Teaching & Learning with Mobile Technologies Summer Vodcast Series
IAmLearn's Dr. Rob Power chats with experts from the International Association for Mobile Learning in this series of live (15-20 minutes each) vodcasts covering topics about Teaching & Learning with Mobile Technologies. Feel free to tune in for the live broadcasts at the dates and times listed, or view the recordings anytime afterwards. Pre-registration is not required.
"Effect of ban on phones adds up to equivalent of extra week
of classes over a pupil’s school year" (Doward, 2015)
But, they’re not troubling for the obvious reason presented
in the story. The premise of the story (and the research on which it was based)
was that mobile devices are distracting students to the level of significant
lost instructional time. And if schools want to see better test scores, then
they had better start banning mobile devices. No. This is not the problem.
A blanket ban on mobile devices because they distract
learners is just the latest in a centuries-old trend of resisting technological
change out of fear of the unknown. Steve Howard (2012, July 14) pointed out
that as far back as 1815 a school principal fought against the introduction of
paper and ink, and lamented that:
Students today depend on
paper too much. They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting
chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly.
What will they do when they run out of paper?
If we want to leverage new technologies to enhance learning
experiences and bridge current inequities in the classroom, then we cannot
succumb to knee-jerk reactions to alarmist statistics. As Homer Simpson once
(Source: METTL, 2015)
What IS troubling with this story (and research) are the
questions that were NOT asked. The research shows an increase in achievement
across ALL schools that have banned mobile devices versus ALL schools that
allow them. BUT, no attempt is made to look at schools that actually plan for
mobile technology integration. It could be that the majority of the schools
polled have no such plans, in which case the argument that mobile devices only
serve to distract students is likely true. But what of schools that have coordinated
their technological infrastructure and pedagogical strategies to leverage
mobile devices within the curriculum?
I have predicated my mobile learning research to date on the
problem that teachers and schools are the barriers to effective integration of
mobile technologies because they lack confidence in the technology. The problem
is NOT that mobile devices are allowed into schools. The problem is that we are
not preparing teachers and schools for an environment of ubiquitous access to
technology. From my dissertation (Power, 2015, p. 11):
Ally (2014) noted that teacher
training continues to be based on an outdated education system model that does
not adequately prepare teachers to integrate mobile technologies into teaching
practice. Lack of training in the pedagogical considerations for the
integration of a specific type of technology can have a negative impact upon
teachers’ perceptions of self-efficacy (Kenny et al, 2010).
Technology will never replace good teachers. But technology
can make good teachers better. Better teacher (and school) preparation will
enable educators to make instructional design decisions that incorporate
technology, and increase student engagement and access to learning
opportunities and resources. My research has shown that professional
development focused on scaffolding technology integration in the context of
desired learning outcomes and appropriate pedagogical decisions does increase
teachers’ interest and confidence in using educational technology. If teachers
are interested, and plan how they will leverage technology in the classroom,
then distraction will decrease and learning will improve.
However, preparing teachers to leverage educational
technology is not enough. We must also prepare students. Yes, if you let
students who have had no guidance access mobile devices, then there is huge
potential for them to be distracted. But, if you teach them digital citizenship
and responsible use, there is less likelihood of distraction. And they will be
better prepared for a world with near universal technology permeation. You
cannot teach digital citizenship or responsible technology use with black and
white policies of either banning all devices, or letting them all in.
Unfortunately, the information technology support departments (and bureaucracies)
of too many school systems (and higher education institutions) still operate with
Acceptable Use Policies, which explicitly detail what is permissible and what
is not. In contrast, Responsible Use Policies focus on making appropriate
decisions about when and how to use technology. (Joe Countryman, Mary-Ann
Vardakas & Melissa Taffe did a presentation on this, and prepared a wikipage about it for a Problem-Based Learning activity in the Digital Tools for Knowledge Construction course I teach at University of Ontario Institute of Technology.)
Before policy makers, or the public at large, jump to the
conclusion that the statistics presented in the Guardian (and also on CNN)
point to the need for an outright ban on mobile devices in education, a number
of questions should be considered:
How do students perform at schools that have planned for
mobile technology integration?
