Dec 13th: Mobile 3.0


ron-profile-pic college-logo
I am an Associate Professor of mobile and multimedia journalism. My teaching and researching of digital users is at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland (USA).  My lab’s web site is I can be reached via email at and my Twitter account is @ryaros.

I developed the Mobile 3.0 app for my introductory journalism course.
This course, is titled  Information 3.0is open to 70 students from any department at the University of Maryland. The course seeks to teach students how they can effectively communicate more complex information related to their major to non-expert audiences (i.e. the general public). At the same time, my ongoing research explores a new model for producing and assembling text and multimedia to inform and engage three different types of digital users (scanners, seekers, and engagers) with complex information related to health, science, and technology. The free Mobile 3.0 apps is available free on iTunes for Apple IOS, as well as Google (Droid), Windows, and Blackberry phones.

The Mobile 3.0 app provides students with the assignments and media tools for the class.

  1. Access and engage with various types of content, including their own ePortfolios, which they create for the course on Blogger. Student also access the course Twitter feed (#info3pt0).
  1. Students can use the app’s built-in media tools to produce audio, video, and photos.
  1. Students use the apps to view how their web pages appear to MOBILE users (the fastest growing segment of today’s digital audience). This is critical since most students typically produce their content only for web site. Students are amazed how different their content looks on their phone.
  1.  Students access the course learning management system (Canvas) for other assignments, quizzes and their grades.
  1.  Students can also submit their media directly to the professor or request an office meeting.
  1.   Mobile 3.0 offers “text alert” notifications from the professor, and
  1.  Students use the app to critically analyze content produced by their peers.  

pin_rdThe Case Study

The Mobile 3.0 app is integrated into student learning in two ways. mobile3-0
First, the course-related content in the app is updated frequently. This includes graded weekly assignments.  Frequent updates facilitate regular student engagement  through the semester,  not just a few times after downloading. Second,  some course content is  made available ONLY in the app (i.e. my “virtual” video lectures, quick polls or surveys, etc.) so students can engage with the course content at any time from any place.  Based on student input, this is something most students do not experience in other courses.

elmsThe app supports virtually all of my teaching of course content.
For example, knowing that many students complete writing assignments on their laptop,  the app is integrated  into my teaching as a “secondary” source for information.  In other words, if I ask students to write a brief assignment in class about an assigned topic, I provide menus to topical information in the mobile app so students can reference content as they type.  Since the app has built in “alert” capability, I can  schedule text alerts that “prompt” students to read an  assignment or submit work before a deadline. 

The Mobile 3.0 app  is used all semester for peer
For assessments, the mobile app is used exclusively for peer reviews. These reviews demonstrate the need  for students to think about how they must produce and deliver various types of content on screens much smaller than those on their laptops.  

Two major benefits of mobile learning are ease and convenience.
As one expects, most students need little training on how to use their phone. However, while most students  are comfortable with the they know little – if any – techniques to produce the  best mobile media (i.e. photos, video, etc.). The app utilizes the powerful tool that students hold in their hands.

submitvideoOne pitfall is that a few students do not yet have a smartphone.
The widely-adopted position that a mobile device can be distracting is valid especially when instructors depend on only traditional methods for delivering course content (i.e. lecturing with slides projected in front of class).  Based on my research in the past six years, new teaching methods and strategies that utilize the mobile phone during class meetings (displaying slides only on their phone and not in front of class) makes the device more important and less distracting for other temptations such as text messaging, email or Facebook. By depending on the device and my app for course content, other content is less distracting. However, this approach requires a radically different “mobile mindset” for instructors.

On interesting outcome is that students are required – and no longer not have the option – to attend to class content.
Put a student and their laptop in a class where slides are projected on a front screen and you get a student who “switches” briefly between projected slides and the social media content on their laptop. Unlike the dedicated screen on a phone running the Mobile 3.0 app, it is much easier for students to view multiple screens on their laptop during class meetings.  Three years of student  surveys consistently suggested that:  (1) Students know they are distracted by technology but don’t necessarily like the distraction, and (2) Appreciate any technology that keeps them more focused.  Given that many of us – young and old – have limited “digital self-regulation” and are in a cognitive state of what Linda Stone calls “continuous partial attention,”  it was interesting for me to find that an increasing number of students welcome new strategies that keep their learning efficient and effective.

