M-Class: Mobile learning for teaching and learning

Mr Dominic Mentor | Presentation (PDF)

Columbia University



Mobile technologies are challenging the role of teachers as students now have access to a wealth of multimodal information and stimuli, which can be either forces of distraction or tools of engagement. Mobile phones, phablets (larger-screen smartphones) and tablet devices are rapidly becoming devices of choice for consuming and producing content, partly because of the easy interface, quick start-up times as well as the availability of a plethora of applications (apps). However, very little guidance or professional development offerings are available for K – 12 teachers, who already suffering from major time poverty on how to use tablets to save time, saving their energy and putting their students first.

Mobile technologies can be incorporated into formal and informal learning spaces as they can extend the formal educational time, and honour a basic tenet that learning is everywhere. Furthermore, mobile technologies can extend and blend formal and informal educational spaces in a manner that can help to engender authentic and autonomous learning habits.

Currently, very few dedicated teacher preparation programs exist for exploring the relation between mobile technologies and learning. By offering a course on mobile learning technologies with solid theoretical foundations, teachers in training have the opportunity to learn which theories and practical pedagogical considerations should inform their mobile teaching and learning initiatives.

A graduate course designed and offered at Columbia University, explores how one can utilize the mobile technologies for learning and the factors to consider. The aforementioned course highlights theoretically informed processes that can stand up to the ever-changing mobile technology landscape. Presenting the project based process designs and a progressive structure of said course will elucidate lessons learned and directions for growth to adapt to changing mobile learning environments.

This m-Class offers in-service and pre-service teachers, as well as graduates from many different disciplines, examples and opportunities to directly engage students virtually, in real-time and asynchronously. The mobile learning course also highlights the multimodal wonder of digital curation through mobile technologies and their ability to prepare and engage students as better autonomous learners within different learning contexts; be it grade level, subjects, or specific projects inside or outside of the classroom.

Apart from the theories, practical pedagogical guides could be served well if informed by the three C’s of context, content and collaboration which further frames the course. Context informs which theories and practical processes to consider as well as the how, when and what of educational devices and/or apps to use, to meet the planned goals and objectives of interactive synchronous and asynchronous educational engagements. While context is crucial, core curriculum and content on a mobile device is dynamic. Taking note of the goals, objectives, context and content has the ability to promote our students as active agents and collaborative participants rather than passive receivers. In short, drawing on a number of different theories and practices, a hybrid approach for teaching and learning with tablets is necessary for successful and engaging activities and address the needs of mobile technological integrated teaching and learning.



Dominic Mentor is an Associate Adjunct Professor at Columbia University in New York City. He initiated, co-designed and co-teaches the United States’ first mobile learning class and a course on cognition and handheld devices. As a South African Fulbright scholar he completed his doctoral research at Teachers College in New York. Prior to his doctoral studies, Dominic completed a Masters at Stellenbosch University in Hypermedia for Language Learning and an Honours post graduate degree in English Literature and Literary Theory at the University of the Western Cape.

Dominic’s initial background that led him into educational technology includes teaching ESL and Literature for nine years at middle and high school levels, before teaching and researching at various universities for the last twelve years. Dominic’s expertise includes mobile learning, learning management systems, social connectedness in off and online spaces, hypermedia for language learning and user interface design. His research interests include the social activist impact of social media, informing research designs as well as organizational mobile learning initiatives from theoretical, practical and pedagogical frameworks, which fully utilize the potential of mobile communication and mobile learning.

Dominic also acted as a consultant on a project with the New York Mayor’s Adult Education department to leverage social media to multi modally enhance that office’s adult education delivery and engagement. Dominic’s most recent presentations were as keynote speaker at the WPU Educational Technology Conference, as an invited panellist and speaker at various colleges: Adelphi University, Borough of Manhattan Community College and as a speaker at TEDx, hosted by Teachers College Columbia University.






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