Archive for July, 2011
George E. Hein’s theory that knowledge constructed in the mind of the learner based on their past knowledge fundamentally changes our approach to education in informal learning spaces. Rather than feeding information in a straight, didactic way, emerging technology can give us new outlets for teaching and empowers learners to explore and create their own meaning. In particular, the flexibility of mobile technology allows learners to select their own path through a series of learning activities and to engage with new information that builds from their previous understanding of the world.
But in order to create these learning activities and environments, we must always consider that the focus must be on the learner and their needs. So the question then becomes, “How can technology be used as a tool for the learner to experience and connect with the subject matter that is meaningful to him/her?”
Looking at what Hein suggests, the learner’s experience should be more like an encyclopedia than a textbook. The use of technology can and should allow for a vast area of breadth, but also provide in-depth learning in a subject as well.
However the technology must allow for personalization. The learner can select what topic interests them most and then provide guided avenues for further learning. It is here that the interconnected format of Wikipedia might provide a basis on which to imagine how this format can take shape. Digital natives do not think in strictly linear terms. Their understanding of the world is shaped by connections through many different media outlets. Therfore the technology used in the learning process must allow for these guided connections to happen.
How can mobile technology, programs, or platforms be used to encourage engagement and allow learning to happen?
Albert Einstein once wrote, “Everything has changed, except our way of thinking.” Reading this quote, I can’t help but reflect on how quickly technology, particularly mobile technology, is advancing in our lives. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, one-third of Americans own a smartphone and that number is increasing rapidly. (In fact, it looks as though another report has come out Monday that would put that number around 42%).
Unfortunately, I’ve found many instances where educational spaces are slow to shift their thinking (and even slower to action) about how to utilize new technology to promote learning. Instead it is used in a cursory way; rather than being a tool to enhance learning, it just becomes a toy.
I’ve also heard the concern that using mobile technology in informal learning spaces promotes a “heads down, minds off” attitude. Agreed! It can be a distraction if the resources or activities are not there to encourage active thinking, reflecting, or responding to what is being learned.
Therefore, the question that I hope to answer is “How can mobile technology, programs, or platforms be used to encourage engagement and allow learning to happen?”
In the next few posts, I will discuss my research of learning theory that defines how students learn (mostly in informal learning spaces, which has been my focus) and how technology impacts their learning. By exploring these theories, I hope to give some context to our understanding of what learning should look like. This will allow me to outline a theoretical framework in which to build from and answer the question of how we can use mobile technology to enhance the learning experience.
Mobile Learning, or mLearning, is the next step in integrating technology into the field of education in a way that can personalize learning for each student.
These two questions — “What is mobile learning?” and “Why is it so important in education?” are not going to be answered here in one blog post. Simply because technology advances so quickly, so to does the meaning of mobile learning. And therefore its importance changes rapidly too.
I hope to establish through this blog a more concrete view of mobile learning and how to use it appropriately to enhance learning experiences.
And please, feel free to share your insights. I hope to make this a space to advocate for mobile learning and to share ideas.