Friday, July 07, 2006

Mobile learning as networked and situated learning

My colleague Leonard and I are putting together a paper for the upcoming OLT conference at QUT, I thought I'd put down some thoughts around the use of mobile devices in teaching and learning. :o)

Not everyone is convinced of the merits of using mobile devices for teaching and learning and it seems many have yet to witness the apparent benefits of mobile learning approaches, through tried and tested working examples. that's fair enough isn't it? But I guess when we don't know what we don't know (and some of us do!) we should give it a go!

Situating strengths and weaknesses of mobile devices

Leonard discusses some strengths and weaknesses of mobile devices for learning over at his blog and some of his points really resonated with me in terms of situated and distributed (or networked) learning.

We can begin to understand the nuances of mobile learning when we consider it within a situated learning framework. Lave and Wenger are key authors in the area of learning cultures and situated cognition, as are Brown, Collins & Duguid (1989). Couple this with the notion of distributed or networked learning and you have a strong case for mobile learning!

Team this up with the three Rs of mobile learning activity (i.e. record, recall and relate) and you not only have learning that is embedded in the real activities of daily living (Stein 1998), but also a process for learning that is well-framed to support both the learner and the teacher in making sense of the learning that occurs in these everyday settings.

To situate learning is to

create the conditions in whichparticipants will experience the complexity and ambiguity of learning in the realworld. Participants will create their own knowledge out of the raw materials ofexperience, i.e., the relationships with other participants, the activities,the environment cues, and the social organization that the community developsand maintains (Stein 1998, para:2).

If we are to design for such experiences how might it look using mobile devices? We should first consider the need to integrate four key elements in designing mobile learning strategies, that of content, context, community and participation in order to do so.

Learner centredness and distributed experience

When we consider that adult learners are generally richly endowed with life experience, the potential to share their stories in learning settings can, as Stein says, transform a traditional learning setting where knowledge is merely transferred byt he teacher to seeing learners as a "resource for interpreting, challenging, and creating new knowledge" (Stein 1998, para:14). And of course, for seeing learners (and teachers) as people! Personalised learning is often discussed in the same breath as mobile learning - owning a mobile phone is quite a personal affair (what's your ring tone?!). But let's move beyond this and rather than have people ask about ring tones to denote thier individualism, let's try encouraging learners to ask themselves how they can maximise their use of such technology AND of the world around them to develop and hone their skills for learning.

So what of the learning experience if we are to centre on the learner? This next when I look more closely at:

Brown, Collins and Duguid are well known for their work on situated cognition (Educational Researcher 18(1), 1989, pp. 32-41), and

Young's article in Educational Technology Research and Development on "Instructional design for situated learning" (Vol 41 No 1, 1993, pp.43-58).

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