The Promise of Mobile Learning

According to TechCrunch article on Thurs, Feb 28, 2013, Apple has sold more than 8 million iPads to educational institutions. That’s a startling number. I know that many schools on Oahu either already have a 1:1 iPad program or are on the verge of implementing the program. Those not on a 1:1 iPad program, such as the school I teach at, have access to iPad carts.

In my own classroom, we use iPads about 25% of the time. There are great Anatomy apps that allow my students to visualize the body system we are covering. Just today, for introduction to the nervous system, I am having my students put together a Brain Cap, then using the 3D Brain App (free), students identify location and function of key structures in the brain such as the 4 lobes of the brain. I find that my students are more engaged and motivated with the content through using iPads than using the textbook and course management system alone.

Students working on Brain Caps and 3D Brain app Finished Brain Cap

Although we are using iPads in the classroom, we are not truly maximizing the capacity of mobile learning. In true mobile learning, content and learning should be accessible from any where at anytime. At this point, my students can’t check out the iPads to take home. If they need the iPads beyond our class meeting time, they have to make an appointment to meet with me. Some students with iPhone or iTouch end up downloading the apps we use if they are free or relatively inexpensive. In order for my classroom to realize mobile learning, we would have to move to a 1:1 iPad classroom.

Among the promise of mobile learning are more productivity and more engaged students. However, I find that there are still limits to iPads – especially when it comes to collaboration. I love the ease of collaborating in real-time on Google Docs. There isn’t an easy way to replicate this process on the iPads (yet). Thus, the best case scenario would be to have a 1:1 iPad program with access to a class set of laptops. However, in a year’s time, who knows where the technology will be and what new promises it will bring.

5 thoughts on “The Promise of Mobile Learning

  1. Hi Nan,
    Thanks for sharing your experience using mobile technology in your anatomy class.
    I love how you have incorporated iPads into your class. You understand that technology is just a tool, albeit a versatile and powerful one. Often educators focus on the technology and expect it to automatically improve learning outcomes. It needs to be thoughtfully and deliberately incorporated into the curriculum with the ultimate goal of improving learning. I commend you for your willingness to explore technological tools and how it can engage learners and create learning opportunities in your classroom.

    Do you have any recommendations on anatomy apps for learning? We are using iPads in the athletic training room and would like to use anatomy apps to educate student athletes about their bodies and injuries.

    • Hi Darryl,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve been using Skeleton System Pro III and iMuscle by, and 3D Brain by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. I have a bunch of other apps that we’ve installed on our iPad cart, but haven’t used as much. I’m hoping to integrate more into the classroom this semester.


  2. Hello, Nan
    It was interesting to read your post. You shared interesting statistics at the beginning of your post to draw the attention of the readers. You also wrote about your own experiences with use of technologies in classroom. Your post was illustrated with attractive pictures. I agree with you that there is a limit about the productivity of mobile learning. However, I think students can collaborate on Google Docs using their ipads. The difficult thing is typing using the Ipad screen. I have to buy a keyboard in order to type quickly. Overall, you wrote well illustrative post about using mobile technology in education. You support your ideas with statistics, personal experiences and attractive figures.

    • Thanks, Munassir. I find that I too need a keyboard to help me type faster on the iPad screen. I’ve been playing around with the Google Drive app and it doesn’t seem to support real time collaboration like on laptop yet. I guess if students use a flash-enabled browser like Puffin, it should work ok, but it might not work seamlessly.


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