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Changing culture of learning: Mobility, Informality, and connectivity - mLearning re-framed

To teach is to learn
Kwok-Wing Lai is a professor of education at the University of Otago, and I remember reading one of his books when I first started being interested in eLearning about 15 years ago. Kwok-wing refers frequently to knowledge, skills and soft-skills that students require to be successful in society. In NZ students are seen as "lifelong learners who are confident and creative, connected, and actively involved" (The NZ Curriculum, 2007, p. 4). NZ students are to become "competent thinkers and problem solders....actively seek, use, and create knowledge" (p. 12). However, developing human agency in this way requires a change in culture around learning and teaching.

On average 8 yo 18 year olds spend 25% of time using social networking. A survey conducted by Kwok-Wing looked at the learning characteristics that young learners have (for example, working in groups etc).

Michael Wesch in "a crisis of significance" - shares that his findings indicated that students were struggling to find a meaning in their learning. Therefore, to develop agency in learning it needs to be situated, authentic and personalised. Kwok-Wing suggest watching Michael Wesch's video A vision of students today to revisit some of the aspects that are key to our learners today. He also looks at informal learning as:

  • Spatial - learning across space (anywhere)
  • Temporal - learning across time (any time)
  • Cognitive - learning across domains (any topic)


And "....there is no teacher, no defined curriculum topic or concept". Interestingly, we are already doing it. 18.5% of learning happens in formal learning environments. Informal learning includes using technologies to find things of personal interest, connecting with friends, and as a distraction.

Many teachers do not see informal learning as their domain. But there is a semiotic relationship between formal and informal learning  where "the emphasis is on sharing, working together, and using a wide range of cultural references and knowledge..." (Sefton-gree, 2004, p.33).

Mobile learning, Wing-Lai refers to as mobility in physical space, technology, conceptual space, social space, and learning dispersed over time (Sharpes, Arnedillo-Sanchez, Milrad, & Vavoula, 2009) = agency in learning. Mobile learning, therefore, is a set of attitudes, dispositions, and "habitus of learning" (Kress & Pachler, 2007). Knowledge is not fixed, not transmitted by authority, and we are constantly creating knowledge. There is a shift in control via ubiquitous access to learning resources, and in turn, the learners produce knowledge. This person is a mobile learner...and the whole world is mobile...the whole world is our curriculum. The goal of knowledge building is "the production and continual improvement of ideas of value to a community" (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2003, p. 1370). In this learning environment the role of the teacher is to support students to ask questions.

How can we use technologies to make learning more connected, more mobile? In Knowledge building, students work in a community, investigate a topic, ask questions, conduct research, and self-assess progress. They also engage in face-to-face and online discussions to share, critique, build on, and synthesise ideas that are new to the community. It is a way of advancing personal and community knowledge.

To access some examples, Kwok-Wing mentions 3 initiatives in NZ including a postgraduate course on teacher development, The Otago University Advanced School Science Academy (OUASSA), and another with senior secondary school students.

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