Over £7 million was made avalable for mobile learning projects in UK FE colleges in 2007-08 via the LSC MoleNet Project. The publication GoMobile! http://www.molenet.org.uk/search/resource-30492.aspx highlights the impact these reasources have had on learniers with dissabilities. The following extract identifies some of the oportunities and problems:
- The easy portability of mobile devices such as smartphones and handheld media players, and now also slimline mobile PCs, means that learners with learning difficulties can have access to reminders and ‘how-to’ tutorials at the point of need. Care has to be taken, however, to ensure that the device suits the capabilities of the user – in some instances,high-spec smartphones have been found to be too complex or ‘fiddly’ forsome learners.
- Mobile devices can be discreet ways of compensating for learning difficulties, thus maintaining learners’ motivation. Learners struggling with personal organisation – for example, arriving in class on time, following directions and managing learning activities beyond face-to-face sessions – have found devices such as PDAs and smartphones helpful. They also respond well to being entrusted with a ‘cool’ piece of kit. However, loan of mobile devices involves risk assessment since vulnerable learners may be the target of bullying or theft.
- Instructional videos that can be played in learners’ own time and in different locations have proved transformational, with learners mastering independent living skills faster and with greater confidence. This success depends, however, on the availability of learning resources that are fit for purpose and possibly on the involvement of a familiar tutor – would an off the- shelf tutorial achieve the same effect?
- The introduction of mobile technologies into a classroom environment can have unforeseen benefits. Learners with communication difficulties who are adept with modern technologies become more willing to interact with their peers and even share their skills with tutors. Provided their new status is recognised by their tutors, willingness to engage in other forms of learning can ensue.
- Learners may initially find difficulty in using mobile devices, but experimentation makes it easier to master complex technologies. The opportunity to ‘play with’ a device also engenders a sense of fun which can motivate learners to push beyond previously fixed boundaries.
- Continuing use of a mobile technology has been shown to improve learners’ self-image and even develop skills valuable in the workplace. Maintenance of contracts with mobile phone companies, replacement costs in the event of damage, and even gifts of personal devices on enrolment, will need to be considered to enable this to become a long-term benefit.