ME-Learning: learner-centric educational design for mobile devices


Abstract

Mobile devices such an mobile phones, PDAs and iPods can have more processing power, slicker displays, and more interesting applications than were commonly available on desktop machines ten years ago, and educators are quickly realising their potential to be used as powerful learning tools.

However, the application of mobile technologies to learning contexts must take into account a number of factors. Above all other things, we must consider how mobile learning can be used to provide students with better opportunities and enhanced learning outcomes. This paper will suggest a foundation of best practice in mobile learning with a strong pedagogical basis, using the following structure:

(1) The definition and description of mobile learning approaches, using the themes "Record, Recall, Relate" (the "Three R's" of Mobile Learning), providing specific examples of practical teaching and learning activities that utilise these approaches

(2) The construction of parallels between computer-based and mobile learning, demonstrating parallels in technological considerations (such as screen size, processing power, memory and storage capacities) as well as human considerations (such as the "mobile divide" and "mobile immigrants/mobile natives"), and the provision of practical methods for applying "lessons learned" through computer-based learning to the new technologies of mobile learning, such as cross-device/cross-platform compatibility, and making mobile learning resources accessible.

(3) A summary of considerations and practical advice for designing, developing and delivering mobile learning for high-quality learnig outcomes, with examples.



Introduction


Mobile learning is not as new a paradigm as many believe, and can be largely advised by well established pedagogical tenets and have been developed and refined through our collective experience of computer-based teaching and learning. Given the highly personalised nature of technology today, mobile devices present an excellent leverage for discussion on continually improving teaching and learning approaches to be learner-centric.

In exploring a mobile, learner-centric paradigm, we return to the principles of situated learning (Billet 1994, Stein 1998) and discuss these together with a distributed, or networked, learning framework. We espouse that the potentialities of mobile devices for teaching and learning lie in the very nature of being ‘in situ’ and having the ability to connect into a distributed network of people, information and knowledge. Our discussion of situated learning approaches will highlight significant opportunities mobile devices can help facilitate for enhancing learning outcomes, and demonstrate that educators should not be seduced by the latest technologies without first considering teaching and learning approaches that utilise well-established mobile platforms.

Mobile Learning: A Practical Model

Mobile learning can be defined by educators in as many different ways as there are mobile devices. For some, “mobile learning” connotes PDAs and cell phones; for others, it includes iPods and media players; and for still others, digital cameras and USB keys. Almost all educators associate mobile learning with current technology and the latest portable gadgets. For many, this makes the prospect of actually applying mobile learning seem daunting or even unattainable; for others, it seems attractive and perhaps rather sexy - the technological cutting edge of education. However, mobile learning should not be a technologically-based learning solution, but a pedagogically-based one; the concept and application of mobile learning has, in fact, been around for three decades.

The concept of mobile learning was first envisaged in 1976, when distinguished computer scientist Dr. Alan Kay expressed:

  • Suppose it had enough power to outrace your senses of sight and hearing, enough capacity to store for later retrieval thousands of page-equivalents of reference material, poems, letters, recipes, records, drawings, animations, musical scores, waveforms, dynamic simulations, and anything else you would like to remember and change…”

Significantly, Dr. Kay’s vision for mobile computing was not one of office documents, so much as materials of personal significance for referencing and updating. Today, we might call that a Personal Learning Environment (PLE).

Since the 1980’s, when Sony introduced the Walkman to the consumer market, users have leveraged portable audio devices to learn languages, supplement and enhance visits to art galleries and museums, and record and replay lectures and learning experiences. Today, with the addition of a distribution model, we might call that podcasting.


