David McGillivray

Professor, interested in events, culture, digital participation & sport.


Mobility in Education: Redefining Learning Tasks

On Friday I attended a session at the University of Edinburgh hosted by Apple on mobility in education (not students changing courses!). I was representing my institution at the event but there were a number of issues which are worth drawing to your attention as the vision of student mobility presented could transform the HE Learning & Teaching Environment. First, you might want to access my immediate thoughts on the event (as I walked back to the train station), recorded on IPadio (http://ipad.io/YHg). Apologies for the traffic noise!

First, some stats were presented which were pretty revelatory for HEIs. Drawing on 2009 figures, Andy Nagle, Sales Manager for the North (including Scotland) indicated that 51% of HE students had a smartphone. Impressive by itself. More importantly (or worryingly) for HEIs only 11% of these students use their smartphones for course-related activity. That ‘gap’ can only be narrowed by providing educational content which is smartphone-friendly. This tells us that we are increasingly moving towards a post-pc world whereby content goes mobile immediately and students have access to information instantly. If this is the case, then we need to think about how universities can make their educational materials available, shareable and (perhaps) modifiable so that we transform learning. Andy Nagle also talked about ‘substitution, augmentation, modification & redefinition’ as crucial in educational settings. Substitution might simply refer to moving from handwritten exams to typed ones. Augmentation could be moving from basic word-processing to using spellcheck or grammar checks. Still not transformative. Modification refers to task re-design – for example, embedding video, photos or multimedia in assessments. We’re moving towards a new model of pedagogy here. Redefinition (the transformative space) refers to new tasks being generated through an engagement with technology. This might be posting content online, sharing that content, co-creation of documents etc. In short, universities need to aim for redefinition, using readily available technologies (this is essentially a pedagogical debate) so that our institutional learning more closely matches what our students already do. We can’t close down systems without thinking very carefully about it because ‘turned off devices = turned off students’. I interpret this as bring concerned with embracing the students’ own models of sociality but using it for greater educational engagement. As Andy Nagle concluded ‘my content, any time, any place, anywhere’. Thoughts?


David McGillivray • March 29, 2011

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