Mobile learning: Information searching during class

This article is the second in a series of five articles about scenarios for mobile learning.
These are linked to an initiative to promote and capture innovation in e-learning.

T-Mobile Google G1 mobile launch by Josh RussellWhat is it?

Students can use their mobile devices to search for information during taught sessions. Their findings can impact on the direction of the session, and can be collated for use in future teaching.


The activity develops students’ collaboration and information skills; students feel that their opinions are valued by tutors and in their subject discipline, and the collated resources can be of use to future cohorts.

How it can work

Students use mobile devices or other technologies to find information relevant to the topic of the session. Many have smart phones and laptops, with access to search engines, websites, and social bookmarking and networking tools.
After a time-limit, participants share their findings via a web-based aggregation service.  The resources could be tagged with the use of social bookmarking or social networking technology, or collected with a Google Form.
If different groups work on different questions, each group can present their findings to the other groups.  Different groups could also research opposing views of an issue, and use the resources they find to construct an argument as a basis for discussion.
Students could also play different roles during this exercise, e.g. researcher and presenter.

Potential issues

Students need guidance about where to store their findings and how to ‘tag’ them.  They may need to set up accounts on social bookmarking sites and familiarise themselves with how they work – it saves time if they do this before the session.
Students could be tempted to use their devices for other distracting activities, and connectivity speeds may fall due to the number of people trying to use wi-fi or mobile phone connections.
The activity changes the roles of teachers and learners. The teacher must adopt a facilitation role, essentially encouraging learners to engage in the activity.  Teachers should also prepare alternative activities, in case students fail to contribute or engage.

Follow up on this article

  1. Share your own mobile learning innovation – and win £500 and a pie/cake!
  2. View all five scenarios (download a Word doc).
  3. View an Educause article about ‘Google Jockeying’

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