I had a chance to discuss my previous posting on “The Other LCD” with some peers involved with Flexible Learning, both within my work team at the Canberra Institute of Technology, and with a network of professionals involved with Flexible Learning at the University of Canberra, Australian Defence Force Academy, and Australian National University on Friday. Quite rightly, there is some concern at accessibility and equity issues surrounding Mobile Learning… not everyone can afford the latest mobile digital devices.
It’s been useful for me to address these issues as parallels with computer-based learning… basically, we’ve seen the same issues arise previously in e-learning that we’re now thinking about in terms of mobile learning. Let’s hope we’ve learned our lessons and won’t make some of our previous mistakes!
The Mobile Divide
A parallel with the “Digital Divide,” a term coined in 1996 by Dr. Simon Moore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_divide) to describe socio-economic barriers to computers and the Internet. In a similar fashion, we must consider: who has access to mobile technologies? Many people can’t afford/justify owning a PDA… just as 10 years ago, many people couldn’t afford/justify having their own PC. When we develop mobile learning, we must pause to consider whether resources created for mobile learning also be accessed through some other means, to reduce the disadvantage posed by the Mobile Divide.
Mobile Immigrants/Mobile Natives
A parallel with Digital Immigrants/Digital Natives, coined in 2001 by Marc Prensky. There are many people who didn’t grow up with mobile technologies and need to learn many of the skills younger generations take for granted. Some people, resistant to change, will refuse to bring mobile devices into their lives for the same reasons as they refused to bring computers into their homes (e.g. “I don’t want work following me everywhere”.)
On the other hand, young students in modern classrooms are very savvy with mobile technologies. Children aged 7 or 8 are able to SMS and use mobile phones with fluency. As with computer-based learning, there’s a strong possibility of older generations being left behind by younger ones who have grown up in a mobile world. Older learners, and indeed, teachers, need to reskill and adapt, or perish.