A university in your pocket – the Open University VLE goes Smart and iPad


Where do we strand with the use of mobile devices in learning?

The Kukulska-Hulme et al 2011 report ‘Mature Students using mobile devices in life and learning’ may be a recent publication (International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning Jan-march 2001) but draws its conclusions on research undertaken in between May 2008 and April 2009.

Technologically, in relation to the potential for e-learning, has move on a great deal. In industry would we not expect a report, say from Nielsen or Monitor, to have been done in the last six months?

As Kukulskha-Hulme and her colleagues point out by 2009 PDAs were virtually extinct and we were about to experience the launch of the iPad. Since 2009 smart phones have graduated – they’re bright in many ways.

Like their users?

Bright people with the means quickly find ways to put these tools to work, extending their reach to their online course, for materials, forums and assessment alerts, to organise their study time around their diary.

‘In today’s global marketplace, educators must know the technology habits and expectations of their students, including those from other countries.’ (Kukulska-Hulme et al, 2001:18)

A growing body of students expect a component of their course to be managed using mobile devices.

I like this point from JISC. It supports the constructive view of learning

“Learners can be active makers and shapers of their own learning. They should be supported in using technologies of their own choice where appropriate”. (JISC, 2009, p.51)

It is interesting that the report notes that ‘mobile will not necessarily be readily adapted for learning’ (a 2008/2009 perspective) with reasons given as: ‘Ergonomic, pedagogical, psychological and environmental facts and the issue of cost’. (Stockwell, 2008)

Much more is possible today, and expected.

They do suggest that, ‘more widespread adoption by students and teachers is likely to follow’. (ibid 2011:19)

The report notes ‘notable minorities’

A notable major minority who ‘use the internet to download or upload materials.’ (major minority)

And a lesser minority, minority who ‘contribute to blogs and wiki and engage with virtual worlds.’ (ibid p.21) (minor minority)

‘Their age seems less important than their position as early adopters and instigators of change through their influence among their peers and through their networks’. (2011:19)

Which debunks Prensky and favour diffusion of innovations as a mode of study.

‘We were interested in gathering data that might challenge the still widespread opinion amongst educators that mobile devices are of little use for academic study. Activities such as web browsing, reading e-news, article reading, book reading, and note taking are valued in the academic world but often considered implausible on handheld devices.‘ (2011:20)

Which has indeed happened with smarter phones and the proliferation of the tablet (or slate) or iPad … whatever the term might be that we settle on.

‘Since the survey was developed, other devices including notebook computers and e-book readers have become popular, making it even more difficult to draw boundaries between ‘handheld learning’, laptop learning’ and ‘desktop learning’. (2011:21)

As if such a distinction was ever necessary? They are all computers, just different sizes, affordances and capabilities.

I liken this loss of boundaries, or the blurring, to drops of ink in a tank of water that gradually swirl about each other and merge.

MOBILE DEVICES ARE USED IN LEARNING FOR:

- Contact with others

- Access to information and answers

- Reading e-Books

- Listening to Podcasts

- Scheduling

Producers and consumers become ‘produsers

One survey shows that mobile devices are enabling users to create resources for teaching purposes, write blogs to keep their friends up to date with events, take and distribute photos and videos, and make and take notes and recordings’. (2011.31)

What is interesting is that there appear to be many ways in which users are employing technologies to generate products.

Bruns (2005) coined the term ‘produsers’ to denote both of these approaches.

‘Our findings indicate that institutions planning to offer mobile apps should build on the existing preferences of students for social communication. Listening to audio, watching video and reading short texts if the apps are successfully to enhance the learning experience’. (2011:32)

When students are offered appropriate mobile resources then they will use them. (2011:32)

‘Since the use of a mobile device represents a new technological means of reading books, articles and news, this might have an impact on how, and how much, students read, however further research would be needed’. (2011:33)

More research is always needed … in deed, with a longitidunal study this research would and should undertake to look at a cohort or students EVERY year.

REFERENCE

Bruns, A. (2005) ‘Anyone can edit': understanding the produser. Retrieved from http;//snurb.info/index. php?q=node/s86

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes, John Pettit, Linda Bradley, Ana A. Carvalho, Anthony Herrington, David M. Kennedy, and Aisha Walker. “Mature Students Using Mobile Devices in Life and Learning.” IJMBL 3.1 (2011): 18-52. Accessed (May 22, 2011)

Rogers, E.M. (2005) Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.) New York, NY: Free Press

Jones, C.R., Ramanau, R., Cross, S., & Healing, G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: Is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers & Education, 54(3), 722-732. doi. 10.1016/j.compendu.2009.09.022

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