1 a. Situated learning and networked learning – briefly link these with mobile devices and their characteristics (which can be fleshed out later in the paper via sections 2 & 3)
2. Link this with the three R’s and take up the learner-centric point of view with these

Sharples (Sharples 2005:para 3) posits a theory of mobile learning that takes into account the learner's mobility. He also accounts for the central elements of mobility, namely, space, time and topical information. When reframed this way, mobile devices are an aid to learning on the move, but not the focus of it; mobile learning is equally valid when accomplished with a pad of paper and a pen, if that’s the appropriate resource for the situated learner. Thus, in accordance with Sharples thinking, we see the possibility of four avenues of learning activity. Defined from a learner-centric viewpoint, these are:
  • Record: The learner may use a portable device to record information. The information recorded may be in response to a prompt from the portable device itself; or in response to a stimulus from their situated learning environment. The information may be recorded to the portable device itself; or the portable device could serve as a conduit for storing the information remotely.
  • Recall: The learner may use a portable device to recall information, either stored on the portable device (e.g. iPod recording), or by using the device as a conduit to access information remotely (e.g. on the internet).
  • Relate: The learner may use a portable device to communicate with other people – for example, with another learner, or with a teacher (i.e. a learning relationship). The device may communicate directly and synchronously (e.g. mobile phone conversation), or may provide access to asynchronous communication services (e.g. web discussion board).
  • Reinterpret: The learner may use the portable device to process existing data so that it is transformed into new information, or restructured to include new learning.

In a reflection of the “Three R’s” of the essential pre-Net Generation skills (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic), these form the “Four R’s” of Net Generation learning (Prensky 2001a, 2001b) and reflect the sociocultural shifts in thinking and learning for the twenty-first century.

Some scenarios for mobile learning design


1. Let's take the QR Codes Len discussed in his his blog post, into a specific learning setting.


How can something like QR codes be used effectively in education? Gvien that they provide an alternative format for both geenrating and disseminating content, it has much potential for small screens and for integration with desktop computers (or laptops for that matter).

external image bigcapa.gif

Let's take the student who is located in a manufacturing workshop to flesh out our example, using the Four R's described above.

A student based in a workshop is provided with a mobile phone capable of reading and developing QR codes - this phone has been provided through the workshop management as part of the workplace training and apprenticeship scheme (in collaboration with the training provider).

Record: The apprentice captures a bar code image (like the one above) strategically placed at various key points of the workshop. In this case the barcode he captures (using the phone's camera) is directly below the safety alert sign (with the necessary instructions for using the barcode). Information stored in the barcode is a summary of the workplace safety policy of the workshop. The apprentice can then convert the barcode to readable text which is viewable on the phone's screen (albeit small) or it can be emailed or downloaded to be viewed at a later time at a computer in the office or training facility, or indeed at the apprentice's home.

Likewise, as part of the apprentice's block release to attend TAFE sessions, the trainer may provide QR codes online for students which summarise competencies for the benefit of and use by apprentices when they return to their workplaces. For example, the competencies listed below for basic welding can include additional summaries of the learning outcomes or activities apprentices must complete in the workplace. Although a brief summary, the barcoded information can also include a link(s) to a website (such as a password-protected WebCT site) for further information.

welding_competencies.PNG
Imagine these competencies looking like this:
external image &t=P&s=4

Recall: Back to our workshop then. Having captured the barcoded information about workshop safety, the apprentice can review his learning outcomes on OH&S and begin to document his learning about workplace safety. One activity related to an OH&S learning outcome may see the apprentice touring the workshop identifying any possible workplace hazards and taking a photo of possible hazards for later discussion. Again, the apprentice is recording information for recall at a later stage.

Relate: On his block release to TAFE, the apprentice decides to show his trainer the images he took to clarify whether or not some are actually hazards or not. With his permission, the trainer puts the images up on the password-protected shared space for other apprentices to view, and has added similar images taken by other apprentices over the last two years. [The trainer decided a password-protected space meant images of a workplace were not publicly accessible, thus maintaining the integrity of the workplaces at which the apprentices were located.]

