Friday, July 17, 2009

21st century mobile learners - here or still to come?

While away last week & travelling about, I mulled over the readings stored up from the last couple of months and blogged over the first half of this year. That wended their way across my screens (laptop & blackberry) as I travelled by planes, trains and buses across the red, red Australian landscape. They all propose a future for education that is in many senses already here but also not quite here yet.

To me, the students are ready & willing. A couple of weeks ago, my group of students working on evaluating social networking sites as eportfolios shared their work with other students in their class.

However, it’s harder to shift tutors towards making use of technology in their teaching. Although many are have made the leap. The Mobile Learning Institute’s film series “A 21st Century Education” profiles individuals who embrace and defend fresh approaches to learning and who confront the urgent social challenges that are part of a 21st century experience. Most of these are general with regards to the use of ICT but Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris take a road trip through Texas and Louisiana to see firsthand how mobile devices are being used in schools.

Apart from the above, what of the role of mlearning in the 21st century? I caught up with blogtalk radio & listened to Liz Kolb’s interview of Suzette Kliewer who is a math teacher in the K-Nect project in North Carolina. Suzette talks about how she has been using Smartphones with her math students. The project reminded me of many of the findings in John Hattie & Helen Timperley’s article on ‘The power of feedback’. They propose a model of feedback which involves asking three key questions at task, process, self-regulating & self levels. Task refers to how well a task is being performed, the process refers to the main process required to perform the task, the self regulating comes from the student self-monitoring & self directing their actions and the self refers to the personal evaluations and affects of the learner. The three questions are where am I going (feed up), how am I going (feed back) & where to next (feed forward). The model is based on feedback being provided by teachers, peers etc. regarding aspects of performance so that the learner is able to confirm or adjust their learning trajectory.

Therefore, the use of appropriately constructed ‘learning opportunities’ with the use of relevant feedback via ‘just in time’ technology like mobile phones is one way to meet the needs of some current learners. ‘Programmed learning’ segments that are customised to the levels of learning & interests of students will be even more useful & move the concept of personal learning environments forward. Anytime, anywhere access using mobile internet devices is one way to keep the 21st century learner engaged & pro-active towards meeting their own learning goals.