Ubiquitous? Context? Wha?

Mlearning Words You Need to Know

Mobile Strategy Comments (2)

You might want to grab your dictionary for this one.

Even though my life has been spent working at an independent communications agency, I actually graduated with a degree in English secondary education. I was going to be a high school English teacher back in 1980 when I graduated from Illinois State. But life threw some changes at me and how I ended up here is another story. The reason I bring it up is because my education gave me such an appreciation for words. I am always interested in the words authors and people I encounter use and why they use them. I even get a little chuckle when people use certain words incorrectly or inappropriately (including myself!) especially when they are using “ten dollar” words trying to impress others. These people are being pedantic, or have a “narrow, often tiresome focus on the refinement of speech.” There’s your first word of the day.

As I journey ever deeper into the world of mobile learning, I am finding the field has its own unique group of words that you hear a lot but with which you may not be familiar. So, let’s take a look at a couple and at your next meeting or forum discussion you can be gregarious (sociable, friendly, outgoing, extroverted) with your new found understanding of mLearning vocabulary.

Ubiquity. You are going to hear nonstop that the mobile devices are ubiquitous. That means they are everywhere. Omnipresent. And there is much truth to that. In her amazing book, Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace, Cathleen Falsani writes about a trip she made to the village of Kiberia in Nairobi, Kenya.  Kiberia is a town of over a million people who live in tin shanties amongst open sewers and dirt passageways. As she recounts her experiences she shares that even though most of the homes do not have electricity or running water, “mobile phones are nearly ubiquitous.” In fact, there are “kiosks” that sell the mobile phones amongst the ramshackle neighborhoods. Even the most impoverished countries and far-flung locales have mobile devices. This speaks to the power and reach of mobile. You can reach your audience almost anywhere and at any time. Mobile devices are ubiquitous and you will find that so is the use of the term in mLearning circles.

Context. This was an important term in my studies of great works of literature. It was always important to know the context of an important scene or character. And context is discussed frequently in mLearning. In his book, Mobile Design and Development, Brian Fling does a great job of explaining two meanings of context in mobile delivery. He writes that “Context with a capital C is how the users will derive value from something they are currently doing, or in other words, the understanding of circumstance.” Mobile devices can add incredible value to a person’s circumstance depending on how appropriate the content is. You will find that you have incredible opportunities to educate and influence your audience with mobile learning. Ever use Yelp Monocle? Hold up your iPhone or Droid camera on a city street and it will show you restaurants on that street or nearby by presenting overlay links on the camera image. The application is adding important meaning to my circumstances. Fling goes on to define “context with a lowercase C” which is “the mode, medium or environment in which we perform a task or the circumstances of understanding.” The learner’s location, device they are using and even their state of mind are all components to their context. So, if I am using Yelp in New York City, my context is Greenwich Village, my iPhone and my brain reacting to hunger pangs. They all have a bearing on the context of the mLearning experience.

That’s only two words but it’s a good start. Maybe this can be a series of blogs as I run across more perplexing and widespread words in mLearning usage. Right now I am feeling rather ebullient (high-spirited, enthusiastic) about sharing these words with you. Next time I think we’ll even take on pedagogy.

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Scott McCormick is a founding partner of Float. Building on more than 30 years of experience in training, eLearning, and mLearning efforts for Fortune 500 companies, Scott helps companies embrace new learning strategies and deliver results. Scott is in charge of client relationships with global leaders in healthcare, manufacturing, hospitality, and insurance, and is instrumental in building new business and contributing to Float’s thought leadership efforts. Scott is featured in Float’s latest book, “Mastering Mobile Learning,” available from Wiley and ASTD Press.

» Mobile Strategy » Ubiquitous? Context? Wha?
On April 20, 2010
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2 Responses to Ubiquitous? Context? Wha?

  1. Hey Float –

    enjoying some of your blog items. Have a question or two, maybe you can help. We are a large (1500) software development and consultiing company in Detroit. We do a lot of mobile app development, but do not offer any learning products or services. I am an MEd instructional developer who is working in biz dev and I am making a case for mLearning for our organization.

    I am actively searching for industry trending, size of industry, learning domains that are emerging for mlearning, any and all statistical information. Do you have any recommendations for locating that data?


    Jeremy Eckhous
    Compuware Mobile Development Solutions

    • Adam Bockler says:

      Hi Jeremy,

      The best places for statistical information that I have found are Pew, Chetan Sharma, comScore, ASTD, the eLearning Guild, and more. Generally speaking, most research reports will reference other reports, which leads to many good discoveries.


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