Human Parallels with Computer-Based Learning

11 05 2006

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 ( 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.




6 responses

12 05 2006

An interesting piece Leonard – you highlight some key points about accessibility here. I’m drawn to your final sentence:

“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.”

My question in response to this is: how do we facilitate the continuous improvement and skills development of our teachers, especially as we must come to terms with the now real fact that we are an aging workforce?

In our work as professional (and staff) developers, we have some responsibility to project future needs and skill our teachers up to those needs. I like your observation that the digital divide is not restricted to the socioeconomic contexts of our learners. Along with the need to skill our teachers, is the need to develop teachers to the point where they are more than capable of developing ICT awareness in their learners. By this I mean that younger people who are tech-savvy, don’t necessarily display the same level of tech skills in a learning context – in fact, are they transfering their tech skills to their learning contexts?

Kathy Sierra of ‘Creating passionate users’ queries the integration of one’s knowledge and skills using a hierachy from data to wisdom. I ask, where do our educational institutions sit in facilitating the development of learners, using such a hierarchy? And, consequently, where do we see our learners (and thus our future) within such a hierarchy?

Good questions worth the effort of asking I think!

Marg :o)

12 05 2006

Marg asked:

“…how do we facilitate the continuous improvement and skills development of our teachers, especially as we must come to terms with the now real fact that we are an aging workforce?”

From my experience, Rogers’ Theory of Diffusion of Innovations is a useful model for predicting the adoption of new teaching and learning learning approaches, including mobile learning. We can expect that initial efforts to encourage users to try out mobile learning approaches, and develop skills, will be met with initial resistance, with just a few teachers taking on these new ideas and putting them into practice.

However, it’s critical that we support and train these innovators, as it is their example that will help build examples of teaching and learning that will inspire later adopters to follow. I think support and training will come in various forms, such as:

  • Nurturing of a critical mass of like-minded people to discuss and develop ideas
  • Documentation of practical ways to design, develop and deliver mobile learning
  • Documentation of examples of successful/best practice case studies of mobile learning
  • Workshops, training, support and advice on a range of technical skills that may be required for the design, development and delivery of mobile learning

If innovators and early adopters of mobile learning are seen as supported and rewarded for their efforts, it will provide a strong foundation for encouraging others to follow and try out new ways of delivering training using movile devices. Despite the prospect of an aging workforce, I think it’s vital that whoever wants to give mobile learning a go is supported in and guided to facilitate successful learning outcomes. We can then look forward to the prospect of other teachers becoming enthused about trying out new ways to enhance teaching and learning.

15 05 2006

Marg asked:

are they [young, tech-savvy learners] transfering their tech skills to their learning contexts?

Good question Marg. I think that there is a need for teachers to promote the application of technical skills to a learning context. For example, at may not “tweak” with a learner that they could download an audio file supplied by a teacher, and play it on their iPod as a learning tool. It would need a teacher to specifically suggest this as a way of learning to prompt the learner to take the appropriate action. The same goes with Powerpoint presentations being used as learning guides on PDAs – it’s not an immediate link most learners would make.

I think that the documentation and diffusion of information and ideas on m-learning is a key to getting teachers to think of mobile learning approaches and suggesting these approaches to students. Clarifying and simplifying things for teachers can be done in several ways, including this one – documenting ideas in an online format and encouraging other educators to contribute to the “pool of thought” on mobile learning.

If we can arm educators with the tools, models of application, and examples, hopefully they will then provide the front line for designing, developing and delivering learning that can be utilised in mobile ways; and they will, in turn encourage and educate learners to use mobile approaches that support their learning outcomes or personal lifestyles.

19 05 2006
Mobile Learning » Technical Parallels with Computer-Based Learning

[…] I’ve previously addressed a couple of parallels I’ve made with human factors in current computer-based learning, but the following technical parallels between current attempts at mobile learning, and early attempts at computer-based learning, raises some key issues, and the may help predict the development of mobile learning over the next ten years. […]

30 06 2006
Mobile Learning » Weaknesses of Mobile Learning

[…] Using mediums like SMS may also increase the divide between “mobile natives” (who are fluent in the use of mobile devices, and related communication protocols), and “mobile immigrants” (who will be far less comfortable with the language used in the example just provided).  A mobile approach may not be an appropriate one for certain demographics, or indeed, where there are significant equity issues, such as access to the required devices for using mobile resources (the “mobile divide”.  This issue is explored in more detail in a previous post on the human issues relating to mobile learning. […]

11 07 2006
Mobile Learning » Learner-Centric Mobile Learning

[…] I’ve previously blogged about the parallels between mobile learning approaches and teaching and learning theories such as social constructivism, as well as parallels between the development of mobile and computer-based learning. […]

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