Mobile Learning at the D.C. Public Library Washington, D.C.

The Adult Learning Department of the D.C Public Library joined the P3 project to  increase learning opportunities for adults working toward their GED. Mobile learning was implemented as a means of providing self-paced learning resources that could be accessed from any type of mobile device— laptops, tablets and smartphones. Tutors began working with learners to set up accounts with the online GED Academy and to schedule virtual tutoring sessions to support at-home independent work. This sufficed for some adults, but others never got beyond activating their accounts.

Library staff responded by developing “how to” videos specific to using GED Academy, but soon realized that they could broaden the use of mobile learning by providing guidance on how to learn more generally on phones and other devices. They identified features and apps commonly found on cell phones that could be used for learning and study, including the alarm (to practice reading speed or set the alarm for study reminders), calendar (to stay on top of deadlines), the speech to text feature to take notes, and using screenshots or the camera to capture key concepts.

The focus on mobile learning shifted from using technology in order to reach a particular academic goal to teaching adult learners how to use smartphone tools as study aides.  They developed three virtual workshops designed to help adults succeed at using devices to conduct research, take notes for a class, study for a test, or prepare for a job interview. The workshop topics were:

  • Note taking on a mobile device
  • Finding and dictating information
  • Time management features to help you study

With each round of programming, ideas surfaced about new content to add. For example, basic information about how things work on different phones and what is standard on most phones. What library staff discovered is how many layers of knowledge underlie the ability to use mobile devices effectively for learning. Their efforts now focus on preparing adults with digital skills that are transferable across platforms, devices, and tasks so that they can function confidently in a digital world.

Lessons Learned

D.C Library staff learned that adults were more engaged in using their mobile devices to study when they learned new ways of using their phone and were able to apply this knowledge to studying. This became apparent when learners’ expressed their appreciation and began applying what they learned.
Adults needed multiple opportunities to practice logging-in to GED Academy, navigating, and working through lessons on the site. Continuous support and check-ins helped to keep learners engaged.