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Understanding The Terms Of M Learning Information Technology Essay

The term M-Learning, or mobile learning, has different meanings for different communities. Although related to e-learning and distance education, it is distinct in its focus on learning across contexts and learning with mobile devices. One definition of mobile learning is: Any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies. In other words mobile learning decreases limitation of learning location with the mobility of general portable devices.

The mobile revolution is finally here in the form of m-learning, which is a natural extension of e-learning. In a span of five years, Mobile learning or m-learning has made an exponential leap from theory explored by academicians to a real contribution to learning. Globally speaking, the kind of penetration that mobile phones have reached is astounding and no other device can come any closer, not even computers. No demography is immune from the mobile phone and it has slowly become associated with the youth in a bigger way. This kind of digital communication was unthinkable almost a decade back.

M-learning has the potential of taking learning and knowledge across geographical boundaries and generations due to the fact that it can be accessed with ease. This brings us to the question what is m-learning and how effective it really is. In the basic sense of the term, it means learning through the use of mobile devices and is targeted at people who are always on the move. This kind of training can be given through mobile phones, PDA’s and digital audio players and even digital cameras.

There are five basic parameters that has made mobile useful for production and development of m-learning and they are:

Portable: If you are using a mobile phone or a PDA, then it’s easier to carry it along with you everywhere including the restroom. This makes information access through this platform easy and fast.

Social Interaction: This kind of data can be sent to your friends, colleagues and others via short messages. You can exchange data with other people and gain considerable knowledge.

Sensitive to the Context: This has a capability of gathering data unique to the current location, environment, and time. This includes both types of data - real and simulated.

Connectivity: Connectivity plays an extremely important role and is the backbone of the m-learning project. With the help of a strong connectivity network, one can connect to data collection devices, other mobile phones, and to a common network.

Customized: The most unique capability is to be able to offer customized learning information.

M-learning is a revolutionary alternative because it involves sophisticated technological devices (based on a wireless network) that can be used by untrained persons. For content authoring, it is important to consider and know the skills of the user. If the device has multiple audiences or users then decisions in content authoring must also take into account the varying learning styles of each learner.

WHERE M-LEARNING CAN BE USED?

Depending on the context, m-learning can be useful in all of the following areas:

Expanding educational opportunities

Increasing efficiency

Enhancing quality of learning

Enhancing quality of teaching

Sustaining lifelong learning

Facilitating skill formation

Advancing community development

Improving policy planning and management

For example, it can support the expansion of educational opportunities (access to education) because it can be used to deliver educational opportunities to a range of types of people, including women who face social barriers to education; populations living in remote rural areas; and working adults whose time is limited. Likewise, if the goal is sustaining lifelong learning, m-learning is useful as it can provide convenient, user-centred learning.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Now let’s take a step back into the past and ponder over its origin. M-learning actually took roots during a Pan-European research and development program aimed at a target audience of 16-24 age groups. This was the group that was at a risk of social exclusion in Europe .The m-learning project was a 3-year, pan- European research and development study with partners in Italy, Sweden and the UK. Its aim was to use portable technologies to provide literacy and numeracy learning experiences for young adults (aged 16–24) who are not in a full-time education environment, and to promote the development and achievement of lifelong learning objectives. The m-learning project was coordinated by the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) and project partners include two commercial companies (Cambridge Training and Development Limited in the UK, and Lecando AB in Sweden) and two university-based research units (Centro di Ricerca in Matematica Pura ed Applicata at the University of Salerno in Italy and Ultralab at Anglia Polytechnic University in the UK).

According toTownsend (2000), mobile phones are now appearing widely in the squatter communities that surround the cities of developing countries, places where conventional fixed-line telephony has never existed. It is further suggested by Townsend that in future the use of ‘smart phones’, which have voice recognition, will benefit members of the world population who have no ability to read and write.

According to Ichinohe and Suzuki (2002), there are many Japanese websites offering learning materials to i-mode users (i-mode is a Japanese mobile internet service). In December 2001, they estimated there were 30 million imode users. Outside Japan, however, it would appear that the use of mobiles in learning is still 4 Learning with mobile devices: a book of papers relatively rare and usually occurs as part of short-term or pilot projects.