Reinterpret: Part of the learning activities for the day subsquently include discussion about workplace safety using the images taken by various apprentices in their workplaces to trigger the discussion. The trainer has been able to draw on the situated experiences of the apprentices with activities directly related to (and in fact partly derived from) their workplaces, within the educational setting. In addition, the trainer, when visiting the workplaces as part of the apprentices' supervision, already has a developing knowledge of each workplace as described, discussed and 'captured' by the apprentices.


2. Let's consider a retail trainee and the Four R's.


I've used Gliffy to develop a simple diagram illustrating how the four Rs, Record, Recall, Relate, Reinterpret generate learning activity, and what these might entail.



So the four Rs offer some ideas for engaging in learning activities. Let's take Record first. What would the learner being doing in order to record? A learner can capture, preserve, memorise, note, create and so on - all of which see the learner doing something and producing a record of something. Within a specific context, for example, a supermarket (as shown within the context 'cloud' surrounding the four R's), we could see the learner as a retail trainee working in a supermarket and uses a mobile device to capture (e.g. with her camera phone) a process such as labelling shelves by her co-worker. Her colleague demonstrates the correct procedure as part of her workplace learning. The trainee now has a record of this process, demonstrated in situ at her workplace.

Moving on then to Recall, how might the learner re-use this demonstration for 'recall'? She may wish to revise or 'practice' the procedure in her own time, say on her lunch break, as she has been told she will take over the labelling from her co-worker. She is able to review the demonstration as often as she likes. Should she also need to repeat the procedure at a future time, she can quickly revise the recorded demonstration as a refresher.

What about Relate then? Continuing with our example, the trainee may be able to moblog the captured demonstration and add to her moblogged posting at a later time, where she can include extra notes, descriptions and perhaps some questions that surface outside of the workplace, that she can ask when she next enters the workplace. In addition, her supervisor, fellow trainees, co-workers, trainee assessor, and so on, may add to her own notes via their own comments to her moblog post. They can enrich her own knowledge by offering their thoughts, opinions and directions about the procedure she has captured. At the same time, the trainee may also include her recorded demonstration on a shared website for retail trainees, with her own notes that can benefit others too.

Let's elaborate using the assessor as an example: the trainee's assessor is aware that one key competency of the traineeship includes the trainee demonstrating competence in following policies and procedures. So, the assessor adds a comment to remind the trainee that this type of procedure is one she herself must demosntrate to achieve competence, and suggests that next time she performs the procedure herself, that she have her co-worker capture the trainee carrying out the procedure, and then add to her evidence portfolio for assessment.

Fourth, is Reinterpret. Sticking to our example above, the trainee has been advised by her supervisor and her assessor that her captured demonstration would be a useful resource for other workers at the supermarket and could be used as part of induction training. She is asked (as part of her final assessment) to write some information about the procedure to further support the captured procedure and 'package' it to make it available on the supermarket's staff website. She decides that she will refine her moblog entry on her assessment wiki by first outlining the learning outcomes for the workplace procedure, then embed the captured video and finally add some further notes to enhance the specific aspects for workers who will view the procedure. She then emails her supervisor and her assessor the link to her wiki, which becomes part of her assessment portfolio and is linked on the supermarket's staff webpage.

All this is derived from one piece of recorded information. It involved relating concepts, procedures and people and does so within a specific context. It is adaptable to various other contexts, depending on need and relevance and can be reused for various aspects within a certain situation. It also illustrates the learner-at-centre; the (co-)creator of knowledge, owner of their (workplace) experience and thus their learning. There are no specific 'tools' required except that which is already available; in this case, the trainee's camera phone (part of the trainee's own indentikit), a moblog and a wiki (both of which are available free for use online).

The process following the capturing of the information involves guidance (supervisor, co-worker and assessor), discussion (via the moblog and email), critical thinking (trainee revises ideas following input of others or review of procedure herself), ownership and reward for effort (her recording, subsequently rewarded for effort via workplace acknowledgement and achieving competency).

