I’m taking a course on mobile learning being offered as part of the EDTEC Masters Program at SDSU (EDTEC700: Models and Tools for Mobile Learning, offered by Bernie Dodge). I’ve had the opportunity to listen to a recording of Bernie Dodge’s talk at ISTE, “WonderPoints: A Structure for Engaging Curiosity about the Outdoors with Mobile Devices.” While the whole talk is worth listening to, I’ll highlight some of the points I found particularly interesting here.
Mobile learning: Not about delivering learning
During the talk, Dodge notes that mobile learning is less about the technology than about the experiences it can mediate. Devices don’t deliver learning; that’s constructed by the learner. Instead, mobile devices are conduits for stimulating curiosity and active learning. I’d add that because of the ubiquity of mobile devices in our lives, this means that learning can also be a ubiquitous, more conscious process. This means that mlearning “is about understanding and knowing how to utilise our everyday life-worlds as learning spaces” (Pachler, Bachmair & Cook, 2010, p6).
Engagement = Interaction
Dodge describes engagement as the sum total (over time) of interactions the learner experiences:
- Between the learner and a teacher guide/facilitator
- Between a learner and her own mental processes
- Between a learner and her peers
- Between a learner and information
While the web exposes a learner to abstractions of reality, mobile devices are unique in focusing learners’ attentions on physical realities as well (e.g., on locations, events, people, and communities). So while we think of mobile devices as global connectors (which they are), they also make our local environments “stickier” as we craft questions and our own answers in a location- and time-specific way.
Using mobile devices to create richer learning experiences
Dodge describes four approaches to mlearning engagement generated through the learners’ own questions.
Event capture aims to enhance field trips or conferences through the use of mobile devices. Learners (who may be teachers) use mobile devices to create and share knowledge (e.g., through photographs, audio interviews, note-taking, etc). An important aspect of this process is that learners develop their own questions as a way of focusing their experiences (versus having questions fed to them).
Web Quest 3.0
Adding handheld devices to traditional webquests can be used to foster community interactions. In one example described, students examined misperceptions in about HIV/AIDS in their City Heights community to find out where beliefs diverged from fact and to create an enduring resource informed by what they’d learned. In another, learners used Joseph Campbell’s idea of a hero’s journey to explore what being a hero meant to individuals in their own communities.
WHex is a quiz game based on questions. Sound familiar? There’s a twist. Instead of teachers posing the questions, students derive their own after exploring learning materials using handheld devices and working in teams. Part of the exercise is to create “test-wiseness” and to improve students’ confidence (e.g., if students understood how questions are crafted they would be more confident of their own abilities to answer them). The experience is also designed to foster positive competition and collaboration. The six basic questions of WHex are who, what, where, when, why, and how.
Unlike Event Capture, which is focused on a particular time, WonderPoints is focused on geography. Students are encouraged to identify a location of interest, capture voice notes and geotagged photos, propose interesting questions, post them, rate them for interestingness, and then find answers. Points are awarded based on the quality of questions generated and for the speed and accuracy of the answers found. Unlike field trips, students can select locations for study that haven’t been designed for traditional educational activities (e.g., such as zoos, museums, historical sites). Students can find their own sense of wonder through the questions they ask and the answers they discover. Because questions are complex, there’s no right answer and students are allowed to enjoy and celebrate the act of questioning itself.
All of these activities are designed to foster an attitude of inquiry that remains even after the learning event is over. Learners are very much in control of crafting their own learning experience and I think this is a critical part of the mobile engagement (mGage) model that Dodge proposes.
Pachler, N., Bachmair, B., & Cook, J. (2010). Mobile Learning. Structures, Agency, Practices. New York USA: Springer.
kringamorphosis by Shannon Kringen