Major Post Two: A Cultural Ecology for Mobile Learning

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As a Masters student in library and information science, I imagine my future career will be defined by technology. I know that my job as a librarian will involve applications, software and hardware and the various ways to use them to achieve the ultimate enjoyment and satisfaction for the user. Providing users with the necessary tools to develop skills and knowledge and to ensure that the library remains an engaging and dynamic place for users will definitely be one of my priorities. Unfortunately, it seems that mobile technology still has a distinctly negative stereotype attached to it, especially within educational settings. Cook, Pachler and Bachmair’s 2011 article Ubiquitous Mobility with Mobile Phones: a cultural ecology for mobile learning was particularly enlightening when uncovering why this stigma is attached to mobile technology in the first place, as well as why, with the right attitudes and pedagogy, mobile technology can become an essential tool in educating young people. As Smith et. al (2011) states, “mobile learning is a harbinger of the future of learning” (p. 9).

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I think firstly it is important to acknowledge the reason why educators and policy makers seem to be so against the use of mobile devices in school settings, and why schools and other educational institutions seem to lag behind information institutions such as libraries or museums in implementing mobile technology. One of the major reasons involves the entanglement of mobiles with the worldwide culture of entertainment and banal mass communication, with its superficial modes of communication such as SMS and the small-talk nature of most phone conversations (Park, 2011). In this way, educators simply aren’t recognising the value in mobile technology for encouraging student participation or allowing them another avenue to express themselves creatively in an educational context, and dismiss the technology as frivolous. Another negative viewpoint towards mobile technology includes the fact that these devices seem to have spawned new forms of bullying among young people. There are a number of cases throughout the web where students have recorded violence within the school grounds on their smart phones and uploaded these videos to YouTube, and the bullying here only increases (Park, 2011). Cook, Pachler & Bachmair (2011) believes it is a legitimate consideration to use the school as a form of protection against distraction from the necessary habitus and attitudes for serious and successful learning. They don’t, however, believe that this concern is large enough to warrant the exclusion of mobile technology from schools altogether. What is needed is an understanding of how mobile technology can enhance and further develop learning and key literacy skills, and how this can be done in unique, interesting and engaging ways.


In order to develop policies and strategies for implementing mobile technology within educational settings, one must gain an understanding of the underlying concepts within it. Mobile technology involves the use of portable digital devices where the ‘user’ can generate their own content with a mobile phone or another digital device (Park, 2011). Mobile devices are resources that are available worldwide in everyday life for communication, reflection, conversation, informal learning and entertainment, or for consumption (Cook, Pachler & Bachmair, 2011). Such devices include mobile phones, Apple iPads, smart phones, palmtops, and handheld computers, tablet PCs, laptops, and personal media players etc. which allow users to create content and publish it almost immediately on the Internet. This new ‘mobile mass communication’ is part of what Cook, Pachler & Bachmair (2011) call a ‘mobile complex’. The mobile phones and other mobile devices discussed here represent only the visible tip of the iceberg of a technological and cultural transformation, with mobile technologies themselves becoming cultural resources within the cultural media ecology of schools and the classroom.


Recent innovations in program applications and social software using Web 2.0 technologies have meant that user-generated content can be published via media platforms such as Flickr (for annotated photographs), Twitter (for microblogging or ‘diary-like’ social messages that are no longer than 140 characters), Facebook (a social networking site) or YouTube (for video clips and comments) (Cook, Pachler & Bachmair, 2011). This is a system of individualization, mobility, media convergence and provisionality in which mobile devices, among other things, act as communicative, conversational resources. Students can develop and improve upon digital, media and visual literacies through using these applications, and take control of their own learning (Park, 2011). Mobile learning refers to the use of mobile or wireless devices for the purpose of learning while on the move. This type of learning is not just about the use of portable devices but also about learning across contexts.  In order to integrate mobile phones and other mobile devices into school instruction and learning, arguments are required that move beyond the simple enhancement and augmentation of learning and teaching by mobile media (Cook, Pachler & Bachmair, 2011). Given the increasingly digital world that we live in, being able to access the internet and the information within it where ever you are is becoming increasingly important. Children and young adults, as digital natives, are no different to the rest of society and as such, it is our role as information professionals to design and implement policies whereby the use of mobile technology and devices is put into educational contexts.


Cook, Pachlar and Bachmair (2011) have also noted that this new mobile mass communication is increasingly impacting upon traditional learning of the school in this process of ongoing cultural transformation. As mentioned previously, mass media are witnessing a paradigm shift in which the ‘user’ can generate their own content with a mobile phone or another digital device (Park, 2011). It is extremely important  to consider the interrelation of mobile devices and learning with the agency of children and young people in the school and in their lives outside school. Possibly the best way integrating mobile technology into a school setting is to integrate learning in informal contexts into the already established formal learning practices of the school. As Cook, Pachlar and Bachmair (2011) state, this can be achieved by taking into account the following:

  • the changing socio-cultural and technological structures, among them individualised mobile mass communication and social fragmentation into different milieus;
  • the changing agency of the students; among others, these include the different habitus of learning and different attitudes towards media. The new habitus of learning is one of the characteristics of at-risk learners;
  • the mobile and convergent media practices of everyday life.


Obviously, Mobile Technology can be invaluable for schools and, as a result of the reading I have conducted throughout this unit, I believe that it is only a matter of time before more schools will be adopting various forms of mobile technology into their individual curricula. Adequate forms of teaching and learning which are remote from traditional instruction need to be developed as new technologies come into play, particularly those that are regularly used by young people outside of the classroom. Boundaries that the social world sets around the texts, contexts and social relations between users should be and will be contested as new technologies and new cultural practices collide with old ones (Cook, Pachler & Bachmair, 2011).



Cook, John; Pachler, Norbert; and Bachmair, Ben (2011). Ubiquitous Mobility with Mobile Phones: a cultural ecology for mobile learning. E–Learning and Digital Media, Volume 8 Number 3. pp 1-15.

Park, Yeonjeong (2011). A Pedagogical Framework for Mobile Learning: Categorizing Educational Applications of Mobile Technologies into Four Types. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from

Smith, C., Bradley, C., Cook, J. & Pratt-Adams, S. (2011) Designing for Active Learning: putting learning into context with mobile devices, in Anders D. Olofsson & J. Ola Lindberg (Eds) Informed Design of Educational Technologies in Higher Education: enhanced learning and teaching. IGI Global.