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From Outstart Webinar Series

Mobile Learning: Ready for Prime

Join us for a complimentary 60-minute webinar on March 29th or 30th, 2011



With the power, instant connectivity, and ubiquitous nature of mobile devices, mobile learning and mobile priority communications are emerging as corporate strategies. Find out about the huge strides they have made in the last year and how they are now ready for prime-time deployments.

Register for this webinar to learn about:

  • Leading business applications of mobile learning and mobile priority communications
  • Technological advancement that have addressed key deployment issues
  • Considerations for building mobile learning and mobile priority communications, surveys, and an array of mobile-cast content

You’ll also see (live) how quickly and easily OutStart’s award-winning Hot Lava Mobile solution can develop, deliver and analyze mobile learning and mobile priority communications. All registrants will receive a complimentary mobile learning and mobile priority communications white paper. 

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Early Monday morning I had the pleasure of sharing with 18+ faculty members and university staff members at the College of Charleston during their annual Faculty Technology Institute.  Monica Harvey, the Interim Director for the Teaching, Learning, & Technology Department of Information Technology, invited my to video conference in for the keynote to set the tone for the week of professional development and inspire the faculty members.

I presented on using mobile teaching and learning in higher education.  The presentation was titled “Dare you to move: Making mobile matter at College of Charleston.”  This is a nod to Switchfoot‘s song “Dare You to Move,” as well as a hat tip to Josh Wilson’s song lyrics, “I could choose not to move but I refuse.”  Both are very appropriate for making mobile teaching and learning matter, where I am encouraging colleagues to move out of their comfort zones.

You can see a summary of notes from my presentation on CofC’s site here by Mendi Benigni. You can also see my slides below from

[slideshare id=7212826&doc=cofc-slidedeck-110309222453-phpapp02]


In the past week, I’ve had two really nice (and fun) things happen to me professionally, and I wanted to share them with you guys, too.

MOBL21 Interview

First, the super-engaging folks at MOBL21 conducted an interview with me on how I’ve been doing mobile learning and mobile learning research over the past year or so.  It was a fun interview, and it was a fun opportunity to reflect on the work we’ve been doing here in Memphis on mobile learning. In particular, it was nice to consider the different presentations, research, and blog posts we’ve been working on, as well as all the great people I’ve had the change to talk to about mobile teaching and learning.

You can find the interview on MOBL21’s site at

Buck Institute for Education Highlight

Also, a good colleage/friend of mine at the Buck Institute for Education (BIE), Jason Ravitz, ask me about highlighting some research I conducted on project-based learning on their site.  This research represents a students perspective for project-based learning, which is often not reported on. You can find full research article and citation on their site at

A quick summary of the article says:

This article shares the perspective of five students who completed an 8th grade geography project that focused on investigating civil rights issues around the world. Based on what students said about their experiences, engagement in projects is shaped by a combination of

  • internal influences that motivate students,
  • external influences they perceive,
  • prior experiences and beliefs about projects, and
  • reliance on technologies.
Workshop at Union University
Image by Michael M Grant via Flickr

One of the highlights of my semester is the invitation I receive regularly from Dr. Anna Clifford to visit her technology integration courses at Union University.  During this January term, she is teaching a graduate course for inservice teachers.  So, we’re going to discuss using mobile devices to support teaching and learning.  This should be a lot of fun!

In the past, we’ve discussed Web 2.0, but today I’m going to focus on mobile teaching and learning.  Specifically, we’re going to look at:

Here is the slide deck for today’s presentation:

[slideshare id=6686622&doc=making-tl-mobile-slideshare-110124122223-phpapp02]

In a previous post, I blogged out loud about my concern for misusing/overusing the term mobile learning, or mlearning.  In fact, a recent post and nudging by Michael Barbour got me to start putting some thoughts down that I’ve been mulling over for a while.  Plus, I have a very talented student right now who is working on a dissertation about mobile learning in higher education, and she has caused me to spend some sleepless nights thinking a lot about this. So, here’s a start to something that I hope will grow into more finalized.  I would really like to have your thoughts about this, so please comment and ask questions.

The definitions of mobile learning that I’ve read and have found, I believe are incomplete. For example:

I particularly like the direction and indecisiveness that Dr. Traxler (e.g., 2005, 2007, 2010) puts on the difficulty in defining mobile learning in a number of his articles on defining mobile learning.  Still, I think these definitions do not ask all the questions appropriate to mobile learning. I believe folks have been defining mobile learning, and trying to define a mobile learning environment.

Pushing my thinking even further, Dr. So (2010) in a presentation at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology asked me to consider the relationships among mobile learning, elearning, and distance learning.  He suggested that many people would argue that mobile learning and elearning were subsets of distance learning.

However, he posited that mobile learning (and elearning for that matter) were more likely derivations of distance learning, sharing specific traits but also retaining unique characteristics.

