MLearn 2007: Opening and keynote by Angela McFarlane

17 10 2007

Opened by Professor Glyn Davis AC,
Vice Chancellor University of Melbourne

Video from 2006 – already dated? (Vision of how learning will happen in the future).

Can’t assume that everyone has mobile technology – that everyone has an mp3 player, broadband internet, etc. But these are challenges to getting it right.

Angela McFarlane, University of Bristol: Keynote address – ‘Devices and Desires: researching the pedagogy of mobile learning’

=Project Background=
Funded by Becta; Three primary schools, two secondary schools; looking at 24/7 ownership of mobile devices. Realistically, every device is different – a `mixed economy` of devices and this needs to be recognised. ‘Digital Native’ not a great label – very small and privileged minority.

Territory of technololgy-supported learning is variable and uneven – an aerial perspective can lose the detail?

==The Research==
What happened to teachers and learners when hendheld devices entered their lives? Are we finding a ‘pedagogic shift’? Correlation between mobile and web 2.0 learning in terms of this transformation?

Ref: Hilda Kruger’s flowchart of technology-supported activities (in her personal learning). (Creative Commons)

Case Study: Minibeasts – primary school kids on a field course. Key on PDA to ID minibeasts – instead of paper guides, or collecting critters and taking them back to the classroom for identification, they can identify the creatures in their natural habitat. The technology is responsive. ‘Erin’ and use of the word ‘immature’ – dictionary on PDA showed that it’s not just ‘silly and giggly’ but also means ‘not grown up’. Access to language resource while on a science trip. Contextualised learning more powerful, students more autonomous. While Erin didn’t emorise the meaning of the word, she had retained the PROCESS of going to the dictionary and looking up the word to retrieve the meaning.

Needs to be a record of the work, and then an impetus to revisit and reflect on the learning again. Without those opportunities for iteration, there won’t be sufficient impetus for the learning. Needs to be built into the learning cycle / pedagogy. The device adds an ‘extension’ of memory?

Be wary of a ‘new’ pedagogy of mobile learning, not to throw out the baby with the bathwater – a lot of what teachers already know is still relevant.

Lesson on ‘narrative’ – how to tell a story. The Martyrdom of St Stephen, Given a choice, all of the kids opt to use their PDAs to recount the story, Some use animations, some draw pictures and turn them into a mini-slideshow, some use text… 10 year old children using EDAs which they’d owned for a year. Some really great work, including an understanding of cel-based animations.!

– Differentiation of task
– Sustained engagement. Many students use and learn on their PDAs far longer than they would with paper-based activities. e.g. math drilling software referred to as a ‘game’ by students – they do this at home, in their own time..
– Multimodal: 
– Stylus on screen: kids all develop good abilities with devices. Some kids prefer to hold a pen or pencil rather than a mini-stylus.
– Size: some children prefer a small screen – easier to fill it

==Example from Secondary Class==
Sketching Graphs.
Supposed to be designing an experiment (on viscosity). Should be very familiar with the concept of designing experiments and sketching graphs.

A lot of the kids aren’t even bothering to bring their devices with them. Couple of die-hards trying to use their PDAs to SKETCH A GRAPH… and they try to do so using EXCEL!!!! They don’t understand the medium… ‘it’s a graph, therefore it’s a spreadsheet’… that’s an interesting concept! Rest of the class has moved on, and they’re still struggling for 15 minutes when they could have sketched the graph in a drawing package in 20 seconds. They’re bright and they’re using their PDA, clearly they know what they’re doing. ‘It’s effective teachers who use technology effectively’. The technology won’t help if the teaching isn’t working.

Note: You look just as productive on any PDA. An advantage for some learners – building confidence and skills – but disadvantage if teacher just scans the room and assumes everything’s going OK. Technology to view everyone’s screens can help to better supervise PDA learning.

If you use an informal learning approach in the classroom, learners need to be equipped with the skills to make good choices (outside of the lesson)}

Teacher writes writing task on whiteboard as well as beaming the question to those who want to use PDAs. Students use the onscreen keyboard or graphical input rather than predective text. Interestingly, nobody using a PDA saved the work they had done – teacher didn’t pull together the students’ ideas, despite the potential fo sharing, discussing and summarising ideas. What a shame…

Students using PDAs to video each other. This one worked well.

==Emerging Themes==
– Question of mobility.
– Question of choice (which relates to autonomy and ownership)
– Range of applications in one place
– Ready store of previous work as an aid to reflection – but this needs to be built into opportunities for iterative reflection.
– Contextual constaints. Teacher priorities/perceptions/attitudes.
– Being able to CREATE stuff is absolutely vital to m-learning. Avoid devices that are just for consuming content.




5 responses

17 10 2007

Great notes Len 🙂
I especially like the emerging themes – a good point of focus!

17 10 2007

quick work Leonard – beat Sue to it, impressive


18 10 2007
Nicola Avery

These session notes are great ! Just wondered if you had come across any examples of people using push-to-talk at Mlearn, its something I’ve been thinking about for ‘industrial setting’ where say on a fitting job where you are on a large site, I think it would be more as a performance support, but I haven’t seen any examples and wondered if it was unexplored or just unused ?

21 10 2007
Leonard Low

Hi Nicola,
I kept a very keen ear out at mLearn, and I didn’t hear of *anyone* using PTT as a potential mobile learning approach. However, Gavin Cooney from Learnosity ( has the attitude that the “killer app” on mobile phones is the one we use most often – voice. Using PTT definitely comes within this paradigm.

While Learnosity hasn’t got a product to my knowledge that does exactly what you’ve described, you might like to contact Gavin ( to ask him about his offerings more specifically; or to see if he knows of anyone else using PTT as a learning approach.

Kind regards,

21 10 2007
Nicola Avery

Thanks Leonard, this is a great link !

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