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The mobile device explosion—How it’s affecting the way we learn

Tracy Peterson.jpgThe mobile device market is the fastest growing industry ever. Smartphones and tablets are changing the way we teach, learn and access information. In this guest blog, Tracy Peterson, Director of WW Learning Solutions, HPSW Education, speaks to Susan Merriman, WW Leader of Emerging Technologies, HPSW Education about whether there remains a place for traditional training techniques amid the new technologies.

 

The rate of growth in mobile device usage is astonishing; in fact, it’s the fastest growing industry ever.

 

During the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, nearly 140 million smartphones were being used globally, according to data published by Float Mobile Learning. By the time London 2012 came around, this figure had increased four-fold to almost 660 million.

 

tablet in hand.pngAnd if you’re reading this on your smartphone or tablet, you’re already well aware of the extraordinary effect mobile devices have had on our lives. In fact, the consumerization of IT, where people are bringing their own devices to work, is a big issue for companies to wrestle with. But it also presents an opportunity because we can encourage people to use their comfort with technology to adopt new ways to learn.

 

And the exciting thing is, we’re only just beginning to understand the potential of mobile devices. Smart Mobs author Howard Rhengold believes that we haven’t even begun to realize the game-changing power of smartphones and tablets. “Mobile internet will not be just a way to do old things while moving,” he writes. “It will be a way to do things that couldn’t be done before.”

 

Will traditional education techniques fall away?

I don’t think so. Instead, we should look at how we can complement them through mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets are rapidly changing the way we teach and learn; they put information at our fingertips like no other technology has before. As renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil says: “Mobile phones are misnamed. They should be called ‘gateways to all human knowledge’.”

 

How will traditional education techniques fit into this new world?

The relationship between mobile learning and traditional classroom-based education was a hot topic at the Society for Applied Learning Technologies’ (SALT) Interactive Learning Technologies Conference 2012. Some speakers argued that the growth of mobile learning does not mean the death of instructor-led training, as each modality serves a different purpose.

 

Many speakers referred to Dr. Conrad Gattfredeson’s famous “Five Moments of Learning Needs” to support their argument:

  1. Learning for the first time
  2. Learning more
  3. Trying to remember material
  4. Learning when things change
  5. Learning when something goes wrong.

 

Some SALT attendees believe that the last four of Dr. Gattfredeson’s moments are best served by mobile learning as portable devices provide always on, instant access to up-to-date, instructional information. Keynote speaker Judy Brown, a leading mobile-learning strategic analyst, referred to the US Army’s belief that mobile devices are best for ‘perishable knowledge’ as they put procedural information directly into users’ hands.

 

But the general point made at the conference, and one that I agree with, was that the first of Dr. Gattfredeson’s “Five Moments” is still best served by traditional teaching methods. People learn new material more effectively in an environment that facilitates direct teacher-student interaction. This instructor-led training can be supported with backup learning material accessible by mobile devices, thereby combining the traditional with the technological. Supplementary content like learning refreshers, task walk-throughs, how-to guides and job aids can be used to build on the knowledge that students developed during instructor-led sessions. Students can learn at times convenient to them and instantly self-resolve problems if they experience difficulties using software.

 

So, what’s your experience with mobile learning? What effect do you think the explosion of mobile devices will have on traditional teaching methods?

 

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