Mobile Access to Learning and Teaching at the University of Northampton

Tag Archives: smartphones

The use of mobiles in informal learning


In this paper, the authors surveyed a group of smartphone and PDA “enthusiasts” (users confident in using mobile technologies), to discover current learning practices that involve the use of mobile devices, and to identify potential learning activities made possible by the technology. The responses evidence a range of activities, supporting both intentional and opportunistic learning, from looking things up, to recording and taking notes, to (co-)constructing new knowledge.
The paper divides these learning applications into the following categorisations: referential, location aware, reflective, data collection, constructive and administrative, with the following qualifiers for each: individual, collaborative, situated, distributed and interactive.


There are no specific ingredients for this review, apart from a connected mobile device, but it might give you some ideas of the capabilities of the technologies, and the activities that your more technically confident learners might already be doing.


Clough, G., Jones, A. C., McAndrew, P. & Scanlon, E. (2007). Informal learning with PDAs and smartphones. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 24(5), pp. 359–371.
Available online at: [Accessed Jan 2011]


Mobiles for supporting language learning


This paper discusses the use of mobile devices to help language learners by supporting the learning process referred to as ‘noticing’ – that is, observing and recording points about the second language that aid the learning process. Mobile devices are particularly suited to this as they allow immediate, contextual recording in a range of formats (audio recording, text-based notes, pictures of written language e.g. posters, signs).
It also discusses how this data might be collected and organised, and used to inform teachers and researchers about models of language learning, and learner needs.

You will need:

  • A mobile device with recording capability, preferably including audio – this might be a smartphone, a dictaphone or a video camera
  • A ‘language diary’ environment where students can collate and reflect on their observations, e.g. a VLE or e-portfolio


Kukulska-Hulme, A. & Bull, S. (2009). Theory-based support for mobile language learning: noticing and recording. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies 3(2), pp. 12–18.
Available online at: [Accessed Jan 2011]

Smartphones and mobile web 2.0


This paper reports on a range of pilot projects running at Unitec, NZ, from 2007 to 2009. The projects all focus on enabling students to use smartphones, along with familiar web 2.0 tools, to create, share and collaborate on resources across a range of contexts, and collect them in online e-portfolios for reflection and assessment.
The projects included:

  • a group project building a design for an international flower show (Diploma of Landscape Design), using blogs, photo and video sharing, and e-portfolios
  • groups working as product design teams for external manufacturers (BA Design), using communication tools, and blogs and e-portfolios shared with the companies
  • students testing and evaluating tools for music creation and delivery (Diploma of Contemporary Music), using audio and video sharing tools, and social networks
  • students on a field trip (Diploma of Landscape Design) recording and identifying findings, using photos and video and blogging tools

Findings include the importance of tailoring tasks to the affordances of the devices – both  the benefits (e.g. easy video recording and instant messaging/texting), and the challenges (small screens, slower text entry). Also the importance of scaffolding, as well as the possibilities for supporting informal or spontaneous learning, and an observed increase in peer collaboration and critique.
The papers also discuss the significance of Communities of Practice formed to help members of academic staff learn about the possibilities and share experiences with their peers, as well as time requirements, and scalability and funding issues.

You will need:

  • Wireless and/or 3G enabled mobile devices
  • Mobile enabled web tools

Tip: The great news is that many of these are already available (e.g.Youtube, Flickr, Google docs). The flipside is that because these services are provided by third parties, uptime/availability can’t be guaranteed, and there are potential data protection and security issues to address.


Cochrane, T. (2008). Mobile Web 2.0: The new frontier. In Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Proceedings ascilite Melbourne 2008.
Available online at: [Accessed Jan 2011]

Cochrane, T. & Bateman, R. (2010) Smartphones give you wings: Pedagogical
affordances of mobile Web 2.0. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology 26 (1), 1-14.
Available online at: [Accessed Jan 2011]

Note: the second paper also includes links to a number of Youtube videos about the projects.

The use of mobile devices to create ‘augmented contexts’ in the field

Description: This report describes the CONTSENS project (using wireless technologies for context sensitive education and training). The project uses multimedia information, delivered on mobile devices, to supplement a field trip experience for Archaeology students visiting a site. The content included custom-built 3D visualisations of the architecture and multimedia descriptions, delivered in-context in various parts of the site, using the GPS on the mobile devices. The report suggests that the provision of this information extended the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) of the students, allowing them to increase their understanding through interaction with the content as well as with their peers.


You will need:

  • the visualisations and multimedia resources for this project were built using a custom development and player called Mediascape. You can see a similar tool on the Futurelab Create-a-Scape site.
  • Students on site will need access to a device that can display the resources, with GPS if you want them to be triggered by the student’s location.


Cook, J. (2010) Mobile phones as mediating tools within augmented contexts for development. In Brown, E. (ed.). Education in the Wild: contextual and location-based mobile learning in action. A report from the STELLAR Alpine Rendez-Vous workshop series. University of Nottingham: Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI). Available online at: [Accessed Jan 2011]

The pedagogy discussed in this report is expanded in: Cook, J. (2010). Mobile phones as mediating tools within augmented contexts for development. International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning, 2(3), 1-12.
Available from: [Accessed December 2010]

Mobile learning for teachers


This paper discusses the use of mobile devices by teachers to support their professional development. It reviews practices such as recording in the classroom and sharing mobile-created artefacts for collaborative reflection (although it doesn’t elaborate on how this was achieved). It also notes the value of mobile learning for the school environment, where teachers are required to move between (often isolated) teaching locations on a regular basis, and gives examples of using mobile devices to create resources which can be used with learners in the classroom, to provide feedback and celebrate achievement.
The paper also discusses the ethics of both recording and sharing, for teachers and for pupils.

You will need:

  • a mobile device with a camera (video or still), and/or audio recording functionality. This could be a mobile phone, a handheld device like an iPod touch, a camera, or a dictaphone.
  • Tool(s) for sharing. The possibilities here will depend on the availability of an internet connection. You could upload resources to a shared web space, preferably access-controlled (e.g. in the VLE), send them phone-to-phone via MMS, connect your device to a projector to present in class, record audio files to CD, or print images out on paper.


Aubusson, P., Schuck, S., & Burden, K. (2009) Mobile learning for teacher professional learning: benefits, obstacles and issues. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology 17 (3), 233-47.
Available online at: [Accessed Jan 2011]