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ATD Blog

Knowledge Building and Enhancement Through Multitasking Mobile Devices


Tue Aug 14 2012


In my previous post, I talked about the boundless possibilities of m-learning since anything can trigger a learning experience when we use today´s multitasking portable devices. I also defined mobile learning as a limitless knowledge-building enabler and now, I would like to explore that concept a little bit further by referring to the built-in capabilities of mobile devices and the multiple interaction types as well as learning activities they can promote.

  • Collaboration facilitators: Mobile devices can greatly facilitate social and collaborative activities such as sharing knowledge, publishing lessons learned, and getting immediate feedback from personal knowledge networks. They can also foster more dynamic Communities of Practice through the rapid exchange of documentation and resources.

  • Communication enablers: The learner uses a portable device to communicate with other people synchronously or asynchronously (Low and O´Connell, 2006). Communication is now possible anytime, anywhere and the content can be shared in the form of presentations, videos, images, sketches, mind maps, and so on.

  • Personal knowledge organizers: The learner may use a portable device to recall information, events, experiences or stories (Low and O´Connell, 2006). These recipients of knowledge can be stored locally (i.e. on the portable device) or can be accessed remotely (e.g. through the Internet). The learner can also manage data and tasks at his convenience.

  • Personal information repositories: “Mobile learning supports learning that recognizes the context and history of each individual learner” (Traxler, 2007). As learning designers, we can profit from this invaluable resource to adjust, select, and deliver content according to specific learner profiles. Here, the concept of “personalized learning experience” not only encompasses learning styles but also a whole range of habits and preferences that characterizes the learner.

  • Information decoders: QR codes can be read by the camera in most mobile phones. The video camera scans and captures the visually encrypted information on a marker and the AR software deciphers that information to initiate a response. As this allows for an easier and faster access to information, QR codes have been applied in different fields from product marketing to higher education.

  • Multimedia studios: “The learner can use the portable device to discover, process or enhance existing data so that it is transformed into new information, or ‘remixed’ to enhance learning. In these conditions, the mobile enhances or supplements the learner´s own senses or processing abilities” (Low and O´Connell, 2006). The learner can capture, edit, and share the world around him through mobile devices. In this way, the learner is able to convey meaning from his own perspective.

  • Experience recorders: “The information recorded may be in response to a stimulus from a situated learning environment or from the instructor” (Low and O´Connell, 2006). The learner may use a portable device to capture, preserve, or memorize information through voice-recording, picture-taking, note-taking, and so on. In this way, mobile devices can also be deployed as practical research and data collection tools.

  • Reality amplifiers: Seamless learning environments can be created through mobile devices. AR applications can enhance the learner´s understanding of real objects and places around him, offering experiential and exploratory experiences, where he interacts with his reality and constructs knowledge from it (Villar, 2012).

  • Performance and procedure guides: Mobile devices help the learner find and filter information in the same environment in which he is acting. The learning experience is therefore closely link to an authentic activity and context and the learner can monitor his own progress and get relevant study or job aids in a specific location and at the moment of need.

  • Environment explorers: Mobile media & technology used for a richer interpretation of museums, for example, cleverly combine real physical environments and digital guides that can be accessed through portable devices. Take for example the iPod Touch tours developed by San Jose Museum of Art and Dallas Museum of Art. 

As Luke Wroblewski nicely puts it in his book Mobile First, “Mobile capabilities allow you to reinvent ways to meet people´s needs using exciting new tools and features that are now at your disposal.” This is what mobile learning is really about, it´s about leveraging the potential of mobile devices in terms of data capturing, location-awareness, collaborative working, knowledge storage, and so on, to design that ultimate learning experience on the go. A learning experience that focuses on content creation rather than on content consumption and that doesn’t only rely on knowledge transfer but also on knowledge building, enhancement, and application.


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