2 a. an example to illustrate each of the three R’s?
3. Link the three R’s to educational design strategies and situatedness + networked aspects of mobile devices, as a starting point for moving towards best practice use of mobile devices in teaching and learning.
3 a. Example of the Art tour to illustrate situatedness AND networking abilities of mobile devices and its applicability to learning in-situ
3 b. Include here how these strategies will require some technical considerations (draw on the strengths and weaknesses of mobile devices) as well as some discussion on what we have learnt from earlier computer based learning models.
4. Conclude with some considerations and ideas (e.g. ‘101 ideas for mobile learning’), as well as some questions to further the discussion beyond this paper.




Additional notes...

From Len (10/07/2006):

Sharples, M. 2005 Towards a Theory of Mobile Learning, mLearn 2005 Conference, South Africa, http://www.mlearn.org.za/CD/papers/Sharples-%20Theory%20of%20Mobile.pdf
One line in particular stands out for me: “It is the learner that is mobile, not the technology”. When reframed this way, mobile devices are an aid to learning on the move, but not the focus of it; mobile learning is equally valid when accomplished with a pad of paper and a pen, if that’s the appropriate resource for the situated learner.
The paper concurs with some of our independently-reached ideas, particularly in terms of the parallels and convergences of technology and post-modern learning theory, the social-constructivist underpinnings of mobile learning, and the situated/networked potentialities of mobile learning.




References


Billet, S. (1994) Situated learning – A workplace experience, Australian Journal of Adult and Community Education, Vol 34, No 2, July 1994.

Prensky, M (2001a) Digital natives, Digitial Immigrants, paper republished from On the Horizon, Vol 9, No 5, October 2001, NBC University Press. Retrieved 10 July 2006 from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

--(2001b) Digital natives, Digitial Immigrants, paper republished from On the Horizon, Vol 9, No 6, December 2001, NBC University Press. Retrieved 10 July 2006 from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part2.pdf

Ragus, M. (2006) M-learning: a future of learning, Knowledge Tree eJournal, Edition 9. Retrieved July 3, 2006 from http://kt.flexiblelearning.net.au/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/ragus.pdf.

Sharples, M. (2005) Towards a theory of mobile learning, paper rpesented at mLearn 2005, Capetown South Africa. Retrieved July 10 2006 from http://www.mlearn.org.za/CD/papers/Sharples-%20Theory%20of%20Mobile.pdf.

--(2000) The design of personal mobile technologies for lifelong learning, Computers & Education, Vol 34, Issues 3-4, 1 April 2000, 177-193.

Stein, D. (1998) Situated learning in adult education, ERIC digest. Retrieved July 3 2006 from http://www.ericdigest.org/1998-3/adult-education.html.

Young, M.F. (1993) Instructional design for situated learning, Educational Technology Research and Development 41, No 1: 43-58.[Can't find this anyhere!!]

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in society - the development of higher pyschological processes, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.



Blogged thoughts...


The following was originally published July 7, 2006 at http://ed-design.blogspot.com/2006/07/mobile-learning-as-networked-and.html

My colleague Leonard and I are putting together a paper for the upcoming OLT conference at QUT, I thought I'd put down some thoughts around the use of mobile devices in teaching and learning. :o)

Not everyone is convinced of the merits of using mobile devices for teaching and learning and it seems many have yet to witness the apparent benefits of mobile learning approaches, through tried and tested working examples. that's fair enough isn't it? But I guess when we don't know what we don't know (and some of us do!) we should give it a go!

Situating strengths and weaknesses of mobile devices
Leonard discusses some strengths and weaknesses of mobile devices for learning over at his blog and some of his points really resonated with me in terms of situated and distributed (or networked) learning.

We can begin to understand the nuances of mobile learning when we consider it within a situated learning framework. Lave and Wenger are key authors in the area of learning cultures and situated cognition, as are Brown, Collins & Duguid (1989). Couple this with the notion of distributed or networked learning and you have a strong case for mobile learning!

