Mobile Learning – Pilot Post

NOTE: This is a follow up from the initial “Mobile Learning” blog post. The objective of this “Mobile Learning” blog series is to identify, explore, and experience “Mobile Learning” through experimental hands-on immersion, and to refute the statements:

“Mobile Learning… never alive to begin with.”

“Mobile Learning… definitely a misnomer!”

Cars whizzed by.

The drivers hardly noticed the short figure jogging down the bicycle trail next to the parkway, as they whizzed by, heading home at the end of the day. If they had taken heed, they would have seen that the jogger was not jogging, but walking… and… swinging her arms up over her head, and down again in a big circular swoop, over, and over again. She was trying out an experiment – how to exercise her arms while jogging, and not just her legs. Her steps and arm swinging motion were continuous, not too slow, not too fast, and quite regularly paced… almost rhythmic. The drivers didn’t care. They just whizzed by.

But the jogger noticed the drivers.

The first driver that drove past was a woman. She had one arm on the wheel. The other arm was wedged on her window sill, holding her cell to her ear. Her lips were animated. it looked like a loud discussion. The jogger could not hear anything, of course. Not just because the car was whizzing by at 45 mph, but because she had ear plugs blasting 1980’s music in her ears.

The second driver who whizzed by was a man. He was not talking on his cell. Instead, he was texting. Tsk! Tsk! Wasn’t that dangerous? But wait. It was a police car. Oh well! Perhaps that is OK then?

The third car was a family-filled minivan. Dad was driving. He was talking on his cell. Mom sat in the passenger seat. She too was on her cell, obviously talking to someone else, not her husband. Two kids and a dog in the back seat. All three watching some type of cartoon on the built-in DVD screen.

The jogger kept noticing each and every vehicle that whizzed by.

The jogger was me.

I kept track – counting the number of vehicles and which ones had occupants using mobile devices – all the way till the bicycle path veered away from the parkway, and down under the bridge. 13 vehicles in total. Of that number, only 2 were “free” from mobile devices. A quick stop. Pulled out my iPhone. Typed the numbers. The calculator app then spit out the stats… 85%…

85% of the vehicles had either the driver, the passenger(s), both, or all occupants, utilizing some form of mobile device.

I found the statistics rather revealing.

Granted, the sample size was only 13. Not much to say about that. I was, after all, in Lincoln, Nebraska, which has a grand total population of only 200K. Plus, the stretch of road where the bicycle trail ran parallel to the parkway, from the spot I started jogging, to the point where the trail diverged, was only about 200 yards.

Still, such a staggering figure… 85%.

But how does this have anything to do with “Mobile Learning”? Just because someone has a cell phone stuck to their ear, does not mean that they are experiencing “Mobile Learning”. But wait. I was jogging. I was mobile. And I learned that 85% of drivers in Lincoln, Nebraska, drive while using a mobile device. Although my statistical data might be skewed and not accurately reflective of the actual population, nevertheless, I learned something new that day. And I was “mobile” at the time of “learning”. So, perhaps I was the one experiencing “Mobile Learning”? Yes, perhaps this counts, I thought to myself.

I kept jogging.

As I looked closely at the bridge underpass, I saw a familiar formula. It was neatly written in white chalk across the grey naked concrete underpass wall. My mind scrambled to search my long term memory, looking for the appropriate schema. Oh yes! I suddenly remembered. Algebra? Pre-calculus? Quadratic equations? Some teenager had obviously been reviewing his/her math formulas at that spot recently. My own son, a junior in high school, had just had his math final exam a day earlier. I tried to imagine what the high school kid who wrote the formula might have been like. He/she was definitely “learning”. Plus, considering the venue – the bicycle trail underpass – he/she was definitely “mobile”. Good for him/her! He/she is definitely a “Mobile Learner”!

I noticed at least 2-3 dozen more (small but interesting) revealing observations throughout my jog. If each observation were counted as a “learning” experience, then, I definitely experienced a lot of “Mobile Learning” that day.

I felt good.

“Mobile Learning… IS alive.”

“Mobile Learning… exists!”

Tune in for more “Mobile Learning” blog posts next week.


Mobile Learning

“Mobile Learning is dead… or maybe, it was never truly alive to begin with.”

The comment came from one of the speakers on the panel discussion. I was one of six panelists invited to speak on a Google Hangout public broadcast. It was interesting to see the comment pop up on the private chat box, which only  panelists and moderators could see on the back-of-house “broadcast” screen. The public chat box, or better known as “comments thread”, was on a separate screen. Being a veteran Adobe Connect user, and (at that time) a novice Google Hangout user, I found the dual chat box format rather clever, but initially confusing. Adobe Connect utilizes a stacked tab-system to separate private chats from the public ones. Much more intuitive, I thought.

“Very true… mobile learning is definitely a misnomer!”

