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Mobile Learning

"Mobile learning" is any learning activity that utilizes a mobile device--usually a smartphone. Mobile learning seeks to utilize the ubiquity and unique capabilities of mobile devices to make course materials available to students wherever they are, and to create new kinds of learning experiences that help students engage with course content and the world.

3 Ways to Use Mobile in Higher Ed

Engaging with Chicago

  • Apps such as GooseChase can be used to organize educational scavenger hunts for your face-to-face and even online courses. Students can check-in to locations using GPS, capture and create photos and videos, and draft and submit text in response to your queries. For an example, watch the first video above on how an instructor from The Theatre School uses GooseChase in her online art history course. 
  • Apps such as OneNote can capture and sync your notes to the cloud or across devices using text, handwriting, images, or audio clips. Shared notebooks allow users to view or co-edit documents. Available on Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and the web. For more information, see the Teaching Commons OneNote Class Notebook page. For an example of how an anthropology professor uses a similar app in her course, watch the second video above.

Enhancing the Classroom

  • Poll Everywhere allows you to create real-time polls with either open-ended or quantitative questions. Students can respond through its app, the mobile web, a laptop, or text messages, and you can see responses from all your students in real-time. DePaul has a limited license for the premium version of Poll Everywhere. If you are interested in using Poll Everywhere, we recommend you set up a free account, try it out,  and if you are interested in advanced features like unlimited responses per poll or graded questions, fill out this form to request premium access.
  • Kahoot is a free team-based speed game in which students answer multiple-choice questions together on their own web-enabled devices. Because it is team-based and competitive, it is a great way to add engagement to your class. (Note: This is not a DePaul-licensed or -supported tool.)

Untethered Studying

  •  Quizlet is a tool  that allows students the ability to create digital flashcards. It also supports other study prep tools, such as fill-in-the-blank quizzes, spelling tests, and even games like matching. Requires a Google login but is free to use. (Note: This is not a DePaul-licensed or -supported tool.)
  • Tinycards is another free flashcard tool made by the team that created the Duolingo language-learning app. It has a native app for iOS and Android. Tinycards has pre-built “decks” for language learning, and allows you or students to create custom decks. (Note: This is not a DePaul-licensed or -supported tool.)

Mobile Learning Pedagogy

Mobile learning is not just online learning on a smaller screen. Smartphones have some limitations compared to computers but also unique affordances that can allow for new kinds of learning experiences. These affordances have been identified as the five “C’s” of Mobile Learning by Clark Quinn:
  • Content: Providing instructional materials that students can access anywhere, or in specific contexts (like instructor commentary for a museum trip).
  • Capture: Using mobile devices to capture images, video, sound, GPS coordinates, and ideas (as notes).
  • Communicate: Being able to stay in touch with classmates anywhere or during specific field activities.
  • Compute: Using devices to assist in calculating, language translating, and other computational tasks.
  • Combine: Using the previous four functions together in interesting ways, like augmented-reality experiences that capture GPS location, orientation, and images, and supply relevant content to the learner.

St​aying Safe with Mobile

Some instructors have expressed concern about students using mobile devices out in the field and the possibility of theft. These are some tips you can share with students to reduce the risk.

  • Try not to look like a tourist. If you look and behave like a tourist who doesn’t know where he or she is going, you’re more likely to be targeted.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be so engrossed in your mobile device that you ignore the world around you.
  • Try to avoid high-foot-traffic areas when actively using your device. Try to find a place where people aren’t actively walking near you.
  • Be careful near doors on the CTA, especially when they’re opening and closing. Some thieves on the "L" will snatch valuables and run off just as the doors are closing.
  • Go in groups of two or three.
  • If you don’t feel safe, put your device away.
  • When not in use, put your device in a secure location, like a zippered compartment or a pocket where you can feel it against your body
  • In case your device is lost or stolen, make sure it is protected by a password/pin/pattern lock so none of your personal information is at risk.
  • Use an app that will help you find your device like Find My iPhone or Find my Device on Android.

What if a Student Doesn't Have a Smartphone?

Smartphone adoption is not yet 100% among students, but it is quite high and growing. Over 90% of 18-29 year olds in the US have a smartphone, and we have found that among urban college students smartphone ownership is nearly universal. But if you have a student without  a smartphone, here are some strategies to make sure mobile learning doesn't leave anyone out:
  • Students can be asked to pair up for field activities.
  • Many mobile-learning activities do not require a smartphone but only basic phone features like text messages and/or a camera.
  • Alternative activities or instructions can be provided for students who don't have or don't want to use their smartphones.
  • Academic units that rely heavily on mobile learning can develop a system for lending out devices to students.

Further Resources

Clark Quinn's “Designing mLearning” is both a reference resource and an instructional tool for successfully integrating mobile-based technology devices into a pedagogical structure. Addressing the foundations of general learning concepts, Quinn prepares instructors for the idea that mobile technology is an integral aspect of academia, enhancing and expounding upon existing educational means. Even though the technology Quinn mentions is out of date, the mobile learning principles he outlines still apply to current devices.

The connected learning model views student learning as occurring both inside and outside the classroom. Technology, people, and experiences may facilitate or contribute to that learning. Our roles as educators is to help students connect all of these various learning experiences in order to create an individualized, yet cohesive learning experience. The connected learning model serves as one pedagogical underpinning for the use of mobile devices in learning.

The DePaul Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) department writes weekly blog posts about instructional technology, online pedagogy, and other topics. This link points to a collection of posts from CTL staff about Mobile Learning.