I’ve been thinking about Mobile Learning again today.

I was asked if I’d be interested in proposing a workshop for a ‘Shaping the Future’ event to be held in Qatar next year. Well yes I would, but what is it they are looking for? To me, a workshop is something which participants can become involved in – but I know from previous experience that working in different countries can present interesting challenges when it comes to using technology.

So, do I need a mixture of easy hands-on and discussion? If so what’s easy whilst remaining valid?

I’ve always been of the opinion, with all uses of technology, that the basics must come first. Without an understanding of aerodynamics, a pilot cannot fly an aeroplane and in the same way, unless a teacher understands the basic theories of learning and how to adapt them, he or she cannot hope to accommodate mobile or ‘e’ learning.

Mobile learning means many things to many people. Sometimes we have to dissect the two words.

  • The device itself may be mobile.

Tools such as cell phones, handheld games machines and handheld media/entertainment devices can all be utilised for learning activities. These devices are fairly ubiquitous and very few learners do not have access to at least one.

  • The learner him/herself could be mobile.

Learning often takes place outside the classroom or in the workplace itself. School based learners might be asked to conduct some ‘homework’ research, which would utilise both his or her mobility alongside the device’s mobility.

  • The learning activity might be mobile.

The teacher may plan activities that take learners on an exploratory tour of local features or local history, using GPS/Internet enabled tools as a guide. They may employ ubiquitous 3G connectivity to share resources on or from the Internet.

So do I start with the basic assumption that the participants understand basic learning theory? Or, that they understand the various connotations of the word mobile? I suspect that the old adage ‘to assume is to make an ASS of U and ME’ should rule here!

I will therefore consider a proposal which assumes nothing, expects a lot and prepare myself for a lot of stress 😉


I try to fix all of the session’s activities, tool-use and techniques to Blooms Taxonomy. This is the taxonomy of thinking skills which aims to raise learners’ achievements through simple knowledge acquisition, comprehension of that knowledge and its application (lower order thinking skills – LOTs) – through analysis, synthesis and evaluation (higher order thinking skills – HOTs). There are lots of reasons for doing this, but my main reason is that Bloom’s is a recognisable theory, one that should/would have been addressed during Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and therefore be an understandable foundation we can build upon.

I suggest to my participants that each learner will progress through the taxonomy’s stages at varying speeds and with varying success; often having to return to a previous level (in a cycular fashion – which fits nicely then, with Bruner’s spiral curriculum model: e.g. “Curriculum should be organized in a spiral manner so that the student continually builds upon what they have already learned.” from: where they begin their learning journey again. I emphasise that ‘they‘ the teachers, trainers etc. ARE THE experts at this and that ‘they‘ are the creators of activities designed to allow learners to climb (cycle?) through the levels.

I iterate, time and time again that the ‘m’ technique and the ‘m’ technology should be the tool and not the master.

From a previous Blooms Taxonomy post:


Texting [still away]

It’s always interesting to observe the customs of others, especially when your own customs are informed or affected by the observation. Likewise, it is said that travel broadens the mind. That is certainly true in most cases although I have to say by no means all. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Like smoking and mobile phones at home, many States have banned smoking in public places and the use of cell phones whilst driving. But they are not universal bans. I quote heavily from the Wednesday July 29th edition of USA Today (page 8A). All rights to those quotes go to the original author. I’m not discussing smoking here.

Apparently ‘Cellphones are as much part of American’s lives as cars these days’ with the number of subscribers,‘270 million’, outnumbering that of registered cars. For all sorts of reasons [see  ‘Smart Mobs’ 2001 – Howard Rheingold] Americans were late adopters of the cell phone, but are now making up for it. During the two weeks we’ve been here we’ve seen all manner and ages of people using all types of cell phones to call (often, like the quiet coach gob-merchant – to SHOUT), to receive calls and to text.

However, there is still no blanket (Federal) ban on texting whilst driving. On our trip from Newark NJ airport into Manhattan, we saw one guy texting on two phones – while we drove slowly through the Lincoln Tunnel. Slowly I grant, but in his case – dangerously. To and from San Francisco airport both shuttle drivers answered calls, briefly, but nevertheless answered. We saw many such car-phone discussions in both Seattle and San Francisco.

But there seems to be a growing debate over here about such usage and David Teater (senior director for transportation initiatives at the National safety Council) asks ‘How many more lives need to be lost before we enact and aggressively enforce laws…?’. Over here the debate isn’t just whether to use hands-free devices or not – it’s whether to allow the phone to be used at all. I wonder how vociferous that debate will become at home?

Truck drivers are apparently 23 times more likely to have a collision when texting than when not texting (which beggars the question: how many times are they likely to have a collision anyway?). The discussion about a blanket ban on talking on the phone is being debated state by state and 21 States (and DC) ban any use by ‘novice drivers’. Five States have bans similar to the UK, where only hands free devices can be used. But we’ve been in two of these and like the UK, have constantly seen the law broken.

Now, I’m as guilty as the next person for using my phone whilst driving, but always hands-free. And, I no longer text or tie my shoelaces while the car is mobile!! It would be hard to argue though that talking on the phone is any more dangerous than talking to passengers. On a recent bus ride a sign above the driver said something like: You may ask the driver for directions but do not engage in conversation as it is dangerous. What’s the difference?

Do other in-car distractions vie for banning too? Noisy children? Chatty aunts/wives/husbands/uncles? I don’t know – what do you think?

Still on holiday: See