Mobile learning is about more than plopping mobile devices in front of students sitting in a classroom.
This is one of the main messages delivered by Float mobile strategist Jeff Tillett and Float senior analyst Gary Woodill in Tuesday’s session on Instructional Design for Mobile Learning. Of course, as you continue reading, you’ll see many of the areas touched by these two in this session. The first webinar in the free Mobile Learning Conversations series, Float hosted learning experts from companies and universities from across North America.
While the hosts focused on instructional design for mobile learning, they also gave an introduction to learning in general and then talked about how mobile devices can affect learning.
What is instruction?
The webinar was different in that the hosts hadn’t rehearsed prior to the session. Instead, it really was a conversation when Gary asked everyone in the chat to list their definition of instruction.
“Content that informs,” Chuck said.
“Information that has a teaching value,” Tim Martin said.
Cammy Bean agreed with David Amdur, who said, “intervention to change behavior to achieve an outcome.”
Jeff and Gary agreed that all of the responses were good.
What is instructional design?
Gary once asked somebody what he did for a living. The person said, “I’m an instructional designer.” Gary asked what he did, and the person said, “I arrange things to look good on the screen.” Gary said he was surprised by the lack of complexity of the person’s definition. “I think it’s much more complex than that and (requires) many skill sets if you’re going to do good instructional design.”
“Some people are going to pure more emphasis on the design aspect and some people are going to put more emphasis on the instructional aspect,” he said. “I think it’s really where those two come together in creating a simple way of getting information to somebody.”
Cammy pointed to Trina Rimmer’s recent blog, in which she declares she is not a PowerPoint monkey. Jeff agreed in a sense. “There is much more to (instructional design) than just aligning things on a PowerPoint deck,” he said. “However, I think one of the roles of instructional design is to simplify…to make it easier for the student to understand.”
History of learning
The current metaphor we use is the classroom, Gary said. The classroom dates back to Prussia in about the 1770s and it was very controlling because of the person who monitored the class. “You faced the teacher, and the teacher was the expert,” he said. With reference to eLearning, Gary said, “there’s not a lot of difference between staring at a teacher and staring at a screen.” Classrooms immobilized us because of the control one individual possesses.
Mobile learning isn’t sitting with a device at a desk and staring into it, according to Woodill. That’s what he calls the attention well. “You can have a mobile device on a park bench, but that’s not mobile learning,” he said. “Yeah, you’ve got a device, but that doesn’t make it mobile learning if all you’re doing is staring at a screen.” (Read Gary’s recent post on using mobile devices in the classroom.)
Jeff agreed. “I think the difference is is how it’s used,” he said. “Leveraging some of the features that a mobile device has to offer, that’s where you start to separate from a traditional classroom learning situation.”
Both experts said that mobile learning offers opportunities to embrace a different way of learning, not just teaching the same things in a different way. “I think we need to evolve learning and the tools are allowing us to do it,” Jeff said.
Competency-based learning shifting to task-based learning and learning in context
Gary said mobile learning gives the attitude of, “I’ll get this when I need it, where I need it.” He calls this just-in-time learning, meaning that we don’t need to know everything. Instead, we need to figure out how to find information when it’s relevant.
Sitting on a park bench with your iPad is probably not a good example of mobile learning. However, Gary said the key to mobile learning is being on the move or potentially on the move and having connectivity at the same time. Jeff helped illustrate the point. “I’ve been taking my iPad on hikes and learning things or taking information with me to supplement my short little hikes with my kids, so I can teach things…I can show things to my kids about the plants or the animals.”
Gary said mobile learning is learning in context. If you’re in the classroom, he said, you might be learning about something and it’s not your choice. But if you’re in Venice, you’re motivated to learn about something.
This is one of the reasons augmented reality is so powerful, said Gary. A kind of AR is when we take a picture with a smartphone or an iPad, and as you’re doing that, text labels will display over the picture. The other kind is adding artificial virtual objects into the photo or video.
Jeff, Gary, and Float’s managing director, Chad Udell, listed a variety of AR examples. Gary pointed specifically to Metaio, a company whose projects include “The Augmented City” and the Berlin Scanner app. BMW is even researching goggles for mechanics.
Conventional learning applications are changing
As you can see from the SlideShare presentation, Gary and Jeff have listed four conventional learning applications. They are uses for instructional support, personal organizers, learning management systems, and assessments. Gary goes even further in listing 16 new learning applications for mobile.
One is using social media. “Learning is not a single impact,” Jeff said. He said maybe blogs or texts could help build up the actual learning event, or students could use socialize afterward to help share ideas and help teach each other.
Another application is that of a research tool. Gary said his wife, a sociology teacher, had issues with students using their phones in the lecture hall. He suggested she incorporate the phone into class, so the students took pictures and recorded things happening around them in the world. Now, he said phones are working out well for her.
Of course, the conversation included so much more. To find out when the next session will be scheduled in the Mobile Learning Conversations series, follow @FloatLearning on Twitter, and follow the real-time conversation using #id4mlearning.
Now, it’s your turn to chime in
We don’t want the conversation to stop here. Head over to Cammy Bean’s blog to read raw notes. If you were unable to join yesterday’s session, please share your thoughts on instructional design for mobile learning, what you think augmented reality means for learning, how people learn, or what topics you would like to see in future sessions.
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