Friday, 25 February 2011

Change and mLearning

With due respect to all psychologists who deal with the complexity of human behaviour, there is an old joke about 'How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?'

The answer is of course, only one, but the light bulb must WANT TO CHANGE.

In Higher Education, the staff and students also need to see the value of wanting change in order for innovations to have real impact on behaviour. With apologies to those people engaging in the daunting task of changing the culture of educators and educational administrators I believe this famous statement about the environment (Pogo, 1970 - should be resurrected in the current climate of educational reform and change. 'We have met the enemy, and he is us'.

It is only occasionally that we hear of technological issues being the major problems in the use of technology with teaching and learning. The majority of the discussion is be focused on how to change the approaches to teaching and learning of teachers to be more inline with the students they teach, often with little reference to the local context, perceptions and skills of students, and staff perceptions for any need for change. We also need to ensure that students also see the value in changing practices and become part of the process of change.

While we know that students are themselves products of their past learning experiences, it is possible to underestimate how much we need to engage them fully if they are to help drive the processes and engage with new curricula and new ways of providing evidence of learning. Until recently the literature suggested that we have these homogeneous group with high levels of IT skills that can be automatically utilised for learning. A more critical view suggests that our students, while some may be technologically competent are more likely to have diverse skills and interest. Some students may be great consumers of IT, but the majority may lack practice as producers of academic content that requires the use of technology (as in ePortfolios) to support the process and the outcomes. Student development is often just as important as staff development and should be resourced accordingly.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Some observations on the use of mobile phones for learning

I jokingly refer to my iPhone as my 'auxiliary brain'. If I didn't have it, I would have to get something like it. It is used for reminding me about important things to do, calander/ diary, providing just-in-time access to documents via Dropbox, as my presenting tool (using wireless) and communication when I am away from the office.

However, this range of use is not universal for all users. For example, how many of us use the full power of MS Word? When we need something done, we learn how to do it or ask someone. If we don't perceive we need it then we don't spend time even exploring.

In the use of educational technologies, the usability, context and purpose are key factors to adoption. For example, in my current project with iPhones, if a student doesn't perceive a suitable use for their iPhones, they generally do not bother to explore, even when we as the researchers suggest that something might be useful for improving their organisation (diary) or learning (podcasts of grammar from GrammerGirl - see Familiarity and existing ways of working are key inhibitors to changing practice and should not be underestimated in any study purportedly intent on changing learning behaviours.