How can we balance affordability and affordances in the design of mobile pedagogy?

Mr Mark Pegrum | Presentation (PDF)

University of Western Australia 


This presentation examines the design of mobile pedagogy in light of the twin principles of affordability and affordances. It is based on an extensive review of mobile learning projects in both the developing and developed world, involving interviews with IGOs, NGOs, corporations, ministries of education, project managers, teachers and researchers across five continents. It has implications for educators who are seeking to implement appropriate types of mobile learning in their classrooms, as well as for policymakers who are seeking to support teachers in implementing mobile learning at local, national or regional levels.

The first part of the presentation will outline three types of mobile learning: where the devices are mobile, but the learners and the learning experience are not; where both the devices and the learners are mobile, but the learning experience is not; and where the devices, the learners and the learning experience are all mobile. As mobile learning increases in sophistication across these levels, it makes ever greater use of the affordances of mobile devices, but the necessary hardware, software and connectivity become less and less affordable. It will be argued that the design of appropriate mobile pedagogy relies very much on educators and policymakers balancing the imperatives of affordability and affordances, in such a way as to derive the maximum possible pedagogical benefits for their target learners in their particular contexts. 

The second part of the presentation will identify three major agendas which underpin mobile learning initiatives around the world. The first agenda seeks to transform teaching and learning by drawing on the affordances of mobile devices to support active, immersive, student-centered learning, often aligned with social constructivism and other progressive pedagogical approaches. The second agenda seeks to develop students’ 21st century skills and digital literacies. The third agenda seeks to promote social justice by opening up educational opportunities for underserved populations in contexts where technological and educational infrastructure may be lacking. While these agendas sometimes partially overlap, they are sometimes partially at odds, due to their differing emphases on affordability and affordances. 

The third part of the presentation will offer short vignettes of several successful language and literacy projects whose organizers have made varying decisions about how to balance affordability and affordances as they seek to serve their target audiences. Examples will include affordable projects from North Africa which use feature phones to reach large numbers of users, an innovative project from South America which caters to students moving around classrooms and schools, and a cutting-edge project from Asia which pushes the boundaries of geo-social and augmented reality technology for highly wired users of smart devices. 

In this way, the presentation will distil the essence of the theory developed in the forthcoming book, Mobile Learning: Languages, Literacies and Cultures (Macmillan, 2014), enriched with case study examples. It is hoped that the audience will be able to suggest examples of further projects which have successfully balanced affordability and affordances to effectively meet the needs of their target audiences.



Mark Pegrum is an associate professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Western Australia, where he teaches and researches in the areas of electronic learning and mobile learning. His newest book, Mobile Learning: Languages, Literacies and Cultures, is due to be published by Macmillan in mid-2014. Other recent publications include Digital Literacies (co-authored with Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly; Pearson, 2013), From Blogs to Bombs: The Future of Digital Technologies in Education (UWA Publishing, 2009), and Brave New Classrooms (co-edited with Joe Lockard and Peter Lang, 2007). He is an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, a member of the Editorial Boards of Language Learning & Technology and System, and a member of the Review Panel of the International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning. Mark currently teaches in Perth, Hong Kong and Singapore, and regularly gives presentations and conducts seminars in Australia and New Zealand, East and Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom and Europe.


Twitter: @OzMark17


Back to top