As we move into an era of ‘seamless learning’ (using mobile devices to connect learning experiences more easily across locations, social settings and time), we increasingly recognize that at times formal learning takes place in informal settings, and informal learning in formal settings (Wong & Looi, 2011; Wong, 2012). These articles and paper shed the light on how to integrate effective learning into work and life. Learning designers or teachers and learners themselves are all crucial for the aim to be achieved.
What’s the mobile learning lesson for L&D?
“Mobile devices do not just set us free as consumers, they have liberated us as professionals to take on the role that L&D should always have had – to help others learn, when they need to, where they need to, from each other.” — Donald H Taylor
There will certainly be some courses and resources that can be usefully deployed over mobile devices, but don’t let’s kid ourselves that that should be the future, or the limit, of our ambitions here. Rather than concentrating on writing courses, we should be establishing good practice in our organisations for finding information and experts and for sharing information. Where necessary we should be setting up the systems and then letting people get on with using them. We need to use this opportunity to move from being the gatekeepers of knowledge to the facilitators of conversations and learning.
Courses, or learning episodes?
“Move away from courses, towards events, experiences, challenges.” — Steve Wheeler
Just what are the options? Can we do better than the course? Some might argue that events, experiences and challenges (which I call ‘episodes’) are all components of courses. True, and there’s the rub. What would stop organisations from extracting these from courses so that they become stand alone learning activities, or learning ‘episodes‘? Nothing at all, and some companies are starting to do just that. The bite size learning experience is sometimes all that is needed to raise productivity, raise awareness or improve safety within the workplace. Also, such disaggregation of learning content provides learners with a greater choice of learning and development possibilities, where smaller and more focused experiences take less time to complete away from the job, and ‘just enough’ learning is achieved. Such bite sized learning could also be pushed directly to employees’ smart devices if the company wished.
Often, goes the argument, courses contain simply too much content (harking back to the ‘just in case’ curriculum Don Taylor talks about), much of which is not needed at that point in time. Presenting a menu of activities, including challenges, quizzes, problems, experiences, and other learning ‘episodes’ does not preclude learners eventually completing ‘courses’. It simply means they can take their time, at their own pace to accrue a portfolio or gain an open badge containing their achievements, whilst their learning is delivered at the point of need.
I therefore suggest that learning episodes rather than courses could be the way forward for ‘just in time’ and ‘just enough’ learning that is personalised, and delivered at the point of need. Ultimately, it’s a matter of granularity, and an idea based on making all of the components of a course available separately, in any sequence, and deliverable on any platform. Such flexibility is now both achievable and desirable.
Re-skilling Language Learners for a Mobile World
Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Professor of Learning Technology & Communication, The Open University
Published on The International Research Foundation for English Language Education (TIRF)
Researchers have long argued that mobile learning should help people use their situated everyday life experiences as impromptu sites or spaces to create new opportunities for learning (Sharples, Taylor & Vavoula, 2005; Pachler, Bachmair & Cook, 2010). This notion implies that learners would need to adopt a new way of working whereby they habitually marshal diverse resources including materials and people to create a personal ecology that meets their needs (Luckin, Clark, Garnett, Whitworth, Akass, Cook, Day, Ecclesfield, Hamilton, & Robertson, 2010). In the meantime, mobile devices have been shown to facilitate the extension of learning beyond the classroom into other settings including the home. Research conducted by Hwang and Chen (2013) investigated how familiar situated contexts can facilitate language learning, such as studying food-related vocabulary during lunch in school. Learners could repeatedly listen to recordings in a familiar setting, giving them more opportunities to practice and to interact in the target language with their peers. It was also noted that students extended their learning from school to home and that learning took place spontaneously in their daily lives.
A learner-centred view suggests that mobile devices are personal tools that can also support self-directed forms of language learning and greater learner autonomy, and indeed there is an increasing body of evidence to that effect. Mobile blogging, collaborative reading, and greater learner control over when language practice takes place can all foster autonomy (see Díaz-Vera, 2012). Learning independence can also be encouraged through appropriate design of learning materials (Nunan, 1997), helping learners move from mere awareness of pedagogical objectives and content toward more involvement. Learners can be involved in setting their own goals and then creating and sharing digital resources – activities that are often linked to the world beyond the classroom.
This paper is focused on how to leverage the affordance of mobile devices to connect language learning and life, let learners become self-directed and strive. Detailed analysis on different learning situations and critical issues for learners and teachers are discussed.
Educators increasingly concur that 21st-century learners should be “active makers and shapers of their own learning” (JISC, 2009). The Framework for 21st Century Learning devised by The Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2009) describes the skills, knowledge, and expertise students should master to succeed in work and life, covering Learning and Innovation; Information, Media, and Technology; and finally Life and Career.
Over their lifetimes, learners are likely to participate in episodes of formal and informal learning. Consequently, those who design curricula for formal learning need to be aware of how their teaching or guiding role fits into a broader picture of informal and out-of-class learning activities. Such activities need to be pedagogically supported if they are to be effective and efficient (Kukulska-Hulme, 2013). The framework for the adoption of mobile technologies and social media should therefore be lifelong learning, whereby people’s experience is transformed and integrated into their biography, resulting in a continually changing person (Jarvis, 2006, p. 134). A key role for teachers is then to equip their students for lifelong language learning, and consider how mobile devices may support that aim.
Ideally, the first step for teachers is to become lifelong mobile learners, if they are not already, in order to be able to act as professional role models, one of the main roles of a teacher (Harden & Crosby, 2000). Continuous professional development for teachers works well on mobile devices, just as it does for other professionals, provided that they have access to a suitable phone or tablet (Walsh, Shaheen, Power, Hedges, Katoon, & Mondol, 2012).
Mobile devices and applications can nowadays play many roles, including that of a tutor, coach, motivator, research assistant, translator, interpreter, entertainer, speech recorder, and even a speaker (e.g., reading out a text on a speaker’s behalf). Teachers are rarely supplanted by these functions, and their roles should be to guide learners in how to use devices in the best possible ways.
Devices are becoming increasingly wearable and integrated into our highly instrumented surroundings. In these technology-rich settings where use of portable and wearable devices integrates with other tools, resources, and social networks, traditional knowledge and skills need to be mixed with new skills and competencies that will help learners make the most of their current context and surroundings.
Question for learning designers/teachers
From Fogg Behavior Model, 3 elements are needed to influence behaviors: (1) trigger – e.g. call to action; (2) ability – e.g. skills, resources and time; (3) motivation – motivation drivers include connecting to community or causes, anticipation, achievement, social acceptance… (read more on its site, or Persuasive Technology Lab @ Stanford University)
Put on the thinking hats borrowed from the model, how can we design/facilitate/enhance mobile learning opportunities through activating learners’ role ? After all, they are the ones who really need to make learning happen in their brains no matter how many technologies are available.