I used to view mobile and social learning separately: social learning as ‘the semi formal layers of learning that surround the formal‘ and mobile learning as primarily technology, but my mindset has changed. Increasingly they form, for me, part of the same story: parts of a learning journey that stretches from the first contact with the learner right through to the footsteps that they take back into their everyday work.
In ‘Mindset for Mobile Learning‘, i argued that mobile is about more than technology, that it’s about a mindset to how we approach and develop learning within organisations. I argued that, within the Darwinian marketplace of mobile Apps and devices, only the strong would survive, and that ‘strong‘, in this environment, means that which is aligned to native behaviours and desires. Materials that can compete: timely, time efficient, relevant, high quality, practical, immediate. I argued that we need to develop an organisational methodology for mobile learning, unique to the culture and constraints of each environments, but that most of all we need to be willing to make mistakes, to learn to recognise that whilst technology may facilitate the learning, it won’t guarantee it.
Mobile is more than just a channel to distribute content: it’s a mindset, and as such it relates closely to social learning. Mobile as a technology is inherently social, it crosses the boundary between ‘formal‘ environments and ‘informal‘ ones, the physical boundaries that have historically defined and differentiated ‘learning‘ from ‘real life‘. In the old world, learning was separate, abstract, based in classrooms and taught by teachers: separated by time and place from the real world. Mobile technology breaks these bounds, allowing you to Facebook in meetings and email in the bath (with care).
As we move towards a more social model of learning, one where learning is spread out over both time and place, we break down the barriers between abstract formal learning experiences and informal social ones. Learning becomes places, literally, where you work. And where you play. This is beneficial in that it makes it easier to draw connections out of the learning and into your everyday reality, but it makes it harder as it has to compete for attention. Just good enough is no longer enough. When learning was abstract and formal, we engaged because we had to and because i can sit in a room and smile as well as the next person. But it didn’t mean we learnt. Formal learning can be interesting, but not necessarily useful, and in an organisational context, we are looking for useful!
But social learning is more than just a distribution channel too, it’s more than just a shortcut to engagement: we can do different things in social spaces to what we can do anywhere else. Social learning is ideally suited to exploration and reflection: mobile works for application and performance support. Together, they can support a full learning journey, from context through demonstration, exploration and reflections, assessment and footsteps back into real life. We are doing them an injustice if we just use mobile to deliver assessments to reluctant learners on the bus and just use social to push out messages from corporate comms departments.
Learning is changing: it’s spreading out, becoming more a part of our everyday reality, less abstract, more focussed around effecting real changes in skills, knowledge and attitudes, less about pure intellectual abstract effort. The qualification doesn’t make you any better: it’s your ability to do something with that knowledge that counts.
Thanks to Mark Pegrum for kicking me off on this train of thought today as he discussed his thoughts around Mindset for Mobile and shared some of his interests for his own book on mobile learning.
‘Exploring the World of Social Learning‘ is available for all platforms now.