Someone else on the panel had responded. I scrambled to check names. Who had said what? It was tough keeping abreast with the live broadcast discussion, and the behind-the-scenes banter. I eventually ignored the private chatter and focused on being an attentive participatory panelist.

But those comments haunted me after the broadcast was over, and continued to gnaw at my subconscious days after.

“Mobile Learning… never alive to begin with.”

“Mobile Learning… definitely a misnomer!”

Why did Mobile Learning never kick off? What is the definition of Mobile learning anyway? How does one actually engage in Mobile Learning?

The term “Mobile Learning” is such a cliche. “Learning” we all know. It could involve any of the three domains (Blooms, 1956) – Cognitive, Affective, Psychomotor. “Mobile” became a buzz word in the 1990’s with the advent of mobile phones @ cell phones. But the combination of the two words only recently made its big debut in the academic world, when Apple first launched the iPad in 2010. Overnight, everyone who was an anyone was talking about how “Mobile Learning” would revolutionize the world.

It’s been three years since iPad 1.0 first hit the market. Countless tablet PC’s, Android mobile phones, and not to mention multiple versions of iPhones and iPads later, sadly, we still do not see a world revolutionized by “Mobile Learning”.

“There is definitely a lot of learning content available through mobile devices nowadays, but do people actually learn when they are mobile-on-the-go? I think not,” I recall one of the panelists commenting.

I fully agree.

I don’t see too many people engaging in cognitive, affective, or psychomotor online activities on-the-go. Sure, there are a sprinkling of people whom I know who listen to audio-books, a couple of techno-savvy botany students whom I know use their iPhones to look up on Wikipedia whenever they happen to see a plant they don’t recognize, and I only know one person who listens to DIY exercise audio recordings. But overall? Who is truly mobile and learning?

The thought kept haunting me…

One fine night about two weeks after the panel discussion, I suddenly woke up at 3am. The haunting words had gotten the better of me. I woke up and could not go back to bed. It was then I decided… I would embark on an experiment!

As mentioned in an earlier blog, I have always been a proponent for Action Research, and especially partial to the Ethnographic Participant Immersion Methodology (Wolcott, 1973/2002). What better way to learn about “Mobile Learning” than to explore, indulge, and immerse myself in it? In addition, I am a true believer of Discovery “Binge” Learning, so, half-cooked efforts would not suffice in my books. Thus, I decided that I would aim to (eventually) build my stamina to go fully 100% mobile, in all three domains –  cognitive, affective, and psychomotor – but in order to do so, I would need to prime myself first.

My personal natural dominant learning domain is my Affective Domain, with my Cognitive Domain coming in a close second. I always perceive holistically first, before allowing my thinking cap to kick in. Sadly though, having grown up as an asthmatic kid, my Psychomotor Domain has always been lagging far behind. Luckily, being an incorrigible type-A personality, I learned (through the years) numerous coping mechanisms to overcome my physical deficiencies, including developing a spicy hot personality to counter my pint size height and indulging in low impact x-sports such as scuba diving to achieve mind-over-body control.

So, this new goal I gave to myself – “True Mobile Learning” – would need careful pre-planning and pre-training.

To be truly “mobile” I would need to be fit. Why not? I’m not getting any younger, and what better excuse to force myself to pick up jogging. I imagined being asked, “Why are you jogging?”, and my answer would be, “It’s all in the name of Action Research.”

Yes. Sounds good. I liked that.

And that… was how it all began. A haunting thought, eves-dropped from a private chat box during an online broadcast, festered in my subconscious for weeks, and surfaced spontaneously at 3am, on a totally random unimportant day.

I have since then started jogging daily. Each time, I bring my iPhone with me – ear plugs, Pandora, 3G data plan and all. So far, it has been quite enlightening. I have noticed that “learning” does occur, and I am excited to share what I have learned so far. However, I decided to wait till I had jogged more than 10 times before I started blogging about it (to ensure that this was not just a passing fad). In any case, my efforts reached day-10 yesterday. So, from today onwards, I will chart my “Mobile Learning” escapades in this blog.

cropped-i12lolavatar3.jpg I want to Learn On Line… while MOBILE!!!

Link to pilot post in this series.

Designing a new online pedagogy

This blog is in response to a G+ post.

George Station, thanks for pulling me in to this discussion. Wow! I started reading an hour ago, but as I tried to catch up with reading all the linked-references, the discussion keeps unraveling further. Phew! It’s like trying to catch a running train!

