‘Mobile Learning’ and ‘M-Learning’ are popular terms right now. There’s no doubt that ‘mobile’ is the place where the cool kids hang out, but the terms are used to mean different things. For some, it’s the technology: it’s about the hardware and software that allow us to distribute content to smartphones and tablets. It’s viewed primarily as a technical challenge, create the space and the content will follow.
For others, it’s an intellectual challenge, freeing learning from the restrictions of the classroom or PC and enabling us to learn wherever and whenever we want. It’s viewed as a liberating technology, but their focus is on what can be done, not so much how.
For me, the most interesting mobile discussions are the ones that reflect how the technology and mindset are changing how we think about learning. For me, mobile is part of the shift from learning being abstract, discrete, single events, to being part of what we do everyday. I feel both mobile and social learning are mindset shifts towards a culture of learning being part of what we do everyday, not something we just do on special occasions.
It’s not that i don’t think there is a place for defined, timebound learning experiences, indeed, i think the role of formal learning space is more important than ever, but i do feel that we are substantially changing what we do in that space and what we do in the spaces that surround it. Mobile is about the channels: how we get information to people, but also what information is relevant and how do we structure it. This is what moves us beyond the technology and into the discussion around the methodology for mobile learning. What are we doing with it?
Social is about the interactions that surround the formal and, by it’s very nature, mobile sits in the heart of this because it’s a technology that permeates both our formal and social worlds. It’s a common platform for communication that uses different languages depending upon context.
It’s part of the wider change that sees learning getting both broader and deeper: broader in that we extend the learning experience and deeper in that we provide more tools and opportunities to dig further in. Extending the learning experience over time started with pre course and post course learning opportunities and is now being enhanced with social spaces for semi formal discussion. Deepening the experience is about new tools and performance support materials that actively help us to transition from the abstract learning to our everyday realities. It’s a fundamentally different approach.
This is the first time i’ve drawn both mobile and social together in the context of overall learning methodology, tending before to treat them as discrete phenomena, mobile technology and social spaces, but they are, of course, just parts of the same narrative. These are ideas that i am sure will continue to develop, but it’s an exciting time to be playing in this space. As we move beyond pure expertise and knowledge driven economies, into spaces where your ability to access and manipulate knowledge, to synthesise new meaning at speed and to a quality count for more, these are significant developments.