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Adoption of M-learning Technology Report


Executive Summary

Current trends in education show that Mobile learning (M learning) has significantly redefined learning processes. However, at the heart of its adoption lie serious concerns about the benefits, limitations, and implications of M learning.

This paper explores these concerns by evaluating the issues that surround the adoption of M learning and its potential ramifications for students and educators. Based on the challenges and responses given by educators, regarding the adoption of M-learning, this paper predicts that more educators will adopt the M learning technology beyond the current integration of learning processes.

Introduction

Mobile services have increasingly become part of everyday life. Indeed, it is normal to see the dominance of technology on most aspects of human life. This trend has also gripped the education sector because instructors and students today use technology to teach and learn. This trend has slowly crept into the education sector because technology today is more portable and affordable than in the past years.

For example, many mobile devices, such as cell phones and PDAs, have increasingly become affordable and accessible to most people because their prices are relatively reasonable, as opposed to other technological device such as computers.

It is for this reason that MacCallum & Jeffrey (2009) say, “Features such as the facility to make phone calls, take pictures, record audio and video, store data, music, and movies, and interact with the Internet all provide opportunities that could be harnessed in the educational context” (p. 602).

The availability of technology has brought new opportunities in learning, especially concerning the easy access to information communication technology (ICT). Mobile learning (M learning) is one such platform that uses technological advancements to support learning.

M learning involves the use of specialised technology such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), mobile telephones, MP3 players, notebooks, tablets, handheld computers, iPads (and the likes) in learning. The adoption of M learning technology in education has brought significant changes, challenges, and opportunities in learning.

This paper explores some of these issues through a critical analysis of the benefits, implications, and ramifications of M learning. At the centre of this analysis is the technology acceptance model

Technology Acceptance Model

Many educators have used the technology acceptance model to evaluate the possible benefits of new technology in learning (Seliaman 2012). Many researchers have also advanced the technology acceptance model as a valuable tool in M learning research (Seliaman 2012). Its usefulness in the adoption of M learning especially surfaces here because the model evaluates how students accept and use M learning.

The technology acceptance model suggests that many students are motivated to accept and use M learning because of its perceived benefits and ease of use (Seliaman 2012). The first criterion (perceived usefulness) was first described by Fred Davis as the ability of students to see how new technologies improve their learning processes (Lumsden 2011).

Fred Davis also defines the second criterion (perceived ease of use) by suggesting that most students would be willing to accept new technology if they consider it to be free from effort (Abeka 2012).

Kynäslahti (2003) conducted a study to evaluate the significance of M learning in education by demonstrating that the M learning technology improved learning in three dimensions – convenience, expediency, and immediacy. Seppälä & Alamäki (2003) compared these three dimensions to a different finding where they analysed the responses of trainee teachers regarding their perceived uses of M learning.

The trainee teachers agreed with most of the findings proposed by Kynäslahti (2003) when they admitted that M learning gave them a lot of convenience when teaching. They supported this claim by saying that M learning enabled them to manage their time better and more efficiently.

For example, the teachers said M learning devices enabled them to work on trains or buses if they needed to write notes or share some information with their colleagues (Seppälä & Alamäki 2003).

The trainees also admitted that M learning devices provided them with expediency in teaching, especially because they could easily access the internet whenever and wherever they pleased. Relative to their claims, MacCallum & Jeffrey (2009) add,

“For example they could use the mobile devices when they were in the shops to check if there was a particular foodstuff at school, which was needed in a lesson on home economics. They were able to integrate technologies, whereby they could upload images from their mobile phones, rather than waiting to return to class to do so” (p. 603).

Lastly, the trainees said that the greatest advantage they enjoyed from M learning was its immediacy (Seppälä & Alamäki 2003). They mostly cited the fact that they could undertake most learning tasks immediately, without having to wait for an “appropriate” time to do so.

For example, they said they could easily take pictures and share them with their colleagues in real-time. They also mentioned their contentment with the fact that M learning technologies helped them to make memos and share them, while observing other trainee lessons (Seppälä & Alamäki 2003). The teachers therefore had no reservations regarding the technology.

Generally, the technology acceptance model shows that the perceived benefits of M learning in education have a significant impact on the decision by teachers or students to embrace the technology in their learning processes.

However, given the pivotal role that most educators have to play in learning, it is crucial to appreciate the power that most of these educators have in inhibiting or supporting the adoption of M learning technologies in education.

It is also important to appreciate the familiarity of technology among most educators, although people should agree that this familiarity does not mean that all educators know how to integrate this new technology into their learning processes (MacCallum & Jeffrey 2009). It is for this reason that it is equally important to understand why educators may not openly incorporate technology in their teaching practices

Barriers to the Adoption of M-learning

MacCallum & Jeffrey (2009) say many barriers prevent the complete adoption of M learning technologies. Broadly, the reasons for instructors and students to resist the adoption of new technology in learning may be widespread, but some issues are very specific to M learning. For example, some educators are not comfortable with using M learning technologies in the classroom.

