There are many ways to miss the point of mobile: thinking about ‘mobile’ as technology is all well and good, but thinking of it as a mindset is better. A mindset for mobile learning is one that lets us think about where the technology can best serve our needs and facilitate learning. A technology based approach would mean we were looking at the functionality of the system and thinking about where we could leverage it in. It’s a nuanced approach, but the mindset is better.
The most common misconception about mobile learning is that it’s just a distribution channel, that it just lets us access learning on the move. Sure, it’s a portal to content, but it’s more than that. Just using it as a portal makes use of the fact that you can download data over your connection, but it doesn’t allow you to exploit full benefit of the fact that you are away from your desk, or that you can communicate with other people, or that you can access information quickly.
Porting courses to mobile devices may work on tablets, but it’s not going to give you much bang for your buck for smartphones. It’s an easy way to spend money for little tangible benefit to the learner: sure, you can access your compliance training at home, but it’s a really poor experience, so why would you want to?
What is the point of mobile? Creating a graphic novel for your iPad that allows you to interact with the scenarios, to enjoy it like you would a comic or a film. That could be part of it. Having an App that helps you to compose an email to manage challenge constructively: yes, that could be part of it too.
Mobile as a channel is part of the story, but not the whole story. Imagine yourself as the director of a large outdoor rock concert: you have a stadium, musicians, a set, an audience, box office, merchandise stall and pyrotechnics. How are you going to pace the experience? First, you have to get people in, you don’t want them queueing at the gate forever and, if they have to queue, at least treat it like Disney and give them some entertainment. Then they have to wait for the show to start: will you have a warm up act? Are the bars open and do they stock what people want to drink. Who is selling hot dogs and is there a vegetarian alternative? Or kids sized portions?
The warm up act comes on but, as everyone knows, they don’t use the full stage, the ‘real’ backdrop and majesty of your set design is still hidden so that, when the main band come on, when the show starts, you have maximum impact.
As the time approaches, excitement builds. Not accidentally: you have done everything to build up to this moment. Night is falling, the lights have more impact, the audience is settled in, drinks are flowing and the rhythm and beat around the stadium are building until, with a flash of sparks, strobing lights and the revealing of the stage, the main act appear.
Their set is paced: sometimes full on, three songs in a row, sometimes a quiet acoustic number performed solo on an outthrust stage. Then to the finale, with fireworks blazing and the final chords ringing out, before everyone shuffles out of the stadium stopping to buy their T shirt and poster on the way.
Another great gig! But it could have been so different: what if the fireworks had gone off at the start? Well, they would have been fun, but it was still light and the impact would have been lost. What if the support came on after the main act? Again, a bit of a let down. What about if the beer was flat or ran out?
Choreographing a show is like choreographing learning: you have to understand how to pace and schedule it all and you have to use the right elements in the right place. This is the true understanding of the mobile mindset: using it to maximum effect at the right time. Making sure your fireworks are explosive, not damp squibs.
This post is a section from the new book i’m writing on mobile learning, so any feedback very welcome. I am anticipating having this complete in September.