Saturday, January 7, 2012

Situated Learning theory applied to mobile learning research

I have recently come across the latest issue of Research in Learning Technology that reviews the literature related to mobile learning research and theory. Before deciding to end my studies and work full-time, I had spent several months doing a similar investigation. What struck me at the time was that: 1) the field was still rather new, 2) the technology has radically changed since the concept of "mobile" first emerged, and 3) there was both heavy theoretical writings, or just writings on an application of a technology in a particular class. One thing is for certain, a lot of thinking has been dedicated to mobile learning technologies and a lot more is taking place.

Then, more as happenstance than purposeful, I came across Wright and Parchoma (2011), who helped bring a lot of my past thinking into perspective.

If you are in the process of doing mobile learning research, it would be worth your time to glace over this article. They clearly articulate the various "discourses" found in mobile learning research in their literature review of the topic. Their conclusion, which parallels much of what I have considered, has to do with the notion that researchers in this vain should be focusing on the "authentic and informal contexts" (p. 247) where learning is taking place on mobile devices voluntarily ("by choice") instead of "by design" (p. 256). They mention looking more towards situated learning principles a la Lava and Wenger.

Within the context of education technology in general, I am happy to read such a piece. Namely, I enjoy it when writers refer to research and theory that I have read and thought about, but only understood the theory from the abstract or surface level.

BTW - this article was read and annotated on an iPad using the iAnnotate app.

Wright, S.  & Parchoma, G. (2011). Technologies for learning? An actor-network theory critique of
‘affordances’ in research on mobile learning. Research in Learning Technology, 19(3), 247-258. Retrieved from

Thursday, November 17, 2011

iPad as a 1:1 Device or Shared?

iPad Workshop Template
Before I get into things here, I want to note this page:
LeftFoot/RightFoot - BalancEdTech has a collection of great ed tech articles, links, and workshop templates for educators. Keep up the good work!
To Borrow or Keep
Part of my work over at BCC involves managing a set of iPads (1 and 2) for faculty to "check-out" and investigate. The goal is to generate materials that strengthen the program that supports the technology. The program is basically about putting tools into faculty hands to help them sustain a culture of teaching and learning that enables students to be better engaged with their courses and the college. The assumption is that through course redesign with an injection of technology, student retention will improve. 

This is no easy feat though! For instance, how a STEM instructor or a humanities instructor approaches and defines teaching and learning varies somewhat. More than that, many instructors at times don't want to embrace technology (in hardware like an iPad, or in a conceptual form like an outcomes model). This can be a challenge when emerging mobile devices are popping up in the classroom, or education system-level directives initiate outcomes assessment guidelines. 

Theory and argument aside, what I am currently working with is an outcomes-based model that has ipads tied into it (rather loosely). The binding between technology and instruction is what I am expecting faculty to create, as opposed to my "instructional expertise" declaring, iPads will be used in this way for courses XYZ. 

So far, the process is more about figuring out the technology through partnering with faculty. A model we have been trying is lending iPads to faculty so they may learn the technology and begin to experiment it in the classroom. So far, one issue I am observing has to do with the fact that Pads are not designed to be "borrow-able" devices. As Apple sales folks tell me, iPads are meant to be a 1:1 device. The technology just doesn't allow for lending in order for the device to work as intended. For instance, iCloud cannot be used when borrowers use the device since it is tied to the device's account. If they reset the account, signing in with their Apple ID, then we loose services such as 'Find My iPad'. 

Nevertheless, if an institution wants to establish a mobile device culture, they need to get people to use a device without having to buy it. Here at BCC we are starting a mobile computing committee to in a way set standards for what we will support and strategize for. The Apple TV/iPad/iOS 5 remote model seems to work well, but to test it requires an investment of both money and time. 

Here are a few things to think about during a mobile testing phase:
1. Institutions experimenting with iPads (or another mobile device) MUST loan them out first asr trial runs to establish surface level use. This gives users a chance to learn how to turn the device on and off, browse the internet, and explore some basic features.
2. Once a mobile device has become more common, then ask users to purchase their own (or set up a purchase program taking advantage of Apple's education discounts with 10-pack purchases.
3. Pilot both lesson-level and semester-long mobile pilot tests. This can help establish the mobile device as a teaching and learning tool through intentionally designed lesson plans. For instance, using an iPad class-set for just one lesson, or loaning them out to students for semester-long studies as eReaders. 

Its not so simple as "here's your iPad...go to it." It reminds me of when desktops were thrusted upon educators and asked to figure out how to use it. The computers inevitablly ended up as dust collectors. 

For now, its implementing the plans and seeing what data will reveal. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Whew! Time for an update.

A little update at least.

After about 6 months at my new job at Bristol Community College, I am able to start to think about how my knowledge on mobile learning may be applied to a real-life setting.

