Mobile Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning: A Review of Experimental Research

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Collaborative learning (CL), with its theoretical base in sociocultural theories, places students into pairs, groups or communities of learning where they work with others to form questions, discuss ideas, explore solutions, complete tasks and reflect on their thinking and experiences (Laurillard, 2009; Stahl, Koschmann & Suthers, 2006). CL situates learning in student-centered activities (Wang, 2007) that students establish shared meanings and develop critical and reflective thinking skills. Computing technologies have been used to support CL for achieving varied learning goals for decades. Today, the vastly advancing mobile technologies and flourishing development of mobile software applications (“mobile apps” hereafter) open new possibilities for computer-supported CL (CSCL) (Zeman, 2011). Mobile devices such as smartphones or iPod touches exemplify relatively strong computing capability built in the small sizes, Internet connectivity and the availability of various types and easy-to-use mobile apps (Johnson, Levine, Smith & Stone, 2010). Powerful mobile devices coupled with mobile apps conducive to participation, sharing and communication can make collaboration at distance easier. Considering the recent exponential growth of mobile computing and its exciting potential in education, the authors aim to examine experimental research on mobile CSCL (mCSCL) through a critical review of the literature. Our goal is to provide researchers and educators a synopsis of the impact of mobile technologies on (supporting) CL, which in part echoes the discussions regarding the agenda for mobile learning in a recent editorial by Rushby (2012). In this paper, mobile technologies are used inclusively to refer to mobile computing devices, mobile operating systems (OSs) and mobile software applications, considering the interdependent and integral nature of these components on supporting CL.