How Mobile Apps and Devices Impact Teaching and Learning: EduMOOC 2011

By Jessica Balik

mobile devices iPhone iPad MacBook

Apps and Devices Expand Learning Options

Today's panelists clarified ways in which mobile devices themselves, as much as the applications that run on them, can impact education. Whether we're reading textbooks on e-readers or Tweeting about class from smartphones, mobile devices have given us more options for how, when, and from whom we learn. Granted, when learning moves outside closed classrooms and onto devices that students can carry anywhere, instructors may struggle to oversee student progress. But the advantages can outweigh the challenges, because students who use these devices potentially become more engaged. David Middleton, Assistant Vice President for Finance and Technology at Seton Hall University, explained that both mobile applications and mobile devices allow the teacher to be less a 'sage on the stage' standing at the front of a classroom, and more a 'guide on the side' of student-driven learning.

Teachers Learning to Use Mobile Devices

Today's panelists also entertained the question of how educators can prepare for the heightened use of mobile devices in corporate, K-12 and higher education settings. For example, they considered whether mobile apps might ultimately replace familiar learning management systems (LMS). The eduMOOC panelists concluded that, although LMS would ideally evolve at the pace of technology rather than that of academia, mobile apps are less likely to replace these systems than they are to replace the browsers through which we interact with them. The small sizes of mobile devices make them impractical for long-term use; furthermore, certain institutional needs, such as links between course records and the confidential administrative records of students, will probably ensure the continued existence of LMS.

Middleton emphasized that educators should focus less on preparing to use any particular piece of technology than on adjusting to the more personalized learning these technologies all encourage. To that end, today's panelists suggested that instructors allow students to decide for themselves which apps, devices and technologies to adopt. Additionally, since implementing novelty of any sort requires willingness to make mistakes, the panelists affirmed the importance of allowing failure to be an option when trying to use new technologies for the benefit of teaching and learning.

Next week's eduMOOC panel will consider the existence of a higher education 'bubble,' and whether online education can prevent it from bursting. Check back next week for a full report from's Education Insider.

Interested in mLearning? See our recommendations for the top five educational apps.

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