Mobile versus Portable – future-proofing your eLearning Strategy
My first conversation with Lachy (a year 6 student in my class) on a Monday morning typically starts with him excitedly proclaiming, “Phill…I’ve got a great app for you! Check this out!” I immediately give him my full attention – for beyond Twitter, Lachy is a steady source of the most amazing learning tools, all... View Article
My first conversation with Lachy (a year 6 student in my class) on a Monday morning typically starts with him excitedly proclaiming, “Phill…I’ve got a great app for you! Check this out!” I immediately give him my full attention – for beyond Twitter, Lachy is a steady source of the most amazing learning tools, all purposefully and diligently reviewed by him for their application to powerful learning. I affectionately refer to Lachy as, “The Dealer” (everyone in my class gets a nickname) because most of our interactions involve us standing shoulder to shoulder, touching our noses and exchanging goods (Knowledge = Power).
Lachy – “The Dealer” – in search of…
Lachy’s engagement with his favourite device is intensely personal. It houses carefully curated folders of apps – which change frequently depending on his workflow – and an extensive collection of eBooks and ePubs. For Lachy, his iPad is a Swiss Army knife for learning. It’s a gaming platform, a powerful photography suite, a video editor, consumption device, authoring tool, journal, library, social networking platform and, most importantly, a learning tool he can take anywhere, anytime.
Portability is not enough.
Many schools have invested in netbook and notebook programs based on a number of factors: affordability, compatibility with existing Windows infrastructure, portability and familiarity with “traditional” software programs such as Microsoft Office. The problem with these devices is their lack of mobility, particularly in an age where flexible learning is defined by a device’s versatility and small form factor. Netbooks were an attempt to reduce the footprint of its bulkier cousin but have been found to be lacking and are no longer being manufactured. In essence, while mobility is empowering, portability has limitations. Put side-by-side in a 1:1 scenario, there is one clear winner.
The mobile platform is ever evolving, benefiting from more regular updates (than laptops) and having immediate access to the latest and greatest learning apps. In a BYOD context, this provides new opportunities. Teachers who are prepared to experiment with the learning potential of specific apps appear regularly on social networks, sharing their insights and building on a tidal wave of global collegiality. If you haven’t signed up for Twitter, do so. It’s a great source of professional development…#edchat, #mobilelearning, #classroom. As a dynamic learning platform, mobile learning tools make this form of technology scalable and give it a healthy shelf life compared with laptops or netbooks.
Many powerful mobile apps integrate seamlessly with their own websites, making it possible for content to be shared across any platform. Examples include Edmodo, Thinglink, Snapguide and Glogster. This capability means that instead of being stand-alone or separate types of technology, mobile devices are used as companion devices for laptops and desktop computers. Many schools adopting 1:1 with mobile devices incorporate laptops and / or desktops into classrooms to take advantage of the full range of opportunities available.
Another reason for incorporating portable or desktop computers into a mobile learning platform is to take advantage of course creation tools, such as iTunes U Course Manager, which allows teachers to create self-paced or in-session lesson sequences for students based on any content. These tools create opportunities for developing more student-centred pedagogies, such as the flipped classroom or Challenge Based Learning. Apple’s free iBooks Author program (which runs only on a Mac computer) allows students and teachers to author multi-touch eBooks through the iBookstore. This is a revelation in publishing terms.
So, where are we headed in terms of technology in education?
The current trend is in the development of cloud-based, integrated tools and wearable technologies. The Horizon Report – a must-read publication that predicts trends of technology in education – states in its 2013 report that Mobile and Cloud Computing are transforming classrooms. In the mid-term (2-3 years) it predicts that Learning Analytics (advanced data analysis of student learning and growth) and Open Content – whereby school students will engage more with online, self-paced courses – will guide pedagogical directions.
Technology cycles have tended to last about 10 years.
While we think of technology in the context of rapid and change – publications already well out of date by the time they reach the shelves – developments have been relatively incremental. The current cycle of Mobile / Wearable computing means more dynamic changes over shorter periods due to rapid advancements in design and processing power. The future looks bright.
So, where to from here?
The two most important ways forward are clear cut:
- Invest (heavily) in mobile / tablet computing (as a companion device)
- Talk Pedagogy guided by some big questions – What do our students really need to know? How do we best prepare them for their future (as opposed to our past)?
But don’t take my word for it…hear what Lachy has to say about Mobile Learning…