Mobile Learning: Learning About Mobility

Assignment 1: For discussion purposes, write a brief review of a resource or an organization that has recently changed your understanding of mobile learning.

Perhaps what I should do here is find the coolest, most way-out adventure in mobile learning  in order to impress my instructor and coursemates with how trendy and tuned-in I am. But what persuaded me that mobility actually had something to add to learning was owning my Droid. I purchased it almost two years ago when my cell phone needed replaced. Because I rarely make actual calls, I was attracted to the PDA-like opportunities that Droid offered as well as increased access to the Internet. I was thinking more about using it to help organize my life, not for learning.

Simple book reader apps, Kindle and nook, allowed me to find books almost instantly that were referred to by blogs, news sites, and so on. The fact that my reading place is always saved across devices pleases me to no end. To those static sources of information and learning, I added RSS feeds so that I collect what I need to know, especially crucial when state governors are trying to destroy public education as well as kill democracy. And having podcasts right at my fingers through Google Listen means I can hear Best of the Left or All in the Mind whenever I want! For my CCK11 course this winter, I signed up for the first time on Twitter, which gave me not only instant access to what Tim O’Reilly or Stephen Downes is finding interesting right now but also immediate information about, say, ad hoc protests or the latest blog to mention Ohio’s sociopathic governor. Viewing Evan Roth’s presentation  about graffiti got me interested in augmented reality, so now I have Layar and Airpainter—which seem to me to best take advantage of the mobility of my Droid: it can move (so far, at least, only when I move), and as a result of that movement can access different kinds of information.

But is accessing information in this way learning? It is if we take seriously the ideas of connectivism, a theory of learning by George Siemens and Stephen Downes that was the subject of my first course in the Emerging Technologies for Learning program, learning, “(defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing” (Siemens 2005). Learning is the “creation of new connections and patterns as well as the ability to maneuver around existing networks/patterns” (Siemens 2008). A most important element in this theory is context; Siemens says that context “brings as much to a space of knowledge connection/exchange as do the parties involved in the exchange” (Siemens 2008). What finally struck me, after I saw Evan Roth and downloaded Airpainter and Layar, was that I could take my Droid anywhere and what was there to learn was accessible to me because of all the intricate, forward-looking programming people are engaging in. When my husband and I ate at a fabulous cafe last month, I used Airpainter to put a virtual tag right “on” my table to say (to anyone who has the app) how wonderful the Sweet Chili Shrimp tasted on April 5, 2011.

My Droid has changed my understanding of mobile learning because not only can I access information anywhere but also I can access information about the “where,” knowledge that is directly situated where I’m located.  Although I do not think that this aspect of mobile learning is one that is fully exploited (yet), it is the aspect that is most interesting to me and, I think, one that is applicable to both formal and informal learning. Institutions like museums already have headsets for guided tours and are venturing into augmented reality for more formal learning; Layar and Airpainter provide informal learning opportunities like finding the right restaurant in a strange town.

Because I work in educational publishing, I also think about the huge blended (formal/informal) potential: what if you took, say, a U.S. history textbook that came along with a Layar for that text, and you could access information about, for instance, World War II events in your county or state while you’re reading about the national events? Even better, what if that Layar allowed you to add information? Supposed your great-great grandmother kept all the letters her brother wrote to her from North Africa that could be scanned and offered as historical artifacts in the Layar? Without my Droid, I could not have imagined the possibilities for learning that is not only constantly accessible through networks but is so situated that it changes when you move about.


6 Responses to Mobile Learning: Learning About Mobility

  1. Anas says:

    Hi Leah: I am an iPhone/iPad guy, although I am fond with Google tools, apps and philosophy. I think, the android app is catching up with iPhone ;-). The Airpainter is a great tool to stand out among the crowd when friends are around.

    Overall. it is a nice article. It matches my way of explaining technology around me. My son explains it differently.

    Some other aspect of mobility you can investigate are: currency of information, non-real time connectivity with your circle (something like UrbanSpoon App which links you to your friend opinion about restaurants based on your present location, many more) and convenience (to augment your knowledge with such a small device.)

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  2. shakboot19 says:

    Well Leah, the Droid seems to be what you are looking for, at the moment. Food for thought when I need to update. The formal/informal component is interesting. I thank you for a thumbs up for reading about my journey.

  3. Skip Ward says:


    I enjoyed the bliptv video- and led to an “aha” moment. The concept of hacking- looking for what is repeated around you and transforming it to catch attention. One of my specialty areas is communications. I have seen awareness visuals (“Get ready- SAP is coming!) on the entire exterior corporate elevator door in Kuala Lumpur but never thought of putting a message on an escalator as in the video. And I liked the concept of cutting out faces and manipulating them into visual meanings. And my favorite- layering posters. I am running for a comms job at a local university and I think there would be very kool ways for internal communications with students.

    I have only recently thought on androids and non-iPhone apps. The bulk of university stude4nts use these smart phones and I assume it is a cost driven decision. But it is a fact android driven phones are far outselling iPhones, at least in the States. Until I read your post, I had never heard of Google Listen. You have opened a world for me that I did not give a second thought to- so there is the potential power of being connected to others with different experiences. You don’t know what you don’t know and when you are exposed to it, made aware of it, it is up to you to educate yourself or not.

    I downloaded Layer for my iPhone and am excited to play with it. And as a proponent of QR (Quick Response codes) I was amazed to see that this was one way to install the app! For my blog entry on QR codes see

    For a job app as comms mgr at a local university, I created a set of QR codes linking to various items for communication about this specific university, and placed them on the app…let’s see it that was a turn on or turn off!

    This reminds me so much of the flash apps parties- we seem to gather around the kitchen island and start sharing our latest discoveries- I am sure many smart phone users do this all the time. Last night I got an app lead form the bartender at Macaroni Grill!

  4. Stu says:


    I seriously considered an android phone [smasung s] prior to getting my iPhone. In the end I decided on the iPhone because I already have a mac desktop, mac laptop, an ipod and ipad. More important is the ecosystem I have built around that and I wanted to leverage it as much as possible. What is the same app driven environment that allows us to personalize the experience the phone provides. The most important point you make is concerning connectivism. The phone and particularly the convergence of capabilities, that normally require other devices [laptop, camera, etc], allows us to grow and manage our networks….a requirement of a connectivist approach to learning. We are indeed learning when accessing information….especially as you say when that learning also includes the where. I talk about context all the time and mobile learning certainly has the potential to support learning in context much more than most any other device.

    i am intrigued now by Layer and as Skip has done will be downloading it.


    • leahgrrl says:

      I like your “ecosystem” metaphor, and it’s a point well taken. I have PCs at work and home, and I’m also on Verizon, which didn’t support the iPhone when I upgraded to a smartphone two years ago, so it was important that things work together. I’m also experimenting with the Droid App Inventor for our final project for this course–which would allow me to create my own apps if I had the time and more expertise in programming. I like the connections and the apps, and I think the missing piece for me is that programming angle. The next step of connecting and growing seems to be customizing to an even greater extent.

      Hey, are you signing up for the EduMOOC? Take care,

  5. Linda says:


    I enjoyed your post. I too really didn’t understand mobilie learning until I got my smartphone (iphone). It’s amazing how much information and the connections that are available at any time. I liked how you related mlearning with connectivism.

    This site talks about textbooks.


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