By Anisa Ismail

If you were born before 2000’s,then you can remember having to do classwork and homework in the traditional way. A good old sharpened pencil and paper throughout primary school, and then you graduated to colored gel pens in high school. However, it seems like times have definitely changed as most schools, in the UAE, have begun to transition classrooms into a mobile device-friendly environment where students can incorporate the latest technology into the learning process. Will this transition come at a cost to the way a young child is able to learn?

The answer isn’t as simple as we first believe it to be. In order to really see the truest outcome we need to be able to weigh in on both sides of the coin. Having a mobile friendly learning environment does have it’s benefits for the students in the classroom.

Firstly, a lot of the young students have an expectation of an always-on access to the information they need. Mobile learning allows them to have an almost instantaneous access to the information they need. What makes it even easier is if the devices are portable, it can be used in the classroom as well as at home. 

Interactive content can be developed in stimulating formats, utilizing navigation and techniques familiar from digital platforms, including social media. Students, teachers and parents can all keep track of the student’s studies through automated updates, assignments and progress.

Secondly, high school students, can experience flexible, accessible mobile learning that supports the development of their independence, ownership of their progress and time management of their studies, needed for the 21st century workforce. Having a readily available approach to a 21st-century learning experience,  that’s convenient, is tailored to their needs and saves them time, is exactly what they can receive from this type of learning. The barrier to successful learning would be to not provide such an experience 

Furthermore, teachers who have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to phones out during class, since they assume that their students are using them to text friends or update their various social media sites, can ensure that students use devices for educational purposes. This in turn can change the classroom dynamic from lecturing at the front of the room to having no traditional front of the classroom at all. This makes it a little easier for the teacher to walk around and navigate the classroom in a more effective manner. 

With all that said and done, there is a downside to mobile learning, especially with pre-school and primary school aged children. 

For one, it simply cannot replace learning through play. Researchers have shown that through play and with the use of educational toys, children learn many different skills they will need in their life such as: 

Problem solving and learning cause and effect.

Learning how to play with others through compromise, conflict resolution and sharing.

Development of fine and gross motor skills.

Nurturing their creativity and imagination.

Discovering their independence and positive self-esteem.

Therefore, it is clear to note that mobile learning heavily disengages a young child’s mind from almost all of these crucial areas of development. 

Mobile devices have already begun to influence young children in their daily routine. This is evident in a variety of learning establishments in the MENA region. In today’s hyper-connected world its influence will continue to grow with mobile devices occupying an ever more significant role in the classroom. 

The key word that will instill is balance in determining when, where and how learning takes place, when using these devices. 

The integration of mobile technologies into the learning experience supports new and exciting ways of delivering engaging content; as long as it is used in accordance to every age and stage of development for it to be of true benefit for the students in the classroom.