DP4 Mobile Learning Pedagogies

Mobile Learning Pedagogies

"If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow."

- Dewey

Mobile technologies are revolutionising the use of technology for learning. Students now have the capacity to access the entirety of human knowledge 24/7, communicate across the globe, take digital photographs, video and audio recordings, and access hundreds of thousands of educational applications, using a device they carry in their pocket. 

While some schools have been hesitant in giving up control over the learning environment to students, other schools have embraced the opportunities provided with students bringing their own devices to schools that range from laptops, tablets, smart phones and portable gaming devices. 

The days of information resource scarcity, limited communication, and lack of technology such as cameras and recorders is now past. Classrooms are becoming fully enabled, often by students bringing such capacity from home. The next stage, taking education beyond the physical and temporal constraints of our institutions and recognising that students can learn where-ever and whenever they wish, with or without the support of teachers, is the next mindset to challenge,

Dr Jason Zagami



I In 1990, the Methodist Ladies' College (Melbourne) became the first school in the world to require every student to purchase a laptop. Since then more and more schools have incorporated laptops, often supported by school leasing programs. 

As the price and capabilities of laptops became closer to that of desktop computers, schools explored the use of mobile labs made up of laptops, often deployed on a charging trolley, that could be shared easily between classroom.

Digital Education Revolution

Then from 2008 to 2013 the Australian Federal government implemented a 2.4 billion dollar Digital Education Revolution (DER) that included funding for nearly 1 million computers so that every student from years 9 to 12 had 1:1 access to a computer to support their schooling. Some schools created more computer labs but because there was insufficient room for so many labs and their associated power needs and internet connections, most opted to deploy at least some laptops and in many cases implement programs in which students could also use these at home. Many schools took a further step to introduce or extend laptop leasing programs and ensure funding for such programs once the DER ends.

Primary schools were not included in the DER and few primary classrooms have funding for 1:1 computing, but most have a few computers, some tablets, and shared access to computer labs. Some F-12 private schools have invested to ensure a flow through experience for students continuing into senior years and some primary schools have leasing schemes to fund 1:1 laptop programs. Primary schools have however invested more substantially in interactive whiteboards (IWB) and cheaper tablet computers with more and more having sufficient for 1 per student. 

One Laptop Per Child 

In 2005 Nicolas Negroponte (MIT) introduced the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program to provide low cost OX laptops to developing countries, and several million laptops have now been deployed, including over 5000 in Australia by the by the one-education foundation with plans to deploy 500000 by 2020. Schools can enroll ($400 per XO laptop) and if eligible (ICSEA <1000) receive subsidies ($100 per XO laptop) and teachers can be certified through the One Academy as XO-Certified or XO-expert. The next generation of laptops, the XO-4, may be a tablet format.

Since the introduction of the OLPC, laptop prices have fallen dramatically and a wide range of Netbooks, designed to be used primarily for internet access have evolved. Google has since developed an operating system, the Chrome OS, designed for netbooks that only access a browser and have no other installed software, relying on web based productivity applications such as Google Docs and Drive to create and store work online.  


The iPad was introduced in 2010 and has dramatically changed the use of computers in many schools, especially primary schools. Designed as a personal device with an intuitive touch screen interface, long battery life, minimal support to install software (apps) and connect to the internet, and very quick to startup, it has subsequently been embraced by teachers to use in their classrooms to support student learning.

While initially a device for consuming information - accessing the internet, apps, and ebooks, later generations have included a camera and microphone, and as online software and apps increasingly permit audio and video creation and editing, word processing, and many other productivity applications, tablet computers are increasingly taking the place of laptops and desktop computers.

Challenges do exist for classroom adoption, particularly where teachers, schools or systems wish to manage the devices for students, as the device was designed for personal use and management. Bulk purchasing of apps, in app purchases, and privacy concern around location awareness are some of these challenges, but  increasingly these issues are being addressed by companies with the release of tools such as Configurator andvolume purchasing programs. NetOpNearpod and other companies have released management software to further manage (restrict) student independent use of devices. 

Prices are likely to continue to drop dramatically with the introduction of large screen mobile phones sporting many of the capabilities of tablet computers, and ongoing initiatives such as OLPC and the Indian Aakash (costing $35-$60) tablet computer.

Location based Learning

Location-based learning is rapidly becoming one of the most pervasive uses of mobile devices. While early experiments with location-based media have focused on marketing and advertising, we are starting to see educational applications emerge. Location-based learning takes advantage of the ability of mobile devices to know where they are located and deliver information that is time- and place-relevant. 

The rise of mobile Internet devices equipped with geolocation capability is opening the door to a host of applications that take advantage of the user’s physical location. Contextual data about the place one finds oneself, from historical, photographic, or videographic information to the location of points of interest or nearby friends, is easy to acquire using tools that run on mobiles and other small, location- aware devices. The information can be conveyed to the user in a number of ways: as audio, images, video, or text; overlaid on maps or on photographs of the location; or superimposed on a live view of the area. Location-based information is very easy to access using common mobile devices, and it is becoming easier to create and distribute, as well. The technologies that support location-based learning — geolocation, data visualisation, mobile devices, wireless internet — are already established, and a multitude of social and consumer applications already exist. Using simple online tools, digital resources can be easily connected with physical locations and objects. Creating a virtual walking tour that can be accessed via mobiles is already trivial, and more sophisticated applications are appearing day by day.



Twitter is a microblogging service where students and teachers can communicate via short SMS style 140 character sentences but also attach photos and video clips that can make the service useful on excursions, recording project work, and contributing to a digital portfolio.


Mobile Apps

Apps are software programs (applications) and mobile apps have become a popular way of installing software to expand and personalise the capabilities of mobile devices. Mobile apps are available free or for purchase from online stores, usually at very low cost compared to other software, and are often regularly updated without the need to repurchase. Other advantages include the ability to reinstall purchased apps on new or updated devices and the ability to make in-app purchases or micro transactions. 

While Apple was the first company to introduce mobile apps, Google, Microsoft and Blackberry all now distribute mobile apps to mobile devices via online stores. Unfortunately apps created for one platform (company) are not compatible with other platforms, however many app developers create the same app for multiple platforms when creating apps as the differences in software are relatively minor. 

Native apps, developed to run only on specific devices are being challenged by web apps that run using HTML5 on mobile devices with the ability to perform many of the functions of Native software. Such apps do not need to be purchased through app stores and will run on all mobile devices, however they need internet access to fully function. 

Creating Apps

While creating apps for iOS or Android devices can be a complicated process, involving programming and a complex authorisation and publication process, there are a number of app creation websites that greatly simplify the process of creating and publishing an app for use on mobile devices.

Little Story Maker

Little Story Maker is an iPad app where students can make a basic photo story based ebook on an iPad

Book Creator

Book Creator is an iPad app where students can author ebooks on an iPad

App Creation Services

Apps Bar (all platforms) is an online service for creating and publishing HTML5 (web based) apps that will work on most mobile devices, you or your students (13+) select from a range of options to design your app on screen in your browser, the service then checks and polishes your app, then publishes to App Catch.

App Inventor (Android) is an online drag and drop programming/app creation environment from MIT.  This provides more control over the created app but does require a little more programming (similar to the Scratch drag and drop programming language). Apps can also interface with Lego Mindstorms robotics.

AppsGeyser (Android) creates apps from web content such as webpages and blogs. 

AppDesigner (iOS) is free downloadable OSX software to design native iOS apps and the service will publish paid apps to the app store on a 50:50 split of profits.

Subpages (1): DP4 Activities