Mobile Learning Reexamined

Following on from Steve Dembo’s presentation on redefining mobile learning (previously blogged here, and also blogged by Tony Vincent), some excellent and insightful commentary has been posted, over at the Ubiquitous Thoughts blog. It looks at some of the obstacles any “redefined” model of mobile learning must still overcome (access, compatibility, privacy/security), and also succinctly summarises some of the writings of Mike Sharples, one of the best-known researchers in the mobile learning space. It includes this summary of Mike’s reflections on the MOBIlearn project:

  • It is the learner that is mobile, rather than the technology (meaning that we should be looking at more than just devices that were meant to be truly mobile);
  • Learning is interwoven with other activities as part of everyday life (i.e. learning takes place in locations other than school);
  • Learning can generate as well as satisfy goals;
  • Control and management of learning can be distributed (i.e. less teacher control, more learner control);
  • Context is constructed by learners through interaction (i.e. the need for noise, movement, group work and no more 6×5 grid and just individual seat work);
  • Mobile learning can both complement and conflict with formal education
    (this is a tricky one, and not really discussed by Dembo. In an ideal world we would want it to complement, although a certain degree of conflict may not be bad either);
  • Mobile learning raises deep ethical issues of privacy and ownership (again related to issues of control over learning. Should it just be up to the educational institutions what and how we learn?).

Anyway, as Mark points out, we need to redefine mobile learning, and Steve’s presentation is “one good place to start”. Mark’s commentary is certainly a good place to continue.

Update: further commentary on Mark’s post has been blogged by Marg at the Ed-Design Blog.

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Augmented Reality – Better than the real thing?

Chris Davies at Slashphone provides an interesting report on Nokia Research’s latest ideas in digital mobile mobility with a look at Nokia’s proof-of-concept of augmented reality – “superimposing data on an image of your surroundings in real time”.

According to, the MARA prototype application uses accelerometers in all three axes to determine orientation, a tilt compensated compass for heading, and GPS for positioning to overlay virtual information on the phone’s display from its integrated camera’s point of view. Chris at Slashphone continues:

URLs can be associated with objects, giving quick access to local information, and the device can both use data locally-stored or from a remote server… The prototype also has mapfunctionality, accessed by holding the handset horizontally, whichhighlights the user’s location and annotates nearby points of interest.”

This has fantastic possibilities for situated mobile learning. Information (or rather, learning opportunities) could be readily identifiable to a learner using nothing but their mobile phone; or mobile learning resources could point a learner to a nearby geographic location or object, enabling the learner to go over and examine it more closely.

More information on this interesting development via Technology Review, SmartMobs, and at the Nokia Research page on Mara.

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