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What is Mobile Learning?

26 May What is Mobile Learning?

Learning has always been mobile. From the first step we take in life, determined to explore what is around us through taste, touch and talk, we radiate curiosity and seek knowledge.

The Definition of Mobile:

Able to move or be moved freely or easily

The Definition of Learning:

The acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught(Reference Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press).

Connecting minds

Where once we would walk miles to reach a neighbor’s house in centuries gone by, or take the time to write a letter or note to send by a third party messenger, we now wake up to a world of devices at our fingertips. The motivation is the same; the basic human need of sharing and communicating at a personal level remains the one constant in a rapidly changing world.

Learning without Boundaries

Although it is difficult to believe, the first successful foray of man in space in 1961 pre-dates the arrival of the computer mouse, the internet and the personal computer. There is no more significant example of learning being underpinned by the human drive for mobility and the refusal to accept boundaries.

The top key inventions of the 1900s continue to build on the horse drawn cart, the penny farthing and the first steam engine in pushing the boundaries of time and space and joining minds physically and spiritually.


With the development of increased mobility being integral to the success of technological inventions, it is not surprising the term mobile phone came into play, signifying the ability to travel and talk on a more global level. Today’s Millennial generation would find the idea of a phone being bound by location inconceivable.

At the turn of the 20th century, educational psychology was coming into its own; thinkers like Jean Piaget and John Dewey were studying how people learn, and what motivates them to learn. They concluded that learning can happen anywhere, at any time, for anyone.


Fundamentally, learning happens naturally outside the classroom as part of our everyday lives, habits and experiences, as well as in the classroom. 80% of our lives are spent outside of formal classroom learning environments.

Transition from E-Learning to M-Learning

Much of the marketing around e-learning prevalent in the last decade is around giving learners access to what they need to know or learn when they need to learn it.

It is true that modern learning needs to be 24/7 around the globe. However, as a definition, this is inadequate in that it simply touches on the “what” and not the “why”.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one of the most popular and well-known models in leadership and people development writing and training.


An article published by Pamela Rutledge in Psychology Today entitled “Social Networks: What Maslow Misses” (November 2011) points out that Maslow’s model misses the role of social connection. Although Maslow’s model is hierarchical, starting with the basic needs of food, shelter and water, and reaching the top with self-actualization, Rutledge argues collaboration is essential at every level.

If belonging is a driving force, as opposed to the third lever tier, this demonstrates why connection and personalization has changed the face of E-Learning, making the shift to M-Learning.


Mobile Learning happens without us realizing, through apps, downloads, games, online information, alerts, searches, and social media connections. Spontaneity is the key word that defines it and the reason we have discovered a love of learning.


Nyiri K. (2002). Towards a Philosophy of M-Learning. IEEE International Workshop on Wireless and Mobile Technologies in Education (WMTE 2002), August 29-30, 2002, Teleborg Campus
“Inventions 1900 to 1990”. HistoryLearningSite.co.uk. 2014. Web.
Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press

Pamela Rutledge, Psychology Today, Social Networks: What Maslow Misses (November 2011)

Further Reading:
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