07 March 2010

Thinking about Mobile Learning Again

Four years ago, as a student, I used the ebook version of a statistics textbook. In addition to the obvious practical reasons (the cost and weight of the book), I was also curious about the overall experience of learning with an ebook. How would it be different, and more importantly better? First, it provided practice and review materials I imagine weren't as available in the textbook. Second, because I already worked on a computer and the Net all the time, it consolidated media. In this scenario, my having a laptop characterized the ebook as a kind of mobile learning. Back then, ebooks were in themselves no more "mobile" than books. Today of course that has all changed.

As a concept and practice, mobile learning emerges as a configuration of contextually-dependent conditions. Not unlike what I discovered in my research of informal learning in Second Life, it (mobile learning) is as amorphous as learning itself. In fact, it's even more indefinable than "learning a 3D virtual world" because it is hardware and software independent in a still-growing market.

So given all that uncertainty, what might understanding "mobile learning" entail?

I came up with these categories as a starting point. The examples provided need a lot more refinement as do the categories. 
  • Technologies--device, software, network infrastructure
  • Learning Situation--school, work, leisure, formal/informal
  • Learning Situation characteristics--synchronous/asynchronous, independent, collaborative, time constrained/unconstrained, cost/benefit ratio
  • Learning Goals--course credit, professional development, leisure enrichment, performance support, information seeking, recreational fact finding
  • Learner characteristics--learning style, motivation/incentive, gender, age, cultural background
  • Content to be learned - facts, concepts, procedures, principles or processes