Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

First Supervisor

Professor Jean MacNish

Second Supervisor

Associate Professor Frank Bate


Mobile learning (mLearning) devices are ideal for 21st century learning. mLearning devices are light and, therefore, mobile so that young children can use them anywhere. Examples of mLearning devices are tablet computers, programmable robots such as Bee-Bots and robotic Lego. The term 21st century learning is used around the world and includes the skills of collaboration, communication, new literacy, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving. New literacy has emerged because of new technologies and being literate in the 21st century now includes being digitally literate. However, mLearning is not widely used in early childhood education despite the fact that schools are investing in hardware, software, and infrastructure. This thesis reports on the results of a three-year study investigating the synergy between pre-service and practising early childhood teachers using a community of practice approach. The pre-service teachers presented technology rich lessons at partner schools as part of an Information and Communications Technology unit they complete during their studies. The lecturer assisted the pre-service teachers in preparing lessons. The pre-service teachers, who lacked pedagogy and classroom experience, were provided the opportunity to teach “real” children as opposed to teaching each other. The practising teachers, who exhibited excellent pedagogical skills, provided curriculum content and pedagogical feedback to the pre-service teachers and at the same time had the opportunity to observe the developmentally appropriate use of technology in their classrooms. Research findings included how technological knowledge of the participants changed and how the school-university partnerships developed. The pre-service and practising teachers’ dispositions towards mLearning became more positive with the practising teachers increasing their technological knowledge and the pre-service teachers increasing both technological and pedagogical knowledge. Five themes emerged from the results as being central to successful school-university mLearning partnerships. These themes are presented as a chain model where each theme or chain link is important to the survival of the school-university mLearning partnership. The themes identified as pivotal to mLearning partnerships included an enhanced sense of community, cross fertilisation of knowledge and skills, more informed leadership, development of professional knowledge, and closer relationships between partners.

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