informal and non-formal learning experiences on-line rises dramatically, more attention should be paid to these trends as these experiences are often as valuable as formal ones in terms of skills development and knowledge building and sharing (HELIOS 2006: 16).
Learning with, for instance, mobile game technologies can indeed make learning more pleasant and more effective. Naismith et al (2004) report on a mathematics video game that used the Nintendo Game Boy Advance system to supplement traditional curricula and teaching methods. Drills in addition and subtraction were presented as a game with advanced scoring and recordkeeping, character creation and variable difficulty levels. Findings of the “Skills Arena” project were that students completed three times more exercises compared to what would be expected with traditional worksheets. Moreover, teachers found the activity was easy to administer and control. Another example of more pleasant learning was the “BBC Bitesize” initiative, which provided revision materials via mobile phones, using a downloadable Java game and SMS text messages. It proved to be so popular that the BBC had to start charging for SMS, which then led to a sharp drop in the number of users. Other problems identified with delivering learning content via mobile phones were related to the limitations of the mobile phones themselves (small screens, memory capacity, battery); to the lack of localised content which meant that certain questions were not relevant to particular students and to compatibility across devices despite the use of Java as a cross-platform environment (Naismith et al, 2004: 20-21).
When transferring learning and teaching with mobile technologies from small-scale pilots to institution-wide implementations, educators and technology developers must consider the following key issues, according to Naismith et al. (2004: 4): Gathering and utilising contextual information may clash with the learner’s wish for anonymity and privacy; Mobile technologies can also enable students to ‘escape’ from the classroom and from what is being learned; Effective tools are needed for the recording, organisation and retrieval of (mobile) learning experiences; And the risk that certain technologies may be abandoned by students because formal learning could interfere with their personal technologies and social networks.
5. Teacher training
The need for teacher training is widely acknowledged. Teachers, trainers, and other learning facilitators have to be given the knowledge, examples and time to “adopt” ICT in their daily practice. Empowering teachers and trainers is therefore fundamental (HELIOS 2006: 16; Cartelli, 2006). One of the problems is that today's teachers need to learn to teach with digital technologies while many of them have not been taught to do so.
Teacher training should not just encompass ICT skills but rather a full understanding and complete mastery of ICTs as pedagogical tools. In a recent Futurelab review of research on teacher education (Fisher et. al 2006), two different views on how to develop teacher training on digital technologies are distinguished: retooling versus renaissance. The first instrumental model (retooling) consists of digitalising analogue processes in the same way you would retool an industrial production line. This is seen as limited since it only attempts to capture, copy and disseminate elements of ‘good practice’ out of the context in which they were developed. It may appear to meet short-term needs, but does little to develop reflexive professionals capable of intelligent action in fast-changing contexts. The renaissance model, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive account of teacher development, as it is based on the strong involvement and empowerment of teachers to effect change.