Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Enhancing Health and Social Care Placement Learning through Mobile Technology

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Enhancing Health and Social Care Placement Learning through Mobile Technology

Article excerpt


Mobile learning (m-learning) refers to the use of emerging technologies to enhance students' learning experiences. The m-learning literature continues to debate the pervasiveness and ubiquity of mobile devices and their potential use for learning (Alsaadat, 2009; Moore, Hu, & Wan, 2008). Supporting technological structures enabling wireless connectivity are now embedded (Sharma & Kitchens, 2004), such as General Packet Radio System (GPRS), Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS). In addition, other 3D-derived technologies, such as High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and the attributes of mobile technology, have the ability to attract young people in particular to learning (e.g., Attewell, 2005).

Despite the potential freedom afforded by the paradigm shift from e-learning to m-learning, researchers and developers of this technology must address the diversity of applications, relevance, users' needs, roles, and contexts in order for the use of mobile technology to become truly pervasive (Moore et al., 2008). However, although in 2004 there were estimated to be 1.5 billion mobile phones in use across the globe in comparison to less than half a billion personal computers (Prensky, 2004), the use of these devices for learning cannot be assumed (Kennedy, Judd, Churchward, Gray, & Krause, 2008).

The most recent UK Office for National Statistics (2008) survey reported an increase of one million households (16 million) having Internet access between 2007 and 2008. However, of the adults surveyed, only 32% consulted the Internet for learning compared to sending/receiving emails (87%). Despite the high use of the Internet in both the 16-24 and 25--14 age groups (77% and 72%, respectively, reported daily use) only five percent of adults surveyed had accessed the Internet in the last three months via wireless hotspots (although this was double the number for the previous year). Further, recent adult Internet users reported accessing the Internet via the following mobile devices: laptop (23%); mobile phone (GPRS) (15%); palmtop/PDA (4%); mobile phone (UMTS) (4%). Therefore, although the general population's access to the Internet and broadband in the UK is rising sharply, there is still some way to go in terms of equalising this figure, first with accessing the Internet via mobile devices and second in terms of using the Internet for learning activities.

As with e-learning, there is a danger that discussion regarding technology may eclipse discussion in relation to pedagogy (cf. Orrill, 2002; Dalsgaard, 2005). Nationally and internationally, higher education establishments have engaged with m-learning. For example, Duke University in the USA (2005) has provided freshman students with iPods preloaded with orientation information to use for downloading course content and recorded lectures. In New Zealand, nursing students have been supported on placement through the use of Short Message Service (SMS) via mobile phones (Mackay, 2007). In the UK, Centres for Excellence in Teaching in Learning (CETLs) have used personal digital assistants (ALPS CETL) and location-based global positioning systems (GPS) (SPLINT CETL) to meet the needs of students at a distance from the university campus. However, the Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Education (Escalate) observes regarding Becta's recent report, "... in spite of the evidence, 'technology is fully exploited by only 20 percent of schools and colleges' and it might be difficult to argue the figure for higher education is very different" (Gulc, 2008, p.2).

McNeely (2004) proposes that higher education needs to meet four challenges in order to maximise the potential utility of m-learning. These include: funding for devices and associated costs, access and skills to use facilities, the ability to interact using devices, and relevance of use, that is, "using technology for some practical purpose, and not just for the sake of technology" (McNeely, 2004, p. …

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