Going Mobile: Teaching with Handheld devices

Book Review: ETAS Journal Volume 33 No. 3 Summer 2016

Nicky Hockly and Gavin Dudeney

Delta Publishing (2014)
ISBN: 978-1-90-978306-5
120 pages, paperback

Going Mobile is part of Delta's Teacher Development Series. Although the cover makes explicit mention of teaching with hand-held devices, Hockly and Dudeney take a holistic view of mobile learning where the focus is not just on the device itself but on learning that is mobile. In this sense, learning is envisaged as a better integration of classroom learning with real world or authentic content, where boundaries become blurred between what is learned in and out of the classroom.

This is a book that will not weigh you down physically or cognitively. At 120 pages, it is light and very portable. The content is well organised and the language accessible. It is designed in such a way that those with low-level digital literacy skills can gradually develop their skills as they work through the activities. This is because the level of difficulty increases as you move sequentially through the chapters. And those who are more adept and familiar with the affordances of mobile devices in relation to language learning have the option of being able to move freely through the activities, choosing those that are appropriate for their teaching and learning contexts. Hence, Going Mobile can be used by all teachers and does not exclude those who are new to working with handheld devices and apps.

I like the way that a visualisation of the book's overall structure and content is provided on page six in the form of a simple flow chart. This enables the reader to dip into the relevant section immediately without having to wade through the table of contents. Going Mobile is divided into three clear sections, Parts A, B, and C. Part A defines how the term mobile learning is used in the book and addresses questions that are typically asked by teachers pertaining to the significance of mobile learning, equipment, and content. This section also looks at models of implementation such as, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and hybrid mobile models. It highlights issues that can arise with the implementation of each of these models and draws attention to pedagogical, technical, and classroom management challenges. Being such a lightweight resource, there is obviously only so much that can be dealt with in this chapter. Nevertheless, it is more than just a glimpse into these issues and enough to make the educator realise that a careful and informed evaluation of their learning context should precede the implementation of any model of mobile learning. So that means keeping your enthusiasm under control until you have weighed up the pros and cons.

Hockly and Dudeney have based the design of the activities in Part B on the third category of Mark Pergrum's (p. 8) model for mobile learning which focuses on learning that is mobile. The idea being that learning experiences in and out of the classroom can be better integrated and hence, provide a richer learning opportunity for students. Part B consists of five chapters, each leading logically on from the next. I particularly like the way Chapter One is ‘hands off’, focusing on the affordances of mobile devices as well as issues that educators should be made aware of such as over-dependence and misuse. This enables educators and students to explore the potential of their devices for learning purposes. The activities in this section all follow the same format and are quite detailed as far as what preparatory material is required and how the teacher should structure and carry out the tasks at hand. However, it is left up to the teacher to discover how to use and become familiar with specific types of apps such as audio recording, presentation, or screen-casting apps, before introducing them to students.

The activities in Part C build on the previous section and explore learning experiences beyond institutional borders, integrating applications such as Geocaching® and augmented reality apps. These are larger and lengthier task-based projects, which require careful planning and an adequate level of digital literacy skills on the part of the teacher and students. It should be kept in mind that language learning is at the forefront here so we do not want to overload our students cognitively with technical challenges. I was pleased to see that Hockly and Dudeney warn educators about what should be taken into consideration before embarking on these more complex tasks. Part C concludes with a section that takes a closer look at an implementation plan for introducing mobile learning within your institution. It is a reminder that this book is not technology-driven, but supports mobile implementation plans that have a sound pedagogy underpinning them and where stakeholders’ needs are taken into consideration.

Overall, I feel that this is a valuable and practical resource that can be used by all teachers, irrespective of their level of digital literacy skills. It is well-structured, easy-to-read, and clearly outlines many of the pedagogical, technical, and institutional challenges that educators could be confronted with. I am certainly looking forward to exploring some of the longer projects with my language students.

Patricia Daniels