Prototypes have been developed for learning languages which use quizzes, word and phrase translations, working with a coach and vocabulary work (Regan 2000). Mobile phones have also been used as the subject of teaching eg teaching A-level Physics students about how mobiles work (Edwards 2000) and as a way of encouraging the creativity of young pupils in art lessons, eg through designing phone fantasy sculptures because of their relevance to their life outside school (Székely 2001). The m-learning project intends to develop some of its learning materials using a gaming philosophy to make their use attractive to young adults.

It has been suggested in a study carried out by Becta (2001) that the benefits of using games software in education are: ICT skills development (but this is time-consuming) increased motivation (but games can be too complex for classroom context); encouragement of collaborative learning (but games can be so engaging that the educational focus is lost); and the development of thinking skills. Positive side effects have included increased library use among the learners (but learners may find that they suffer from inappropriate vocabulary or reading level to take full advantage of this), and increased self-esteem (although technical problems with using computer games can militate against this) and better engagement with the content. Thus, gaming can encourage thinking, reflecting and creativity. Becta suggests areas of further research into the use of computer games, including their use to motivate disengaged pupils.

The personal nature of the mobile phone, together with its constant presence on or about the user’s person, the types of communication it enables and its importance to teenage identity and friendships (Ling and Yttri 1999; Eldridge and Grinter 2001) all support our belief that its popularity is not just a short-term fad. The role of phone calls and messaging in friendship rituals such as gift giving and sharing (Taylor and Harper 2002; Bauman 2003) suggests the mobile phone has potential as a collaborative learning platform.

The rapid development of information and communications technology (ICT) has contributed to greater economic choice and higher social prestige for consumers. There is evidence that ICT is reshaping consumer behaviour in the following ways:

Individual preferences have shifted from mass production to mass customisation.

Self-service allows users to respond to new business opportunities instantly and react quickly to changes.

Consumers are becoming ‘smart shoppers’, spending their money increasingly strategically product quality is perceived in an extremely rational price–performance trade-off (Meffert 2000).

The rising level of education is another powerful variable shaping very distinct consumer and organisational behaviour (Falk and Dierking 2002).

M-LEARNING IN INDIA

M-learning also has a great impact in India. In India, the mobile phone has revolutionized communication and India is now one of the fastest growing markets for mobile phone services, with growing usage and increasing penetration. According to TRAI, there are 286 million wireless subscribers in India, June 2008, of which 76 million were capable of accessing data services. The increasing ubiquity of the mobile phone begs for it to be used as a learning tool. It would be a shame if we were unable to leverage it to improve socio-economic conditions in our vast population.

Mobile phones are not just communications devices sparking new modalities of interaction between people; they are also particularly useful computers that fit in your pocket, are always with you, and are nearly always on. Like all communication and computing devices, mobile phones can be used to learn. The content delivered would depend on the capabilities (features) of the device accessing it.

There are many kinds of learning and many processes that people use to learn, but among the most frequent, time-tested, and effective of these are listening, observing, imitating, questioning, reflecting, trying, estimating, predicting, speculating, and practicing. All of these learning processes can be supported through mobile phones. In addition, cell phones complement the short-attention, casual, multitasking style of today’s young learners.

Without proper research its hard to arrive at the worth of the m-learning market in India, any projection is unfounded; and is also due to the improbability of being able to predict the rate of technological (read network) adoption and penetration. However, empirically, we are seeing an increasing interest in mLearning.

According to Koole, there is a tremendous scope for mobile learning and establishes a framework to assist practitioners in designing activities appropriate for mobile learning. Klopfer adds that mobile learning games are not only engaging, but can also account for the user’s context and environment to improve on the learning process. Mobile learning has been applied to the domains of nursing education, online communities and distance education.

