Tech Trends: Mobile Learning


Amy Simon

October 20, 2013

Mobile learning is our current reality, at least outside of the school building. Our students have immediate access to endless information right at their fingertips. Teaching students how to manage all of this information and how to gain knowledge with this wealth of information is crucial. The technology is not going away, so schools can no longer ignore it, or push it aside saying mobile devices are for outside of school. It’s time we learn to embrace it and use it to expand our classrooms.

Mobile Learning in the Elementary Classroom

The most prevalent mobile devices in our district are MacBooks and iPads, though not every school in the district has these. Educational apps allow students to practice, learn, and grow with immediate feedback, tutorials, and support. Before these mobile devices and apps were created, the teacher was the only way to provide targeted instruction and feedback to students as they were practicing skills. Now, learning can be extended beyond the walls of the classroom. Even within the classroom, these mobile devices help to provide targeted, differentiated instruction even while teachers work with small groups of students at a time to target skills that students need.

Many of these apps available for primary students are set up as games, so they are highly interactive. Students are often engaged in the learning, and are always wanting more time to work with these devices. The auditory piece is very helpful with our non-readers and emergent readers. It allows students to be able to complete practice without a teacher having to read directions or questions to them. Another important aspect of mobile learning is eBooks. So many students need to spend more time reading, but again, it’s difficult to expect non-readers and emergent-readers to be able to do this effectively and independently. eBooks allow students to have access to a vast selection of books at their reading level.

Impact on Teaching, Learning, and Creative Inquiry

Mobile learning offers many advantages to teaching and learning. Virtual manipulatives provide the opportunity for students to get hands on experiences when not in the classroom, or when a classroom set of manipulatives does not allow for everyone to have a set. Tutorials allow for classroom walls to be extended beyond the school building. These videos provide extra support as they present lessons on topics covered in the classroom. They help students and parents alike. Ebooks allow students access to text at their reading level anywhere they have a mobile device. Many ebook applications have an options to read the text aloud or record a student reading. Regardless of those extra bells and whistles, research shows that students need to read more, which is exactly why ebooks are a welcomed application.

Other applications, such as Educreations, allow students to be able to create their own lessons, tutorials, to just provide an outlet for their academic thinking. These can be published to the web to a worldwide audience, as well. Students can get feedback from peers, adults, professionals, or experts to provide authentic learning opportunities. With video capabilities such as Skype or Google Hangout, students can videoconference to engage in collaborative learning opportunities.

Research indicates that “mobile computing devices can increase student motivation and engagement in learning, especially their motivation to complete written assignments.” (Swan, p. 108) Teachers also reported that student, especially students with special needs, writing improved in regards to mechanics and spelling.


More and more schools and districts are progressing toward one-to-one schools. Coachella Valley Unified in California will be providing iPads for all K-12 students, Henrico County School District in Virginia and Cobb County School District in Georgia are providing all middle and high school students a mobile learning device, and hundreds of other schools are offering students a mobile learning device. There has been many research studies on the effects of one-to-one learning, but with little evidence to show how the devices impact student success. According to Penuel, the data to support one-to-one teaching and learning doesn’t reflect the implementation strategies, teacher attitudes, and professional development available to effectively implement the learning devices - all major contributors to student success. All studies do show significant growth in student technology literacy and writing skills which are two things embedded into the Common Core State Standards.


Mobile devices can be an effective tool in student learning. As devices are becoming more readily available, access to the technology seems to be less of a barrier than in the recent past. It’s not enough to simply have access to these tools that will make an impact on learning, however, it’s how the technology is used that will truly make the difference.


1. Penuel, W. R. (2006). Implementation and effects of one-to-one computing initiatives: A research synthesis. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38(3), 329.

2. Swan, K., van t Hooft, M., Kratcoski, A., & Unger, D. (2005). Uses and effects of mobile computing devices in K-8 classrooms. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 38(1), 99.

3. Westervelt, Eric. “A School’s iPad Initiative Brings Optimism and Skepticism.” NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.