Source: Teacher Development, Vol. 17, No. 1, 1–18, 2013.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article reports on an initial study of a professional learning community (PLC) of educators who are investigating mobile devices in their teaching.
The main research question was: how does a PLC support its members’ learning about pedagogy that employs mobile technologies?
The PLC comprised seven teacher educators and, initially, two adult educators at an Australian
A critical friend from the United Kingdom (UK) was invited to provide advice and feedback to the PLC.
The research examined two conjectures:
firstly, that a professional learning community would enrich understanding of teaching with mobile technologies; and
secondly, that these technologies would enhance teaching.
Given the ubiquity of mobile devices, members of the community felt they needed to develop expertise in mobile learning so that they could incorporate it into their teaching.
They studied their own learning, supported by a critical friend who evaluated the community’s functioning and activities, providing valuable feedback.
Activities of this group were informed by and focused on: development of awareness of the potential of mobile devices for learning; construction of action plans within the community; and implementation of these plans.
The community met regularly to discuss emerging issues and applications.
The findings indicate that progress towards an enriched engagement with m-learning may be promoted by the establishment of a PLC.
The existing professional relationships facilitated community formation and enhanced the sense of commitment, risk-taking, shared responsibility and purpose.
Each participant progressed in his/her use of mobile devices for teaching and learning.
In addition, the results also indicate the contribution of mobile learning to teaching.
The participants saw opportunities for contextualisation and personalisation of learning tasks, and support of project-based and inquiry-based learning approaches.
The ubiquitous nature of mobile devices was mentioned by all respondents and one expert believed that mobile devices in general are acting as a conduit to technology use in higher education institutions.
There was general agreement that teacher education should develop prospective teachers’ new digital literacy skills to help leverage mobile learning in education.
In general, this conjecture about the value of mobile learning was supported by the activities of the group, but there was a clear indication in the data that PLC members would benefit from greater availability of mobile devices, and more pedagogical support in integrating them into their classes.
The authors have developed understandings of how Mobagogy and similar PLCs focusing on learning how to teach with new technologies might function well:
• To immerse group members in the technology use.
• To purposefully use the technologies in authentic teaching contexts.
• It is essential that group activities be undertaken in a safe environment.
This can be achieved in three ways:
- Sharing stories with the group.
- Creating sufficient time for group members to engage in activities.
- Providing a ‘buddy system’ which allows smaller groups to work with members who have expertise in a different area and are able to support their learning.
• To participate in scholarly conferences to gain opportunities to present work to academics from a range of paradigms, in ways that are public and transparent and open for critique.
• To include a critical friend familiar with the technology to provide an external perspective on community activities and to bring fresh insights into teaching innovations and their embedding in practice.