blend of social and user generated content through mobile devices. Don’t be surprised when you hear mobile learning more often. In the meantime, make sure Mobile Learning is on your bookshelf. It gives you enough to examine the mobile learning landscape and allow you to create your own path based on personal interests.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 01, 2010
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16053, Date Accessed: 1/29/2022 12:27:52 AM

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About the Author
  • Nabeel Ahmad
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    E-mail Author
    NABEEL AHMAD, Ed.D., is an Associate Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, Teachers College. He co-teaches the nationís first mobile phone learning class and a course on cognition and handheld devices. He leads IBMís mobile learning initiative, exploring strategic and practical ways IBM employees can extend their learning via mobile devices. Nabeel's recent publications include "Research-based insights informing a change in IBM's m-Learning strategy" (Handbook of Research on Mobility and Computing) and "Smartphones Make IBM Smarter, But Not As Expected" (Training and Development). Upcoming publications include "Mobile Phones: Learning Environment On-the-Go" (Educause Quarterly) and "Mobile Devices for Learning: A 2-way conversation" (Michael Allenís 2011 e-Learning Annual).
 
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