Team this up with the three Rs of mobile learning activity (i.e. record, recall and relate) and you not only have learning that is embedded in the real activities of daily living (Stein 1998), but also a process for learning that is well-framed to support both the learner and the teacher in making sense of the learning that occurs in these everyday settings.

To situate learning is to

  • create the conditions in whichparticipants will experience the complexity and ambiguity of learning in the realworld. Participants will create their own knowledge out of the raw materials ofexperience, i.e., the relationships with other participants, the activities,the environment cues, and the social organization that the community developsand maintains (Stein 1998, para:2).

If we are to design for such experiences how might it look using mobile devices? We should first consider the need to integrate four key elements in designing mobile learning strategies, that of content, context, community and participation in order to do so.

Learner centredness and distributed experience
When we consider that adult learners are generally richly endowed with life experience, the potential to share their stories in learning settings can, as Stein says, transform a traditional learning setting where knowledge is merely transferred byt he teacher to seeing learners as a "resource for interpreting, challenging, and creating new knowledge" (Stein 1998, para:14). And of course, for seeing learners (and teachers) as people! Personalised learning is often discussed in the same breath as mobile learning - owning a mobile phone is quite a personal affair (what's your ring tone?!). But let's move beyond this and rather than have people ask about ring tones to denote thier individualism, let's try encouraging learners to ask themselves how they can maximise their use of such technology AND of the world around them to develop and hone their skills for learning.

So what of the learning experience if we are to centre on the learner? This next when I look more closely at:
Brown, Collins and Duguid are well known for their work on situated cognition (Educational Researcher 18(1), 1989, pp. 32-41), and
Young's article in Educational Technology Research and Development on "Instructional design for situated learning" (Vol 41 No 1, 1993, pp.43-58).

technorati tags:mobile.learning, learning.design, situated.learning, learning, culture, society, educational.design, learner.centric
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The following was originally published July 11, 2006 at http://ed-design.blogspot.com/2006/07/and-then-there-were-four-or-four-rs-of.html

Following on my previous post, I pick up on Leonard's idea of the three R's for mobile learning:

Leonard has reconsidered the three R's he posited earlier in a blog post and has included a fourth, and that is Reinterpret.
What I have conceived through a critique of Sharples' (Sharples 2005, para:3) well-considered conference paper (mLearn 2005) is his central elements for mobile learning include time, space and topical information and the simple fact that a theory of mobile learning takes as its central theme the learner's mobility.

When reframed this way, mobile devices are an aid to learning on the move, but not the focus of it; mobile learning is equally valid when accomplished with a pad of paper and a pen, as len pinted out, if that?s the appropriate resource for the learner 'in situ'. Thus, in accordance with Sharples thinking, we see the possibility of four avenues of learning activity. Defined from a learner-centric viewpoint, these are:
  • Record: The learner may use a portable device to record information. The information recorded may be in response to a prompt from the portable device itself; or in response to a stimulus from their situated learning environment or teacher. The information may be recorded to the portable device itself; or the portable device could serve as a conduit for storing the information remotely (e.g. weblog or database).
  • Recall: The learner may use a portable device to recall information, either stored on the portable device (e.g. iPod recording), or by using the device as a conduit to access information remotely (e.g. on the internet or a database).
  • Relate: The learner may use a portable device to communicate with other people ? for example, with another learner, or with a teacher (i.e. a learning relationship). The device may communicate directly and synchronously (e.g. mobile phone conversation), or may provide access to asynchronous communication services (e.g. web discussion board or collaborative weblog).
  • Reinterpret: The learner may use the portable device to process existing data so that it is transformed into new information, or restructured to include new learning.

In a reflection of the 'Three R's' of the essential pre-Net Generation skills (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic), these form the 'Four R's' of Net Generation learning (Prensky 2001a, 2001b) and reflect the sociocultural shifts in thinking and learning for the increasingly mobile twenty-first century.

