Tuesday, May 22, 2007

m-Learning Goes Mainstream?

wi-fi Update3: Panorama: Bad Science.

Update2: More Wi-Fi waffle. Evidence, anyone?

Update: It's not very often I agree with the BBC's Bill Thompson, but he's got it right this time: Wi-Fi? Why worry?

Thanks to Andy Black for pointing me at this piece from Educause Review, Enabling Mobile Learning. This is a very upbeat article implying that 2007 will be the year m-learning comes of age.

I'm not convinced. For one thing, luddites still rule, like the Professional Association of Teachers, which wants an investigation into whether there are health risks from wireless computer networks in schools (in the lack of any evidence that there is), and wi-fi paranoia is growing.

Mostly though, my own research is showing that students have strong preconceived perceptions of these new formats, for example, commenting that they only listen to audio podcasts on computers because these are associated with "work", whereas personal mobile devices such as mp3 players and mobile phones are reserved for "entertainment". Students carve out a range of online spaces and are reluctant to let social and academic spaces overlap.
Doesn't sound like the year m-learning comes of age to me, but if you think I'm wrong, let me know.


  1. Alan thanks for heads up for me blog.My comment on m-learning goes mainstream I think may not be in the classroom context but outside the classroom to support learning.
    Andy Black

  2. Thanks Andy, but is the user interface on mobile devices (I'm not thinking about laptops here, more about phones, Nintendos, GPS units, etc), really good enough to support much real learning? ;-)

  3. Hi both.

    Evidence of quite a large number of m-learning trials across the UK would certainly say yes to that!

    The trick to understanding how it can support "real learning" is to stop thinking of m-learning as a one-stop-shop that delivers the whole package, and think rather of it as a set of new tools to add into the mix. This is why (as Andy says) the places where it has had the most positive early adoption are where traditional learning hasn't been working to well. In these cases, m-learning is plugging gaps (as well as creating new ways to teach and learn).

    Mainstream provision (schools, HE etc) seems to be more constrained. Both by the institutional issues you blogged about, as well as the reluctance to admit to haveing any gaps!

  4. Students have said to me that they would be happy to listen to my podcasts if the University gave them an iPod.
    It ain't going to happen! ;-)

  5. I find I listen to podcasts all the time in my car/whilst commuting.

    Maybe there's a difference in behaviour between 18-25 yr old students in full time HE, and students studying at a distance (eg Open University students). There may also be an age effect?

    One anecdote I did hear was that students could always tell their peers they were listening to whatever band etc on their MP3 player when they were in fact listening to a lecture... ;-) How true that may be, I don't know...!