I really liked where this line of thinking was taking me, so I began to think about what mobile learning meant for teaching and learning.  In almost all of the cases I’ve read, the emphasis had been on the learner and the learning, and I like this concentration.  However, I think the current definitions do not do justice to the other components in learning environments, namely the teacher, the content, and the learning system, which in this case is the mobile computing device.  So, I’m begining to play around with this diagram:

By looking at all of the pieces in a mobile learning environment, I think it forces us to consider theoretical foundations for practices and avenues to take advantages of the mobile computing devices.  In particular, it begs the following questions:

  1. What does it mean if the teacher/trainer/facilitator is mobile?
  2. What does it mean if the device or system is mobile?
  3. What does it mean if the learner is mobile?
  4. What does it mean if the learning content is mobile?

I am planning a follow-up post about this diagram and how I think existing and future mobile teaching and learning strategies fit in.  What are your thoughts so far?  Please let me know.

Herrington, J., Herrington, A., Mantei, J., Olney, I. & Ferry, B. (2009). Using mobile technologies to develop new ways of teaching and learning, in J. Herrington, A. Herrington, J. Mantei, I. Olney, & B. Ferry (eds.), New technologies, new pedagogies: Mobile learning in higher education, Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong, Australia.

Mobile Learning Network (MoLeNET ). (2009). What is mobile learning? Retrieved December 30, 2009, from
Motiwalla, L.F. (2007). Mobile learning: A framework and evaluation. Computers & Education, 49, 581-596.

Quinn, C. (2000). mLearning. Mobile, Wireless, In-Your-Pocket Learning. Linezine. Fall 2000. Available at

So, S. (2010, October 27). Pedagogical and technological considerations of mobile learning. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Anaheim, CA.

Traxler, J. (2005). Defining mobile learning. IADIS International Conference Mobile Learning.

Traxler, J. (2007). Defining, discussing and evaluating mobile learning: The moving finger writes and having writ…The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 8(2). Avaiable at

Traxler, J. (2010). Distance education and mobile learning: Catching up, taking stock. Distance Education, 31(2), 129-138.

In my interest to wade through what is mobile learning and what’s not, I’m being to formulate a theoretical framework as well as a practical one that’s mulling through my head.  Yesterday, Thomas Cochrane shared a Prezi deck about how his school is using mobile learning devices into their curriculum.  He briefly explains the presentations as:

MLearning – Outline of framework for bridging learning contexts and facilitating student-generated content and collaboration via WMDs (Wireless Mobile Devices).

I really the alignment that he and his school are considering as well as identifying specifics tools to address specific learning goals.  While I don’t like calling the devices WMDs (that brings up connotations of Weapons of Mass Destruction), I do like how they are using them. You can see the deck below:

I’m excited to be presented at Mobile Learning Experience 2011 coming up in April.  I just received notification over the winter holidays that I was accepted and the others that are presenting is great too.  There are some really fantastic folks that will be presenting.  You can see a sample of the folks at

1. Evolution & Evaluation: Planning & Implementing a Statewide mLearning Initiative for Workforce Development

In June 2010, the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) launched a plan to explore mobile teaching and learning in Tennessee. Inviting postsecondary faculty from over 25 workforce development centers across the state, exploration about the impacts of mobile teaching and learning with iPads to workforce development was the goal. This session will present the evolution and evaluation of this ambitious project. We’ll consider the planning, professional development, implementation, feedback, and data we have collected to date, as well as the lessons learned from the scope of this program.

2. Considering Mobile Teaching & Learning in a Use-What-You-Own World

Much of the electronic press and hype is dedicated to mlearning initiatives with a single platform or device. However, one of the significant promises of mobile learning is ability for teachers and students to use their own mobile computing devices. In this hands-on session, we’ll take a look at strategies for teaching and learning that are appropriate for a variety of mobile computing devices and platforms. Specifically, we’ll explore QR codes, capturing student responses and artifacts easily inside WordPress, and using MOBL21 as a mobile learning content management system.

Posterous logoI love Posterous. It’s dead simple sharing. I used to say dead simple blogging, but it’s more about sharing than it is about blogging.

But Posterous is designed to only work with only one cellphone number, which just doesn’t work in a classroom that you’re trying to take advantage of students’ mobile devices like cellphones, smartphones, iPhones, etc. I wanted to offer a method to capture student responses or student artifacts through Posterous.

Particularly with younger students (i.e., elementary & middle schools), I’m beginning to be convinced that students are more likely to have a cellphone than have an email address. So, I started trying to figure out a way to overcome Posterous limit on a single mobile number. In fact, I want students to be able to contribute to a Posterous site without having to collect their email addresses.  So with some testing this is what I (and a number of my graduate students in IDT came up with).

The Process

With some testing, I was able to connect Google Voice up to Posterous.  The process for posting is this:

  1. Google Voice is forwarded to
  2. Gmail is forwarded to
  3. Posterous

This, however, is not the order in which it should be set up.  Instead, follow this order.

  1. Gmail is first. I created a Gmail account specifically for Posterous.
  2. In Posterous, use your gmail address as the primary address for log in.
  3. In Posterous, I set the Settings to “Anyone can Post”.
  4. Then in back Gmail, set up mail forwarding to your Posterous email address, for example (replace yourposteroussite with your Posterous site, for example  Gmail will send a confirmation code in an email to Posterous.
  5. In Posterous, check to see if the post was received. You only want the confirmation code right now.
  6. Enter the confirmation code into Gmail. This should set up the forwarding to Posterous.
  7. Now, you can set up Google Voice by picking your number and doing the phone call verification.
  8. In the Google Voice Settings, under “Voicemail & Text,” choose to forward text messages to my email (which should be your gmail address).
  9. That should do it.  You can try sending a text or an email.  The emails should be posted directly into Posterous.  Texts will have to be approved inside Posterous.  Note, gmail does not support MMS.

This set up should allow your students to post to your Posterous site in one of three ways:

  1. SMS with text only to your Google Voice number.
  2. MMS any media with email to
  3. Email any files (e.g., .docx, .png, .mp3, etc.) to

A couple of recommendations …

  1. I do not recommend leaving Posterous’ setting to “Anyone can post. I will moderate.” Posterous’ strongest filtering for spam and authentication is through “Only contributors can post.” where Posterous authenticates the email addresses.
  2. I recommend setting Posterous to “Anyone can post. I will moderate.” for a short period time, such as during class or overnight while students are doing a project or activity.
  3. Don’t freely share the Google Voice number. It could set you up for a spam attack.

mlearning-minstructionI am concerned that mLearning is headed down a similar path to eLearning.  The saying, “There’s an app for that,” seems to reflect this sentiment that all mlearning is equal.  No matter what you’re trying to teach or how you’re trying to teach there seems to “an app for that,” and mlearning is what we’re going to call it.  And this is where I think we start to mash-up the meaning (pun intended).

Mobile learning, or mlearning, has become an umbrella, or catch-all, term for just about anything related to teaching and learning with mobile technologies.  However, using the term so liberally, dilutes the meaning, and it fails to recognize the inherent pedagogical stances that individuals are implementing. There are in fact a number of definitions of mlearning, including the following:

Some of these focus on the technology; some focus on the learner. Interestingly, though, I couldn’t find any Google hits for “define: mobile instruction” or “define: minstruction,” and an open search for “mobile instruction” didn’t really get anywhere either.

A Dead Horse?

This argument isn’t new.  For example, eLearning has had the same problem.  While many individuals will argue that eLearning encompasses corporate training, online and distance education, and even the dated CD-ROM based instruction, the reality is that many corporate eLearning developers have admitted to me that approximately 80% of their instructional development is dedicated to creating linear instruction, or “page turners.” The purpose of many of these modules of instruction is focused on compliance, that is documentation for regulatory agencies.  So, while the purview of learning is controlled by the learner, it seems counter-intuitive that this type of instruction be called eLearning.

Admittedly, though, many universities and K-12 virtual schools are offering courses that are asynchronous and learner-centered and are focused on the needs of the learner.  So, facilitated courses can approach the concept of eLearning.

A Concern for Precision

It is important to mention that I am not belittling or condescending any of flavors of instruction.  Instead, I want to emphasize the need to be specific in identifying the pedagogy we are choosing to use. My overall concern is that we are aggregating widely different instructional strategies, classroom or technology management strategies, and even instructional content into a single idea.

For example, we seem to be equating the following:

This just can’t be right. Are you comfortable with any definition of mobile learning? Is everything mobile learning if it involves a mobile device?

A few days ago, I wrote about how I was experimenting with mobile learning.  In fact, I am testing out mobile learning with a unit on mobile learning.  One of the units I added this summer to my Internet in the classroom course was on virtual schooling and mobile learning.  Through a pilot program with Emantras, I am using their MOBL 21 application to develop and deploy this unit onto iPod Touches, iPhones, and through their desktop Adobe AIR application.

I thought I would share some of the screen shots from the desktop application (that simulates iPhones/iPod Touches).  I’ve enjoyed testing out this system. Not everything is exactly the way I would have preferred the content to be. For example, I would really like to be able to embed images and videos directly from the Web.  The images I had to go into the HTML code and insert.  The video I had to upload, which I wasn’t happy about.  I would really like to be able to take advantage of iPhone/iPod Touches connection with YouTube directly to go full screen.  This wasn’t possible inside of MOBL 21.  I am also still learning the ins and outs of the system.

As you can see from the screen shots, though, you can create study guides, which are content with text, images, audio, and video.  You can also create flash cards.  Since my content isn’t drill and practice, I used the flash cards as a way to present some quotes about virtual schooling.  If I had had more time, I would probably have created these as graphics and uploaded them into the system … probably with Powerpoint.  Finally, you can create a quiz.  I haven’t tested this feature yet.

In another post, I’m going to list some of the features I would like to see added in as an option to make a more robust system.