We are currently involved in a Title III grant that focuses on developing course redesign toolkits. These Toolkits provide faculty with a set of course outcomes and objectives for gateway courses and also provides instructional activity and assessment examples that align with the outcomes. Within the grant's budget we were able purchase a large number of iPads for faculty use including a class set with a sync cart.

This so far has been a challenge in that we need to figure out exactly how the iPads will be used in the classroom.

For now, here are a few links on what other colleges have been doing:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ubiquitous Learning - Book edited by Bill Cope & Mary Kalantizis

A book that has had the biggest impact on my career and thought process is Ubiquitous Learning edited by Cope and Kalantizis.

This book captures the essence behind the mobile learning movement, helping redefine how learning can be approached when bringing mobile and other technologies into the education process. Unfortunately, I have to return the book to the library, but here are some of my notes:
uLearning describes the pervasiveness of computers in our lives, which is causing a paradigm shift where "educatators assume a leading role in technological innovation" (p.9).
Move 1 - Anytime/anywhere, lifelong learning, specific coming together, intuitive interfaces
Move 2 - We are the "players' (Gee). How we access information and mash it up affects how we learn
Move 3 - Shift in "balance of agency" (p.11) as learners become more cosmopolitan equally contributing to the knowledge base.
Developing u-learning devices means developing a new understanding of how know is transferred. The power relationship of teacher over learner changes.
Move 4 - Multi-media is easily manipulated by learners to generate meaning
Move 5 - Learning how to interpret mass amounts of information and its "meta-language"
Move 6 - knowledge is more a thing of "distributed cognition" resting among devices, which changes the previous keepers of knowledge. "In the era of u-computing, you are not what you know but what you can know, the knowledge that is at hand because you have a device in hand" (p. 12).
Move 7 - think how community is created through technology

The 6 Aspects of Ubiquity
1. Anywhere (space) information and people with no constraint on location
2. Portable
3. An "interconnectedness" through GPS, networked intelligence where knowledge is not just in our heads (p. 16)
4. Blur of activities, merging work and play and redefining where and when learning takes place through a action, reflection, inquiry dynamic
5. Anytime (asynchronous) learning to fit the learner who pops in when they are ready to learn. Relates to notion of lifelong learning where learning can be a perpetual opportunity
6. Information flow to learn about global struggles and interconnectedness

Think how the nature of knowledge has changed, created from "personal and meaningful" experience with the world.
How does the game change when teaching and learning connect?

That's all for now. I think I'll be purchasing this book soon...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Educause Mobile Learning Issue

The latest issue of Educause Quarterly (EDUCAUSE Quarterly Magazine, Volume 34, Number 1, 2011) features mobile-based learning system.

It can be found here:

What I find interesting from these articles is how mobile learning is being defined not so much by a mobile phone, but by any technology that improves communications between content, teacher, and student. Some of this relates to the notion of ubiquitous learning namely:
- More social networked type communications
- Learning occurring in highly contextual environments
- Collaborative-based learning
- Information access anytime/anywhere

Of note, is the article by Higdon et al(2011), where they discuss a research project that involved the development of the student response system called ChimeIn. ChineIn functions beyond the typical 'Clicker' system allowing for collection of student data beyond the multiple choice question structure. It also works with any mobile device (laptop, smartphone, or any SMS phone). Its a clean interface and provides instance data via word clouds or pie charts.

Mobile systems are evolving towards something more than just a phone. These articles provide some insight into this evolution.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Can a mobile learning design be better than this?

I came across this app to help teach the Periodic Table of Elements and was a little disappointed:

I ran into this problem with iPhone/iPad interface design with another project. It seems that due to programming constraints, it is difficult to break out of the iPhone interface template, so what ends up happening are apps like this one.

On the other side of the argument, it is simple and sleek. However, such an app is nothing more than an electronic flash card and quiz machine.

How can this app be made more graphic, more engaging, and simply more fun?

As an instructional designer interested in creating mobile learning apps, I know there are better ways to create apps. However, I am not a programmer/developer, so I'm not sure of the programming constraints.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Army training using a mobile app

I just found this article on written by Matthew Humphries, which presents readers with the concept behind several mobile training app designed by the company C2 Technologies. From what I can tell, the objective of these apps is to teach soldiers who work on Patriot Mission how to do their jobs. From the screen shot, it looks like they are using a 3D simulation of the equipment.

Here is the article...

The writer concludes the article by saying, "Although we can see the benefit of training away from the actual missile launching system, we do hope trainees get some extended time with the actual equipment as well before having to use it for real."

I can acknowledge that Matthew Humphries is probably being humorous, but his comments brings up a good point on simulations and capabilities of mobile-based learning. One would expect that the mobile training is an extension of the hands-on training, perhaps as a way to introduce newbies to the system by teaching them some of the basics. Its akin to studying lab work through a virtual lab, then doing a similar experiment in an actual lab.

I am interested in what sort of instructional design process is taking place at C2 Technologies. Are they mostly developers there and do they employee an instructional designer?

Sounds like a fun job!