Independent opportunities for learning?
It’s conceivable that someone may not be able to hold a laptop (even a low weight Netbook weighs in at 1kg), so how can we provide what they need in a format that they can readily use each and every day with minimal setup and weight? As we know, last week I had a cold; however via my device I could still keep up with news, technical websites, events, work emails and meeting requests, I could respond to queries and discuss upcoming projects with colleagues. In short I could perform well over 50% of my tasks as an employee of the College without actually having to be in the building, with a laptop with a install of Visual Studio I could pretty much do everything (save training) at home.
So if I can do it, would it work for learners?
I hear you scoff: “Yeah Tom you’re talking about Distance learning, welcome to the late 1990’s!” but hear me out. We have often talked about the success of distance learning, but I don’t think that it’s really gone the distance for learners.
To access course information, you always use laptop or find a full size pc on which to dial into your institution. For any learner who works in a hazardous environment or where power is not readily available must wait until the end of the working day before starting coursework, what happens if the learner has an evening job as well (all the more likely in a time of economic hardship)? When are they going to find the time? Distance learning should make things more convenient for the learner, not harder.
Inspiration as we all know is a curious beast and it can hit at the oddest of times; during a meeting, whilst working on a site, commuting to work, tending the garden (I’ve had coding epiphanies whilst baking), we’ve all been there doing some other task when bang! You’ve worked out the answer to that question, solved a bug in your code, found a better way to present your findings. The question is how can we capture this charismatic enigma that is creativity? That all too fleeting moment where you need to write down before it’s gone, your laptop is in the other room, you don’t have a pen and paper handy and the clock is ticking!
Phones for learning?
Recently I had to help my Grandfather choose a new mobile phone; his twelve year old Motorola had finally given up the ghost. Its feature set was the ability to have a phonebook and to make and receive both calls and text messages. It weighed a ton, was over 6 inches in length, had a huge keypad and best of all it came equipped with an external aerial! Compare that functionality with his new mobile: 5mp Camera, Video recording, video messaging, FM Stereo, High Speed Internet access, Email support, Mp3 ringtones etc. It’s important to note that his new phone is a relatively old design (about 1-2 years old), but shows how mobile telephones have transitioned from providing mobile telephony access to full on communications solutions.
This is where I think mobile devices can be the key in a distance learning environment, they are light, take next to no time to turn on, have low power usage , a long battery life and most of all are simple to use. WiFi/3g/Edge/ HSDPA ensure that the learner is connected 24/7 ensuring that they can access anything they need regardless of the location.
It doesn’t matter if the learner is on a building site, in bed at home, on a train to a meeting, or even doing their weekly food shop, with mobile learning we can provide a moldable learning solution that will offer a better fit to our students.