Similarly, Jarkievich et al. and Scanlon et al. explore the usage of mobile phones in outside classroom settings, whereas Bell et al. study the social interactions around cellphone-based games in everyday settings. In India cellphones are a perfect vehicle for making educational opportunities accessible to rural children in places and times that are more convenient than formal schooling.A 26-week study was carried out to investigate the extent to which rural children will voluntarily make use of cellphones to access educational content. Results show a reasonable level of academic learning and motivation.

TECHNOLOGIES INVOLVED IN M-LEARNING

M-learning depends upon the broader phenomenon of Internet Protocol (IP) convergence, when data, voice and video all travel over a single channel. The devices sitting on the IP network, such as the internet, convert the packet that belongs to a voice or data exchange or video into the appropriate presentation. M-learning devices have now been developed so as to have the required screen resolution and auto-handling capability to use normal web content.

M-learning combines two new technologies: WiMax and Pocket PC.

WiMax provides wireless local area network connection, has a range of up to 30 kilometres and can carry up to 54 megabytes of data per second (Mbps). WiMax provides IP multimedia services and will accelerate IP convergence because it brings these high data rate services to a relatively inexpensive portable computer device (the Pocket PC). IP multimedia services include web content, streaming video, voice over IP (VOIP), and wireless links to video projectors.

The Pocket PC central processing unit (CPU) can accommodate up to 634 megahertz (MHz) and enable simultaneous audio and video. Pocket PCs can use satellite or wire line connectivity, or simply a DVD to deliver content.

Advantageous features of Pocket PCs are: XML micro browsers; touch sensitive screen; excellent audio quality; integral WiMax and Bluetooth; software-compatibility; e-books; and integral voice-over internet protocol (VOIP). Use of WiMax Pocket PCs for m-learning can enable teachers and learners to overcome the resource constraints faced in remote and developing communities. Problems with some e-learning formats and distribution architecture that are encountered in the Asia-Pacific region include: distance; the high cost of desktop computers, wire line, and broadband connection; and the expense of installation, maintenance, storage and repair. The WiMax bandwidth (54 mbps) can reach rural areas, even in areas of difficult terrain. Satellite technology enables data to be accessible in remote areas in which teachers do not have access to libraries and an extensive array of teaching material. The Pocket PC devices themselves and the WiMax hotspots are affordable, and the cost of maintenance, storage and repair is low. An additional limitation of traditional e-learning equipment is that desktop computers require a high level of IT literacy and training.

ISSUES CONCERNED WITH DEVELOPMENT OF

M-LEARNING

M-learning offers numerous opportunities but also poses related policy issues. Decisions must be made as to whether m-learning is a supplement to traditional classroom education or an alternative approach to mainstream education. Alternatively, m-learning could be utilized solely for special education for students with learning disabilities, or only in ICT courses. In educational administration, m-learning can assist in designing curricula, supporting school administration, and training teachers. Once m-learning and its broadband network is set up, the network backbone can be utilized for other services such as e-government and dialogue between government and citizens, and can enable the development of e-communities.

Four key operational issues need to be addressed in the development of m-learning programmes and provision of m-learning devices:

How to pay for infrastructure and curriculum

Do content and VOIP servers (telephone service) connect to the Internet

Electricity

Inventory control (anti-theft)

Possible sources of revenue for the deployment and maintenance of m-learning programmes include:

VOIP – people will pay for telephone service

M-commerce – people will buy goods and services using Pocket PCs

E-mail and web browsing – people will pay for Internet access

Private network – businesses will pay for network services

The key policy issues in m-learning are:

M-learning as the agent of change in education

VOIP services within a nation’s telecom policy and regulations

MSP services and existing ISPs within telecom policy

Private network services

Process of determining priorities

While adapting to m-learning requires significant effort for those who have only a basic level of IT skills, and therefore there can be resistance to it in some countries, such resistance to change can be overcome by initially only using m-learning in special education courses or ICT courses, then gradually using them in mainstream education as they gain acceptance. In addition, because older teachers may be more resistant to adopting ICT and m-learning, ICT training is vital for all teachers. It is clear that teachers will use the technology if they recognize that it enhances learning content and improves the quality of education. It is important to make teachers aware that m-learning is a natural extension of mainstream learning, and can meet student’s needs and bring benefits.

