Thursday, February 23, 2012

Conclusions from the Mobile Learning Workshop

Here is basically an information dump of what I learned from the workshop "Bringing Mobile Learning to Your Institution."
  • Mobile devices are not replacements for computers. They just aren't. The goal is to enhance learning, not replace computers. 
  • No one is saying a data plan should be required, since it is a significant financial responsibility. At Abilene Christian University (ACU), the students had a choice of whether they wanted a phone and data plan or not; in the former case they would get an iPhone and in the latter, an iPod Touch.  The campus needs robust wireless if mobile is a priority. 
  • Doing school work on phones or iPod touches is not ideal due to size. They can be fine for absorbing small bits of information. Tablets are in their infancy. They will get better and prices will go down, probably before we even know it. I feel like we are so close to amazing things, but not quite there yet. 
  • A BYOD program with a robust loaner program (including class sets of various devices, reservable for various lengths of time based on need) could actually be more conducive to learning than a mandated device program because professors could have more options of devices to match to the functionality needed. 
    • For instance, a geography field trip might prefer iPod touches or phones of any type because they are smaller and more portable but still have cameras. Or, maybe they'd need a device with a data plan since there would be no wireless. 
    • An education class might need Apple devices because that is what the students have to learn for their future jobs as teachers. 
    • Having class sets of laptops or ultrabooks would reduce the use of class sets of tablets being used as replacement computer labs, when computer functionality is needed. 
    • For some tasks, such as taking photos or recording audio, it might not matter what device the students had. They could use a video camera, portable digital recorder, phone, tablet, laptop, etc. 
  • Speaking of laptops, they are sort of mobile. While our culture is transitioning to more true mobile devices and tablet use is growing, laptops may a great transitional devices to get the job done. For instance, a Twitter backchannel or Poll Everywhere could be done with smart phones, dumb phones, laptops, tablets - anything, as long as there is wireless or cell service. 
  • It might be better to avoid calling mobile learning "mobile learning." It's about enhancing learning and engagement with technology. Sometimes mobile devices can help you do that. The presenter from ACU said that when he offered workshops on "mobile learning," attendance was low, but when he called it "enhancing teaching with technology," attendance was high. We need to focus on learning. 
  • Now a "mobile friendly" campus is different, and that requires a multifaceted approach: building content for mobile, power outlets in classrooms, a culture of mobile acceptance and valued innovation, excellent wireless and cell service, e-books...

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