Anyway, George asked me to respond to “problems which are hidden in land-based pedagogy”. Here is my response:

Yes, Meg Tufano, I agree, “online can be better than land-based … it is possible”

Yes, Laura Gibbs, you hit the nail right on the head, when a MOOC has “100,000 people… no way discussion board will work … need stream-oriented like Google+ or Twitter or Facebook”

Meg’s opinion is that “ The BEST online course design would have AUTOMATIC small groups…”

FYI, the Stanford Venture Lab platform, now known as NovoEd, has (some of) these functionalities. The platform is designed to allow both “organic” self-assigned groups and “automated” system-assigned groups. Plus, it has “push-notification” capacity for all its discussions.

The MOOC – Designing a New Learning Environment (DNLE), which Laura and I were participants in, utilized this online group tool. Unfortunately, at that time, the platform was still in beta-version, and there were hiccups in both the technology implementation, as well as in the pedagogical design of the group assignment. Also, even though the platform has “push-notification” capacity, (at the time) it did not have the “stream-feed” feature.

However, (I know for a fact that) both the platform programmers (people in NovoED) as well as the teaching team (people in Stanford) have since actively solicited feedback and encouraged ongoing research collaboration with past DNLE participants in effort to fix the pilot-phase hiccups, improve the platform-design, AND explore new online pedagogy-design.

But how far or how effective this “pseudo-crowdsourcing” effort will be, only time will tell…

As Tarak Barkawi in AlJazeera said, “The real story behind MOOCs may be the ways in which they assist management restructuring efforts of core university practices, under the smiley-faced banner of “open access” and assisted in some cases by their “superstar”, camera-ready professors.”

And in order to “restructure core university practices”, we need to ”experiment teaching methods”, as Michael Feldstein pointed out in response to the (now famous) San Jose State University open letter to Harvard, “ Rather than thinking of MOOCs as products to be bought or rejected… approach them as experiments in teaching methods that can be validated, refuted, or refined through the collective efforts of a scholarly community”

As George pointed out, such “collective efforts of scholarly communities” are critical, and  “various [worldwide] PLNs can and do coalesce, we just don’t have formal titles”

But George… we do have a “title”…

…as you pointed out in your earlier post reference, Chris Newfield calls us “the untouchables”… (grin!)

My closing statement:

Meg said  “Technology is NOT this beautiful Mac on which I type, it is in ME, my knowledge and skills”

This reminds me of a quote by Joichi Ito, the Director of MIT’s Media Lab, who believes that “Internet is not a Technology, it’s a Philosophy”  and that one of the tenets of online learning pedagogy is “disobedience over compliance”

On that note,

I call upon all (us) untouchables” to rise and disobey! … go ahead… experiment and explore (our own) experimental online pedagogies… … and if it fails, just keep trying!

Quote Paul Kim “Just do it. Fail fast. Learn from your mistakes. Never quit.”

Image MOOC redefined from GetIDEAS panel discussion on April 24, 2013

Data overload

Does not compute… “Affirmative!”, “Warning! Warning!” (Lost in Space, 1965)

Saturday May 11, 2013 approximately 7pm and counting…

I am sitting at my PC, listening to the rapid “dings” of incoming mail. The current pulse rate is 236 “dings” in the past 3 minutes. The incoming flow of mail does not look like it is going to stop anytime soon.

The IT folks at my workplace started the campus-wide Blackboard system upgrade at 8am today. The webpage announcement said:

Blackboard will be down for maintenance and upgrades from
8 am Central Time Saturday May 11
8 pm Central Time Saturday May 11

The Massive Avalanche of Announcements and Notifications (MAAN?) started coming in from the Blackboard-system-gone-wild about 15 minutes ago. At first, I thought these were bona fide announcements from my system administrator, telling me that I can now access Blackboard again. I was actually looking forward to being able to get back online, as I have two courses starting on Monday, which I only found out about a couple of days ago. Don’t we all just love last minute assignments? So, if Blackboard was turned back on again now, I would at least have 24 hours of work time before my courses go “live”.

But instead of receiving “happy” news of a successful new Blackboard upgrade, I received a Massive Avalanche of Annoying Automated Announcements and Notifications (MAAAAaN?!!).

I’m not a “real” techie person. I use technology. I am in awe of technology. I believe that technology can help humans be more efficient. But do I like technology? Not always. And right now, I think I’m squarely standing on the negative side of that divide. My email inbox is TOTALLY drowned by the steady inflow of uncontrollable incoming automated digital vomit. I don’t even know if I have “real” incoming email that might have inevitably gotten “stuck” in between these hundreds of incoming “fake” emails. I can only pray that anyone who might have emailed me in the past half hour does not expect me to reply (or even find) their email anytime soon.

What a week this week has been!

What a “wonderful” end to this week! (sarcastic slur)

Last weekend was a re-baptism of fire for me. If my memory is accurate, the last time I wrote an academic paper was about 5-6 years ago. Now, I am not counting those articles that I co-authored with my former students, or the perfunctory papers that I wrote when submitting reports or proposals. What I am talking about is writing something that someone else will scrutinize and make you re-write, and re-write, and re-write until it makes sense. You know, dotting your i’s, crossing your t’s, and making sure the (freaking) bibliography is APA format.

