Change Week 2

Zoraini Wati Abas presented on the topic of Mobile Learning at the OU Malaysia yesterday: (http://change.mooc.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=60 ). Now there is an inherent problem with these presentations as they coincide with me picking up the wee lad from nursery and making his tea. The recording and slides of the talk aren’t up yet, but now is the only opportunity I have to think about this week of the course so I thought I would write some initial thoughts based on the Introductory paper, and some of the responses which have been posted to the presentation.

First (written before I read any of the text for this week) I should say I have been known to be sceptical of mobile learning (as I am with a whole list of technology enhanced learning approaches which I won’t reel off here). But with the advent of proper smartphones, and app designs which encourage easy sharing (connecting) of any content you consume or create on these devices, I am much more positive. I see these devices as lightweight access points to interaction with your personal learning network.  In comparison to PCs, they do have the advantage of being suited not just to text creation but also to creating audio, video and images, but of course screen real estate, using for extended periods etc. are the compromises which are made.

So I have now read the position paper. The work is from 2009, so from a time when I would say smartphones weren’t quite ready for full blown -learning, and indeed the study here actually describes a far more modest use of the technology – to use SMS messages as a communication (motivation) aid between tutor and students. OUM is a distance learning university and the students were mostly working full time as well as studying  At GCU (in a f2f context) I think there are similar things being introduced.

Although there was some discussion of overloading students with messages, there  didn’t seem to be anything about whether students in general would be receptive to their tutors ‘invading’ part of their personal space.

In a way I think the m-learning debate has moved on since the study was carried out. One of the key advantages of using SMSs was that a phone (unlike a PC) would (almost) always be with the student. Now with the smartphones discussed above, email and (critically) twitter have overtaken this. Now, when running a course and considering m-learning the tutor may  use a combined approach. SMS for personal communication, Twitter for announcements and community building (twitter is group; sms typically one to one), and email for tasks and more formal learning communication.

It will be interesting to see if the discussion develops through the week. I’m still unsure how these discussions are going to `play out. I suppose we are all testing models here.

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Author: Colin Milligan

Learning researcher based at Glasgow Caledonian University, and living in beautiful West Stirlingshire.

2 thoughts on “Change Week 2”

  1. Some students in the study responded that after overcoming the initial shock of receiving texts from OUM they still didn’t know what to do with them. Others reported that they just ignored them and archived them, in case they might need them later.

    SMS is a simple yet effective way of getting straight to the student. In many ways, mlearning and elearning in general is meeting administrative and organisational needs first without consideration for learning needs, a point made by other observers. This criticism has been addressed by Zoraini in various comments around the place which I am attempting to wrap up in a blog post at some stage later today.

    The mixed (blended) approach certainly has advantages. Do administrative imperatives provide a convenient springboard for introducing blended learning? Anything that enhances the connection of distance learners, or learners that may feel some psychological distance from their institution is probably a good thing.

    1. Thanks Brett, although I am a strong believer of the potential of technology to improve the learning experience, my long history in eLearning has taught me to adopt a more pragmatic approach and to value more mundane uses of technology which might not directly enhance the learning experience but which may assist the learner to engage with their learning more fully, which in turn will improve their learning experience to some degree.

      I couldn’t find your blog post. It would be interesting to read your thoughts.

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