Over a decade of mobile learning

by Phil on April 2, 2011

So … here we are day one of the MobiMOOC ( what’s a MOOC? )

Not sure what on earth I’m doing signing up to this in the middle of doing my PhD! But life goes on and this course is directly relevant to my day job, so I’ll just jump in and see what happens!

How I use mobile
The first activity for the course is to share how I use my mobile device(s) now, particularly for learning.
This is actually quite a hard question, because I do everything mobile! My main computer is a MacBook (often hooked up to a 30″ screen when I’m at my desk) that I use at work in the office and at home (my time between the two locations seems to be divided 50:50 just now). I regularly use my iPad too – often when the MacBook is hooked up to the screen (that’s what I’m doing right now in the garden). And I always have my iPhone on me. It’s also not unusual for me to be using all three simultaneously!

I’m trying to think whether I use any of the devices exclusively for one thing or another. Obviously the significant difference between them is the screen size and while all of the devices seem to allow me to do most of what I need to, I do have preferences. I use my MacBook for having multiple applications open at once (especially when hooked up to the large screen) and for more technical tasks like editing HTML or multimedia and FTPing files (or accessing resources that use Adobe Flash). If I’m away from my desk, I’ll use my iPad for reading (eBooks, PDFs, websites) and writing (draft non-urgent eMails, note taking, documents, blogging), while I keep track of email and twitter on the iPhone (I often don’t have the iPad hooked in to wifi or 3G when I’m out and about). Going to meetings I pick up which ever device is appropriate, but for the time being I usually only take the laptop if I’m presenting or demoing stuff (hopefully that’ll change with iOS 4.3).

I hadn’t really thought about it before, but it looks like both my work and learning (a blurry distinction anyway) are both completely mobile – there isn’t really anything I do that isn’t … that’s a bit of a shock.

Brief history of being mobile
When I think about it, as an undergraduate in the late 90′s I was using a PowerBook 1400c. I got more mobile with a Psion Revo back in ’99 and my photography went digital back in 2000 with the Canon Digital IXUS that came out then. I got my first smartphone when the excellent Sony Ericsson P800 came out back in 2002 and seem to have upgraded every two years since (Sony Ericsson P910i (2004), HTC TyTn (2006), iPhone 3G (2008) and iPhone 4 (2010)).

So I guess I’m using mobile devices all the time, whether I’m accessing anything, generating anything or sharing anything!

But is that mobile learning …. ?
[after thought: I've always been a bit unsure about the use of terms like e-Learning and m-Learning and whether there is anything distinctively different about them from just plain old learning. I can imagine an early hunter gather teenager out in the savannah or forest being tutored and mentored by an elder from the community - how does this mobile learning differ from m-Learning? Maybe my world has been so suffused with 'digital' for as long as I can remember that I find it hard to see the difference ... ]


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Phil April 3, 2011 at 11:25 am

Here’s a video clip that shows why MOOCs are so powerful and valuable


Jaap April 4, 2011 at 6:12 am

Hi Phil, My opinion is they (analogous and mlearning and elearning) are all kinds of learning, but I prefer the mobile forms. Colleges and presentations make me sleepy or wanting to leave the room.
regards Jaap
(did you not allow pingback in this weblog? Pingback makes it possible to link to comments))


Phil April 4, 2011 at 8:50 am

Hi Jaap,

I know what you mean about colleges and presentations! ;-)

However, I’m not sure I’d make the distinction about ‘mobile forms’ of learning. What I’m suggesting in my post is that whether it’s classroom, computer or mobile device, it’s all learning. I’m not sure it’s helpful to call it eLearning or mLearning rather than learning with access to electronic resources or learning while mobile. It’s a switch in emphasis from e and m learning where the technology is first rather than the learning. This may not be how anyone intends the terms to be meant, but it’s often how the conversation goes and it seems to be the focus of people new to these terms. Already the majority of the MobiMOOC discussion (maybe all so far) has been focused on the technology to one extent or another, I don’t recall reading anything about learning so far (though I could be mistaken).

Just questioning the assumptions … ;-)



Bart April 4, 2011 at 9:49 am

Hi Phil,

I tend to agree with your statement: “Already the majority of the MobiMOOC discussion (maybe all so far) has been focused on the technology to one extent or another, I don’t recall reading anything about learning so far (though I could be mistaken).”

I also found that most posts where about technology. Allthough when reading through then I start to deel like lots of those posts are in their own way expressions of a part of the learning process the author has gone through.

That to me seems to be the paradox.



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