Live from the OLT Conference

I’m here at the national Australian Online Learning and Teaching Conference here in Brisbane and I will be blogging the content of the conference over the course of the day. First up is the question of how mobile technologies is changing campus life and the act of learning. I’ll blog this continuously so check the extended entry for updates….


Moving to mobile phones make the horror of small screens return. But what will fundasmentally change education is the power of search. When you couple that with the context specific information accessed via mobile technologies, education will be more experienced based.

From an infrastructure point of view it doesn’t matter whether university campus life continues or not, but there is still the interpersonal relationships that still need to exist so campuses will survive but the way in which students interact with each other and their curriculum is changing.

The notion of less formal communication systems as channels for learning is not problematic, except in terms of assessment. We need to consider new ways of assessing students and evaluating the quality of learning derived from that experience.

M-learning is considered as widely different from wireless e-learning becasuse it is an opportunity to connect with people outside the classroom, it is an opportunity to experience environemts outside the classroom and still access learning and it provides us with an opportunity to go beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

Concerns about cost of access to mobile telephony will eventually resolve themselves. Here in Australia we have more expensive SMS messaging, but as demand increases costs will drop. Much more important is the the concern about disabled access to small screens and small devices.

The notion of social communications disrupting the learning experience is something that teachers should respond to as a challenge rather than trying to control.

The challenge between m-learning and authentic learning comes down to context. You can put students out there and get them to work in ‘real world’ contexts, so that they can engage with genuine and authentic engagements in the real world. Problem solving and group engagement is actually realised by these m-learning technologies. Flexibility and context specificity as authentic aspects of learning are facilitated by m-learning.

Too simple to suggest that there is a digital divide. There is simply an issue of finding a rationale for engagement. Critical issue is not m-learning technology but meaningful engagement models.

Integration of portability and practicality of information flows is still a challenge, so mobile phones are not likely yet to replace a keyboard and mouse.

The debate about m-learning is not so much about technologies and tools, as much as it is about the role of the pedagogue and the act of teaching and evaluation. Mobile devices allow us to bridge the gap between formal learning and social learning. The real question is therefore about the role of the teacher in facilitating that shift from formal, campus-based teaching to social communications.

There is no evidence that the age of blogging produces an introverted learner. Because there are so many ways of blogging and using social software, there are just as many ways of interacting through the medium of blogs. What these technologies instead do is to facilitate the opportunity for engaging with learning experiences among students and participants who might be more introverted, ensuring they are not left behind in the learning experience.

What’s after m-learning? It could be ‘unlearning’. The alignment between small device input interfaces, literacies and assessment tasks etc is a race to understand which can be exhausting. There may well be a relaxation of the notion of separating m-learning or e-learning from the broader notion of learning. As soon as we can make interfaces more intuitive we can focus more on the content rather than the interface for learning.

It would be laughable to think we have to teach our staff to read. We can’t expect that staff can go to a half hour session and learn how to use mobile communications. We need to embed these technologies as part of our daily licves, so we can’t really expect that these technologies are part of our daily lives.

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