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A look at texting in the post-SMS era and how Mobile Messaging Application muddles the concept of Synchronous and Asynchronous learning on mobile

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Daniel Chun
6 February 2015

There are numerous statistics and reports found in media claiming that Short Message Service (SMS) is dying, or being replaced by various Mobile Messaging Applications or social network services. A sample of these reports are listed below for discussion:





After looking at these reports, it reminds me of the demise of the blackboard in the classroom. (No, I don’t mean the Blackboard LMS, which could also eventually be thrown off their throne). What I meant was the traditional blackboard that one use a piece of chalk to write on. 

Does any teacher still use chalk and duster any more? What is a duster any way? And to add to the mix are the whiteboard and markers and the electronic whiteboard that is supposed to transform our classroom practices. These are all modern inventions and educational technologies that teachers are accustomed to and are often given by the institution to teachers as the tools to conduct their teaching to their pupils.

I clearly recall when I was studying at a university back in Australia, the year was 1987, and I had to struggle listen to my lecturer’s explanation on computer programming variables in PASCAL language; throughout the entire time, I was busy copying down all the notes which I had very little context or understanding.  And the only way to seek for lecturer’s additional help is to wait outside his office and ask about it, the other learning space where exchanges could be made with fellow classmates will be at the corridor outside the computer room.

In today’s teaching and learning, we can then identify those technologies that are becoming less important or closer to extinction in today’s classroom. There are also clearly an change of practices amongst teachers and learners in today’s technology-enhanced learning environment. Students do not need to wait outside of the teacher’s office to ask a question; an informal discussion amongst peers does not have to be limited to a learning space (e.g. computer room). I argue that there is always a cycle of modernization in the learning environment for which a set of mediating tools will become less important, and may become extinct. This could happen to any institution, any economy and any state.

SMS as a technology-enhanced learning tool can be almost compared at this macro-level. It seems to have its place of importance in mobile learning and have since been overtaken by other better tools.

Mobile Learning projects using SMS was widely discussed and adopted for many different projects (eg. MixIt in South Africa) and many funded projects at K-12 and Higher Education.  SMS is considered one form of store-and-forward technology and therefore has its limitation in one way, but it also brings near universal access to students as SMS can be used with any mobile phones including some older feature phones. This is different from today’s instant messaging or social network services from a technology perspective requiring a Wifi or data connection.  One clear distinction of the SMS when compared to MMA is that most MMA allows for integration with with computers.

Definition of Mobile Messaging Application

MMA is a short term for Mobile Messaging Application which refers to instant messaging application that is popular amongst mobile devices and one that which overlaps in part with the functionality of social network services.  Examples of such are WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Telegram,  Kakao, BBM, Kik, Skype, Google+

There are a few key features that we should all take note in our discussion. MMA in general offer the following features

-       Allows different groups to be setup

-       Supports many types of media files (Images, videos)

-       Allows archiving

-       Allows teleconferencing in real-time


One of my critical inquiry about MMA is whether MMA is considered as bring synchronous or asynchronous or both to our learners ?


According to Stefan Hrastinski, in his doctoral thesis and his later scholarly publications, for which he studied and defined E-Learning based on a continuum of synchronicity.


In my area of research, I am interested to study and inquire about this critical cross-over of synchronous and asynchronous e-learning when the learning and knowledge acquisition are transacted and enabled via mobile devices and mobile messaging applications.

Coming from a background of information technology, EFL/ESL and as a researcher in mobile learning, I have a strong interest to learn from Kazakhstan practices, and share with other researchers / practitioners about the social-cultural phenomena in using mobile messaging applications in the English language learning and experiential learning.

I am listing a couple of articles below to invite an open dialogue about the possibility.


Links to inquiry related to using MMA for EFL Adhi Susilo_Exploring Facebook and Whatsapp As Supporting Social Network Applications For English .pdf?sequence=6

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