ISSUES CONCERNED WITH IMPLEMENTATION OF M-LEARNING

Although its successful but it had some problems. Some of the issues related to some key points are:

Expanding educational opportunities (access)

Challenge: to reach individuals and groups those are historically underserved such as girls and women, rural populations, adult workers, and persons who cannot go to learning centres (due to distance, expense, and other obstacles).

Increasing efficiency

Issues: dual shift school-systems, multi-grade schools, small urban or rural schools, flexibility in learning schedule.

Enhancing the quality of teaching

Issues: difficult profession, no one-shot training, continuum including initial training, lifelong

Upgrading, and connecting.

Enhancing the quality of learning

Challenge: to motivate and engage learners, bring life to concepts and processes, foster inquiry, provide flexibility, allow application of information, bring the world into the classroom, offer collaborative opportunities and communication, offer individualized learning.

Sustaining lifelong learning

Issues: modern society demands constant updating, the “educated” can become obsolete, the lifecycle pattern is changing.

Improving policy planning and management

Issues: management of institutions and systems, management of policymaking including storage and analysis of data, construction and assessment of policy scenarios, and tracer studies or tracking systems.

Financial resources, sustainability

Issues: Acquisition of hardware and software, installation and configuration, connectivity,

maintenance, supplies, utilities, retrofitting of physical facilities, replacement costs, acquisition and creation of content materials, training of staff, testing, evaluation, and adjustments.

There are also a number of challenges involved in meeting the needs of today’s students:

1. Mobility Challenges

Connectivity

Authentication and authorization

Security

Voice/data access

Device management

Scalability

Services including messaging services, location awareness, intelligent notification

2. Device Challenges

Unique device capabilities

Varying programming models

No dominant standard

Wide range of target environments

3. Application Challenges

Content aggregation

Customization and personalization

Application reuse

Multi-device capability

OPPORTUNITIES TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF M-LEARNING

In order to meet these challenges, the following opportunities should be pursued by educational institutions:

Developing new business models that will increase revenue for the institution.

Future-proofing the campus network infrastructure.

Focusing on the integration of essential public safety solutions.

Selecting the best vendor partners and alliances to ensure multi-device (internet, phone, PDA,etc.) application access.

Differentiating the college/university to ensure competitiveness in the marketplace.

Improving the “braking distance” necessary to lower IT costs and quickly align IT with changes in funding and budgeting.

Increasing the value of the relationship between the institution and the surrounding community.

BENEFITS OFFERED BY M-LEARNING

Almost every sector will benefit from the use of m-learning, however we feel three primary areas that will feel the biggest impact: Education, Agriculture and Healthcare. Additionally, rural communities will benefit tremendously not just from mLearning, but the mobile technology as a whole. Mobile devices are far cheaper than personal computers and do not depend on a continuous power supply to function.

There is a definite appeal in gaming for learning using mobile phones. Currently, several companies are experimenting with game-based learning technology for mobiles. However, the feasibility of such an approach depends on the cost of development and deployment of such applications, which are quite high at this time. With increasingly capable hardware and connectivity available and dropping costs, it’s only a matter of time before learning games on mobile become commonplace.

The benefits offered by m-learning:

Its offers and interactive learning experience where learners can interact with each other.

It's easier to accommodate several mobile devices in a classroom than several desktop computers.

It is not always easy to work on a computer sitting in a far off village or town in wilderness, but mobile can be accessed anywhere.

Mobile phones, PDAs or tablets holding notes and e-books are lighter and can facilitate the entire m-learning process with ease unlike bags full of files, paper and textbooks, or even laptops.

Writing with the stylus pen is more effective than using keyboard and mouse.

A range of possibilities arise out of this like sharing assignments and working as a group; learners and practitioners can e-mail, copy and paste text, or even `beam´ the work to each other using the infrared function of a PDA or a wireless network such as Bluetooth.

