Some mobile learning myth-busting

By Anne Collier

As I read “5 myths about mobile learning,” I realized how literal we are in our assumptions – and how much we base them on a technology’s physical properties. When you really think about it – or compare the assumptions to the reality – it can make you smile (if you don’t let yourself get discouraged by the resistance these assumptions symbolize). The first few myths educator Nicky Blockly shares reduce “mobile learning” to instruction through texting or using apps while moving around.

“Sure you can learn by looking at vocabulary flashcards on the bus. But you can also learn by watching [or producing] videos on your smartphone on the sofa at home” or in a classroom, she writes. She basically shows how, with these pocket-sized supercomputers, there are very few approaches to teaching and learning you can’t take. Her blog post has a video in which ESL students demonstrate how they conduct video interviews to help each other with pronunciation, vocabulary and presentation skills – videos with which they can get immediate feedback from peers and their teacher. Literalists also think “small device, bite-size content, but in Myth 4, Blockly points out that, sure, “content can be in small chunks, but it can also be authentic, extensive and holistic.” The small bits offered in a lesson plan can link to extensive articles, video lectures, and news broadcasts. Finally, the uninitiated parent or educator sometimes equates mobile learning with purely informal learning. Certainly learning with cellphones and tablets can feel informal and happen outside of school (one of the pluses for many students, parents, and educators!), but it doesn’t have to be informal learning. “It can equally mean access to formal, structured learning, which is carefully integrated into the curriculum,” Blockly writes. Then she links to one Business English teacher’s lesson plan whereby “students work in groups on short presentations of new products, which are filmed on mobile devices both during and after preparation.”

There’s a bonus to this kind of learning too. One way to look at it is “from student engagement to civic engagement to civic efficacy.” In addition to student engagement and fun, students are modeling and practicing digital citizenship and literacy. While learning English, math, history, etc., they’re learning collaboratively, respectfully within a community called a class (in and out of school). There is no better way to teach digital citizenship than to provide students (and everybody else!) opportunities to practice it, and all five elements of it are represented in Blockly’s classes: participation (or civic engagement); positive norms of behavior; the practice of accepted rights and responsibilities (those of the classroom or the school community); a sense of belonging (in the class, in a study group, etc.); and the necessarily blended literacies of social media: digital literacy, media literacy, and social literacy. [See Slide #2 in this presentation I just posted.]

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