How do students perform in classes where teachers have been
prepared to make effective educational technology integration choices?
What factors are creating barriers to effectively leveraging
mobile technologies in the schools polled in this research? And what can be
done to overcome those barriers?
I do not think that the key to improving learning in schools
is to ban access to technology, as the Guardian story would lead readers to
conclude. Rather, I see the issues raised by this story (and research) as
lending support to the need for more research and funding to support planned
approaches to educational technology integration. To solve these problems, and
the issues raised in the Guardian story, we need to:
Better prepare teachers to integrate technology in teaching
and learning practice
Teach digital literacy and digital citizenship
Adopt Responsible Use policies
Ally, M. &
Prieto-Blázquez, J. (2014). What is the future of mobile learning in education?
Mobile Learning Applications in Higher
Education [Special Section]. Revista de Universidad y Sociedad del Conocimiento
(RUSC), 11(1), 142-151. doi http://doi.dx.org/10.7238/rusc.v11i1.2033
Kenny, R.F., Park,
C.L., Van Neste-Kenny, J.M.C., & Burton, P.A. (2010). Mobile self-efficacy
in Canadian nursing education programs. In M. Montebello, V. Camilleri and A.
Dingli (Eds.), Proceedings of mLearn
2010, the 9th World Conference on Mobile Learning, Valletta, Malta.
The second module of #EDUC5101G (Digital Tools for Knowledge Construction) @uoitmed looks at analyzing and categorizing online digital tools
and systems for education. I figured that I would start course participants off
by compiling an off-the-cuff (and far from exhaustive!) list of types of online
digital tools frequently used by teachers and learners. I’ve also posed a few
questions for consideration in the Week 3 round of blog posts.
Types of Online
Digital Tools and Systems for Education:
Learning Management Systems (LMSs)
Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs)
Reusable Learning Objects (RLOs)
Learning Object Repositories
Academic and Scientific Databases
Resource Storage / Sharing
Web Authoring and Hosting
Graphics and Images
Multimedia Hosting / Publishing
Data Collection and Analysis
Data Analysis Tools
Environmental Data Collection
Week 3 Blogging
Considering the (far from exhaustive) list of types of
online digital tools:
What types of tools do you think are missing?
What types of tools from the list have you used as a
teacher? As a student? (Can you provide examples?)
Which of those tools have you found most (and least) useful
as a teacher? As a student? Why?
Which types of tools from the list have you NOT personally
used as a teacher or student? Why?
Find an example of that type of tool that might be useful in
your personal teaching / learning context.
What would be your first questions / steps when evaluating
how (or if) you would use such an online tool? (We’ll be looking at more formal
assessment strategies for digital tools over the next few weeks!)
My online wanderings brought me to two interestingly
connected “places” yesterday. The first was the homepage of IRRODL (a journal I
frequently read, and highly recommend). The second was a set of comments posted
to one of my UOIT MEd student’s blog sites. I’ve been debating what these two
places mean. And I want to invite the participants in #EDUC5101G and #EDUC5103G
(and anyone else) into that conversation.
First, I read about how IRRODL has updated its name from the
International Review of Research in Open
and Distance Learning to the International
Journal of Open and Distributed
Learning – a change prompted by the evolving landscape of educational
technology, and a shift away from the negative, “exclusive” connotations of the
term “distance” learning towards the more “inclusive” connotations of “distributed”
learning. “Distance” learning implies (rightly or wrongly) that there is are transactional
distances imposed upon the learner – it implies that somehow they are being
disadvantaged, and that efforts are required to remediate those distances. “Distributed”
learning implies that educational technologies are being leveraged to the
advantage of the learner. A small change in word choice, with huge implications
for educational technology discourse and public perception. A change that
echoes my observations in my doctoral dissertation (2015, pp. 14-15) that
As technologies available for the
mediation of teaching and learning evolve, the distinctions between traditional
face-to-face education, distance education, and mobile learning are beginning
to disappear. This trend is described as ubiquitous learning, where learning “anywhere,
anytime” is supported through advances in one-to-one computing technologies,
including mobile devices (Education-2025, 2013). Wheeler (2014) advised that if
educational institutions such as universities are to continue to meet the needs
of changing learner demographics, they should place more emphasis on the use of
technology to facilitate blended and distributed approaches to teaching and
learning… Ally (2014) also noted that teachers need to be better prepared to
integrate new technologies into teaching and learning practices.
