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Collaborative learning enhanced by mobile technologies: New perspectives and opportunities

Jimmy Jaldemark Stefan Hrastinski Anders D. Olofsson Lena-Maria Öberg

Technology-enhanced learning (TEL) is an evolving field that builds from developments within both the field of learning and the field of technology. Developments from these two fields have contributed to the TEL field for decades (Conole, 2017; Parson, 2014). For example, social aspects of learning have emerged to complement earlier individualistic perspectives of learning. This has led to the emergence of perspectives that emphasise TEL as a collaborative endeavour. These perspectives are usually developed by scholars who build on and adopt ideas from the pragmatism of Dewey and/or the sociocultural perspective of Vygotsky. Concurrent to the development of theoretical perspectives of learning, the field of technology has contributed to major and rapid technological leaps that have impacted on recent development.

Mobile technologies have emerged and influenced current societal development. We could speak of the current state as an era of smart technologies, including the internet of things (see for example He et al, 2016), such as wearables (such as smart-glasses and smart-watches) and touchscreen devices that open up opportunities for instant social and technological networking. Humans could be described as technology-equipped mobile creatures that are using applications, devices and networks as a platform for enhancing their learning in both formal and informal settings.

Nowadays, learning has become a mobile and collaborative phenomenon. Learners use these technologies in everyday life. In a society characterised by a wide dissemination of such smart and emerging technologies, it is particularly important to shed light on how people come together and learn. Therefore, the emphasis on mobility in human lifestyles underscores a need to re-conceptualise the idea of learning. Such re-conceptualising also embraces learning as a communicative endeavour that can occur anytime and anywhere. In other words, in the emerging digitalisation of society, learning is provided in new ways.

To reach an understanding of collaborative learning enhanced by mobile technologies and push the boundaries further, there is a need to explore how different theoretical perspectives of learning could inform the design of collaborative mobile technologies. One recent attempt to achieve this push is to be published in a newly published special issue of the British Journal of Educational Technology. The special issue includes theoretical contributions on how collaborative learning can be enhanced by mobile applications, devices and networks. Other studies in the special issue focus on how the design of mobile technologies could enhance collaborative learning. A third category, a review paper, describes the state-of-the-art of collaborative learning enhanced by mobile technologies These different types of studies show that collaborative learning enhanced by mobile technologies relates to aspects of both formal and informal learning. Learning scenarios in formal education are often linked to informal resources and spaces – in this way, collaborative mobile learning forms seamless and ubiquitous educational settings that dissolve the boundaries between informal and formal aspects of learning. It is clear that collaborative learning enhanced by mobile technologies is a phenomenon that needs to be studied with a wide range of different approaches and different methods. This is illustrated by ethnographic approaches (Cerrato Pargman et al, 2018) on the one side, and quasi-experimental (Northey et al, 2018) and pre-post-testing (Xiangming and Song, 2018) on the other side.

The studies in the special issue point towards three different opportunities.

  • First, there is a need for further theoretical development of the learning theories applied in studies of collaboration enhanced by mobile technologies.
  • Second, there is a need for critical investigations of the effects that future mobile applications will have on collaborative learning.
  • Finally, there is a need to continue to design mobile applications and prototypes for collaborative learning.

These opportunities may be essential to develop a deeper understanding of how mobile technologies could be used to enhance collaborative learning.

In conclusion, although often regarded as separate fields, the intersection between research results of collaborative learning and mobile learning seems to be a fruitful way to push forward our understanding of how learning occurs in a society characterised by a wide dissemination of mobile technologies.

Cerrato Pargman T, Nouri J and Milrad M (2018) ’Taking an instrumental genesis lens: New insights into collaborative mobile learning’, British Journal of Educational Technology 49(2): 219–234.

Conole G (2017) ’Research through the generations: Reflecting on the past, present and future’, Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning 2(1): 1–21

He J, Lo D C-T, Xie Y and Lartigue J (2016) ‘Integrating Internet of Things (IoT) into STEM undergraduate education: Case study of a modern technology infused courseware for embedded system course’, paper presented at the Frontiers in Education (FIE) conference, Erie, PA

Northey G, Govind R, Bucic T, Chylinski M, Dolan R and Esch P V (2018) ’The effect of ‘here and now’ learning on student engagement and academic achievement’, British Journal of Educational Technology 49(2): 321–334.

Parsons D (2014) ‘A mobile learning overview by timeline and mind map’, International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning 6(4): 1–21

Xiangming L and Song S (2018) ‘Mobile technology affordance and its social implications: A case of “Rain Classroom”’, British Journal of Educational Technology 49(2): 276–291.