How Quickly Mobile Learning Has Progressed In 5 Short Years!

The first Mobile Learning Workshop was held in Birmingham, UK in 2002 and the 6th International Mobile Learning Conference just ended in Melbourne, Australia. In five very short years we have gone from “playing” with toys to planning the future or our infrastructure to enable mobile delivery in all its forms…

I’ve been into mobile learning since 2003 and it’s interesting to think about how it’s grown and been taken up in a really short amount of time. As a person who has worked hard to introduce mobile learning, I am well aware that the response to my efforts has moved from “what on earth are you talking about?”. to “Please come and help us make it happen!”.

For those wondering this question, mobile learning is the delivery of teaching and learning using wearable, wearable, or mobile devices as part of the overall mix in the way teachers and students interact. But as with all new concepts there is a flow in development and as I reflect on each of the mobile learning conferences I have mapped it as follows:

2003 – mLearn in London:

The theme was ‘New Opportunities’ and we looked at cell phones and some personal digital assistants (PDAs). We talked about topics like navigation on such small devices and texting and some of the games that already existed on mobile phones. We also started talking about knowledge management and the possible ways of learning.

The state of mobile learning at the time was best summarized by John Traxler, who is currently at Wolverhampton University in the UK:

“Mobile learning is in the phase of small projects working to determine aspects of technical feasibility in specific educational settings.”

2004 – mLearn in Rome:

It was an interesting experience to hold a high technology conference in a 12th century castle in Rome!

The theme this time was “The Potential is Significant” and we began to discuss changes in pedagogy, the impact of using wearable devices and the usability of the digital learning materials to be developed. We were starting to see the newer smartphones, and wireless devices were making their appearance in some places, which would instantly expand the concept of mobility.

We have now talked about using PDAs and cell phones to deliver materials in a way that fits different learning styles in context and breaks down some of the previous barriers.

2005 – mLearn in Cape Town:

The ‘learning is in your hands’ theme was particularly appropriate in a country where internet coverage is minimal but mobile phone coverage is almost complete!

It was at this conference that we started hearing about convergence and mobile content management. We looked at practical examples of how people have adopted mobile learning in larger groups and organizations and we started talking about the strategies needed for teacher training and student learning support through and for these technologies. Wireless was now available and expected.

We really saw now how mobile technology had the potential to break down the barriers of place and time.

2006 – Learning in Banff:

OK, so we managed to go from one great place to another, but we should be mobile and learning – right?

The theme in Canada was “Cross cultures and generations” and in the context of what was then a small but growing social computing revolution, this theme picked up on the way in which communication technology was breaking down all barriers for those who wanted to stay in touch.

We heard about the $100 laptop and the desire to see every kid with a laptop. We talked about digital libraries where every book was converted into a digital format and therefore accessible anywhere on any device. We spoke more seriously about audio as part of the instructional material mix, examining the ever-increasing means by which delivery could take place and the ever-increasing variety of devices that offer mobility.

We began to understand the “Net Generation” who have hypertext thinking and approach learning in a very different way than those who left school a long time ago!

This conference opened our eyes to how mobility research was shrinking the world and making learning accessible to anyone, anywhere a reality.

2007 – mLearn in Melbourne:

The theme we chose for this conference was “Making the Connections” and connectivity was certainly the theme of the conference!

Even before the first keynote speaker had finished her comments and the reaction to those comments was blogged, tweeted, wikied, wikied and otherwise posted in cyberspace! The speakers were asked questions, which were relayed by the delegates present from around the world.

We explored infrastructure issues and spoke at length about pedagogy that embraces technology and how the devices themselves are now judged less on their “wow” factor and more on their usability in the classroom mix. We talked about integration and embedding and the ways social computing could be used on mobile devices and the fact that mobile devices now include laptops with wireless connections.

And we ended the conference by looking 10 years into the future and speculating what we could do now to ensure we continue to provide quality education using the new and emerging technology.

So where do we stand now: Mobility is simply a reality and we expect to be connected at all times on all devices. Technology, no matter how wonderful, will not fix bad pedagogy, but it will have a massive impact on good classroom practice.

At the end of the conference, we officially launched the International Association for Mobile Learning. Learn more by following the links on my website.

The field is growing and evolving and I’m working more and more with those who want to walk this path – contact me through my website

Thanks to Caryl Oliver | #Quickly #Mobile #Learning #Progressed #Short #Years

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