Second, I read conversations in comments on a student blog
site about the limits of distributed learning (I’ve chosen to follow my
colleagues at IRRODL and adopt that term). James Elsdon remarked on Kenneth Van
Dewark’s blog that there are some professional training areas where “online
education [can be] difficult to carry out effectively.” He noted how some
professions (such as law) may even impose bans on accreditation of online
training programs. James also remarked that STEM degrees (Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics) are difficult to deliver through online avenues.
What I’d like for participants in #EDUC5101G and #EDUC5103G to consider it
whether or not these limitations to the effective scope of distributed learning
or real, or just perceptions. Having spent 10 years in the Middle East, I saw
that these perceptions were widely held. But they were misinformed perceptions.
They were based on beliefs that:
“distance” learning meant no meaningful learning activity
(just readings packages and essays);
it was easy for learners to cheat, and difficult to
ascertain the veracity of a graduate’s credentials; and
that online learning was wholly inferior to, and a poor substitute
for face-to-face training.
I even heard anecdotal reports that some major
post-secondary institutions in the region refused to acknowledge any
credentials (for faculty) that were awarded by (even reputable, government
regulated and independently accredited) online institutions. But over the
course of 10 years I watched as those perceptions changed. I began to see
institutions and government ministries welcome online credentials, and start
looking to them as viable training alternatives in their increasingly
knowledge-based economies. I’ve seen the volume of literature on investigations
into the efficacy (and perceptions) of distributed learning increase
dramatically in recent years.
I’m still wondering about comments that law societies oppose
online learning because they feel that “the ‘Socratic methods of teaching and
learning’… cannot be achieved through the delivery of online classes.” Do traditional
lecture halls also impose transactional distances upon learners (because they
are historically rooted in passive reception of content transmitted by an
expert)? Do modern educational technologies empower learners by facilitating
(not guaranteeing) increased Socratic engagement? Does the assertion that a
particular field cannot be studied through distributed methods come from sound
educational theory and practice? Or does it come from misperception and fear of
the unknown or, worse, elitist protectionism?
I’m also still wondering about comments about STEM degrees
and medical training. In particular, I’m curious what my students think about
the perception that some areas of study, such as education, are better suited
to distributed learning. Do educators not also deal with ‘real people?’ Are we
not also required to interact with (even if mediated via technology) learners?
And do our professional actions not also have profound consequences? Yes –
there are some things that require one-on-one guidance during training and credentialing,
simply because they involve real and immediate danger. But, are educational
technologies evolving to the point that such danger can be mitigated, and
one-on-one guidance effectively distributed? Look at the example of using
Google Cardboard and virtual reality (VR) to figure out, in advance, how best
to approach a unique and difficult surgical procedure. What about the
possibilities of using Google Glass (or other augmented reality (AR)) platforms
to establish a remote expert presence?
My task now for participants in #EDUC5101G and #EDUC5103G is
this – Join this conversation. Respond to these observations, musings, and
concerns. #EDUC5101G students should consider this a ‘challenge’ for their Week
2 blog posts:
What does the change in discourse from “distance” learning
to open and “distributed” learning mean?
Are some areas better suited to distributed learning than
Are there examples (in Canada, or internationally) of
successful use of distributed teaching and learning methods to facilitate more
challenging (i.e. Law, Medicine, STEM) subject areas?
