Mobile learning has existed as long as learning itself: a book is a mobile learning resource, and so is a cassette walkman. Both of these tools enable a learner to take information resources with them to learn mobile-ly. And a cassette walkman is just as valid a source of audio learning as an iPod. Sure, it’s not as sexy, maybe; but by the time the sound reaches my ears from either device, it’s essentially the same thing.
What differentiates the current crop of mobile tools (such as mobile phones, PDAs, and iPods) is that they support a digital, connected learning environment, providing a compactness and convenience of information, a remote and instant access to a range of people and resources, and an ability to process data, that was never previously possible.
This translates to education opportunities that have previously never been possible - rather than pre-made resources, which must be collected and carried by a learner prior to “going mobile,” mobile learners can now get information remotely on demand; record information from wherever they are in a number of formats; communicate with other people such as other learners or teachers; and use the processing power in their pockets to achieve tasks they could not otherwise accomplish unassisted.
These new opportunities provide the basis of my learner-centric “Four R’s model” of mobile learning activities. When viewed through this activity model, it’s clear that these learner interactions will always be useful adjuncts to teaching and learning practices; indeed, Stephen Downes has previously commented on how simply “teaching and learning” these activity classifications seem. It’s because of the inherent usefulness of these activities that I don’t see them as a fad; rather, as standards become further established, and DIY content tools are made available, I believe mobile digital devices will become increasingly affordable, accessible, and predictable platforms for facilitating learning.
My ultimate vision for m-learning is a personal, connected mobile device that provides a full range of connected information and communications services, providing a learner with contextualised, situated learning opportunities through a real-world interface (whether this is achieved through a symbology such as 2D Barcodes, or through image recognition as hypothesised by Stephen Downes)....
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