The student feedback has been nothing but positive.
Students respond positively to the many different features of the  mobile app include “text alerts” for assignments and deadline reminders. Students say that they have so many deadlines for different courses, it can be difficult to keep assignments organized. Why not do what we can to assist students in meeting deadlines that the students might otherwise overlook?

I am starting a new collaboration with a colleague at another university.
In spring 2017, we  will conduct an experiment with writing assignments on laptops versus mobile phones.  Our questions ask to what extent do students prefer composing text on their phone whenever and wherever they want?  Is there a particular style of writing that students prefer to complete on a mobile phone?  Do mobile assignments keep students engaged for longer periods of time outside of class, as compared to assignments on laptops?

Utilizing a foundation of my previous research summarized on, we will continue to explore ways to use mobile apps effectively in the classroom.  We will continue to test digital writing assignments, such as student collaboration to prepare an class iBook,  We will explore new ways to utilize mobile apps in a “flipped” classroom.

Does any of this information and evidence relate to what you experience?  I am interested in your comments, experiences,  and tweets – including those about this case study or the app. You can share your tweet on #12appsDIT and/or post a comment in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Exclamation markTry it for yourself

You are welcome to download the free app and access the course content or try the media tools. Use the app to shoot video or a photo and tweet it to #12appsDIT.  If you have comments about the app that you wouldn’t mind sharing with my students – or perhaps even a suggestion on how you could use it in your teaching if I were to produce a similar app for your course, email me or tweet the suggestions to @ryaros.


27 thoughts on “Dec 13th: Mobile 3.0

    1. I haven’t (yet). 🙂 Mainly because such an approach, I think, depends on a course’s content, assignments, and format. Such a course app requires coordination of weekly tasks, quizzes, and postings so an app is “just an another app” until it is personalized for the course and the student. It took me more time to redesign the course for mobile learning than it did to produce the app.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, wow, I don’t even have the technical expertise to know all of those terms! Thank you for sharing that note since it helps me to realize just how “independent” I am from our “Canvas” LMS.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s an interesting approach to consider our class/course material as secondary resources, but I see a great advantage to having students simultaneously access class materials along with other resources as they complete in class assignments. I’d love to hear more about students’ reactions to and engagement with the Twitter hashtag for the course. How have you incorporated it into their learning?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The students, of course, think that the custom course app is novel as compared to their other courses so they enjoy the additional “connection” to the course, to me and each other. Thank you for asking about the Twitter hastag. All of their long form writing assignments AND the published research related to their topic MUST be tweeted for credit using my “explanatory” tweet format. In short, they must write and informative declarative sentence that includes at least 2 of the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where or why) followed by a link to more information. No incomplete sentences, no “vague” statements, no questions to the audience and no slang. Just the most effective way to communicate as much information as possible with 140 characters!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This seems to be an app thoughtfully designed with convenience and student learning in mind. Excited to see what further collaboration and study brings. This could be a model for other subjects, just about any critical reading/writing course. Cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sarah, for your comments. Actually, I think any topic except perhaps math, could benefit from mobile learing. I developed a similar app for the topic of “climate change” in a high school science class and it was a hit. Again, the app’s features and menus are designed around topics and assignments. Much more could be done that you see in my current app, such as virtual lectures. I can also add a “chat” feature for students to share comments….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks! I can see how college students would be more able to attend to class content, I wonder however how it would play out with teenagers/ high school students?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the “text” feature to remind students of upcoming deadlines. We have school-wide email, but most of my students don’t check their email, especially on weekends. I also think having everything in one place for students makes it easier for them to manage and organize work.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s great to read your responses because they represent the general comments from students. Perhaps more than any other feature, 99% liked the “text reminders” for deadlines and the opportunity to instantly click another menu in the app for instructions and the abillity to complete the assignment on their phone no mattter where they were!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Ron 🙂 It has been fun working with you and the other case study authors. Thank you for agreeing to get involved with the course this year and for putting the time into writing this case study. I’m glad that you too got something back from the experience.


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