Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Cogitive apprenticeships & mLearning

The gist of my paper presented at the NCVER conf. last month was how mlearning could be an opportunity to use the principles of teaching referred to as cognitive apprenticeships (CA). My interest in CA started at least 10 years ago during my studies toward my BEd. I found that my teaching methods aligned well with the teaching methods that were described / attributed to CA. I then made a conscious effort to plan my teaching sessions based on CA principles and to put into practice CA teaching methods. To date, I have found this to be a very worthwhile exercise. I find that I connect well with my students in face to face classes using CA and based the development of my online teaching content on CA as well.

mLearning does provide a rich resource for using CA with distance learners. Here is an excerpt from my paper where that conveys some of the possibilities for CA with mlearners.

Dabbagh & Bannan-Ritland (2005) in chapter 5 of their book Online learning: Concepts, Strategies, and applications provide guidelines on how to use cognitive apprenticeship models in on-line learning, and I am going to reiterate these with an emphasis on the guidelines that are especially pertinent to mLearning application.
  • Promote mentoring and coaching:- building a mentoring and coaching relationship between tutor and apprentice learner is improved with the use of synchronous communication via the mobile phone.
  • Support modelling and explain expert performance:- these are again much easier to do synchronously over the phone then via asynchronous text based emails. The text based email may form a base from which more modelling and explaining can take place, but apprentices respond better to verbal instructions. Mobile phone technology also provides capabilities for pictures and short text to be transmitted synchronously during phone based support sessions. These are useful techniques for supplementing voice only communications.
  • Focus on mastery within the context of the knowledge domain:- competency at practical tasks and hints / tips for conducting simple ‘experiments’ can be conveyed via mobile phone using the phone’s camera or video function. These save time in not having to prepare long text or verbal explanations on what to do or how to complete practical tasks.
  • Support increasing complexity:- Text based content provided to learners provide initial anchors from which further scaffolds may be constructed to expand understanding and application of new knowledge and skills. Examples that help scaffold the apprentice from one activity to the next, are often better explained via pictures and voice coaching than through lengthy emails.
  • Encourage collaborative learning:- contact with peers becomes more informal and immediate when SMS and peer to peer networks are used. On the current elearning courses, apprentices have resisted using text based discussion boards despite concerted efforts to encourage posting.
  • Support articulation of understanding and reflection on performance:- Using mLearning tools to build up an eportfolio is one way to assist learners in reflecting on their skill acquisition and provides them with the opportunity to show case their work.
  • Promote enculturation of students into authentic practice through activity and social interaction:- mLearning provides flexible learning options for apprentices in their workplaces. mLearning tools can be used to enhance workplace learning by helping to built supportive relationships between tutor, apprentice, workplace trainer and employer. A phone call is many times more personal and immediate than a form letter.

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