Such groups of educators may therefore be less inclined to adopt new technologies in the classroom. Some educators and students are also less enthusiastic to embrace new technology in their learning processes. These groups of people are also less likely to embrace the M learning technology.

Lastly, another group of educators and students may not fully enjoy the benefits of M learning because of their failure to understand its benefits, or the lack of proper understanding regarding how M learning technologies work.

Personal attitudes and preferences also have a significant role to play in understanding if people will adopt new technologies, or not.

For example, research has proved that even though educators know the potential benefits of adopting M learning in the classroom, they need to have a strong personal conviction that they would be able to execute the new technologies in their learning processes. If they do not believe they can do so, they would be resistant to the technology. Relative to this assertion, MacCallum & Jeffrey (2009) says

“An educator that feels ill at ease when using ICT is typically the result of negative past experience, conversely an educator may feel at ease with ICT when they have had a positive personal experience using ICT and therefore, research shows that they would be more willing to include it into their teaching practices” (p. 603).

Educators may however experience a change of belief and attitude when they face the challenge of adopting new technologies, but this change ought to happen in the context of past encounters, vicarious experiences, and social or cultural experiences with M learning (Abeka 2012).

A positive experience with M learning may lead to increased enthusiasm to adopt the technology in education, while a negative experience with M learning may equally lead to increased opposition of the technology.

MacCallum & Jeffrey (2009) suggest that the measurement of a teacher’s personal belief about a new technology is therefore a reliable measure for the understanding of lasting changes of M learning in the classroom.

New studies have also shown that an increased sense of proficiency in one technological medium of learning may also lead to the adoption of M learning, or similar technologies (MacCallum & Jeffrey 2009). In Caspi and Gorsky (2005), researchers showed that most teachers and students who were proficient in E-learning had a high likelihood of adopting other ICT tools in their learning processes.

Overall, it is important to agree that the personal perception of ICT proficiency significantly determines the frequency that an educator, or a student, may use M learning in education. Nonetheless, it is unwise to use the attitude of an instructor, as the single most reliable indicator of the adoption of M-learning in education (MacCallum & Jeffrey 2009).

Challenges Posed by M Learning

While many studies have explored the potential benefits that M learning brings to education, other studies have also explored the potential challenges caused by M learning (especially how they significantly prevent their adoption in education) (Abeka 2012). For example, MacCallum & Jeffrey (2009) single out the concept of mobility as a serious challenge posed by M learning.

They say that even though many studies have shown that most teachers and students appreciate the mobility created by M-learning, this technological tool also allows students to associate external issues (outside the classroom) with their technological gadgets, thereby compromising the objectivity of their learning process (MacCallum & Jeffrey 2009).

Indeed, “Inside the classroom, mobile devices provide students with the capabilities to link to activities in the outside world, albeit these activities do not correspond with either the teacher’s agenda or the curriculum” (MacCallum & Jeffrey 2009, p. 610). This challenge dents the efficiency of conventional teaching practices.

Another possible challenge that plagues the application of M learning technology is the informality that it introduces to education. People have regarded education as a highly formalised discipline that thrives on clearly defined rules of sourcing, retrieving, and analysing information.

However, the M learning technology introduces informality to education, thereby undermining the formal structures that have traditionally characterised the education system (Seliaman 2012). This analysis does not however mean that the informality introduced by M-learning is a bad thing for education.

However, any possible benefits that may be enjoyed through informality may be lost if the informality is allowed to characterise all aspects of education. For example, many students live in distinct social networks, but if technology undermines the existence of these networks, the students may oppose them.

Another factor that may potentially prevent the smooth adoption of M learning stems from serious concerns expressed by Gong & Wallace (2012) regarding the adoption of the technology in learning. One concern is the erosion of the collaborative environment that should characterise teacher-student interaction. According to Gong & Wallace (2012), M learning decreases the level of interaction between students and their teachers.

They also say that M learning prevents immediate feedback between students and teachers (Gong & Wallace 2012). High school dropout rates are also common among students who use M learning technologies (Gong & Wallace 2012).

Besides these challenges, Gong & Wallace (2012) add that “M learning also creates a time-place displacement that decreases communication, erodes social connections, and increases feelings of personal loneliness and depression” (p. 7).

Moreover, some scholars have expressed concern that the widespread use of M learning may encourage plagiarism as students have an unlimited access to web materials that they may pass off as theirs (Banyard & Underwood 2006).

Additionally, Gong & Wallace (2012) have little doubt that M learning causes identity reconstruction challenges, as it erodes the traditional face-to-face interaction model of learning. This is especially true because participants who use M learning may easily maintain anonymity as they use the technology.

According to Gong & Wallace (2012), the anonymity that M-learning supports in education may promote deception and antisocial behaviours in learning. Comparatively, Anderson & Emmers-Sommer (2006) say face-to-face interactions in the classroom pose several advantages to students and educators alike because face-to-face interactions are active and interactive (attributes that the M-learning model seeks to erode).

Equally, Sherblom (2010) contends that “in M-learning, uncertainty reduction strategies are altered, both restricted and expanded, in ways that affect interpersonal impressions, communication, and relationships” (p. 497).

Beyond the psychological limitations of adopting M learning, Gong & Wallace (2012) say that the restrictions and challenges that characterise the use of M learning technologies are still apparent. Most of these restrictions and challenges stem from the uses, prices, and sizes of the technological gadgets used in M learning. A common concern that many educators have, is the quickly changing nature of technology (Gong & Wallace 2012).

Indeed, technological gadgets evolve quickly and one type of technology that may be useful this year may not be so useful in three or five years. Some people also consider some of the technological gadgets that most educators use in M learning as “expensive toys” (Gong & Wallace 2012). This perception may affect the attitude of some students, or teachers, in adopting the technology in education.

Additionally, some of the technologies used in M learning require high system requirements that may reduce their efficiency in the learning context. For example, Chen-Chung (2009) says, “The screens on handheld devices are designed for individual-user mobile applications. They may therefore constrain interaction among group learners” (p. 127).

Lastly, Luminita (2010) observes that personal ownership in M learning is a key factor that supports the realisation of its learning benefits in the classroom (both personal and group learning may potentially lead to the realisation of these benefits). Some of these benefits may be tangible or intangible.

However, personal ownerships of M-learning devices pose the greatest benefits in learning. Certainly, if all students own an M learning device, they can easily explore the benefits of the device, beyond the realms of the classroom setup. However, institutional ownerships of these devices pose a challenge to the realisation of these benefits because students do not own the M learning devices (personally).

Conclusion

This paper mainly takes a keen interest in the adoption of M learning from an educator’s point of view because educators are usually the primary point of contact with students. Educators also experience the support and barriers to the adoption of the new technology first hand. Currently, many of these educators have embraced M learning through a simplistic version of integrating education processes.

However, the potential for M learning exists beyond the realms of integrating educational processes. For example, the use of M learning for SMS notification and quiz distribution is a very limited application of the technology. This limited application of M learning may stem from the potential limitations of the technology, or the fact that its application is still very “young” and fragile.

Indeed, M-learning is a relatively new technology in learning, but the success or failure of its adoption will largely depend on the ability of educators and students to see its benefits (at least according to the technology acceptance model).

The experience, attitude, and perception of the new technology will also play an instrumental role in ascertaining if students and educators will adopt the M learning technology successfully, or not.

However, as more researchers continue to explore the benefits and implications for the adoption of the new technology, there is a high likelihood that many educators may appreciate the full benefits of adopting M-learning in education.

References

Abeka, S 2012, An Investigation Of Factors Influencing Corporate Customers Acceptance Of Internet Banking: A Case Study Of East African Trade Finance Customers, GRIN Verlag, Munchen.

Anderson, L & Emmers-Sommer, M 2006, ‘Predictors of relationship satisfaction in online romantic relationships’, Communication Studies, vol. 57 no. 1, pp. 153-172.

Banyard, P & Underwood, J 2006, ‘Do enhanced communication technologies inhibit or facilitate self-regulated learning’, European Journal of Education, vol. 41 no. 3, pp. 473- 489.

Caspi, A & Gorsky, P 2005, ‘Instructional media choice: Factors affecting the preferences of distance education coordinators’, Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, vol. 14 no. 2, pp. 169-198.

Chen-Chung, L 2009, ‘Analysis of peer interaction in learning activities with personal handhelds and shared displays’, Journal of Educational Technology & Society, vol. 12 no. 3, pp. 127-142.

Gong, Z & Wallace, J 2012, ‘A Comparative Analysis of iPad and Other M-learning Technologies: Exploring Students’ View of Adoption, Potentials, and Challenges’, Journal of Literacy and Technology, vol. 13 no. 1, pp. 2-27.

Kynäslahti, H 2003, Mobile Learning, IT Press, Helsinki.

Luminita, S 2010, ‘Internet-a new way of training, designing an e-learning platforms’, Young Economist Journal, vol. 11 no. 1, pp. 151-158.

Lumsden, J 2011, Human-Computer Interaction and Innovation in Handheld, Mobile and Wearable Technologies, Idea Group Inc (IGI), New York.

MacCallum, K & Jeffrey, L 2009, Identifying discriminating variables that determine mobile learning adoption by educators: An initial study. Web.

Seliaman, S 2012, ‘Mobile Learning Adoption in Saudi Arabia’, World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, vol. 69 no. 1, pp. 391-393.

Seppälä, P & Alamäki, H 2003, ‘Mobile learning in teacher training’, Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, vol. 19 no. 1, pp. 330-335.

Sherblom, J 2010, ‘The computer-mediated communication (CMC) classroom: a challenge of medium, presence, interaction, identity, and relationship’, Communication Education, vol. 59 no. 4, pp. 497-523.

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