The best session I attended at DevLearn was by far that of Craig Taylor on Getting Started with Mobile Learning. Craig has long been a proponent of learning technologies on his blog and also on Twitter. Craig’s British wit and obvious passion for his work are evident in his presentation style. From the get go, he had the session attendees engaged and yearning for more. Craig’s main starting point is that mobile learning isn’t about the device or tool, it’s about the mobility of the learner. We are by our nature mobile creatures and as such do much of our learning on the go. Craig brought in a slew of items that could be considered mobile tools or devices, things like paper maps (yes, I said paper), cameras, portable gaming devices, and of course smartphones and tablets.
Craig contended that we need to get away from the idea of mobile learning being restricted to just the smartphones and tablet devices we carry around. They are very powerful devices and contain most of the many items he brought (such as maps, cameras, games, etc.), but when making the case for mobile in our organizations, we don’t have to immediately hire someone to build the latest and greatest app. Mobile learning can be as simple as sending out text message tips or reminders over a series of weeks after someone has completed a course or learning event. Or providing a list of resources, diagrams, photos, videos, etc., that can be a accessed via phone or tablet. After providing an adjusted baseline of what mobile learning can be, Craig had us break into groups and take about 10 minutes to come up with a short sample of mobile learning. At the end of the exercise we were supposed to tweet our “product” using the DevLearn hash tag. The key to this exercise as one of my fellow group members stated, was to “not over think it.” Probably the most practical example came from one group who had been recording Craig’s presentation and then sent it to Evernote and sent the link out on Twitter as a resource for other DevLearn attendees.
The point Craig drove home was that mobile learning doesn’t automatically mean the latest and greatest app. In fact, at the end of the presentation he changed “mobile learning” to “performance support,” because that is what we are really talking about when we think of mobile. How do we use our phones and tablets? A lot of the time they are used for performance support functions like using a map for directions, searching for a coffee shop, scanning a QR code, writing a short reminder, sending an email, etc., etc., etc. Sure, the latest and greatest apps are wonderful and we will all continue to use them. The best takeaway I received from Craig’s talk is ironically, not to limit yourself or your concept of mobile learning by the whiz-bang technology. For performance support via mobile, a daily or weekly text message is a powerful form of reinforcement, as is a short video highlighting key points or a weekly update in the form of a podcast. Performance support is about providing support at the time of need. Why constrain ourselves to considering “mobile learning” as only a monster app, when we can use individual capabilities such as mapping, audio, video, text, and Internet access by themselves as a means of support? Find the things that are simple and easy to do and use the heck out of them to support your learners.
My action (in Craig fashion): Try to incorporate some simple things like podcasts or basic videos highlighting key points in my development efforts. Or, since I am a freelancer, maybe use these types of things as mini-marketing products for my services. Something short and sweet that a potential client could view or listen to on a smartphone.
Craig talked about many other things regarding mobile learning, but these were my highlights. For a great recap of his #DevLearn experience, check out Craig’s latest post.