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2 arguments for using mobile phones and social media in adult learning

Jan Hylén specialises in strategic analysis and has done research for UNESCO, the OECD, the European Union, and education organisations in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. Jan shared with EPALE his two main reasons why mobile phones and social media can be invaluable tools in adult learning.

Dr Jan Hylén specialises in strategic analysis and has done research for UNESCO, the OECD, the European Union, and education organisations in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. Jan shared with EPALE his two main reasons why mobile phones and social media can be invaluable tools in adult learning.

 

According to the OECD study PIAAC (2013), one in four EU adults cannot solve simple problems using information and communication technologies (ICT). The study also found that one in five EU adults between 16 and 65 years has only very basic literacy and numeracy skills. The increased use of ICT in adult learning can help to come to grips with these fundamental issues. ICT has the capacity to enhance learning, widen access to learning opportunities, and develop digital skills which are pivotal for living and working in today’s society. Here are two key arguments for using social media and smart mobile technology in adult learning.

 

1.Mobile devices are less expensive than more traditional ICT classroom equipment and provide access to a wider range of learners (including outside the classroom)

Statistics show that almost eight out of ten European citizens have a mobile phone. This is one reason why some education providers have started to promote and support the use of smartphones in their teaching and learning. The use of mobile phones in adult learning is explored in several research projects, such as the EU-funded MyMobile project (2010-2012) and the British MoLeNET (2007-2010). Results from the MoLeNet project include improvement in learner retention and lower dropout rates. The project also concluded that with mobile phones learning can take place in many different locations. Furthermore, they provide learners with choice over and ownership of their learning.

The MyMobile project points out that even more important than the high distribution is the high degree of personalisation of mobile devices and their level of penetration in everyday life: mobile devices and mobile phones in particular, are highly individualised, and always available in physical proximity to the subject. A further strength of using mobile devices in learning is that they enable a connection between  formal and informal learning contexts. The MyMobile Handbook gives a number of examples on how mobile phones can be used in adult learning. These range from bridging informal and formal learning through mobile images, developing young adults’ self-expression skills through mobile storytelling, connecting older people in rural areas, and exploring the possibilities of mobile phones in a university course for educators.

 

2.Mobile phones and social media encourages a learner-orientated approach

Another reason for taking one step further and introducing not only mobile phones but also social media in adult learning, is that they make way for a more learner-oriented approach. So far many education providers have invested in Learning Management Systems (LMS), which integrate geographically dispersed learners. The LMSs are often well-suited for managing course descriptions, lesson plans, exams, messages etc. but they are designed for the management and delivery of learning, not for supporting self-governed and problem-based activities of learners. One of the most cited articles in the field of social media and adult learning, argues that

social media or social software, that allows the user to create, contribute, communicate and collaborate online without need for specialised programming skills, is better suited to support an open-ended learning environment and provide the learner with multiple possibilities for activities.

They also support interaction between mobile devices and internet, making way for increased mobile learning.

To conclude, there is an urgent need to increase digital skills among the adult population in Europe. But many education providers cannot afford to provide teachers and learners with up-to-date equipment. But by using the their own mobile devices, the learners feel a greater ownership of their learning. On top of that, social networking sites can support interaction, communication, and collaboration. These applications make it possible for learners – even those with modest digital competences – to actively create their own learning process rather than passively consume content. In doing so, learning can become a more participatory and lifelong social process.


Jan Hylén specialises in strategic analysis and has done research for UNESCO, the OECD, the European Union, and education organisations in Sweden and other Scandinavian countries. He has a background as Director of Research at the National Agency for Education. As a former Special Advisor to the Swedish Minister of Schools, he reviewed national and regional policies related to ICT and mobile learning in particular. In the late 1990s he was involved in the setting up of European Schoolnet, a network of 31 Ministries of Education in Europe working together on ICT in education. Jan has also acted as network manager for a European association of heads of university management and advised the Swedish International Development Agency in digital media. Finally, he has been a member of the NMC Horizon panel for ICT in education for several years.

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