Using mobile learning to increase environmental awareness

 

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 Introduction

Mobile learning also called m-learning can be described as the learning that involves mobile technology. This learning does not require one to be in a certain place with people and at a given time. In this case, individuals learn from anywhere with the help of portable lightweight devices. With mobile learning, both educators and learners can access learning materials and relevant information, anywhere and at any time. To create an environment for mobile learning, a student or an educator should incorporate or integrate tools for communication for example; the message boards, text messaging emails, and many others. They should also be equipped with scaffolds for learning support tools e. g dictionaries, materials for electronic references, diaries and many others, anywhere and at any time. (Ryu & Parsons, 2009).

The increase in growth and development of information and communication technologies and the evolution of learning behaviors has made institutions for learning to change their way of delivering knowledge to learners. The schools now focus on individuals and not the shared time and place, through networking. Technology has provided systems that have been framed to facilitate the retrieval of information. Educators address their learners using a pedagogy that complies with the requirements for learning and the need for the students. Mobile learning makes education effective by easily adapting to the pedagogies. A good example is in test preparation for elementary school students, where mobile learning easily adapts to design multiple choice tests and fill in the blank answers.(Qiang, Pitt & Ayers, 2004).

Mobile learning devices

mobile learning devices are used to ensure that mobile learning is facilitated. Globally, it has been acknowledged that mobile devices are being incorporated to replace the past centuries’ computing activities.In institutions, students use devices that best suit their course and their level of education i. e students in elementary schools cannot use the same devices with students in high schools. Some of the mobile learning devices used in classrooms of elementary schools to create environmental awareness include; the QR codes, the Google maps, Ever note peak, Study Blue Flashcards, Trello, I Books, Google Docs e.t. c. The use of the mobile Learning devices to bring technology into class is cheaper compared to the traditional mode. This is because, the device are cheap and easy to carry around with.(Rogers,2011).

Mobile learning in classrooms

schools that are not employing technology in learning are creating a big difference in environmental awareness compared to those that have integrated technology in learning.No one wants to be left behind, teachers and students are both learners in this scenario. The use of mobile technologies is critical in accessing information and communication within learning institutions. Schools that oppose desktop and television technologies end up opening a way for cell phone technology. Cyber experts take advantage of this cell phone technology by accessing the information which students may require because it is not provided in their schools. For instance, a case where face book chatting is prohibited in schools, students may cling to the cyber cafes and get all they may need. The cyber community operates for twenty four hours. Therefore, learners can access any information they may need at any moment (Mitra, 2010). The control of technology by gatekeepers prevents learners (students, teachers and schools) from noticing the importance of engaging with technology (Woodill, 2011).

The authority or control that schools had is gradually fading away since the mobile technology has given learners freedom to study from anywhere and at any time. For instance, with the use of study blue flashcards, studying is made efficient and effective for students. The study blue flashcards gives immediate feedback and helps the students to go through their class notes wherever and whenever they have time to spare. The schools now focus on individuals and not the shared time and place through networking. Technology has provided systems that have been framed to facilitate the retrieval of information

Children are engaged in learning while using the technological gadgets other than when they are taught using the formal educational system.Notably, mobile learning technology is of great importance to schools, students, the society and the whole world at large. The use of technology in education plays a critical role and yields very meaningful results. There are various benefits associated with the use of technology in education. It improves students’ achievement in reading, math and writing. As students get motivation in learning by using technological devices, their performance enhances. Their attendance in class improves, cases of drop out decreases, and the society gets involved because of the facilitation of technology. Mobile learning fits many learning styles such as in reading, videos, animations, internet searching, listening to broadcasts and many others. It also improves social learning, which includes talking to peers and experts.

The iPad has an easy to use multi-touch interface like the iPod Touch and is more portable than the laptop. Nonetheless, it lacks support for websites that control Adobe Flash operations and low power processing compared to a laptop. Despite all these, it is still perceived as an ideal constituent or addition to the classroom. The use of the iPad in a one to one learning is good for improving students’ performance. This is especially for teachers who teach English reading, math and science in elementary schools.

Mobile learning and environmental awareness

Environmental awareness is the knowledge or education about the environment. Mobile learning has greatly influenced or facilitated environmental awareness in very many ways. Elementary schools and other academic institutions are using mobile learning devices to educate their students more about environmental awareness. For instance, the Google maps have helped teachers with their students in answering questions on environmental research, cultural information or explore the whole world to familiarize themselves with different types of environment. Students get map and spatial literacy with the help of the Google maps. Through the Google maps, the students get to learn about conserving and how to improve the environment and the ways forward incase of disasters.

The elementary school teachers, with the help of the Google maps can easily teach their students about maps, for example, pupils in grades 5 to 8 may learn map concepts. There are many teaching strategies that are appropriate for teaching environmental awareness through the use of mobile technology. Mobile learning makes students both in class and out of class to be more engaged in learning, creating a friendly environment or atmosphere of discussions and interrogation of complex issues.

In thinking through mobile learning as a way of creating environmental awareness, teachers, trainers, managers and staff developers are provided with case studies to help them plan for both the present and future. The students benefit from the case studies by getting course support through an integrated learning technology (Gillham, 2001).

A study was carried out over an academic year to find out how students use GPS equipped mobile phones in exploring, creating and sharing georeferenced multisensory information, to increase environmental awareness. The main objective was to show how mobile phones could be used in environmental education. In the experiment, two elementary schools, Viseu School and Porto school were involved. The Viseu elementary school was represented by one class of 7 girls and 5 boys aged 10 and 11respectively and the Porto elementary school was represented by 16 girls and 23 boys aged between 8 and 10 from two its two classes. Before the study started, the students did not have contacts for one another because the schools were 100 km away from one another.(Druin, 2009).

