As I’m preparing my presentations for Handheld Learning 2007, I’ve been reading and thinking quite a bit about mobile learning/learning while mobile in a variety of learning contexts. One idea that I keep getting back to is that the use of mobile technologies or using digital tools while mobile is just as much about creating and sharing content as it is about consuming it. What really hammered this idea home was a post by Elliot Masie on Learning TRENDS about cell phone use in the London bombings on 7/7/05. In this post, he discusses the characteristics of the low quality videos that appeared online as events were unfolding that made them so worthwhile for viewers (including law enforcement):
* Velocity – How rapidly could the content be captured and shared.
* Scalability – How many “reporters” are created when you expand the sources of content.
* Intensity – In many ways, the video captured on the video phone was way more intense to watch, including the physical reactions of the people holding the phones.
* Context Rich – The content had huge context implications, as it came from people in the midst of a situation. Multiple video phones provided multiple views of the same incidents.
These same characteristics could be applied to the use of mobile technologies for learning:
- Velocity: the speed in which content is captured and shared for purposes of learning.
- Scalability: more creators of content means more and potentially richer content. It also means that everybody is a teacher AND a learner.
- Intensity: what is captured and shared is more real to the consumer/learner, in part because it can be provided in a variety of media formats. A picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth …
- Context rich: a variety of viewpoints on a particular topic. This is an important issue when considering that educational institutions have a moral obligation to teach their students how to become active, informed, and critically engaged citizens who can acquire, evaluate, and synthesize information from different sources and can make reasonable decisions based on the information provided.
A good example of how these characteristics can be applied in a learning context and how mobile tools can provide the context for discussion of a topic such as freedom of speech is the tasering of a student at a recent speaking engagement by John Kerry at the University of Florida. A quick search on YouTube turned up a variety of videos of the event, containing either raw or edited footage and a videotaped reaction of the university president at a press conference. A substantial amount of the footage was uploaded immediately following the incident (velocity), by a number of different people (scalability). The raw footage of the event is probably most intense, as it shows what happens, as well as various people recording the event (and their reactions). The edited footage, the university president’s press conference, news clips, AND ABOVE ALL the plethora of video comments and written ones attached to each video illustrate the potential for context richness.
Obviously, applying the four characteristics of mobile device use to learning also raises some important and not-so-easy-to-answer questions:
- How much content is too much?
- What about quality control of content?
- Who decides what is good/useful/worthwhile?
- What is the best way to learn the additional skills learners will need to deal with this different kind of content?
- When should they be learned?
- What happens to the learning process in general, and as a result, to institutionalized education?
Lots to think about, and I haven’t quite gotten the answers yet….
Image Credit: “1000 mobiles”, Gaetan Lee’s photostream: