Challenges to mobile learning initiatives

There are certainly challenges and obstacles to mobile learning initiatives:

  • Currently, most of the projects testing m-learning are either small-scale pilots or isolated initiatives not built with scale and sustainability in mind. 80 The scale aspect is unfortunate because of the great advantage educators and governments could leverage in using mobile devices on a larger scale to reach students who are unreachable by traditional teaching methods.
  • Many projects are informal or have not been formally studied or researched, making it difficult to understand the “big picture” of m-learning initiatives globally. 81
  • M-learning does not eliminate the need for face-to-face training for teachers and other educators. Teachers often require face-to-face support to really change their behaviour and adopt plans that use mobile and other new technologies. 82
  • Although mobile devices offer access to new resources and teaching or learning methods, they remain only one of many tools available to educators and policymakers. Professional development should show teachers how to integrate mobile technologies with other tools. 83
  • Due to the dynamic nature of the mobile landscape, it is challenging to integrate mobile technologies into educational practices in a timely fashion. 84 When the primary goal of many initiatives is to ensure that every child receives an elementary education, leveraging up-to-the-second technology often does not seem necessary.
  • There is a lack of educators developing content. 85

The chancellor of the largest teacher training institute in Mexico, for example, noted that her country offers a case study of some of the obstacles and challenges involved in using technology, including mobile technology, to improve teaching and learning: 86

  • Mexico made substantial investments in education that yielded very poor results.
  • Students often receive CDs in lieu of textbooks, but do not have devices to play the CDs.
  • Many teachers did not know how to use technological materials, so the materials failed to promote learning. Ultimately, the large investment was wasted because of teachers’ low user skills. 87

It is also worth noting that there is tremendous variety with respect to m-learning initiatives within and across regions. This is due to the perceived gaps or opportunities that m-learning can address, as well as the resources available to implement such programmes. The challenge – and benefit – of this variety is that there is no single preferred approach to incorporating mobile devices into classroom curricula or other educational settings.

m-learning is still in an early stage, with significant additional research, trials and support necessary to more fully evaluate its effects and identify best practices. To that end, UNESCO was expected to release guidelines on m-learning by the end of 2012, as part of its M-Learning Policy Guidelines Project. 88 The goals of the project are to “guide national governments and education institutions on policy choices that can support and enable education delivery through the safe, affordable and sustainable use of mobile technologies,” as well as to develop the future of mobile learning beyond the Education for All goal year of 2015. Draft guidelines were in circulation as of August 2012. 89

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