Informal STEM Learning Through Mobile Technology

July 9th, 2015

Across the STEM education landscape is an increasing interest in mobile technology and its potential use as a tool for learning. Whether it’s using smartphones in the context of citizen science projects or tablets to augment experiences with museum exhibits, mobile technologies are being leveraged to advance and deepen engagement in a diversity of settings and experiences. The following resources from the collection and knowledge base can help inform your process developing projects, research questions, and evaluation plans using mobile technologies to facilitate informal STEM learning.


Developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Merlin is an online wizard for bird identification. The mobile application is simple, interactive, and question-driven. The app was designed to help users practice observation and identification skills, obtain more information about birds, and develop a deeper appreciation for Earth’s biodiversity. Unlike existing bird-identification guides, which are based on traditional taxonomic keys, Merlin uses machine learning algorithms and crowd-sourced data to “teach” Merlin how people see and describe birds.

Mobile Media Learning: Innovation and Inspiration

& Mobile Media Learning: Amazing Uses of Mobile Devices for Learning This series of books describes innovative uses of mobile technology in a variety of learning settings and experiences. In each volume educators share their stories of developing a mobile media learning project. While the recently published volume Mobile Media Learning: Innovation and Inspiration highlights contemporary applications and of-the-moment developments, its predecessor Mobile Media Learning: Amazing Uses of Mobile Devices for Learning offers thought-provoking, timeless insights into designing for learning.

Facilitating Museum Evaluation with Real-Time Data Mining

Using a smartphone application, museum visitors can ask questions of a ‘virtual scientist’ called Dr. Discovery (Dr. D). Dr. D provides answers and invitations for visitors to complete fun mini-challenges. The questions visitors ask are compiled in a large database, where an analytics system analyzes the collected data and makes the information accessible to museum staff via a secure website. This currently active project makes novel use of the ubiquity of mobile and hand-held technology to both encourage museum visitors to deeply engage with exhibit content and allow museums to make evidence-based improvements as desired.

Are you currently working on a project, designing research, or conducting evaluation related to STEM learning using mobile technologies? Share them with the field by contributing to our collection, or by authoring an article on our Evidence Wiki.

Photo credit: ITU Pictures via Flickr; CC BY-2.0