What technologies and methods are emerging that could break
down barriers that might still exist to distributed learning in some subject
I’m looking forward to seeing where this conversation takes
Ally, M. & Prieto-Blázquez, J. (2014). What is the future of mobile
learning in education? Mobile Learning
Applications in Higher Education [Special Section]. Revista de Universidad y
Sociedad del Conocimiento (RUSC), 11(1), 142-151. doi http://doi.dx.org/10.7238/rusc.v11i1.2033
It’s been a year (since Jan 14, 2015) since I defended my
EdD dissertation (online via Adobe Connect). Since then, I’ve co-led a MOOC,
and participated in some webinar and conference presentations. But this week
marked the first time in over a year that I stepped back into an Adobe Connect
classroom. I lead my first three-hour synchronous sessions for two MEd courses
that I’m teaching at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
Amazingly, there were no major technical glitches across six hours of live
interaction. My experiences this week were exhilarating – not just from the
standpoint that I’ve embarked on a new journey in my professional career, but
also because they reminded me that I, too, am along for the ride as a lifelong
I prepared for my first week of #EDUC5101G and #EDUC5103G by
creating a pair of course websites using free online tools outside of UOIT’s
LMS. And I made a point of explaining to course participants just why I did
that. I’ve had a lot of experience building courses in different LMS platforms,
so I know their strengths and limitations. My choice of Weebly to build my
course sites was prompted by:
A desire to demonstrate the power of concentrating on
instructional design instead of fretting over the mechanics of an unfamiliar
(Blackboard is one LMS that I have not personally used. And one of
the main points of my dissertation was that cognitive overload associated with
learning new tech contributes to teacher’s perceptions of low self-efficacy. Conversely,
focusing on learning outcomes and instructional design elements helps increase
self-efficacy when working with educational technology – and specific tools are
secondary to instructional design (and come and go.)
A desire to demonstrate the power of what can be done using
free online tools, which every teacher can access.
(After all, not all of my
course participants will have the same (if any) LMS at their disposal at their
A desire to capitalize on the interactivities enabled by
BootstrapUI, which is foundational to the Weebly platform
(but difficult to
integrate into LMS content pages without extensive coding experience and, in
most cases, administrative rights on the platform).
The fact that Weebly-hosted sites are mobile-responsive
(meaning that accessibility is increased for course participants, and I did not
need to draw upon my coding skills to ensure device interoperability).
I also prepared for my UOIT courses by building in a mix of synchronous
and asynchronous, as well as individual and group learning activities. When it
came to the logistics of the group activities, I tried to be both pragmatic and
equitable. And I learned that it can be difficult to get that balance just
right. On the pragmatic side, I needed to get things rolling pretty quickly
with the formation of teams and the selection of group assignment topics. This
can be a challenge when you are not meeting with your students face to face
every other day, so I embedded a free online tool into the course websites
to show participants ways of randomly assigning people to teams during a
synchronous online class. During my first Adobe Connect session, I polled the
participants to get a feel for whether or not they’d be ok with random group
assignment (and it turned out that they were overwhelmingly in favor of that
approach). Perhaps a simple oversight – but I skipped that step during my
second Adobe Connect class. I know that adult learners need to feel in control
of their learning experiences, and that random assignment to a team for a
learning activity can take away some of that sense of control. It appears that
most participants are happy with their teams and with being randomly assigned.
But, I’ve learned that the simple step of asking their preference in advance
can go a long way to mitigating adult learners’ anxieties associated with lack
of control or choice. So, I’ll make every not to skip that step next time
That said, on the equity side of things, I did take steps
allow teams to choose their topics and presentation dates. This was a
particular challenge in my second class, where each presents only once during
the term (they’ll actually be leading a one-hour Adobe Connect learning
activity, in addition to building associated online resources). So, if each
group presents only once, how do you show equity in choosing the topics and
dates? I took a two-step process. First, after forming the teams and assigning
each team a number, I used another free online resource to “cast lots,” and
generate a random order in which the teams would get to make their selection.
Then I directed each team to a Doodle poll. To add an extra measure of
fairness, I did allow for up to two teams to choose the same date and general
topic. It’ll be interesting to see if any of the course participants posts
their thoughts on how that part of the process went (or includes their thoughts
in their learning reflection assignments).
