I just came back from Global Learn Asia Pacific Conference last 3 weeks. Apart from being a presenter myself, I managed to optimised my time attending all the key notes and most of the parallel sessions. What made it worth the 3 hours drive to the conference was, everyone there, and in fact by the end of the 4 days, it sounded like the theme of the conference, was everything that I am crazily interested in , that is mobile learning. Well, I am also interested in early childhood education too actually...and confession : I cant keep myself away from the thought of blending in mobile tech in ECE, those kids are so cute and willing.
And so, these are the few clouds in my thought right now about strategizing mobile learning in a classroom ( especially if you are teaching primary students like me )
Now, to me the definition of mobile learning is ‘learning on the go’. And from many many thoughtful discussions (which I enjoyed very much of coz ..) I went through with collegues, I gathered that the easiest way to start connecting the concept of mobile learning with learners may not necessarily be in the classroom. Yes, as a teacher , we always consider learning must first take place in the classroom but , I have experienced situation where introduction of lessons could happen independently with the technical / learning tools part coming in later. Because the tools would later be the process of the learning itself.
Am I confusing you here (oh oh .. ) Well, I believe that we have to have a friendly approach to getting teachers and their learners into the idea of mobile learning by getting them to do the work outside the classroom. A simple hands on process. And I am thinking of these simple steps :
Find out what mobile, handheld devices your learners have. How many of them have ? How can you teach them to use these devices ? Are they familiar with the devices , in terms of usage for personal engangement. What is the possibility of them using the devices in learning process? Find out who can be your assistant in showcasing the technical aspects of the devices, from among the learners themselves. This would be very helpful, for sometimes, the kids would listen to their friends better than to an adult like you.
Let them work in group of two or three, and let them brainstorm how they could use these devices to support and develop their study when they are on the move. Some may even voluntarily wish to involve their parents in the process later. And some may already use their mobile devices on their own so its just a matter of you getting them to share , plan and work on it. You can list all the options on the board or onto a PowerPoint slide and discuss them with the class. You would most probably find these suggestions:
We have already use mobile technology to assist our learning such as ;
• Language learning apps , games, quizzes
• Google translate, Dictionaries and thesaurus
• Online stories, comics
• Talking avatars
• Audio and video podcasts
• Blogs , wikis
• Skype, IM
In a smaller group or in pairs, learners discuss one or two mobile options they would like to try out, depending on how easy they could access the handheld devices at home, outside the classroom. They also discuss when and where they think they could engage themselves into this way of learning, and for how long (e.g. reading online stories in the evenings after dinner on the sofa or google translating a paragraph infront of the TV; listening to audio podcast waiting for the bus or doing online quizzes while waiting for food at a restaurant etc.) Best for the teacher to advice them that just 5 or 10 minutes each time is fine, and they should decide on only one (or max two) options. Tell them to make sure they try out their chosen option at least once before the next class – make it clear that this is an optional experimental activity!
In the next class, or about a week later, get learners to reflect on the new learning style on mobile learning. Get them to talk in their group and exchange stories about their experience. Teacher is to stimulate them with questions like - What did they find useful? What was not so useful/helpful? It is important for the teacher to listen to learners feedback and discuss on the setback (if any) . Ask if there are people who would like to try another of the mobile options explored in Step 3, before the next class. In a subsequent class, get them to report back again, this time more briefly. And the cycle of discussion and reflection on action continues until almost everybody experience a pleasant journey in the new learning style.
After few or many discussions on best practices among the learners, together, draw some conclusions about mobile ‘on the move’ learning with the group, led by those who have taken part in the extended trial (those who have tried more than once) . Some learners may then decided that they want to continue to work out of class with some of the mobile resources they have found (or even trying new ideas too, apart from the listed ones in step 3 ) . Some may have been infected by the enthusiasm of others (this normally happens with young learners) , and now be tempted to try out apps and so it is the teacher’s role to see that these group of learners are getting the help that they need. But still, some may never have got involved in the first place. But this all fine and it is okay because at the end of the day, you are simply giving your learners options and tools. To like the tools or find them useful is all up to them. But your job is done when you have helped in showing them the choices that they have and giving them the opportunity to try and vary their learning style because each individual is different and works differently.