What is MLearning?
A couple of weeks ago, I finally took the plunge and bought myself a smartphone. My new device replaces most of the technical gadgets that have been accumulating in my teaching bag over the past few years. But what it also does is to bring me closer than ever to the concept of mobile learning, or MLearning, the current buzzword in ELT.
Although it could be argued that "mobile" simply means "on the move" (and therefore a paperback could be used for mobile learning), the term "MLearning" has come to represent the learning that takes place via the medium of handheld electronic devices, such as smartphones, mp3 players, netbooks, laptops, tablet PCs, e-book readers, mobile gaming devices and so on.
ELT publishers have responded to the boom in mobile devices by developing applications (apps) that can be used on such devices. In fact, here at Business Spotlight we have just launched a new app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, which enables learners to have a new business word delivered to their devices every day. Check it out and see if you can use it with your students, or simply recommend it to them for their own self-directed learning.
As a trainer, however, I wanted to have a smartphone for more than language-learning apps. I also wanted a device that would negate the need for me to carry around the plethora of electronic devices which has in recent months filled up my teaching toolbox. For example, I regularly go to lessons carrying a netbook, an mp3 player, a portable video camera, an electronic translator and external speakers, because I never know when I'd like to have them to hand in any particular lesson.
Well, my smartphone now takes care of all that. I have access to the internet, so I don't need an electronic translator for checking tricky words any more. My new phone is equipped with a camera and camcorder, so out goes my recently acquired flip camera (although I love the simplicity and functionality of the flip, so I may get some use out of it yet). And not only can I play audio files through my phone, but I can also record voices on it, so farewell, mp3 player.
And for my personal use, my new smartphone is: a 24/7 internet connection, an mp3 player, a radio, an alarm clock, an e-book reader, an 8-megapixel camera, an HD video recorder, a portable cinema, a navigation system, a calendar, a torch (that'll come in handy!) and — get this — a mirror! Plus, I imagine, many more things that I haven't yet discovered. Maybe there's a lipstick holder hidden in the back somewhere. Did I mention I can also make telephone calls and send text messages with it?
If you're thinking about taking the plunge too, but are not sure which device to choose, perhaps this cartoon will help you decide.