6 Mobile Learning Lies We Tell Ourselves

Are There Just Six? Add Your Own!

Industry News, Newsletter Comments (0)

Gina Gallo, CEO of Stratix, writes about the “6 mobile lies we tell ourselves” in a recent edition of “Mobile Enterprise Magazine” (8/19/2013). The six lies about mobile computing in the enterprise that she lists are:

  1. “We’re involving everyone we need.”
  2. “We can do this ourselves.”
  3. “We’ll just ask our helpdesk provider to beef up its support level.”
  4. “Mobile data? Our business analysts can deal with that.”
  5. “Look, a mobile device is just another asset to schedule and track.”
  6. “It’s a control issue, plain and simple.”


I’ll let you read the details of Gina’s list of lies in the original article, but it got me thinking about possible lies we tell ourselves in the mobile learning industry. Could I come up with at least six?

Here goes:

1. “We are at a tipping point with mobile learning. It is just about to take off.”

OK. I’m guilty of telling this lie. But, this is mostly wishful thinking by vendors and consultants.

I’ve been writing about mobile learning since 2006, and several prominent people in the mobile learning industry, including Clark Quinn, have been predicting its takeoff for even longer.

The fact is, we don’t know when most people will give up their laptops, desktops, and heavier tablets to switch to mostly mobile learning. It seems to be happening, but it is slower than most of us wish.

Maybe next year.

2. “For us, mobile learning is all about tablets. Phone screens are too small.”

I recently wrote that tablets are the eLearning industry’s “getting out of jail free card.”

Many people have been skeptical, and remain skeptical, of using smartphones for mobile learning because of the small screen size, and they breathed a sigh of relief when tablets like the iPad came along a couple of years ago. The screens on tablets are big enough to squeeze all those interactive eLearning courses into its diminished real estate, and still be readable.

“We just need to convert our assets to tablet formats, and make them fit either aspect ratio,” they naively think. You can join the mobile revolution without hardly any pain!

But this approach misses the point of the ubiquity of phones compared with carrying a tablet and doesn’t force a rethink of how we “deliver content” to learners.

3. “We can adapt our eLearning courses for mobile learning (only on tablets, of course).”

You can certainly do this, but you will be missing all the new and unique affordances of the latest mobile devices. My colleague, Chad Udell, has been writing about these new features over the past few months.

The problem is mainly thinking regarding courses for the organization of mobile learning materials.

While you can do that, it doesn’t reflect how most people use mobile devices to learn. They usually want a “quick hit” of a small amount of information, rather than sitting through a long piece, even if it is “interactive” or animated. And, they want the information right now “at the point of need.”

Courses on mobile just don’t cut it.

4. “We have always learned while being mobile, so mobile learning is nothing new.”

Good point. We are mobile most of our waking hours, and we are often learning as we move around.

But, remember that classrooms and much eLearning have been designed to make us immobile for long periods of time – to sit in front of a teacher or a screen, and “pay attention.”

What is new about the current form of mobile learning is a combination of 1) the ability to be anywhere, and, 2) at the same time, to have instant access to information we need, or, to be able to collect, store and send information to others.

5. “Mobile learning will replace classrooms and face-to-face conferences.”

No. These forms of education and training organization will continue because as embodied beings, we like to be in the physical presence of others from time to time. We won’t need to do it as often, because once you get to know someone in person, it is easier to trust them online. But, I prefer real contact to virtual contact, and most people are the same.

Both ways of being in the world will continue into the foreseeable future. It’s also useful to think about how mobile devices interface with our bodies.

6. “The ability to be mobile is what the newest forms of learning and teaching are all about.”

This is probably the most insidious lie of all.

Mobile learning as a concept may be hiding a much bigger change in how people learn. The “new learning” is certainly mobile, but it is also:

  • Continuous,
  • Ubiquitous,
  • Networked,
  • Cloud-based,
  • Curated,
  • Augmentative,
  • Open,
  • Social,
  • Informal,
  • Situated,
  • Need-based,
  • Shared,
  • Contextual,
  • Ubiquitous,
  • Peer-generated,
  • Learner-generated,
  • Filtered,
  • Collaborative,
  • Gamified,
  • Complex, and
  • Personalized.

So, the changes that are happening in learning are way more than mobile. It’s just that we haven’t found a good metaphor to use to describe this new reality. Mobility is an important dimension, but the change that is happening in learning and development right now is way bigger than that.

I can think of other lies we tell ourselves about mobile, but I would love to have you, the reader, add to this list. Add them in the comments below, or send them to me via my Twitter feed @gwoodill and I will post them.

It’s time to face the truth.

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Gary Woodill is a senior analyst with Float, as well as CEO of i5 Research. Gary conducts research and market analyses, as well as assessments and forecasting for emerging technologies. Gary is the co-editor of "Mastering Mobile Learning," author of “The Mobile Learning Edge,” and the co-author of “Training and Collaboration with Virtual Worlds.” He also presents at conferences and is the author of numerous articles and research reports on emerging learning technologies. Gary holds a doctor of education degree from the University of Toronto.

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On August 26, 2013
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