Mobile Learning


Utilizing portable, personal devices as a core tool in one’s education

Principal Metaphors

M-Learning is not explicit about or aligned with any particular theory of learning – and, consequently, vocabulary used to characterize learning is not consistent. Most often, references and are suggestive of Folk Theories. The following are typical:
  • Knowledge is … material
  • Knowing is … mastered material
  • Learner is … an accumulator (individual)
  • Learning is … acquiring
  • Teaching is … delivery




M-Learning is, concisely, a mobile mode of formal education that involves, to varying extents, the use of phones and other personal devices to engage with content, connect to teachers, and interact with peers – at times and in places that are convenient to the learner.


So far, concerns around M-Learning have focused mainly on technical issues (e.g., reliability, connectivity), social challenges (e.g., cost, accessibility), educational issues (e.g., assessment, content security), and learner issues (e.g., focus, responsibility). A few commentators have noted the lack of (and need for) a theory of learning that fits to the format. Doubtless, attentions will soon be turning to its disruptive potential for formal education.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences


Status as a Theory of Learning

M-Learning is not a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

M-Learning is a theory of teaching – one that, somewhat problematically but perhaps not surprisingly, tends to revolve around notions of “delivery.”

Status as a Scientific Theory

Robust programs of research are emerging around M-Learning. There is already evidence that, when well executed, it can have significant positive effects on engagement and achievement. However, the lack of critical attentiveness to models, conceptions, and theories of learning that infuse the movement means that it does not meet our criteria of a scientific theory.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “M-Learning” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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