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Book Review: 'The Mobile Academy' by Clark Quinn

By Stevie Rocco / January 2012

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Clark Quinn's The Mobile Academy is an excellent overview of mobile technology (in Quinn's terms, this includes platforms, strategy, applications, and delivery method) in higher education. If your institution is considering a mobile strategy (and they should be), then this book will help you to plan for getting in the game. As it encapsulates the breadth of issues to consider when approaching mobile, The Mobile Academy stands as a good roadmap for higher education administrators and instructional designers who wish to enter the world of mobile and would like strategic direction.

The Mobile Academy begins by providing a foundation of both mobile and learning, and then moves through coverage of mobile in higher education administration, delivery of content, interactivity and assessment, and social learning. The book then points to more advanced topics and discusses policy issues higher education institutions should consider as they move into the mobile realm. Quinn points out, "too much of education in general has been tied to industrial efficiency instead of learning effectiveness." The mobile platform offers education, and higher education in particular, the opportunity to not just add mobile to the stack of tools already in use, but to "revisit learning" itself. And that's what Quinn does, from framing the learning context and applying it to mobile, to identifying the core questions institutions should ask when embarking on a mobile strategy.

His philosophy of using mobile to optimize learner experiences, rather than supplanting wholly what is traditional, is one of the strengths of this book. Quinn points out through his discussion and examples that, while not everything can/should be made mobile-ready, considering which selected pieces of content and interactions for mobile can increase success in higher education classrooms is paramount. While an institution can adopt mobile applications, Quinn offers direction in planning out a comprehensive strategy as a result of this approach.

I especially liked how he organizes the uses of mobile for learning-related content and activities. His framework of content, capture, compute, and communicate is useful, in that it enables anyone—whether they are an administrator or instructional designer or faculty member—to properly plan for mobile delivery. For example, one of the easier places for people in higher education to dive in to mobile would be in the context of a specific course. Looking at one's options through the framework Quinn offers above helps to identify where mobile is best included, and offers insights into some specific ways to do so, for example, using Twitter hashtags to allow a broad set of learners to participate in class discussions.

Two chapters in The Mobile Academy are particularly noteworthy. First is Chapter 7 "Going Social," which is devoted to social learning. While all learning is social to some degree, new tools and mobile applications make this arena an exciting one, where the ubiquity of smartphones and the relative inexpensiveness of tools and apps offer much potential for amplifying learning. The chapter outlines what to try in using social media, location-based services, and the like, while clearly identifying areas that should be approached with caution—such as the need to discuss appropriate-to-the-medium communication styles, as well as guidance for students regarding how to work together.

I also found the chapter on administrative computing to be particularly intriguing. While not focusing on teaching and learning, Chapter 4 "Administration ''To Go'" discusses the power of allowing students to choose how they complete administrative tasks. These types of tasks include course registration, transcripts, library loans, financial aid, or even bus schedule location. Rather than targeting students in individual classes, offering administrative tasks in a mobile format has the capability of impacting greater numbers of students, at least until large numbers of faculty members and institutions embrace it.

After reading this book, I can see how it will be an invaluable asset as my colleagues and I go forward. Having Quinn's text as a handy reference will enable us to focus on our strategic direction as we move smartly into using mobile for our learners.

About the Author

Stevie Rocco has 11 years experience working with faculty to create and manage online learning. She is currently a senior learning designer in Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, creating tools and technologies to improve online course experiences. In addition, Rocco teaches courses in information sciences and technology and instructional systems. She also consults on a wide variety of topics, including faculty development for online teaching, accessibility, usability, open source/free tools, and social media. Rocco holds a B.S. in secondary education and an M.Ed. in adult education. In her spare time, she runs half-marathons, knits, and engages with her personal learning network.


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