Work is progressing this week on my new book on ‘mobile learning’. I’m sharing some sections as they are completed. Yesterday, we looked at augmented reality, today, part of the introduction, exploring what we mean by ‘mobile’.
What do we mean by ‘mobile’?
The subject of this book is ‘mobile learning’, which is generally abbreviated to M-Learning or just ‘mobile’. But ‘mobile’ means many things: it means the technology, as in a mobile phone or tablet, and it also means the mobile courses themselves, as well as being used to describe the experience of learning in this way, of experiencing ‘mobile’.
I’m interested in all of these things, in exploring what they each mean and how we can pull it together to provide a meaningful narrative of how we develop and experience mobile learning.
It’s easy to think of mobile as just being a distribution channel, like a television or a radio. We can view the devices as just conduits to push content out to learners, but this is to miss so much of the potential, potential that is only unfolding to us as we speak. People interact with mobile devices in fundamentally different ways: they are social tools used to reinforce our standing, fashion statements, aspirational decoration, sources of knowledge and power, able to make us win a pub quiz or find a pizza, but also business tools used to organise meetings, remind us of deadlines and let us speak to the boss when we’re running late.
Mobile devices transcend the traditional boundaries of our lives, crossing over between the formal spaces of work and the informal social spaces that surround it. The devices are not purely functional, they are much, much more. Just look at how many people own two and carry them round everyday.
It’s important that we understand just how widely mobile has permeated our lives, how often we reach into our pocket and ready our thumbs for action. We need to recognise how it impacts on knowledge: we used to have to ‘know’ things, whilst now we often only need to know how to find those things out fast. Knowing how to use Google is often enough.
As the ways we relate to and use knowledge change, so our relationships with each other evolve too. Social media are transforming what we mean by ‘friendship’, breaking down geographical and temporal barriers, reuniting us with distant friends and providing a constantly open window into their lives. Social and mobile are intimately linked, the social world often facilitated by mobile technology, uptake and development of mobile technology often driven by social desires.
And then there are tablets: crossing over between mobile phones and laptops. We are seeing huge uptake in tablets, sometimes as much as 80% of uptake of mobile learning is on tablet devices for a project, and this is just the start. As the technology develops, as people think of ever smarter ways to use it and as technology at our fingertips becomes ever more deeply embedded in our psyche, we will see the very nature of learning and performance support changing.
Tablets are great for sharing, for passing around like a book, for showing things. They are a natural enhancement to our conversations, an enabling technology that seamlessly make us look better. This is a potent recipe for success.