UNESCO Mobile Learning Week report published

From 12-16 December 2011 the first mobile leanring week has been held at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. This week the report has been published. 

The report provides a good overview on the practical challenges for mobile learning for the information society – that is turning increasingly into a mobile information society. This has implications for education and teaching, where not only educational concepts are of relevance but also economical and societal factors have to be considered. Furthermore, it becomes clearer that mobile learning tackles a different set of educational problems than elearning did some 10-15 years ago.

You can download the report from the UNESCO web-site.

Group versus individual analytics – why versus?

Wolfgang’s recent overview of the discussion on perspectives of learning analytics discusses tactics of annonymising “group analytics” for personal use. The main critique of that blog entry is that the common approach to ensure “privacy’ is flattening the data so no individual can get identified. However, this might render the resulting information useless for learning support. Privacy aspects raise certainly ethical issues for educational applications of analytical data. I consider data flattening as a na├»ve approach for enforcing privacy. 

First of all, the common data flattening approache takes perspective takes a very pessimistic viewpoint that literally everybody is your enemy from whom you should get protected (e.g., because you might get bullied). Of course, the education system is not a friendly environment, but equally not everybody is an enemy. There are social planes that influence individual learners in different ways.

Secondly, privacy is tightly coupled to personal perception: everybody draws the line between private and public differently and what is considered private is quite fragmented rather than a homogeneous space. The aspect of fragmentation has been quite nicely addressed by Google plus, which makes a difference between the “all private” or “all public” dichtomy of prior social network applications. This fragmentation is further extended by individual choices of what is considered private or public information. 

Thridly, privacy and more particularly data privacy is considered something that has to be produceted. Data privacy is frequently used as a synonm for data protection, for which the provider of an IT system is responsible. However, data protection and data privacy are to very different concepts. I agree that data protection has to be assured by a system provider, but data privacy is a shared responsibility of those who run a system and those who provide the data. Closely related to this problem area is transparency. Learners can only take personal responsibilty of their data/analytics if they are aware what data and analytical approaches are awailable. 

The primary privacy issues that affect learning analytics affect three different problem areas.

  1. Social planes
  2. Personalisation
  3. Transparency

The dimension of social planes for providing tunable perspectives on learning analytics data has been recently discussed in Flores et al. (2011)

Personalisation of information distribution is currently diffusing into a range of social software platforms after Google has introduced the circles in its Plus service. 

Transparency for supporting learning has been covered by Verpoorten et al. (2009) and Glahn (2010).

The main challenge ethical challenge is to integrate these dimensions into an educationally sound framework. This will not be achievable without rethinking and sometimes disrupting popular educational design approaches, paradigms, and organisational policies. 

Self-regulated learning and situation awareness

On the CELSTEC Mobile Media retreat meeting I gave a presentation about the relation between self-regulated learning, reflection, and situation awareness. These concepts are relevant for contextualised informal learning. 

In this presentation I reviewed the Butler & Winne Self-regulation Model and the Endsley Situation Awareness Model. There are some interesting relations that received very little attention in the area of mobile and contextual learning. 

Sex, bombs, and fries for learning

I listened to a very interesting interview with Peter Nowak on innovation in technology and learning. Interestingly, Nowak argues that most innovations that we see today in education and learning are related to high competition in non educational markets, namely the food market, the pornography market, and the military complex. 

His argument is that these volatile markets act as innovators and early adopters that have created and shaped technologies through massive investments. The drivers for this innovation is partly related to performance needs and to the needs of market outreach. Despite negative effects that are related to all of these industries, the high competition and market constraints seem to force them towards seeking technological innovation in order to gain any advantage over their competitors. Then slowly these technologies diffuse towards the mainstream.

You can listen to the interview at New Security Learning.


When did mobile learning start?

Today I came across an interesting posting in a mobile learning forum on XING. The thread started with the question “When did mobile learning really start?”. There was already a posting that claimed that Nokia started the mobile learning idea in 2001. I thought, “wait! 2001 is too late” and started some digging in my references. What I found there was interesting and enlightening. 

To answer the first question we need to understand that mobile learning is NOT about mobile devices.

Mobile learning is about emphasizing aspects of mobility in an educational concept. Besides mobility this includes situatedness,  context dependency, the location of a learning environment etc. 

So when did mobile learning really start. My little research puts the date around 1997. About a year later I had a very enlightening and inspiring discussion with Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway in Berlin. Back then they presented their early solutions from HI-CE for “handheld learning”. The core difference to other handhald learning solutions of that time was that they discussed classroom applications that emphasised the mobility of the learners for making the applications valuable. Rather than “handheld devices for learning” they changed the view to “supporting learning on the go with handheld devices”. 

To embrace the difference one has to recall that until around 1997 handheld devices for learning were mostly of the kind of the Little Professor – some were more sophisticated some less. Basically these solutions were relatively small solutions of portable learning systems. With this respect they were very similar to books as the learning content was not affected by the mobility of the learners. Until 1997 mobile and handheld devices were technological extensions of the learning anytime and anywhere metaphore. The HI-CE stuff broke with this perspective. Suddenly learning was dependend on social interactions,movements, locations, and annotations. Instead of enforcing the right time and the right place, the new solutions were empowering learners to create and enrich their spatial learning environments with the new technology. 

My quick research brought another interesting aspect to my attention. In 1998 Rainer Oppermann and Marcus Specht published a concept for a nomadic museum guide. This paper discusses explicitly the application for learning support. The interesting aspect of this paper is that it outlines the first application of Augmented Reality for Learning. This gets clearer with the followup publications from 1999 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). 

Therefore, the tipping point when solutions for learning changed towards what we now know as “mobile learning”, was around 1997.