How to use mobile technology to seize learning opportunities as they emerge?

As an element of the capacity building framework designed to help students make better use of their personal mobile devices (PMDs) for workplace learning (WPL), this specific resource aims to promote students’ agency and capacities to use mobile technology to create their own resources and tools to enhance their learning on-the-go.

How can students, academics and workplace educators use mobile technology help them respond to practice issues as they emerge?

The workplace can be an excellent rewarding source of learning as long as it is perceived by students as a rich learning environment.[1] To make the most of WPL experiences, students need to engage with the environment and practise taking initiative. Students can come across unanticipated or unique situations in their workplace. Feeling alone in addressing these emerging issues can be isolating and stressful. Not knowing what to do with a problem can reduce confidence and sense of agency.[2]

Active involvement and participation in work activities on placement are known to help students learn. This equally applies to learning digital skills. Teaching students to use information and communication technology (ICT) and developing their digital literacy skills in isolation from professional practice as well as telling them about policies and professional codes of conduct out of context run the risk of students becoming passive receivers rather than agentic learners. To enhance learning, students need to be encouraged to become participatory, creative and self-directed learners.

Evidence shows that learning to use ICT in isolation from specific professional problems is often ineffective.[3] Students are likely to face similar issues when learning to use mobile technologies. For example, pre-service teachers or health practitioners need to know how to operate a Smartphone, an iPad or other mobile devices, but they also need to know how to fuse the use of these devices with professional needs (ways of knowing, doing and relating). In short, future professionals need to have the appropriate knowledge, skills and disposition to efficiently, effectively and ethically use mobile technologies at work and for workplace learning. Further, evidence shows that ‘pure’ resources developed by others that aim to enhance the use of technologies in the workplace (such as eLearning resources developed for teachers) are often ineffective as they lack authenticity and personal engagement.[4]

Quite a different issue is encountered in courses where students are provided with large amounts of information. In such cases, students usually are engaged in passive learning (e.g. reading, note taking, doing quizzes). In contrast, evidence from cognitive sciences suggests [5] that active, constructive and interactive activities are much more beneficial than being passive”.[6] Being active is good, being constructive is even better and being interactive promises optimal ways for creating self-owned learning opportunities. Tasks that draw on active students’ construction of learning resources and tools for their own learning and their peers could help address this challenge. These tasks not only help address the above two issues, but also could help foster students’ creativity, innovation and agency.[7]

Examples of participatory co-creation approaches include:

  • “knowledge-creating inquiry”[8]
  • “knowledge building” [9]
  • design as inquiry
  • “learning-by-design” [10]

Therefore: Students should be encouraged to share their resources using mobile technologies to help them (and their peers) learn on-the-go while on placement as well as be assigned tasks to develop learning tools and resources that assist them in using PMDs more skillfully and knowledgeably on placements.

Refer to the associated resource page for some examples of how to do this.



[1] Boud, D. & Prosser, M. (2002) Appraising New Technologies for Learning: A Framework for Development, Educational Media International, 39:3-4, 237-245

[2] Hitlin, S., & Elder, G. H. (2007). Time, Self, and the Curiously Abstract Concept of Agency*. [to be reviewed]. Sociological Theory, 25(2), 170-191. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9558.2007.00303.x

[3] Angeli, C., & Valanides, N. (2009). Epistemological and methodological issues for the conceptualization, development, and assessment of ICT-TPCK: advances in technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK). Computers & Education, 52, 154-168.

Angeli, C., & Valanides, N. (2013). Technology mapping: an approach for developing technological pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 48(2), 199-221. doi: 10.2190/EC.48.2.e

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2005). What happens when teachers design educational technology? The development of technological pedagogical content knowledge? Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32(2), 131-152.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: a framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2007). Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK): confronting the wicked problems of teaching with technology. In R. Carlsen, K. McFerrin, J. Price, R. Weber & D. Willis (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education International conference, 26 March 2007 (pp. 2214-2226). Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved 08-01-2016 from:

[4] Falconer, I., & Littlejohn, A. (2009). Representing models of practice. In L. Lockyer, S. Bennet, S. Agostinho & B. Harper (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Learning Design and Learning Objects (pp. 20-40). Hershey: Idea Group.

Littlejohn, A., Falconer, I., & McGill, L. (2008). Characterising effective eLearning resources. Computers & Education, 50(3), 757-771.

[5] Chi, M. T. H. (2009). Active-Constructive-Interactive: A Conceptual Framework for Differentiating Learning Activities. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1(1), 73-105. doi: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2008.01005.x

Chi, M. T. H., & Wylie, R. (2014). The ICAP Framework: Linking Cognitive Engagement to Active Learning Outcomes. Educational Psychologist, 49(4), 219-243. doi: 10.1080/00461520.2014.965823

[6] Chi, M. T. H. (2009). Active-Constructive-Interactive: A Conceptual Framework for Differentiating Learning Activities. Topics in Cognitive Science, 1(1), 73-105. doi: 10.1111/j.1756-8765.2008.01005.x

[7] Damsa, C. I., Kirschner, P. A., Andriessen, J. E. B., Erkens, G., & Sins, P. H. M. (2010). Shared Epistemic Agency: An Empirical Study of an Emergent Construct. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19(2), 143 – 186.

[8] Muukkonen, H., & Lakkala, M. (2009). Exploring metaskills of knowledge-creating inquiry in higher education. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(2), 187-211. doi: 10.1007/s11412-009-9063-y

Muukkonen, H., Lakkala, M., & Hakkarainen, K. (2005). Technology-Mediation and Tutoring: How Do They Shape Progressive Inquiry Discourse? Journal of the Learning Sciences, 14(4), 527-565. doi: 10.1207/s15327809jls1404_3

[9] Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: theory, pedagogy and technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 97-115). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[10] Kolodner, J. L., Camp, P. J., Crismond, D., Fasse, B., Gray, J., Holbrook, J., . . . Ryan, M. (2003). Problem-Based Learning Meets Case-Based Reasoning in the Middle-School Science Classroom: Putting Learning by Design(tm) Into Practice. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 12(4), 495-547. doi: 10.1207/s15327809jls1204_2

Valtonen, T., Kukkonen, J., Kontkanen, S., Sormunen, K., Dillon, P., & Sointu, E. (2015). The impact of authentic learning experiences with ICT on pre-service teachers’ intentions to use ICT for teaching and learning. Computers & Education, 81, 49-58. doi: