By Francisco Javier Delgado Cepeda
The revolution of the new generations of mobile devices, initiated just seven years ago, led to the displacement by 2013 of the traditional means of accessing the Internet, which until then had been the computer. Our world became truly global and ubiquitous from that moment on. Since that year, the mobile application market has been the fastest growing productive sector in the history of mankind, unsurprisingly permeating the educational environment to create what is now known as mobile learning or M-learning.
Nowadays, children and teenagers use these technologies naturally, seeking information to be connected with the world all the time. They experiment with every application they use, thus learning by themselves about the information they consult and developing diverse skills. Some have even managed to turn these media into a learning platform that surpasses the formal education to which they have access. Nevertheless, we educators have not adapted fast enough to this reality, nor have we properly assimilated its scope or understood how to integrate it into education. Therefore, instead of viewing mobile devices as allies, we often fiercely criticize them without actually having a more attractive alternative to offer in the classroom.
Ironically, in underprivileged areas, these technologies have been disruptive. In Africa, for example, many children receive an education based on mobile technologies, since security, time and complex traveling issues make it difficult for them to attend school every day. These technologies are the access to education that no other medium has ever offered them before. Surprisingly, many companies and educators are using these scenarios to support, experiment and enhance the teaching-learning experience.
To maintain the current growth rate of technology, within a decade, we will need more scientists and engineers than the school system can provide. If we don’t take the necessary measures, we will soon be facing an enormous technological gap or impasse. Governments are betting on these technologies for the scope and flexibility they provide to deliver education to everyone who needs it, but they still face a huge challenge which is to assure that the education received through this medium has the necessary depth and motivation.
In the early days, mobile technology was based on rudimentary laptop computers and mobile phones. It has now evolved to generate a series of products that could potentially, with careful planning, change the world of education in a way that our still resistant society has not yet considered seriously or creatively. Education’s trend toward mobile learning combined with a face-to-face component is becoming increasingly fashionable and forms part of what is known as hybrid learning.
Considering the situation exposed, some teachers have learned how to create multimedia materials that make teaching through mobile learning universally accessible, because the learning-assessment circle needs to be closed, given the gap in quality and depth of the knowledge acquired in online learning. This is how adaptive learning and learning analytics are being developed to become personalized online tutors and evaluators, even though this is the most complex part to implement, which is why face-to-face components are necessary. The objective is for students to become engaged in their basic learning, to investigate and to turn to the teacher for greater support in the more complex problems.
There are numerous free educational applications that you can begin to explore today, regardless of your students’ or children’s schooling level. Have you ever downloaded a mobile app you think would be helpful for them? Have you ever encouraged them to take a fully online course? Have you ever sat down with them to learn together? Do it. You’ll be surprised what can be achieved with a bit of direction, dedication and discipline on both parts. But don’t leave them alone! Applications are not meant to be a substitute for your support, but rather to heighten, through this experience, what you can achieve together.
About the author:
Francisco Delgado is a research professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Estado de México. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics and has focused on educational innovation in science and engineering.