Assignment 1: For discussion purposes, write a brief review of a resource or an organization that has recently changed your understanding of mobile learning.
Perhaps what I should do here is find the coolest, most way-out adventure in mobile learning in order to impress my instructor and coursemates with how trendy and tuned-in I am. But what persuaded me that mobility actually had something to add to learning was owning my Droid. I purchased it almost two years ago when my cell phone needed replaced. Because I rarely make actual calls, I was attracted to the PDA-like opportunities that Droid offered as well as increased access to the Internet. I was thinking more about using it to help organize my life, not for learning.
Simple book reader apps, Kindle and nook, allowed me to find books almost instantly that were referred to by blogs, news sites, and so on. The fact that my reading place is always saved across devices pleases me to no end. To those static sources of information and learning, I added RSS feeds so that I collect what I need to know, especially crucial when state governors are trying to destroy public education as well as kill democracy. And having podcasts right at my fingers through Google Listen means I can hear Best of the Left or All in the Mind whenever I want! For my CCK11 course this winter, I signed up for the first time on Twitter, which gave me not only instant access to what Tim O’Reilly or Stephen Downes is finding interesting right now but also immediate information about, say, ad hoc protests or the latest blog to mention Ohio’s sociopathic governor. Viewing Evan Roth’s presentation about graffiti got me interested in augmented reality, so now I have Layar and Airpainter—which seem to me to best take advantage of the mobility of my Droid: it can move (so far, at least, only when I move), and as a result of that movement can access different kinds of information.
But is accessing information in this way learning? It is if we take seriously the ideas of connectivism, a theory of learning by George Siemens and Stephen Downes that was the subject of my first course in the Emerging Technologies for Learning program, learning, “(defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing” (Siemens 2005). Learning is the “creation of new connections and patterns as well as the ability to maneuver around existing networks/patterns” (Siemens 2008). A most important element in this theory is context; Siemens says that context “brings as much to a space of knowledge connection/exchange as do the parties involved in the exchange” (Siemens 2008). What finally struck me, after I saw Evan Roth and downloaded Airpainter and Layar, was that I could take my Droid anywhere and what was there to learn was accessible to me because of all the intricate, forward-looking programming people are engaging in. When my husband and I ate at a fabulous cafe last month, I used Airpainter to put a virtual tag right “on” my table to say (to anyone who has the app) how wonderful the Sweet Chili Shrimp tasted on April 5, 2011.
My Droid has changed my understanding of mobile learning because not only can I access information anywhere but also I can access information about the “where,” knowledge that is directly situated where I’m located. Although I do not think that this aspect of mobile learning is one that is fully exploited (yet), it is the aspect that is most interesting to me and, I think, one that is applicable to both formal and informal learning. Institutions like museums already have headsets for guided tours and are venturing into augmented reality for more formal learning; Layar and Airpainter provide informal learning opportunities like finding the right restaurant in a strange town.
Because I work in educational publishing, I also think about the huge blended (formal/informal) potential: what if you took, say, a U.S. history textbook that came along with a Layar for that text, and you could access information about, for instance, World War II events in your county or state while you’re reading about the national events? Even better, what if that Layar allowed you to add information? Supposed your great-great grandmother kept all the letters her brother wrote to her from North Africa that could be scanned and offered as historical artifacts in the Layar? Without my Droid, I could not have imagined the possibilities for learning that is not only constantly accessible through networks but is so situated that it changes when you move about.