It's a pretty broadly-reaching definition, but in today's society, I think it needs to be. Devices that once had very specific functions - making phone calls, playing music or video games, etc. - are now easily fitted with additional hardware that makes them accessible to other types of functions. The lines defining these devices are very quickly blurring.
[Mobile learning is] the exploitation of ubiquitous handheld technologies, together with wireless and mobile phone networks, to facilitate, support, enhance and extend the reach of teaching and learning.
Mobile learning can take place in any location, at any time, including traditional learning environments such as classrooms as well as in workplaces, at home, in community locations and in transit. Mobile technologies include mobile phones, smartphones, PDAs, MP3/ MP4 players (e.g. iPODs), handheld gaming devices (e.g. Sony PSP, Nintendo DS), Ultramobile PCs (UMPCs), mini notebooks or netbooks (e.g. Asus EEE), handheld GPS or voting devices, and specialist portable technologies used in science labs, engineering workshops or for environmental or agricultural study. Mobile learning involves connectivity for downloading, uploading and/or online working via wireless networks, mobile phone networks or both, and linking to institutional systems e.g. virtual learning environments (VLEs) and management information systems (MIS).
This has some increasingly large implications for educators. As children and young adults become - as usual - the first, quick, early adopters of these technologies, schools, school systems and educators must find ways to harness the powers of these devices. Those school districts that tend to forbid these items - either wholly or in part - are losing methods of reaching students.
But how can mobile learning be harnessed effectively? That's a question that I'm going to stay tuned for, because while I have a few rough ideas, I'm interested in how this develops elsewhere. I've added a new blog to my blogroll: moblearn, which focuses on this concept of mobile learning and the technologies, issues, and people involved in it. There are others out there, but I thought I'd start with this one.