31 August 2010

Observations and Reflections: Mobile Learning Devices

Kathy got both an iPad and a Touch within a month of each other. She said she was interested in figuring out how they would replace the things she used to do with her Palm Pilot. The most important thing seemed to be to create and edit Word and Excel documents that were usable on her computer too. 

I've explored emerging technologies with her for a few years now. She knows how to play and experiment with an instrumentalist mindset--What is this technology going to do for me?

She's a long time tablet/stylus user, so she's created her own stylus for the iPad and showed me how she made it. It was cheaper than buying one, which leads me to our conversation about only using free apps. Neither of us were willing to pay for an app and we were rather matter of fact about that assertion. I'm not completely opposed to it, but at this point, if there isn't a free version of an app, then I don't need that app.

Our CIO told me 200 iPads have already registered on the campus wireless network.  I'd suspect at least 30 belong to staff and faculty. He also helped a few students design the SDSU app. When I showed it to Kathy, she said, "Why would I need that?" The technocentric mindset might answer "Because it's there."

A technocentric mindset makes developing a deeper understanding of technologies for learning difficult because its assumptions render categories of research questions meaningless, while elevating the importance of others. Mobile learning is a concept whose existence has blossomed with the high visibility of mobile devices. So why then haven't the myriad of "mobile technologies for learning" over the decades been described as such? Therein lies the technocentrism facing us today.