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Authentically mobile: Designing learning on the move

Dr Jan Herrington was a key note at ULearn and started with a good humoured reference to the Australian loss in the Rugby World Cup :-)  She then moved on to showing a photograph of her father's classroom and what can be deduced from the picture. You could see the teacher standing at the back and all the students were sitting at the desks looking forward.

The technology included a newspaper, an inkwell, and a big cupboard full of resources such as maps. She then brought up a picture of a more modern classroom...and there were more similarities than differences. The main difference was what was in the student's pocket - ie a mobile phone. However, Jan also pointed out that many schools have a non-mobile policy and use words such as not permitted, disruption...and that was just for the teachers.

Authentic mobile learning from EDtalks on Vimeo.


At the moment there is little use of mobile devices in schools. Jan showed an image of a progressive school ('Funky School') in New South Wales with students working in different spaces and in different ways. She moved on to talk about how getting students to design solutions and resources is a much more powerful way of learning, than reading about it, or answering questions.

Jan spoke about innovative pedagogies that used a couple of mobile devices in 2006/7, and looked at the potential of these devices. The particular focus was using technology in early childhood education. The unit typically was about technologies, or using them, rather than looking at the learning that could be enhanced by access to a number of devices ... they were teaching "'hammer' rather than carpentry".

As part of a rethink they got the students to create a genuine product that they would share with others, and in the process were modelling an approach to learning. The main focus was creating digital stories on the iPod with a very definite authentic focus. The students found the task pretty challenging, but, at the end fed back that they had gained in confidence and were really pleased that they had been involved in completing it.

It was great that Jan then gives some guidelines for designing authentic tasks, and then went through some concrete examples, and how they related to, for example, expert performance. This means access to the way an expert would thinking and act as well as access to learners in various levels of expertise and sharing of narratives / stories.

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Comment by Pascale Hyboud-Peron on October 31, 2012 at 10:52

There have always been a number of tools in a Language classroom (from cassette tapes players to now online recorders, easymics, video cameras, ipods etc) to bring in the language but also to record its production by the learner. With BYOD coming of age, school policies starting to look more favorably the use of personal device, teachers can plan the learning around this and are possibly feeling relieved that the Department does not necessarily has to invest in the hardware (which of course becomes out of date fast!). Language learners capture learning moments (some examples in the 2nd and 3rd tier of this page) often to fulfill the need of an assessment standard. Yet the "next frontier" is for teachers, beyond content, to facilitate the development and enhancement of students' assessment capabilities so that they recognise learning moments at anytime, anywhere and thus truly take ownership of their learning, documenting it in an eportfolio possibly, and then being able to select, in conversation with their teacher, evidence of learning according to a set of criteria. This is a necessary condition for mLearning  to permeate in the language classroom in NZ schools. It s looking good!

Comment by Hazel Owen on October 31, 2012 at 10:29

You make a good point (thanks, Pascale) that links with the idea of learning 'carpentary' rather than just figuring out how to use the hammer...it is not enough to figure out how to use the device, the main focus needs to be new ways of learning, and for example on shaking up curricula and concepts such as the 'school day' being from a set time in the morning to a set time in the afternoon, and split into equal segments. How the concept of mobile learning translates and supports this alternative paradigm of learning is still playing out in some places, and is not yet underway in others.

Have you had experience with leaners using mLearning to support the learning of French? Any experiences of where mLearning helped students capture their language learning directly into an ePortfolio? :-p

Comment by Pascale Hyboud-Peron on October 31, 2012 at 9:24

"It's how the children go about learning that is changing" and that they are accompanied to realise the potential of the tool they have sitting in their pocket! I also really enjoyed reading the Funky School article you linked to as it provides different perspective on open space learning. Thank you for sharing.

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