Yesterday, my department at UBC sponsored a day long event about mobile learning. I had the good fortune to attend Dr. Norbert Pachler’s session about the exciting work he is doing with the London Mobile Learning Group.The theme of his session for us was mobile learning in a socio-cultural context. I appreciated that this wasn’t just another talk about a cool thing that someone was doing with ipads in the classroom, instead, he offered a framework for thinking about mobile learning, that opened my mind to many more questions and new perspectives and affirmed by general hopeful feeling that the kids are alright.
For some time now, I’ve had the sense that kids (pre-university) are taking back some of the power over learning they gave to their teachers a long time ago. The challenge is, they are now far less interested in what others THINK they should learn, they have plenty of ideas of their own and plenty of ways to learn about it from people almost anywhere in the world. A bit of a pandora’s box (for sure), but that box needed opening. Most of my ideas about this are born out of petty battles with my son over the amount of time (lengthy stretches of hours) spent engaged in Minecraft.It seems this game offers him and his friends a number of things that school doesn’t: time, choice, the chance to create something meaningful and surprise (the game changes depending on who plays, what they build and how they operate in the game). School with its worksheets, textbooks and “group power point presentations”, just doesn’t cut it. So, he catches up on his phone on the way to school watching Khan academy videos of an algebraic word problems or surfing Shakespeare online. He knows he has the access he needs to the “information” that will help him learn what he needs to get by in school, but it is becoming more and more disconnected from his life.
All this to say that the socio-cultural ecology framework that Dr. Pachler proposes hit the nail right on the head for me. The interconnected themes of agency (what kids do), structure (what is imposed on them to some extent), cultural practices (what’s meaningful in their worlds and associations) will each determine (to some extent) how mobile learning (and learning behavior in our current context) is understood, accepted and taken up with all of its possibilities and pitfalls to navigate. Kids are mobile and I suspect they use their tools in quite different ways than we do (and so they should) and probably quite different ways from each other (depending on their social contexts, gender, etc.). Have you ever seen a bunch of administrators in a room with ipads? What are they doing? Typing. Old ways, new tools. New pedagogy will take some time…
Since I didn’t have my ipad in Dr. Pachler’s session (to draw on), I reverted to analog drawing. Here are a few of my observations.