Overall, here are my takeaways from my first week teaching
online with UOIT:
Integrate as many communications channels as possible, even
when using an external resource to build your course site, BUT
Limit the channels that are considered ‘official,’ and that
will be analyzed when assessing student participation.
Don’t forget to turn on your webcam for a few minutes at the
start of the synchronous class. It helps to establish teacher presence, and to
humanize the online learning experience. BUT
Don’t keep your webcam on for too long. It becomes
distracting. And it eats up participants’ bandwidth.
Be as equitable as possible. Offer choice when possible. BUT
Be pragmatic. Realize the limitations of time and
interaction in a synchronous online event, and be prepared with tools to
accommodate for those limitations.
AND – always remember that technology-based tools could
freeze up or fail during a live session. Don’t let that phase you. Roll with
it. Learn from it. And move along with another approach!
Looking at the date of my last post, it’s obvious that it
has been a while since I last ‘blogged’ (at least, long form!). It’s not that I
don’t see the value of blogging for an educator. I do. I believe that it is a
great tool for both personal reflection, and sharing. My last blog post was in
November 2014, when I was in Istanbul, Turkey, for mLearn 2014. Anyone who
knows me is well aware of the challenges that befell my family shortly after
returning from that conference. Long story short – since then my family has
travelled over 20-thousand km from Doha, Qatar (where I was working as an
Instructional Developer with the Advanced Learning Technologies Centre at
College of the North Atlantic-Qatar).
The Corniche (waterfront) in Doha, Qatar
We journeyed first St. John’s, Newfoundland, and
then, finally, to Surrey, BC. Professionally speaking, I’ve been blessed. I’m
now working as the Leader, Online Learning, with the Fraser Health Authority.
And, I’ve accepted a teaching appointment as an Adjunct Professor of
Educational Technology with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology
(UOIT). It’s the latter that has prompted me to ‘hit the keyboard’ with this
blog once again.
I’m teaching two courses with UOIT this term: EDUC 5101 G(Digital Tools for Knowledge Construction) and EDUC 5103 G (Online Technologyin Education). Particularly in EDUC 5101 G, I’m promoting the use of blogging
for reflective practice (as a form of knowledge construction). I’ve asked
course participants to post at least one original blog post per week, and to
respond to at least two other classmates’ posts. I figure that I had better
lead by example! My hope is to post at least once a week this term. And my
objectives are threefold. First, I want to lead by example, and demonstrate the
use of blogging for personal reflection (I’ll be reflecting on what I’m
learning as an educator during my first official term with UOIT). Second, I
want to demonstrate the use of blogging for sharing – sharing personal goals,
problems, solutions, and expertise (something which I would like course
participants to start doing, if they don’t already, as emerging leaders in the
field of educational technology). And, third, I want to continue to build my
PLN. What is a PLN?
A PLN is a Personal Learning Network. It’s the combination
of formal and informal professional communities of practice that I’ve built,
and maintain, through digital technologies. I’ve made a lot of great
connections through my online presences, which would have otherwise been
impossible. And I’ve learned a lot (and shared a lot) through those
communities. My PLN has also been instrumental in my career progression. As an
online learner (and educator), one of the first places to start with building
(or expanding) a PLN is my online class roster. I hope to use blogging, as well
as Twitter and other channels, to forge mutual collaborative learning
relationships that extend beyond the 12 weeks of this term. This is the reason
why I’ve asked my course participants to share links to their public blogs, and
why I’ve posted the course websites outside of the locked-down LMS. I want my
courses this term to be starting points (home bases, if you will) that we can
return to whenever we need… not fixed duration experiences.
Classes for EDUC 5101 G and EDUC 5103 G officially start
this week. With that in mind, here are just a few resources that I’ve found
that might be useful to participants who are just starting in the blogosphere:
And, remember, blogging doesn’t need to be exclusively
long-form. I’m a huge fan of micro-blogging. I do that through my Twitter feed
@xPat_Letters. And you can follow our course conversations on Twitter using the
hashtags #EDUC5101G and #EDUC5103G.