Chapter 8 - Main Achievements of Mobile Learning Through the Use of Educational Applications
The evolution of digital publications for education has led us in 30 years from CD ROMs of the '90s to Apps for smartphones and tablets, up to the current solutions for devices of Augmented and Virtual Reality. From the point of view of content, there is a certain continuity between the first multimedia educational works, such as the Dorling Kindersly series or the encyclopedias on CD ROM, and the current mobile educational Apps. Compared to paper texts, CD ROM, App and VR/AR solutions add audio and video content, hypertext navigation, three-dimensional simulations, and forms of gamification. The mobile Apps, developed in the post-pc era, are characterized by portability, ubiquity, touch interface, and sharing. While educational works for PCs needed dedicated classrooms, with tablets and smartphones Apps can be used at any time and in any space of the school.
This situation is profoundly changing the cycle of culture and learning, configuring new dynamics and even a new type of thinking, a new “brain frame” (De Kerkchove 1998). It is necessary to try to understand this psycho-technological condition in depth, focusing on which dynamics are being activated and which contemporary experiences best accompany this change, which concerns not only the school but the future of knowledge itself. In this sense it is possible to identify exemplary models of didactic applications that are able to be a vehicle for the "contents" of knowledge and at the same time to be configured as "containers" really able to contribute to the unprecedented cultural literacy of our time.
In order to correctly contextualize the analysis we are conducting, it is necessary to take a theoretical step backwards and refer to the fundamental dynamics of learning and the role it plays within culture; in particular, it is important to refer to the reciprocal relationship between the technological tools used for the production and storage of knowledge and the gnoseological character of the knowledge produced itself.
The McLuhanian lesson of the second half of the last century has masterfully clarified how the technology used to transmit culture radically influences the type of culture produced (De Kerkchove 1998, Levinson 1999), referring in particular to the electric mass media (radio and television) that immediately preceded the digital revolution. Today we must make an effort to understand how much the digital technologies diffused in every field of cultural and media experience are influencing, together with the tools of knowledge transmission, the same knowledge produced, transferring on it, therefore on the thought of the same subjects of learning (or, if we want, of communication) their own structural and morphological characteristics.
In school, the pervasiveness of mobile devices - in many cases distracting from the classroom - has sometimes led to a paradoxical ban on the use of smartphones in the classroom. In this sense, it is essential to manage these devices correctly, limiting their use to what is necessary; but it is also essential to understand in depth the epoch-making change underway, which concerns the transformation of culture and of the very thought that produces it. We have seen educational applications and experiences that can be easily transferred - methodologically and technologically - into the work of teachers.