Mobile Technology

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Mobile Technology

Geri-Lynn Ryan, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Definitions and background

Mobile technology refers to devices that are both transportable and offer instantaneous access to information (Coates et al., 2009). The technology includes, “iPods, MP3 player, Personal Digital Assistants, USB Drive, E-Book Reader, Smart Phone, Ultra-Mobile PC and Laptop / Tablet PC” (Adeeb and Hussain, 2009, p.48). Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and smartphones are mobile devices that are agents of real-time communication (Chang et al., 2012). The hallmarks of mobile technology are its portability, flexibility, simplicity of use and its unique ability for integration with other technology systems (Alder and Fotheringham, 2012). Mobile devices are often referred to as ubiquitous and are utilized by people for many different activities (Kuzu, 2011).

Mobile technology instruments have become a significant force in learning and are transitioning to more affordable and compact devices with greater dependability and connectivity (Franklin et al., 2007). In addition to its advantageous size and convenience, the technology permits multiple tasks such as note taking, telephone, email, music, video / audio recording, picture taking and GPS navigation (Akkerman and Filius, 2011). When compared with traditional computers, mobile technology demands less structure, which translates into easier implementation (Carillo et al., 2011).


The flexibility of mobile technology allows learners to extend their learning experience so that it can occur at any time or any location, including outside the boundaries of a conventional classroom (Chen et al., 2009). The portability and flexibility of mobile technology encourages learners to transport their individual learning environment with them (Looi et al., 2012). Mobile technology allows learners to bring these devices home which helps to lengthen the learning process (Chen et al., 2009). Opportunities are created through mobile platforms, which promote the continuation of discussions that historically, start and stop in a physical classroom (Kuzu, 2011). Students can easily work on projects and assignments outside of class and are not restricted to working on a stationary computer (Franklin et al., 2007). Traditional classroom hours are defined and mobile technology generates an unrestricted avenue for learning to continue outside of those parameters (Chang et al., 2012).

Collaboration is fostered with mobile technology (Jarvala and Laru, 2008) and facilitates participants sharing learning events (Blake et al., 2012). Mobile technology provides greater accessibility to both teaching and course content (Power and Shohel, 2010). Franklin et al. (2007) observed that students willingly shared information through mobile devices when working on a group project, which resulted in increased collaboration. Mobility can nurture collaboration by bridging differences in learning situations (Looi et al., 2012).

Mobile technology generates educational opportunities and positively impacts learner engagement for students in remote locations with limited resources (Carillo et al., 2011). Alder and Fotheringham (2012) concluded that the use of SMS texts and podcasts created a connection with students that were isolated and promoted a sense of community. Students who experienced physical isolation indicated that there was value in connecting with their peers through mobile technology (Coates et al., 2009). Mobile technology also contributes to increased learner involvement by influencing a student’s organizational level as mobile devices can be used for time management purposes (Coates et al., 2009).

Mobile technology results in enhanced communication by empowering students to direct questions to their instructors and peers and receive responses in real-time (Kuzu, 2011). Learners who participate in social networks for educational purposes have the opportunity to retrieve relevant information and share it to create better communication (Coates et al., 2009). The unharnessed power of the learning trend of mobile technology could potentially alter the character of and approaches to pedagogy (Power and Shohel, 2010).


Mobile technologies have the potential to be disruptive, isolate participants and limit social interactions (Blake et al., 2012). The mobile technologies that effectively reduce the level of interaction between learners can result in a less cohesive learning experience (Adeeb and Hussain, 2009). Building an interactive and successful online community is challenging and can result in negative team dynamics (Jarvela and Laru, 2008). Although a student may possess a mobile technology device, ownership does not mean that they will decide to apply it for learning purposes, only that the opportunity to do so exists (Akkerman and Filius, 2011). Students are not compelled to respond or engage with their mobile devices (Alder and Fotheringham, 2012). There have been documented occurrences of inappropriate use of the technology that resulted in disruptions (Roberts and Vanska, 2011). Such an example of disruptive behaviour can occur when students use mobile devices for other activities besides studying (Adeeb and Hussain, 2009).

The integration of mobile technology can impact a learner’s confidence as it has been observed that students can demonstrate apprehension towards using the technology (Coulby et al., 2011). Callaghan and Lea (2011) indicated that learners were hesitant to engage in the use of mobile technologies for anything outside of their regular accepted activities with that device. Mobile technology users can experience technical challenges and difficulties in using the device and its applications (Roberts and Vanska, 2011). There is a presumption that the net generation is comfortable with the concept of transferring their technological competence into the learning arena but this may not always be the case (Callaghan and Lea, 2011). There is a cultural shift required to ensure that students participate in technology not just for work or personal use but also for education (Akkerman and Filius, 2011).

Another constraint with mobile technologies is that students can encounter a superficial or disconnected learning experience as information on a mobile device may contradict a participants’ own personal event (Blake et al., 2012). Learners using mobile technologies can gravitate to participation that is trivial or impacted by time, for example sending a short text as opposed to a more detailed, thoughtful exchange (Coates et al., 2009). Participants using mobile technology devices encountered activities that they considered mundane or boring (Roberts and Vanska, 2011). Chang et al. (2012) concluded that the apparent relevance of a mobile technology device influenced a user's willingness to continue to access the device (Chang et al., 2012).


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Works Cited

Adeeb, M.A., & Hussain, I. (2009). Role of mobile technology in promoting campus-wide learning environment. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 8 (3), 48-57.

Alder, J., & Fotheringham, J. (2012). Getting the message: Supporting students’ transition from higher national to degree level study and the role of mobile technologies. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 10 (3), 264-272. Retrieved from

Akkerman, S., & Filius, R. (2011). The use of personal digital assistants as tools for work-based learning in clinical internships. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43 (4), 325-341.

Blake, C., Charitonos, K., Jones, A., & Scanlon, E. (2012). Museum learning via social and mobile technologies: (How) can online interactions enhance the visitor experience? British Journal of Educational Technology, 43 (5), 802-819. doi:10.1111/j.14678535.2012.01360

Callaghan, L., & Lea, S. (2011). Enhancing health and social care placement learning through mobile technology. Educational Technology & Society, 14 (1), 135–145.

Carillo, L., Garate, A., Gonzales, I., Hagashi, T., Kim, P., Lee, B., & Makany, T. (2011). Socioeconomic strata, mobile technology and education: A comparative analysis. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59, 465-486. doi 10:1007/s11423-010-9172-3

Chen, F., Ho, C., Lai, C., Liang, J., & Yang, J. (2009). Mobile technology supported experiential learning. International Journal of Instructional Media, 36 (1), 41-53.

Chang, C-C., Tseng, J-S., & Yan, C-F. (2012). Perceived convenience in an extended technology acceptance model: Mobile technology and English learning for college students. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 28 (5), 809-826.

Coates, C., Dearnley, C., Dransfield, M., Fairhall, J., Haigh, J., Hennessy, S., Parks, M., Riley, K., & Taylor, J. (2009). Using mobile technologies for assessment and learning in practice settings: Outcomes of five case studies. International Journal on E-Learning, 8 (2), 193-207.

Coulby, C., Davies, N., Fuller, R. & Hennessey, S. (2011). The use of mobile technology for work-based assessment: The student experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42 (2), 251-265. doi:101111/j.14678535.2009.01022

Franklin, T., Lu, Y., Ma, H. & Sexton, C. (2007). PDAs in teacher education: A case study examining mobile technology integration. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 15 (1), 39-57.

Jarvela, S., & Laru, J. (2008). Social patterns in mobile technology mediated collaboration among members of the professional distance education community. Educational Media International, 45 (1), 17-32.

Looi, C-K., Song, Y., & Wong, L-H. (2012). Fostering personalized learning in science inquiry supported by mobile technologies. Educational Technology Research and Development, 60, 679-701. doi:10.1007/s11423-012-9245-6

Kuzu, A. (2011). The factors that motivate and hinder the students with hearing impairment to use mobile technology. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10 (4), 336-348.

Power, T., & Shohel, M.C. (2010). Introducing mobile technology for enhancing technology and learning in Bangladesh: Teacher perspectives. Open Learning, 25 (3), 201-215.

Roberts, N., & Vanska, R. (2011). Challenging assumptions: Mobile learning for mathematics project in South Africa. Distance Education, 32 (2), 243-259. doi:10.1080/01587919.2011.584850