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Gerry Griffin

Skill-Pill M-Learning

Company Director

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Learning has evolved – the pedagogy of m-learning


This is the second in a three part series of blog entries and is a follow up to Learning has evolved – it’s mobile, it’s engaging and it’s just in the nick of time.

Pedagogy – if this is a new word to you, here’s what the app gave me for a definition:-

ped·a·go·gy   [ped-uh-goh-jee, -goj-ee]

noun, plural ped·a·go·gies.

1. The function or work of a teacher; teaching.

2. The art or science of teaching; education; instructional methods.

So in this blog we’re not talking here about playing with app-based learning for a little edutainment but the art/science/function of your mobile device assuming the role of a teacher/educator.  But how is this possible?  Surely a touch-screen press of an app and the play of a 2-minute learning-based clip can hardly constitute teaching /education – can it?

Well it can, according to Yeonjeong Park from Virginia Tech, USA.  Park’s work is considered a seminal piece in the digital-learning world.  Park is often referenced and cited in other studies into the impact and (increasing) relevance of learning on the go through a mobile device.  But what is – as Park set out – a pedagogical framework for m-learning?

There is no doubt in my mind that the current crop of operating systems and interfaces leads to an intuitive learning environment themselves.  My 5 year old niece didn’t need a user manual to operate my iPad, play Angry Birds and then take photographs and retrieve / view them.  She learned as she played through experimentation.  Packaged m-learning takes this a step on and uses the intuitive interface and the best construct of mobile-optimised content to provide “in the moment” learning in the way mobiles are used to google; invoke maps; and train timetables for connecting journeys.

Anyway back to the pedagogical framework.  What Park said (in summary of course – and the full article can be viewed at ) is as follows: -

1. M-learning forms a key part of the distance learning proposition/environment

2. There are very few guidelines or precedents in this area for content creation, deployment, evaluation and the overall blend of m-learning with other aspects of learning curriculum content especially in education

3. There are 4 types of m-learning:

a. high transactional distance socialised learning;

b. high transactional distance individualised learning;

c. low transactional distance socialised learning; and

d. low transactional distance individualised learning

As long ago (in tech years a LONG time) as 2002 Desmond Keegan predicted mobile as a harbinger of the future of learning.  This was – arguably – before mobile was truly smart-phone rich. Indeed in 2002, I recall using a clam-shell mobile phone with fixed aerial and a tiny colour screen!

Park does not limit m-learning to the mobile phone – he also brings in tablets; netbooks; and gaming devices such as PSPs or Nintendo DSs. All mobile computing devices will be accessing internet, app-based and bundled content in a similar fashion for consumption on the move or simply at the convenience of the user.

Park also references ubiquitous learning – a fusion of traditional teaching methods and technology to enhance the learning experience.  Not using technology as a teaching aid but referencing material for later consumption, or blogs and threads students share with each other around the topic(s).

Park also references and adopts a hierarchy of the organisation (not organisation in a company sense – more the ecosystem) around the individual, their access to learning and the content.

Which helps explain his 4 domains of m-learning – all distance but with either socialised or individualised experiences and high or low transactional content/context.

Socialised m-learning is where there is collaboration – so think blogs with threads; educational wikis; chat functions and webinars with the ability to comment and ask questions.

Individualised m-learning is more about self-immersion in the content from something as simple as reading from web pages clipped into the Evernote app to bespoke content with playback and key learning points put across in an engaging manner through your mobile device.

High or low transactional aspects of Park’s pedagogical framework for m-learning denotes the amount of interactivity; the paths to completion with correct/incorrect answers submitted; user-driven progress; points earned or a simple reflective element of text input from a mobile device.

So when we are thinking about use of m-learning we need to consider is it (m-learning):-

1. Part of a sequenced and prescribed programme of learning where m-learning allows for self or collective augmentation of taught content either from a book or by tutor.

2. Part of a random but mapped selection of tools for the learner to create a “just in the time” solution to issues they face in the course of work or study.  This requires the learner to be in possession of knowledge about the “range” of available solutions – or know where to search for them.  Where this available learning only goes part of the way in meeting the learner’s need, the mobile learning experience will connect the learner to colleagues or their tutor for chat/dialogue based discovery or simply out to the internet for a wider search for reference materials.

3. Both – a blended mix of e-learning, m-learning; traditional learning and indeed as Park puts it, create a programme of ubiquitous learning

4. Matching or catering for the capacity of the learner and their device.

a. what is the learner’s propensity to use m-learning?

b. the mobile’s capacity/specification in itself is an issue to consider (as the world is continuing to go down either iOS/Android or Windows Mobile);

c. being clear about the best way to access the content – i.e. download and store the content on devices -v-  cloud-based connectivity and pull down;

d. field-based or office-based and perhaps most important of all their attitude to mobile learning.

For many people, this will not only be a tricky transition, but something they are not sure they believe is a quality learning experience.  We assert that it most certainly can be and neuroscience research demonstrates this.

By understanding the pedagogical framework for m-learning, we can thank Park for adding elements into the equation that mean it’s not e-learning squeezed into a mobile platform; it’s not broadcast content – it is distance-based, individualized or socialized, it’s low or high transactional content and it very much is the way things should be heading in the future of teaching and learning.

Learning has evolved.

In conclusion, M-learning should become very much part of the teaching / learning of now or at worst the very near future.  Mobile devices have become such a key part of our lives that there is pronounced anxiety when we’re without them.  I hope to see the use of mobiles in teaching and learning, in growth and evolving as people/professional and to connect and collaborate with each other.

At Skill Pill there is a solid belief in this future and Park’s pedagogical framework sets mobile learning apart but is interlinked to all other forms of learning.

For more on the Skill Pill range of optimized mobile learning solutions visit, join us on twitter @skillpill and use our hashtag #rewireyourlearning. 

Author Profile Picture
Gerry Griffin

Company Director

Read more from Gerry Griffin

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