The Rising Tide

Thoughts on Bringing Just In Time Learning to Everyone

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Introducing the newest addition to the Float Mobile Learning account consulting team, Jeff Idleman. Jeff brings deep expertise in learning and media consulting to the team with experience in the museum world as well as agronomy and financial services. Jeff will be blogging here at Float as he becomes acclimated to mobile learning. Thanks for coming on board, Jeff. We’re excited to hear about his experiences talking to clients and in exploring this ever expanding world of Mobile Learning. In Jeff’s first post here, he examines a bit of his observances in the inaugural year of Float.

I’ve spent my whole career in various forms of media.  Started as a writer/reporter for publications and radio.  Moved into television and was a reporter then news director.  Have managed weekly publications, a 60 station radio network, ran a marketing communications/PR group . . . I have worked with various forms of  media-based communication and in the past 15 years, have even plunged into the digital world and learned about the strengths and weaknesses of digital media.  I am still constantly learning as the landscape seems to change on a daily basis.

As I work with clients on communications challenges, they are all over the board.  There are traditionalists that are still in love with old media; heat seekers that always want to most bleeding edge approach possible; middle of the roaders who want to keep up but are not sure which direction to take.  I think most of us are walking around wondering “what next?”

In terms of getting a grip on the BIG PICTURE of media preference and changes, I have discovered Tomi Ahonen and he is fascinating.  Here is an excerpt from the foreword to Mobile as the 7th of the Mass Media:

While the book rightly concedes that mobile will not replace other media, he makes a strong case for why it will be the dominant media – namely because it will be more disruptive than the Internet was ten years ago. For example, SMS text messaging – the primary source of mobile communication – enables immediate response. Tomi points out that on average people respond within 5 minutes to SMS messages. Moreover, immediate response, interactivity and mass mobile adoption have been spearheaded by the youth generation.

The first five mass media were: print, recordings, movies, radio and television.  Obviously, these were one way communication vehicles.  With the adoption of the internet and email in the 90’s, direct response from users became part of the equation.  It was such a breakthrough it took a while to digest. By 2007, 50% of email users expected a response within 24 hours.  This was mind boggling, what a breakthrough. For us old timers, this was an incredible improvement over traditional media.  Not only could you publish/broadcast almost instantly – your audience could respond to you whenever they wanted to in a very simple, inexpensive way.

However, that’s nothing compared to SMS text messaging. In the same year 2007, 84% of SMS users expected a response within 5 minutes.  And there are four times as many cell phones in the world as there are computers.

From a commercial standpoint, the basic purpose of any media is to connect targeted audiences with specific messages and trigger a desired response. The ultimate add-on would be to let them react to the messages and “buy” over the same system.  This is exactly what’s happening.

But it’s not just the commercial aspects that are fascinating.  The social changes this technology has spawned are incredible.  As I look at the cell phone bills for my 3 children (all in their 20’s), it’s obvious that they spend a large amount of their time texting with their friends.  Ahonen calls them “Gen-C” and the “C” stands for Communities.

“It is the Community Generation, the first generation that experiences life, its anxieties, decisions, emotions, successes and failures, with the best buddies always at hand. Almost telepathically connected, living collectively, with a “hive mentality’.”

Boy, ain’t that the truth?  I’ve watched even younger people send at least 20-30 texts an hour.  They ignore everything and everyone around them.  They are “in the hive” at every possible moment.

Where does this take us?  I don’t know.  But, it’s clear that mobile devices are not only the dominant media; they are also an agent of social change.  My kids are never further than 3 feet from their phones, even when they’re asleep.  All of their friends have them, too. It’s a requirement for social interaction with the group.

It’s plain to see though, that the dynamics aren’t just social.  Mobile is changing our lives in many other ways.  I recently attended a conference where a keynote speaker explained how mobile phone users alerted rescue personnel far faster than conventional methods would allow and this resulted in emergency responders saving all of the passengers of the plane that made the forced landing in the Hudson River.  If ‘traditional’ methods had been followed, response would have been far slower and lives would have likely been lost.

As part of my media involvement, I have worked on many eLearning projects over the past 15 years. Although there are several well-known advantages of eLearning, it’s still learning.  It has to be done in advance and learners have to remember how to apply it in a job setting.  As we worked with our clients, we discovered that more and more of them wanted to understand what mobile learning, combined with their learning needs, means to them. It has become very clear to us that to best serve our clients we needed a focused, expert group to help those clients enter this new medium and make the most of the ability to access useful information anytime, anywhere.

Think about that, engaging the learner at the point of relevance – what a great opportunity.  You can now also offer decision and performance support tools that can be used while performing the job.  Mobile learning is not a panacea but it does open the door to a whole different approach to learning that certainly is on a platform that has already won the hearts and minds of a very large number of users.

mLearning is not eLearning moved to a mobile device.  Good mLearning requires very different strategy and design thinking to be successful. New principles of what works and what doesn’t work are now becoming well known.

I  think Ahonen has it right.  Mobile is already the dominant media but it is still very much an experimental media.  I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface in terms of applications that will be engaging, lucrative and even more addictive.

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Jeff Idleman

Jeff has a strong background in media consulting and marketing communications. He enjoys working with clients to determine the best way to deliver their messages to their intended audiences, using the new media that Float excels in.

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» Mobile Strategy » The Rising Tide
On March 21, 2011
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