Mobile-Computing Laboratory (The McLAB)

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Mobile computing has become mainstream. In K-12 education, mobile computing has become the go-to choice for putting technology in the hands of faculty and students. Because of the small form factor, durability, and low initial investment, many K-12 districts are putting tablets in students’ hands for consumption, creation, and collaboration. Also popular in business, tablets are used as kiosks, point-of-sale devices, and mobile resources throughout the business process. Smartphones are used to check inventories, scan barcodes, and provide instant communication across the business. It is the duty of higher education to teach the underlying skills needed to support mobile computing to our students.

There is a need, however, that emerges from this rapidly changing technology: Faculty need a place to explore new mobile-computing ideas before taking them into their classes. The intention of the Mobile Computing Laboratory (McLAB) is to create a center for promoting the innovative, academic applications of mobile technology where faculty and staff can bring mobile-computing ideas for development and exploration.

These needs to test new technologies are not unique to any one institution. Therefore, the McLAB will nurture and support experimentation across all Minnesota State schools, generalizing and documenting the results here for all schools to access.

Goals and expected outcomes

The objective of the McLAB's first year is to initiate conversations and testing around the educational use of mobile technology. The duration of pilots varies, so pilot initiations are more important than pilot completions. First-year outcomes include

  1. support of and interest in testing and sharing mobile-computing integration,
  2. a series of mobile-computing pilots with each being piloted across multiple Minnesota State schools, and
  3. increased acceptance and movement toward increased use of mobile technology in the classroom.

Assessing success

Success will be assessed at two levels:

  • McLAB First-year Success First-year goals for the McLAB are defined as follows:
    • Start a minimum of six pilots. Pilot starts were chosen over pilot completions as some pilots may not end within the first calendar year or may be on-going over more than a single year. Additionally, the pilots need to come from more than just one or two schools; ideally, ideas come from throughout the system.
    • Involve at least four schools in pilots. The hope is to get a combination of colleges and universities involved. This will help to generalize the results and disseminate the information.
    • Find additional funding sources. Purchase of equipment will be an on-going expense. While some can be covered by school budgets, loaner equipment funded by external sources is ideal.
  • Individual Project Success Individual pilots will be deemed as having been successful if they fully address the question being asked. Success does not depend on the ultimate inclusion of a new technology or technique in the classroom but, instead, is a reflection of whether the pilot generated sufficient data to inform the decision process at other Minnesota State institutions. Helping a sister institution avoid technology that does not solve a problem is just as important as assisting in the integration of transformative technology.

The results of individual pilots will be reported as part of the Wiki article that defines the pilot itself. For further information or to see the results of the pilot, see the links below.

Current projects

This grouping includes all projects that are currently being actively researched and data is being collected. These are the articles that are "still being written," both literally and figuratively.

How well do we prepare our future teachers to effectively use mobile technology in their classrooms?

When education students student teach or graduate and take a teaching job, there is an expectation that they will know certain things about the use of technology in and out of the classroom. This cross-institution group looked at what students need to learn about technology before they take their first teaching job and further examined where and how they were learning it.

Click here to read more.

How can we effectively project in the classroom from mobile devices?

Faculty and student presenters are often tethered to the classroom projector by a cable. This limits their mobility and their direct interaction with others in the room. This project looks at alternatives to that cable including projecting wirelessly from mobile devices.

Click here to read more.

Are telepresence robots viable tools in education?

Robots, like the ones sold by Double Robots (, could potentially be used in higher education in many ways, including hybrid classrooms with both online and in-person students, remote professors teaching from a distance, admissions tours around campus, and in library services for giving remote tours and showcasing innovative technology. Do telepresence robots bring new possibilities to higher education?

Click here to read more.

Can mobile devices make in-class lectures more interactive?

The vast majority of students in all classes in higher education own some sort of mobile device, either a phone, a tablet, or both, and carry them religiously. Are there ways these mobile devices can be used in the classroom to make the lecture and any in-class work more interactive? Can mobile technology be used to engage the students in ways that increase critical thinking and ownership of the learning process?

Click here to read more.

How can augmented and virtual reality be used in education?

This question went three unique directions. Here are the questions that were being looked at:

  • Can students learn from videos on phones in VR headsets? Several inexpensive, phone-based headsets were tested in and out of the classroom.
    Click here to read more.
  • Is immersive virtual reality a valuable tool in higher education? Oculus Quest headsets were tested by several schools for their usefulness and viability in higher education.
    Click here to read more.
  • Are 360-degree cameras useful in creating educational materials and/or media for future viewing? Can still images and/or videos be used as interactive, effective ways for students to "visit" labs, classrooms, and other locations?
    Click here to read more.

Completed projects

While these projects are under the heading of "completed," in all honesty, these projects are never really completed. New data and results will be added to the articles as they become available.

Can a high-end tablet functionally replace the laptop in the classroom?

High-end tablets are being marketed as potential replacements for the laptop. Several schools in the Minnesota State system are stating interest in the use of high-end tablets in daily activities otherwise reserved for laptops.

Click here to read more.

How can mobile devices change the way we capture lectures?

Since the dawn of mankind, lectures have been captured in essentially the same way. While the technology has changed (e.g. improvements to onboard cameras and picture-in-picture), captured lectures often consist of Powerpoint slides or a talking head. Are there ways mobile technology can be used to make captured lectures fresher and more engaging?

Click here to read more.

Questions to consider for future projects

Would students utilize mobile-friendly workspaces?

Are there educational uses for smart watches?

How can mobile devices impact international students?

What is the impact of mobile learning?

Are we meeting students' technology expectations?


The following schools are contributors to the McLAB effort:

  • Bemidji State University
  • Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College
  • Hibbing Community College
  • Itasca Community College
  • Lake Superior College
  • Metropolitan State University
  • MSU-Mankato
  • MSU-Moorhead
  • St. Cloud Technical & Community College
  • South Central College
  • Southwest Minnesota State University
  • Winona State University


The McLAB has been made possible by funding from sources within the Minnesota State system. Granted funds are used primarily to purchase equipment to assess. This equipment is made available for loaning to any Minnesota State school that wishes to assess it in an educational setting. In-kind funding is used to cover wages for administering and documenting the McLAB.

Thanks to the following for assisting with the costs involved in assessing mobile technology in the McLAB:



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More Information

Want more information on the McLAB or have an idea you would like to pursue? Contact Norb Thomes at (507) 457-5043 or

Overview of the McLAB

Read the full overview of the Mobile Computing Laboratory project.

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