I finally am getting caught up with my RSS feeds and ran across Steve Dembo’s presentation for the k12online conference entitled “Mobile Learning Redefined”. The presentation is a great list of resources for mobile learning, as summarized in Tony Vincent’s and Leonard Low’s blog posts on the presentation. No need to relist what Tony and Leonard already wrote about, but suffice it to say that Steve focused on various Internet-based resources and tools that can be accessed via cell phone or wireless gaming devices such as the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS (as an aside, Geoff writes in his moblearn blog that there is a need for “more PSP learning please!“
Interestingly enough, after going through a long list of different tools and how you can use them for learning activities, Steve Dembo ends his presentation with
It’s not about the new technologies… It’s making use of what they [students] already have in their pockets.
Unfortunately, Steve does not really discuss this very important statement in his presentation, e.g. providing the audience with ideas on how taking advantage of what students carry with them can realistically take place in current formal educational environments.
There are some obvious obstacles to be overcome:
- Access: not all students have access to mobile technology (although this seems to become less of a problem, even in areas where people are poor; and I mean this from a global point of view);
- Compatibility: how to get various devices to work together (cell phones, game consoles, iPods…). However, they all seem to be converging onto the same content/tool: the Internet;
- Privacy and Security: enough has been said about these issues. I blogged about them with regards to cell phones in this earlier post.
In addition, the Mobile Learning Redefined presentation only focuses on a small segment of what needs to be redefined. Mike Sharples wrote a nice piece about this in October 2005, entitled “Re-thinking learning for the mobile age.” In it, he discusses three foci of the Kaleidoscope special interest group on the Philosophy of Technology Enhanced Learning:
- distinguish what is special about learning in the mobile age compared to other types of learning activity.
- a theory of mobile learning must embrace the considerable learning that occurs outside classrooms and lecture halls.
- we must take account of the ubiquitous use of personal and shared technology in the industrialised world.
Note that one of the reoccuring themes is the fact that learning takes place everywhere.
In addition, Mike Sharples lists the findings of the MOBIlearn European project as it identified characteristics of learning in the mobile age:
- It is the learner that is mobile, rather than the technology (meaning that we should be looking at more than just devices that were meant to be truly mobile);
- Learning is interwoven with other activities as part of everyday life (i.e. learning takes place in locations other than school);
- Learning can generate as well as satisfy goals;
- Control and management of learning can be distributed (i.e. less teacher control, more learner control);
- Context is constructed by learners through interaction (i.e. the need for noise, movement, group work and no more 6×5 grid and just individual seat work);
- Mobile learning can both complement and conflict with formal education (this is a tricky one, and not really discussed by Dembo. In an ideal world we would want it to complement, although a certain degree of conflict may not be bad either);
- Mobile learning raises deep ethical issues of privacy and ownership (again related to issues of control over learning. Should it just be up to the educational institutions what and how we learn?).
What Mike Sharples discusses with regards to mobile learning is also echoed by some of the work my colleagues and I have been doing in the area of ubiquitous computing for teaching and learning and the rethinking that needs to take place there, as described on our ubiquitous computing website and this earlier post of mine.
Finally, there are many interesting articles in Viewpoint, the FutureLab’s online publication that includes, well, viewpoints of what the future of teaching and learning with technology might look like, including articles on the use of time, changing physical spaces in which learning takes place, and pervasive and ubiquitous computing.
Steve Dembo is right in that we need to redefine mobile learning, and undoubtedly many will continue to do so. There are many more issues to consider than his presentation covers. Nevertheless, Redefining Mobile Learning is one good place to start…
Image credit: Leonard Low’s photostream: