Uses of mobile technologies for teaching and learning

January 1st, 2016

This article was migrated from a previous version of the Knowledge Base. The date stamp does not reflect the original publication date.


With the rising ubiquity of mobile technologies, mobile tools and platforms for learning are also growing. At present, there are myriad mobile apps for teaching and learning (e.g., KidGrid helps teachers track students’ progress [Rhodes 2010]), mobile games (e.g. DragonBox [Holden 2013]), and mobile platforms on which learners can build their own experiences (e.g. ARIS [Rhodes 2010] and TaleBlazer [Metlock-Walton 2012]). The proliferation of available resources for mobile learning has culminated in a range of scholarly work investigating along different threads of inquiry. On the one hand, some researchers are thinking about using mobile technologies as tools for teaching and/or instruction.

On the other hand, some researchers are exploring how mobile technologies shape and impact learning. Collectively, the field of mobile technology is persistently working to explore the effectiveness and boundaries of mobile technologies across these threads (and more?).

Findings from Research and Evaluation

Seminal Works

In 2002 Roschelle and Pea identified the advantages of “WILD” (Wireless Internet Learning Devices) as their abilities to (a) augment physical space, (b) leverage topological space, (c) aggregate coherently across all students, (d) conduct the class, and (e) record actions so that they become artifacts for later use (Roschelle & Pea, 2002).

Patten, Sánchez, and Tangney identify seven uses for educational mobile devices (administrative, referential, interactive, microworld, data collection, location aware and collaborative), pointing out that three of these functions (namely, data collection, location awareness and collaboration support) are affordances particular to mobiles (Patten, Sánchez. & Tangney, 2006)

Squire and Jan (2007) conducted a seminal study around handheld devices and learning, and used a game-based approach to illustrate how mobile technologies afford learners’ a unique ability to construct scientific arguments in the wild.

Naismith, Lonsdale, Vavoula, and Sharples compiled a useful literature review of mobile technologies and learning.

Emerging work

Mobile Media Learning is a two volume series (the second volume to be published Spring 2015) that compiles a great deal of work.

Litts, Smith, Gagnon, Martin, and Mathews propose five design considerations when implementing mobile technologies for learning: Place, Design, Narrative, Identity, and Embodiment.

Directions for Future Research

How can we use mobile data for learning analytics?



The Field Day Lab (previously Mobile Learning Incubator) is a team of designers, researchers, and practitioners at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Two projects of note are the Biocore and Ornithology (CITE) projects through which the team explored the effectiveness and design of mobile technologies as field research tools. Key findings indicated that students using mobile devices were significantly more accurate and efficient in identifying plants compared to using traditional field guide methods (CITE).






Communities of practice

ARIS has an active community via Google group to support use of the platform.

The GLS center is a community of professionals from a variety of backgrounds (research to policy making to industry to educator). Within this community, many groups

Playful Learning is a community focused on using games and mobile technologies for education.



Falk, J.H. and Dierking, L.D. Enhancing Visitor Interaction and Learning with Mobile Technologies. in Tallon, L. and Walker, K. eds. Digital Technologies and the Museum Experience: Handheld Guides and Other Media, Altamira Press, Lanham, MD, 2008, 19-34.  Retrieved from

Holden, C., Gagnon, D. J., Litts, B. K., & Smith, G. (2013). ARIS: An Open-Source Platform for Widespread Mobile Augmented Reality Experimentation. Technology Platform Innovations and Forthcoming Trends in Ubiquitous Learning, 19-34.

Lella, A. & Lipsman, A. (2014).  The U.S. Mobile App Report.  comScore Whitepaper.  Retrieved from

Medlock-Walton, M. P. (2012). TaleBlazer: a platform for creating multiplayer location based games (Doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

Naismith, L., Lonsdale, P., Vavoula, G. and Sharples, M. (2004). Literature review in mobile technologies and Learning NESTA Futurelab Series, 2005. From:

Patten, B., Sánchez, I.A. and Tangney, B. Designing collaborative, constructionist and contextual applications for handheld devices. Computers & Education, 46,3, (2006). 294-308. From:

Rhodes, S. (2010, September). A Hand-held Data Tool Design for Teachers. InProceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting(Vol. 54, No. 7, pp. 626-630). SAGE Publications.

Roschelle, J. and Pea, R. A walk on the WILD side: How wireless handhelds may change computer-supported collaborative learning. International Journal of Cognition and Technology, 1,1, (2002). 145-168. From: