As part of the activities of Week 1 of #ID4ML we were asked to reflect on our competencies for the changing mobile learning landscape.
I have an MSc. in Education, Technology and Society from the University of Bristol and as part of that course we had a module called ‘Design and Development for Learning.’ There was much discussion of the importance of mobile on that module as I recall (it was a few years back), and of how the design and development of learning content has to be mobile-friendly.
Secondly, I have been teaching myself Adobe Captivate recently (via Lynda.com if anyone is interested!) and I like the way this particular piece of software has a ‘responsive template’ that is the first choice in the template chooser, i.e it encourages to design and develop for mobile first.
So, I think I am developing the competencies to tackle the challenges of designing effective mobile learner experiences, but have a way to go yet. It is quite frightening how many varieties of mobile device are out there and there is the potential for an inconsistent user experience given the variation in screen-size, operating system etc. Should we go for the lowest common denominator (non-smart phones?) or design/develop for the ‘average’ mobile user (whatever that is).
Mobile is becoming increasingly important in my own (personal) learning environment. I have a two-hour daily commute (both ways) so spend a lot of time on my iPad and phone – in fact I can sometimes be more productive on the train than in my busy and noisy open-plan office. Working on mobile sometimes forces you to adapt to the task in hand and, even though we are seeing more and more powerful and creative apps and mobile devices, working within the limitations of mobile can often make for a liberating experience.
One of the long-standing myths associated with the use of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones is that they are used only (or mainly) for the consumption of content, whether that content is associated with formal learning, informal learning or pure entertainment. Even if there was an element of truth to this when tablets and smartphones first appeared, a cursory glance at some of the creative apps that are now available for tablets and phones should be enough to dispel this myth. Apps such as Book Creator, Pixelmator, Haiku Deck or Paper rival desktop-class software in terms of the potential to create engaging and interactive learning content. In fact even if these apps are ‘cut down’ in terms of functionality compared to their heavyweight desktop counterparts (Photoshop for example) the touch screen user interface and ‘always available’ nature of mobile devices makes them ideal for multimedia creation. And sometimes ‘less is more’ – many writers, for example, claim to have increased their productivity by using light-weight text-editing tools such as Byword, iA Writer or Ulysses on mobile devices rather than the behemoth that is Microsoft Word on the desktop.
In Higher Education talk of mobile learning seems to be almost exclusively centred around making learning content more accessible to the myriad of mobile devices in the hands of learners. While laudable, this reinforces a model of mobile learning that views learners as largely passive consumers of highly designed and structured learning content that is ‘delivered’ to the user. Yet the emergence of mobile apps that enable digital story-telling, video/image mash-ups, augmented reality and gamified learning all point to a different model of mobile learning with the student at the centre, as active agents, subjects and producers (not merely consumers) of learning activities and content.
I think Michael Wesch illustrates this point well:
At the institutional level of course there’s a lot of people racing right now to make sure the content fits on to a mobile device, but the real challenge or opportunity is going to come when you start looking in the other direction towards what’s coming into the pipeline from these mobile devices, not what you can send to them, but how can you enable students to do new things and collaborate in new ways through these mobile devices.
from Mobile Learning in HE (on YouTube, around the 1 min 20 mark)
I’ve just signed up for a new open course entitled ‘Instructional Design for Mobile Learning‘ which is facilitated by Robin Bartolettei, Rob Power and Whitney Kilgore. The course (which runs on the Canvas platform – a first for me) takes as its subject matter principles of instructional design for mobile devices and mobile learning. There looks to be a good mix of collaboration and communication using Twitter, blogs and discussion forums, as well as a practical element involving lots of creative activities such as making YouTube videos, Quizlets and mobile RLOs (re-usable learning objects).
I’m really looking forward to the course. I remember Rory McGreal at OpenEd10 in Barcelona urging us to “design for mobile first, desktop second.” While he was talking about open educational resources I think the same applies to learning content more generally. That view won’t sit well with those who still worship at the church of the VLE/LMS however.