TEL Communities

Helen Caldwell and Anna Cox | View as single page | Feedback/Impact
TEL Communities
Definitions: Theoretical background relevant to technology facilitated social learning
Research evidence: Systematic literature reviews on the theme of technology facilitated social learning

Mobile technologies as a catalyst for pedagogic innovation within teacher education

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This paper reviews the use of mobile technologies within teacher education at the University of Northampton. In order to develop a strong commitment to digital literacy the School of Education is using sets of teaching iPads with trainee teachers and has allocated an iPad to every member of academic staff. Experiences from mobile technology projects involving ITT students, primary teachers and academics are shared to illustrate how mobile technologies have been a catalyst for new pedagogies based on a social constructivist model of learning in our teacher education programmes. We aim to develop creative, self-directed learners who can work in collaborative teams within a professional community of teachers, academics and students. We have considered ways in which mobile devices extend learning beyond taught sessions, and how the use of apps to make shareable digital artefacts can lead to purposeful engagement. To this end, the School of Education is focusing on a set of core apps that facilitate the creation, collaboration, curation, and capture of content.

Many studies note that some face to face contact can be a strength and make a case for multimodal learning, mixing physical interaction with asynchronous learning (Hammond, 1998). Contemporary learning communities may thus combine physical and virtual spaces and make use of a range of social media and networking technologies. It may be that one of the reasons for a lack of hard evidence regarding the efficacy of using learning communities to bring about pedagogic innovation is the difficulty of analysing the many modes in which such communities interact (e.g., virtual meetings mixed with physical meetings, synchronous interactions mixed with asynchronous interactions, text-based posts mixed with multimedia posts). In our experience, mobile technologies have functioned as the glue pulling together this varied activity.

In learning and teaching environments then, mobiles have the potential to ‘contribute simultaneously to pedagogical innovation and to transformed practice’ (Danaher et al. 2009, p.1). And as Hwang et al. (2015 p.1) acknowledge in their discussion of ‘seamless flipped learning’, a classroom enhanced with mobile technology can facilitate across learning contexts, times, and social settings. Along with other researchers, (Song, 2014; Kong & Song, 2015), Hwang et al. (2015) note that good use of multimedia is a key feature of successful flipped learning and that multimedia apps on mobile devices make it easier to engage with, revise and share content.

The paper provides examples from practice of how some of these affordances of iPads, such as increased connectivity, mobility, ubiquitous access and the potential to make media-rich digital artefacts, have acted as a catalyst for our academics, pre- and in-service teachers to develop and document their mobile learning pedagogies. Together, our face-to-face and online initiatives have made way for new pedagogies in our teacher education programmes at the University of Northampton. We aim to develop creative self-directed learners who can work in collaborative teams within a professional community of teachers, academics and students. With this in mind, we are moving in the direction of informal, networked, technology-enabled learning, which extends learning beyond our face-to-face sessions.

Summary and conclusions:

Our examples from practice have demonstrated that mobile technologies can act as a catalyst for pedagogic innovation by providing:

  • enhanced opportunities to develop shared understandings of content and pedagogy in a social environment

  • a bridge between formal and informal learning and across disciplines

  • first hand experience of the sense of purpose that content sharing can bring to learning

  • contextualised experiential learning opportunities that combine real world interaction with the creation of digital artefacts

  • captured teaching events as a springboard to discuss which pedagogical strategies are most effective

  • opportunities to revisit learning, making for a smooth transfer of pedagogy to practice

  • multimodal learning journeys that move in and out of physical and social learning spaces, a cyclical process that increases the cross-pollination of ideas

By giving learners control over the time, pace and place of their learning, and by providing opportunities for authentic engagement with the physical world, the iPads have acted as a bridge between formal and informal learning, and across disciplines in primary education. This process has been facilitated by a combination of online learning communities and face-to-face learning events. Within the online communities our pre and in-service teachers have co-constructed knowledge by documenting learning that took place in a number of different contexts: at teacher sharing events, at network meetings, in classrooms, and via hands-on activities. This makes a case for ‘multimodal learning’, which mixes physical interaction with asynchronous learning (Hammond, 1998). Mobile devices can thus enable learning journeys to move in and out of a number of ‘digital habitats’ (Wenger, White and Smith, 2009). The emphasis on social learning has multiplied learning opportunities and has led to the development of a shared common purpose between academics, pre- and in-service teachers. In this way, mobile technologies have the potential to prompt social transformation leading to innovative pedagogical practice.Our example cases also demonstrate that apps that allow for collaborative content creation have enabled a natural learning process that arises out of social behaviour and engagement with the world. As a result of this, we acknowledge the need to embed the use of technology in educational contexts through interdisciplinary approaches mixing physical, digital and social learning spaces. Whilst hard research evidence from our iPad journeys has yet to be analysed, we are confident that mobile technologies combined with online learning communities in this way can provide a fertile ground for social learning.  


Mobile technologies as a catalyst for pedagogic innovation within teacher education (Caldwell, 2017). Available at:


Danaher, P., Gururajan, R. and Hafeez-Baig, A., 2009. Transforming the practice of mobile learning: promoting pedagogical innovation through educational principles and strategies that work. In Ryu, H. ed., 2008. Innovative Mobile Learning: Techniques and Technologies: Techniques and Technologies. IGI Global. Pp21-46.

Hammond, M. (1998). Learning through online discussion. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 7(3), 331–346.

Hwang, G.J., Lai, C.L. and Wang, S.Y., 2015. Seamless flipped learning: a mobile technology-enhanced flipped classroom with effective learning strategies. Journal of Computers in Education, 2(4), pp.449-473.

Kong, S. C., & Song, Y. (2015). An experience of personalized learning hub initiative embedding BYOD for reflective engagement in higher education. Computers & Education, 88, 227–240.

Song, Y. J. (2014). ‘‘Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)’’ for seamless science inquiry in a primary school. Computers & Education, 74, 50–60.

Wenger, E., White, N. and Smith, J.D., 2009. Digital habitats: Stewarding technology for communities. CPsquare.