We use our mobile phones to learn things when we are inquisitive. We tend not to schedule and plan in depth adventures with our phones, that’s left to tablets and PCs. Our love affair with mobile is a flirtatious one, bent more towards furtive meetings at the back of the class than to a classy dinner for two taking the whole evening. Let’s take a chance and venture into my browsing history on the iPhone: ‘Frank Turner tour dates’, this one is easy, i was at the gig on sunday and wanted to know when he was playing again locally.
‘Ontology recapitulates phylogeny‘ was one that had me thwarted first time round, hence why i googled it. The phrase appeared as an extant sentence in Jean Sprackland’s superb new book where she spent a year exploring her local beach (my mundane explanation does no justice to her engaging writing). She is actually quoting from a biological evolutionary theory that successive stages in embryonic development represent former evolutionary ancestors or, in English, we go through phases of looking like newts and frogs on our way to looking human. I found this out and then promptly forgot what it meant, causing me to google it again now.
‘Honiton tesco’ when i needed petrol last week in a hurry. ‘Windows azure’ when i was confused as to whether Microsoft had purchased Axure, a piece of software with a different spelling. ‘Largest flash drive’ when i needed to transfer a huge file and didn’t have that information to hand: what was the largest commercially available USB drive? ‘Disney Hall’ when i was reading an article about Zinc and it talked about the iconic exterior of this building which i wanted to see. The list goes on.
Some things i wanted to see, some i wanted to find out about, some i wanted to buy. Most were searched with a quick phrase and then discarded. This is the nature of mobile. It’s responsive, reactive, performance driven, semi disposable.
Often i want to verify something i have read or heard. Sometimes i want to supplement a current conversation, occasionally i am just looking for entertainment when waiting for a train.
This native behaviour is something that we have to understand when designing for mobile. My fear is that many organisations want to plan wide ranging adventures in mobile learning that fail to take into account these native behaviours. Our own work shows that 80% of mobile learning takes place on iPads rather than phone, because the smaller screen size simply doesn’t support in depth exploration. Better surely to differentiate further, to create elements of performance support material for the phone, more in depth explorations for tablets and full courses for desktops or PCs. Or at least to attempt some differentiation of what we are doing in each space.
Trying to port existing courses to all devices may well make them accessible, but nobody is going to actually access them. If i want to know what the lyrics are to Frank Turner’s song that he is playing right now, i will google it: i won’t listen to the whole album to find it. Short, sharp bursts of information that are easy to find and support performance. That’s what mobile is all about.