The students of each class were then invited to choose their partners. They formed groups of girls and groups of boys leaving one pair to have a boy and a girl. During the activity, the dialogues, comments and the attitudes of the pupils from both elementary schools were recorded. Four workshops were run, two in the Viseu elementary school and the other two in in the Porto elementary school. Then the students were told to create Senses@School game. Being an open ended activity, the challenge encouragedthe student to share multisensory information about the environment of their different two schools. They used GPS-equipped mobile phones and other models to create multisensory messages that were put in display automatically in the GE found in the project website. While creating their multisensory messages with their mobile phones, most students took, took pictures and added text and sound to their messages.

It was confirmed that the use of mobile learning enabled the children to be creative in their assigned work and collaboratively shared their views about the environment of their schools. It also engaged teachers and children sharing environmental views, hence promoting environmental awareness.

Teachers too can be learners

Teachers too are learners when it comes to mobile learning. Technology allows differentiation if combined with great teaching. The roles that the teachers play require them to be in the new era of education. Therefore, they should choose a technology they can share with their students. Integrating mobile technology in their studies will help them have a classroom that is interactive, collaborative, and an innovative place of discovery. Teachers without skills of technology drag their students far behind. Teachers should be trained and supported to go high-tech and adopt the use of modern technology.(Benjamin, 2005).

It is true that there are many challenges that teachers go through before they adapt to this mode of learning. It is sometimes hard to accept change. While introducing mobile learning to a school, teachers should be approached first so that they can prepare themselves. They should at least find time to get themselves used to the technological devices before they start teaching. It is a shame for a teacher to be outdone by a student in cases of who understand the mobile devices more than the other one.

A lot of training is needed to ensure that teachers become competent in dealing with the technologies. . He or she should also identify the right mobile tools and resources that fit every course. Another major challenge is the study habits. It is hard for educators to understand studying in different modes. Since mobile learning involves studying at anywhere and at any time, it becomes harder for teachers to adopt this change. When the technology is applied creatively and effectively, performance of students improves. (Cornish, 1985).

A study was conducted to show teachers the need of mobile learning as a tool for creating environmental awareness. The focus of the study of the study was how action learning sets would help the pre-service teachers(PST)to effectively use mobile technologiesto see to what level they understood mobile technology. This was to help them gauge themselves and know the steps forward. There were five participating schools, four of which had four pre-service teachers. The remaining one school had a set of six. They totaled to 22 teachers, one male and the others, females.(Moyle, 2010).

The participants had access to PalmTM Treo mobile phones, with features such as email, messaging and web access. The devices could also be used for contacting, taking photos, and calendar, audio and video recordings and for playing back songs (the internet radio & MP3). The device also supported Word, Excel, PowerPoint and PDF files. The 22 participants were required to work in pairs and were to organize, implement and asses a unit of work about waste, water and energy management of grade 5 or grade 6 students. The pairs of pre-service teachers were assigned to teach the five schools that were hosting them for two hours per week for 6 weeks. Each pair of the teachers was jointly using the mobile device and even allowed students to use it. Due to lack of funds to supply the free SIM cards, the pre-service teachers were asked to put in their own SIM cards to the phone.

The training took place in a computer lab which had 20 computers. The teachers were based in a school based learning sets to plan on how they could use the mobile device in recording and put reflection on their teaching. They were also instructed to figure out how they could use the device that was issued to them with their students in class. When the views were shared with other learning sets, it was found that there was a possibility of restriction of use of mobile phones by the schools’ policies. The facilitator conducted a two hour session on the use of mobile phones and came out with a user friendly manual that the teachers used till the end of training session.(Powell, 2012)

On the second weak, the teachers were provided with a USB card reader and were shown how to transfer the video and photographs that they had captured using their phones. At the end of each teaching, the teachers were to meet to download files and share their learning experiences in the computing lab. The facilitator used to attend those meetings and when they shared again about mobile phone using, additional training was added by combination of peer teaching, teaching by the facilitator and teaching from one academic expert who knew all features of the phone.(Pogue, 2010).

In each week, one pair of pre-service teacher was assigned the job of leading the discussions with the others. The facilitator acted as an observer, another pair of teacher recorded their views during meetings. They then emailed the summary for more sharing. During the interim, SMS messages were sent to the learning sets to organize meetings. At the end of the teaching experience, a follow up survey was done. At the end of the study, conclusions were made. The first conclusion was that, the use of mobile phones was not preferable in classrooms by students as this could raise issues because of the many features the device had some of which could affect students while learning. It could be preferred outside classroom only when recommended. It was also concluded that, the mobile device was used to support environmental awareness which was about waste and energy management. The third and last conclusion was that teachers realized the need of mobile learning in increasing environmental awareness. They also learnt the need of choosing the right technology to help their students in learning.(Ally, 2009).

Conclusion

Mobile learning technology is important in decision making. The mobile services offer information that can help one to make wise decisions and correct judgment. They are also cost effective in that they are cheaper than booking the resources needed for training. In addition, it promotes active learning, portable, and it facilitates a new learning environment. Furthermore, it fits into the lives of learners. Furthermore, it increases accessibility for learners with special educational needs.Teachers are supposed to look for appropriate ways of integrating the new technology into the learning process.

It is true that internet serves educators all over the world in meeting up and exchanging ideas about strategies and emerging technologies. With mobile learning, one finds the joy of learning, or teaching. In addition, one will discover the wonders that technology brings to every single day. Through the mobile learning techniques, teachers collaborate online by developing a wiki page that teachers all over the world can view the content page and resources. As education advances, teachers too need to advance. Mobile technologies enhance both teaching and learning.

 

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