You sure get your ego bruised when you haven’t had someone knocking off your corners in awhile! But I should not complain. I got the (darned) paper written, and I’m happy with the product. Better than what I would have settled for without the “help”.

How does this relate to my blog theme?

cropped-i12lolavatar3.jpg I Want to Learn On Line…

Well, for one, this was the first time I learned “fully” online… one-on-one in an intensive manner from someone whom I have never met face-to-face in person. For all my experience working online, designing courses online, facilitating others in the online learning environment, teaching others how to work online, guiding students how to be successful learning online…. yet… I had never in my life personally actually experienced first-hand receiving “academic-tutoring” of this nature… intensive, personal, and in a fully “pure” online form.

Vygotsky (1978) said that humans are capable of learning beyond their normal capacity and produce a much higher learning output, if given guidance by an expert. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is that ephemeral, intangible, undefinable, super powerful space in which we feel electrified and empowered, not because of what we already know, but because we are made to believe we know, by someone we “trust”.

I looked up the definition of “trust”. A quick check through Google led me to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Out of the 11,270+ words the webpage spewed at me, this sentence stood out:

“Trust also involves the risk that people we trust will not pull through for us; for, if there were some guarantee that they would pull through, then we would have no need to trust them.”

I found that statement interesting, especially in the context of Learning On Line. Not only did I have to “trust” the person who was in the ZPD mode together with me, but I also needed to “trust” the ZPD space itself… the “online” mode that we were both in.

During my 3-day intensive ZPD online tutoring session last weekend, I had a grand total of only 6 hours sleep. This bodily function deprivation, amplified by the intoxication from steroids and Codeine that my doctor had prescribed for my recently diagnosed bronchitis, needless to say, was NOT good. To add to the stress, somewhere in between time zone differences, switching email addresses, and toggling different transmission devices (laptop, desktop, iPad, and iPhone), I inevitably experienced emails being sent, received and read in mixed-up sequence. One email even got “lost” in cyberspace, and only “found” 2 days later, long after confusion, irritation, and diffusion had arisen and dissipated.

Yet, it worked out in the end. “Trust” is indeed an important ingredient in ZPD, especially in online-ZPD.

OK. This blog is getting too long… Let’s not make it a case of  (too long, didn’t read). So, let me wrap it up…

In a nutshell, my week did not slow down. The paper was written and submitted on Monday. I slept like a baby that night, but woke up early on Tuesday for another rush job by Wednesday. Mid-day on Tuesday, I took a quick 2-hour break to give my older son a ride to the airport. His first time traveling internationally by himself. Freshman in college. 3-month internship abroad. After checking in his luggage, we detoured for quick lunch and mommy-pep-talk. I felt guilty that I hadn’t spent much time with him over the weekend before his departure (thanks to my intensive 72-hour charrette ZPD online learning session). Then, after lunch, I felt as if God had sentenced punishment on me for being such a negligent mom, as I received a parking ticket during lunch. Oh well! I guess I deserved it. Quickly shrugged it off, went back to my office, and flew through Tuesday-Wednesday in a flurry of work, but made sure I made effort to have a sit-down dinner with my other son. Didn’t want to get any more reminders from The Man Above, that I was forgetting my parental duties!

The next day, I pulled another 24 hour no-sleep-charrette, in time to prepare and present at a symposium on Friday, yesterday. After the symposium, in effort to wind down, I went for a “loud” walk on the bike trail with a colleague (“loud” meaning – we walked, talked, and giggled like teenage girls on top of our voices – despite the fact that we are both closer to 50 than 40). We then cooked Spanish omelets, ate too much, and called it a night. I went for another nature walk today, this time alone, and listened to Pandora on my iPhone throughout. Came home, ready to build my two online courses in time for Monday, but instead, was welcomed back to the online learning environment by the rapid pulse “dings” of incoming Massive Avalanche of Annoying Automated Announcements and Notifications (MAAAAaN?!!).

Wait… I think it has stopped. Let me check.

I just read two emails from my workplace system administrator:

The first was a reply to my earlier email (I had notified my system administrator of the Blackboard-gone-wild issue):

“I found the problem and have turned it back off. Thanks Roz!”

The second was (yet) another mass email, but this time, a very welcomed announcement:

“Blackboard is back up and running. A notifications setting was turned on, which may have caused a sting of e-mails to be sent concerning courses in which you’re enrolled. That setting has been turned back off and the e-mails will stop. Feel free to use Blackboard as usual and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for your patience during the upgrade.”

End of blog.

Now begins my next 24 hour charrette…. 🙂

Happy Mother’s Day, to all Online Moms!!!

Note: picture of the flowers from my son… ordered online from abroad…