So then, in terms of learning design, how might we use the four R's to develop engaging learning activities for our learners? Some practical examples can be seen through some Australian based projects like EngageMe, and New Practices 2004 project on using handheld devices in Horticulture, plus a range of mobile learning projects happening in Europe. This extends teaching beyond the institution walls, into the everyday world around us and recognises the learner as the learning citizen (see the European commission funded projects for more).

So with this in mind, let's return to Sharples' summary of findings from a project called //MOBIlearn// . In this summary one can draw out ideas or strategies that can facilitate learning design. First, and most importantly, it is the learner who is mobile rather than the technology. This encourages a learner-centric focus from the outset when designing for learning. Interweaving learning into everyday practice extends our discussion on situated learning and also draws on networked learning which acknowledges a 'connectedness' supported by technology. It bodes well for engaging in workplace learning and draws fellow employees into the learning setting as both co-learners and supplementary guides or facilitators.

Distributed systems for managing the learning is preferenced in mobile learning approaches , so we need to consider carefully how institutions can support a distributed practice of administration and management wherever possible. This is a big challenge faced by institutions as they struggle with the fact that open systems and informal learning practices are increasingly valued in the workplace and our communities generally. This certainly challenges what it means to be a 'learning institution'. Sharples recognises that there is a conflict with formal education, as much as there is an opportunity to complement it (Sharples 2005, para:19).

Sharples also notes the increased importance of the context, not as a shell in which the learning occurs but as a contributor to the learning process or act itself (Sharples 2005, para:18). Context is dynamic and the space created becomes interactional, mediated by technology and the learning outcomes set. In this case, to think of the design is to engage the context as part of the learning, so that the learner and the teacher are both aware of the outcome(s) that can be generated from interacting in - and with - the context.

We should be acutely aware of the ethical issues that surround privacy and ownership (Sharples 2005, para:20). As learners are increasingly mobile, so too the learning settings themselves become mobile. The walls that once contained learning are melting into everyday settings. This means we need to be conscious of the ubiquitous nature of the technology and the invasive ways in which we can (mis)use the technology. Some teachers may voice concern over 'losing sight' of the learners and in a sense losing some level of power in the student-teacher relationship. If teachers are able to manage relinquishing of power to an extent where it is in itself freeing for them too, then there is more chance that modelling, or guiding learners in, safe and appropriate practices with technology can become the 'teaching' itself, thus developing the learning citizen, not simply the compliant student.

Learning is a social activity where learners engage with one another and with the context around them. It is a dynamic activity "framed by cultural constraints and historical practices" where the very process of learning is one of change, where our cultural and historical frames of reference grow and develop as we do (Sharples 2005, para:26).


References

EngageMe, NSW DET (n.d.) What is Moblogging? EngageMe Series 1.
European Commission (2002-2005) MOBIlearn: the wings of learning, MOBIlearn project consortium, Europe, Israel, Switzerland, USA and Australia. http://www.mobilearn.org/
Low, L (2006) The fourth R..., weblog post Mobile Learning
-- (2006) The three R's: building blocks for mlearning, weblog post Mobile Learning
Prensky, M (2001a) Digital Natives, Digitial Immigrants - Part 1, paper republished from On the Horizon, Vol 9, No 5, October 2001, NBC University Press. Retrieved 10 July 2006.
-- (2001b) Digital Natives, Digitial Immigrants - Part 2, paper republished from On the Horizon, Vol 9, No 6, December 2001, NBC University Press. Retrieved 10 July 2006.
Sharples, M. (2005) Towards a theory of mobile learning, paper presented at mLearn 2005, Capetown South Africa. Retrieved July 10 2006.

technorati tags:mobile.learning, learning, design, situated.learning, culture, society, educational.design, learner.centric, leonard.low, mlearning
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