Mobile devices can be used anywhere, and anytime, including at offices, home, or when in transit.

These devices engage learners - through mobile phones, gadgets and games devices such as Game Boys. This makes the device invaluable.

This technology may contribute to combating the digital divide, as mobile devices are generally cheaper than desktop computers.

The size, shape, weight and portability of mobile devices have made them extremely effective for users with permanent or temporary disabilities.

DISADVANTAGES RELATED TO M-LEARNING

Every technology has its curse or disadvantages and m-learning through mobile devices is no different. Some of the disadvantages of m-learning through mobile devices are:

The small screens of a mobile or PDA limits the amount and type of information that can be displayed at a given time.

The memory or the storage capacity is limited vis-à-vis a computer or laptop.

It is important to have fully functional devices and batteries have to be charged regularly. At times, a discharged battery can result in loss of important data.

It's difficult to work on moving graphics, especially on mobile phones, although 3G and 4G will eventually facilitate this.

Bandwidth may degrade with increasing users when using wireless networks.

But then every new technology or technology driven platform or development will find obstacles on the way. Mobile learning is currently the most useful as a supplement to ICT, online learning and other traditional learning methods, and is playing a central role in enriching the learning experience. It is now widely believed and has been proven in various countries that mobile learning could and has been a huge factor in getting disaffected young adults to engage in learning, where traditional methods have failed. This is the new world and everything is changing – the market, the need, the people. M-learning is the future.

In the future, we will see mobile phones, computers and various other computing/media devices (iPods, Digital Cameras, PDAs, etc.) we use converge into a single personal mobile computing device. At such a time, the differentiation between eLearning and mLearning will cease to exist; all learning will be electronic and mobile.

CONCLUSION

M-learning or mobile e-learning is currently in its infancy. Although many experts in the field see great potential for the use of mobile devices in e-learning, there are presently very few successful implementations on which to base a study of best practice. Because of this, and the fact that some mobile devices are similar in functionality to conventional computers, it is only natural that the first generation of mobile e-learning content will closely resemble conventional e-learning, presented on a smaller screen.

As mobile devices evolve and people discover new ways in which the functionality of mobile devices can be applied to training, mobile e-learning will probably become increasingly different from conventional e-learning; no longer a miniaturised version of it. Internet connected phones may be applied to mentoring and used to register students on courses and pay their fees, as well as present training content through the use of audio. Another development may be content development tools that will provide the ability to publish learning content adaptively to a wide range of mobile devices. In addition, the student may well have control over reading or listening to the content using voice synthesised XML technologies.

Since mobile e-learning technology is so immature, there are presently more

possibilities relating to what could be done with this technology than concrete examples.

But with the number of mobile devices predicted to surpass the number of conventional computers for web access in the near future and with bandwidth for mobile devices predicted to increase dramatically in the short term, mobile e-learning appears certain to become an important part of training in the future. Many national and international activities in mobile learning contents (MLC) and in multimedia educational software (MES) in general are currently partially funded by the European Commission, involving private and public sector organisations. In this context, the need for educational multimedia for vocational training purposes is widely recognised. However, users of educational multimedia cannot appraise

educational resources because they are notable to evaluate their characteristics, potentialities and limits. The reason it is not easy to carry out a critical evaluation of mobile educational

multimedia is that these resources are relatively new compared to traditional print based learning materials. Most people are still not used to handling them nor aware of their

educational potential.

But then every new technology or technology driven platform or development will find obstacles on the way. Mobile learning is currently the most useful as a supplement to ICT, online learning and other traditional learning methods, and is playing a central role in enriching the learning experience. It is now widely believed and has been proven in various countries that mobile learning could and has been a huge factor in getting disaffected young adults to engage in learning, where traditional methods have failed. This is the new world and everything is changing – the market, the need, the people. M-learning is the future.

In the future, we will see mobile phones, computers and various other computing media or devices (iPods, digital cameras, PDAs, etc.) we use will converge into a single personal mobile computing device, At such a time, the differentiation between e-learning and m-learning will cease to exist; all learning will be electronic and mobile.

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