Mobile devices are playing an increasing role in what we learn, how we learn, and the ways in which we share our learning. However, with all the apps, devices, and platforms out there, how can we begin to determine what helps foster MEANINGFUL mobile learning?
As a student, parent, or educator, how do you identify useful aspects of mobile devices while refraining from time-wasting technology? As I continue to use and experiment with mobile learning in the classroom, I have found these five tips to be tremendously helpful when encouraging meaningful mobile learning.
5. IT’S NOT THE DEVICE. As consumers, we are surrounded by advertisements pushing why this device is better than its competitor. Many of us can visualize commercials that compare one tablet to another. We have seen celebrities use their smartphone of choice in promotional ways. In the classroom, I have found that the perfect device has not yet been developed. Each newly unveiled product pushes further innovation, introducing exciting new capabilities. As part of this, I continue to see that each learner is unique. The device that works for one student, or for me, may very well be a significant distraction to another individual. Rather than agonizing over finding the perfect device, work to develop a level of comfort with different types of devices – diversify your mobile learning.
4. MOVE. It seems obvious, but so often this component of mobile learning is missing. To be a mobile learner, you must be mobile. You need to move across different spaces and physical places. From your couch at home, you are certainly able to make use of a number of features on any given device. However, I find that having my device on hand in the store, at a museum, a conference, or social event unlocks an entirely new level of learning. Whether it is live tweeting during a meeting, posting videos of a sporting event in real time, or asking Siri a question to settle a debate with a colleague, moving with my device gives me the freedom to start digital conversations wherever I am. This untethered reality of mobile learning helps break down the walls of traditional classrooms.
3. BE PATIENT. Mobile learning heavily relies on cellular data or Wi-Fi connectivity. While the speed of this continues to improve, working with more complex and capable apps requires the willingness to wait for updating, syncing, and processing to occur. Think of this as time for your mind to do the same – what information are you working to present that you need to further refine, process, and update? Sometimes downloading the world at your fingertips takes more than 10 seconds; I usually find that it is worth the wait.
2. SHARE. Isolated mobile learning is not meaningful mobile learning. Nearly every article, video, or page posted online today has a lengthy list of ways to share what you are viewing with others. Whether you share with Facebook friends, email a link, embed a video on your blog, or simply comment on the page itself, mobile learning demands digital interaction.
1. ACT LIKE AN 11-YEAR-OLD. Have you ever had an encounter with a relentlessly curious pre-teen? You know what I mean, one of those developing young minds that just keeps asking you why, why, why? (Some of the questions seem completely preposterous … and then you realize later that it was actually brilliant.) To be a successful mobile learner, you need to be just as relentless in your quest for tech competency. You should be asking: Why is this site programmed to keep my search history? Why should I use this new app instead of that program I already know how to use? Why did I just completely fail at producing this video? Where did that project go?
Many 11-year-olds know how to fail, and they know how to experiment. Above all, most of the 11-year-olds I encounter know how to play. No, I am not talking about how many of them have mastered Angry Birds or Candy Crush. I mean they know how to try new things and ask questions. Even though most mobile devices come with a “User’s Guide” or a “Quick Start Guide,” you only begin to understand the potential of mobile technology by using it and playing a bit. Many 11-year-olds will quickly show you how they uncovered a shortcut or new feature of a device within a few minutes of use. This happens through unbridled play. Meaningful mobile learning is interactive, unsettled, and fun. So go play!
This post was written by Christy Knable, Middle School World History Teacher.