The MLEARN project recognises that hand-held technology is becoming commonplace within everyday lives but can also be used as a powerful tool for learning in and outside of the traditional education environment. MLEARN will work with teachers to improve the use of, and embed, mobile technologies within mainstream learning. This will be achieved by:
- integrating training on mobile learning (mlearning) within initial teacher training and in service training/continuous professional development programmes
- challenging teachers to think creatively about mobile learning and its potential applications
- developing the confidence of teachers to try new ideas within the whole school curriculum, individually and collaboratively
Mlearning refers to the use of mobile technologies in teaching and learning, and can range from mobile phones to games consoles, tablets, media sharing networks and more. Learners are becoming more connected and so these mobile technological developments have the power to transform society, and how we learn, work, play and communicate. 90% of teenagers own some sort of personal media device – an MP3 player, mobile phone etc. Young people know and enjoy this technology; they use it for entertainment, to communicate, to create and share. However, on the whole these devices are banned in schools. Many educators are now asking whether these mobile technologies can aid teaching and learning, and should be embraced rather than discouraged. Teachers are crucial change makers and key to this development.
The Europe 2020 strategy acknowledges that a fundamental transformation of education and training is needed to address the new skills and competences for Europe to remain competitive, overcome the current economic crisis and grasp new opportunities.
Handheld devices cost less than traditional ICT and can be used anywhere and everywhere, 24/7. The impact on learning of a personal device that accompanies a learner throughout the school day and goes home with him/her so learning can continue is huge. Using smaller and more mobile technologies gives the potential to equip each learner with a device. This creates the potential for learning that is personalized, inclusive, extends beyond the classroom and is independent. Current experience supported by recent research shows that using mlearning can have a positive impact on teaching and learning, independent learning, behaviour in and out of the classroom, attainment, progression and leadership. For teachers it can support communication, self assessment (allowing teachers to reflect on their practice) knowledge exchange and innovation. However, these teachers must have the necessary skills, knowledge and awareness required to understand and exploit the opportunities on offer; we will respond to this need with the development of innovative training programmes, which will be inserted on ECVET and within the Comenius in service training database so that they are transferable across Europe.
The need for improved teacher training in ICT is evident across Europe. Studies show that there are huge disparities across Europe in using mobile technologies in the classroom. Only three previous projects incorporated the potential of ICT as a key element of teacher training or professional development, all in the UK but none of which formally accredited the learning. The last national survey on training needs for post-Initial Teacher Training (ITT) in England in 2010 across primary, secondary and special schools identified that 70% of teachers in secondary schools needing more support with handhelds. In Greece a 2011 study identified that the implementation of ICT at school is difficult because there is insufficient teacher briefing/training on what ICT can offer to the teaching and learning process.
Digital technology offers opportunities to engage young people in new, more meaningful/relevant ways and enable their participation in building a more resilient, flexible and creative approach to learning and teaching. These impacts won’t come from the technology alone; we hope to address this gap and develop a robust accredited programme, which will enable teachers to teach confidently with hand-held technology as a valuable aid to enhance learning and teaching.