Mobile Devices and Learning Content: Consumption or Creation?

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)

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Mobile Devices and Learning Content: Consumption or Creation?

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