There just seems to be something different about learning with mobile devices. In interviews with classroom teachers, a persistent theme was clear: mobile devices add a level of engagement to any activity, and seem to captivate those students who are often otherwise disengaged. We've come across comments like “Some days, I have kids 100 percent on task, all day,” and “Students played games to prepare for final tests. Their test scores have improved significantly.”1 Almost any task is more engaging on a device, be it watching a video clip or using flashcards or taking notes in class.2
But what is it about these devices? We believe the answer lies in a synergy of characteristics that yield a ubiquitous experience unmatched by other technologies. Based on our research, interviews and experience, we've tried to unpack the familiar “there is just something about these devices!” by positing 10 distinguishing factors that set the mobile experience apart from other technologies (such as laptops) and the absence of electronic technology altogether (i.e., books).
Many of the factors overlap to some degree, and the examples may cover one or more of the factors (which we attribute largely to the ubiquity of mobile devices), but this list (shown in Figure 3.1) provides a foundation for understanding mobile technology's impact on students today.