Mobile Learning

For as long as I have had an interest in technology, there has been this recurrent discursive that it is in fact something that disrupts the way in which we learn, that it should be excused for its rudeness by which it interrupts an educators "flow", that those bearing such technologies should excuse themselves from interjecting amongst what is a pantomime led by the font of knowledge - the teacher.

You will notice I used the term 'bearing' in the paragraph above ...as the focus of a mobile networked ecology doesn't differentiate between hand-held, pocket deposited, head worn or any other of mobile accessible combination for a networked technology. Upon graduating from high school and studying at higher education facilities I soon learned of the gradual development and commercial, statuary and eventual domestic technology release of the mobile telephone. 

My first engagement with wearable mobile (luggable and bearable technologies) though was as a Protection Care Worker and Education Officer with the Department of Family and Children welfare services, principally an integrated body worn mobile and pager alert device in 1992 and by 1996 I had my own car phone and luggable Nokia ‘brick’ phone which had an incredibly strong CDMA signal.

I recall the account was paid for by the Department of Family & Children Services at the time and with a princely monthly rate of $20 per month with unlimited calls to any other Australian connected CDMA device on the same network. I had in my charge Wards of the State and my role was to investigate truancy (in conjunction with police), on call incidents, juvenile justice programs all which depended on highly dependable mobile telephony systems. 

By 1998 I owned my first digital Canon camera and also my first Nokia phone which did not yet have an inbuilt camera yet had a screen, games, calculator and the ability to send and receive SMS messages. It wasn’t long before I noted everyone avidly purchasing mobile phones and gradually abandoning their cameras in preference for a smartphone technology that gave birth to my awareness of converging technologies.

I recall also wearing network connected, satellite body worn magnetometers as part of my role with mining company projects in and around Meekatharra, WA prospecting for vanadium and iron ore deposits in 1998 - 2000.

So I began thinking of it differently around 1998 when I first began using mobile phones to communicate with base stations, regarding the whereabouts of myself and what was happening right there and then at a time when everything was in analogue. It was a revelation to conduct my work activities using a CDMA signal and start thinking of being a network sentinent, a being with an ID number rather than Alexander Hayes, Academic Tutor, Education Officer, PC Officer and the soft cell information gatherer for social workers.

To me it seemed that mobile technologies opened up the internet to being 'on' the person rather than separate to them, that finally we could as humans connect in what I termed to be a 'mobology' - a mobile ecology, whereby each node in the network had the capacity to contribute, to collaborate and ultimately to control what was happening elsewhere in real time.

mobology.jpg

I started using the #tag of #mobology everywhere I went and soon it became synonymous with me, a digital identity through which I could capture, tag and ultimately pull forward data in time, that by using search engines that our history was as much technology mediated as it was futures driven.

In early 2000 I started using the CDMA mobile phone I had issued to send messages to other users who had the same handset and by 2002 - 2003 to use SMS messaging within an educational context - communicating with students in live time using SMS portals to engage in activities either controlled by SMS or respondent to SMS messaging in return.

Inspired by the works and thinking of Howard Rheingold and his SmartMobs project I began directly encouraging an 'always on classroom' where I told my students it was cool to preference their mobile interactions in my classroom over that of my scheduled activities...in fact the mobile technologies soon became the focus of all activities of the curriculum.

In late 2003 - 2005 I was involved in a number of Australian Flexible Learning Projects (AFLF) that sought to extend the parameters of 'm-learning' to encompass educative arrangement, principally bringing educational content to mobile and networked enabled technology - internet enabled wearable technology.

I travelled extensively around Australia between 2002 and 2004 funded by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (AFLF) working with educational organisations from most sectors as they sought ways to engage learners using online and mobile learning, mlearning.

In March 2004 with three other colleagues I formed the Australian Mobile Learning Network (AMLN) and conducted national and international research activities with a number of vocational training providers, industry experts and peak bodies to investigate the use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in the educational setting. In late 2004 I conducted a range of research activities with rural and remote Aboriginal Australian communities in conjunction with lead Telco's and national educational organisations.

These many projects explored the interface between body worn cameras and educational repositories which logged a range of metadata including time, date, location, wearer identity. 

"...The innovative practice that we intend to solve or to implement is to look at the nature of mobile technologies and any other supporting technologies that allow the student to engage with the lecturer, the assessor or the program itself and in a way that encompasses their needs to be mobile and also how it supplements or adds to the technology  their learning styles whether it be on campus or online.  The problems that we wish to solve and also investigate are the nature of what scope we have in terms of what is available in terms of the network coverage for students and whereabouts they access this information.  And also how to identify and identify the needs of those users in terms of  the technologies that they possess themselves, that is the different types of phones, the networks they are connected to and their participation in other learning strategies which may incorporate mobile technology."  Alexander Hayes (2004) 'TxtMe Project' February 2004

By 2004 I was engaged in an Australian Flexible Learning Framework project ' TxtMe' ' - http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/350/894 - that was examining the manner within which seemingly disengaged students used messaging or at least what we had intended to try and influence. At that time I engaged with the TALO network and started thinking through the concept of 'educative arrangement' whereby instead of thinking of educational institutions as the centre or locus of learning that in fact learning had become distributed by the very nature of the internet.

mobdeadly

Very Illich driven, therefore an educators role was nothing other than another node in an educative arrangement - that learner led educational experience allowed for experts or leaders in the field to interact with learners in a networked context rather than a localised context.

By 2005 I was out in the great Sandy Desert of Australia 'seeing' - http://moblog.net/mobdeadly

I have detailed the most memorable trips to regional and remote Western Australia which was captured and remains accessible online at http://moblog.net/mobdeadly/

On the 6th September 2005 I sat in the Parnngurr Aboriginal Community School located in the Great Sandy Desert of Western Australia and tried desperately to find an internet connection using an intermittent satellite connection from Punmu community due north-west, sweat pouring down my back in almost unspeakably hot conditions.

The trip the day, afternoon and evening before from the mining community of Newman, Western Australia down the Talawana Track was the first insight for me as a city born and bred education technologist that reports of ‘no available’ connection in remote communities were indeed correct. If this was the case I thought to myself as I bounced around in the dust filled four wheel drive troop carrier, then how did anyone communicate on a day to day basis especially across such vast distances?

With a box of now seemingly useless cell phones and the latest O2 XDA Personal Digital Assistant rendered to a glorified gaming console, my questions regarding WIFI connection when we arrived at the community were met with a deep chuckle. I soon realised that meeting the project outcomes for an Australian Flexible Learning Framework (AFLF) project exploring the using of mobile blogging or moblogging had become almost unattainable.

I soon learned from my colleague who had remained noticeably more silent as we drove from regional town to the remote community that communication, discussion and activities that related to my whereabouts were all reportable to the Community Manager. It was also made clear to me in no uncertain terms that alcohol that I had tucked away in my travelbag was strictly prohibited in the community and that I was not to visit any part of the community without permission from either the Community Manager or the School Principal.

I sat perplexed with questions flooding my mind as it dawned on me the levels to what these social addictions had become in my life. How would I cope without internet connection? With no GSM coverage how would I manage to connect with anyone using SMS or more importantly MMS packeting of the photos that I had still covertly stored on my phone?

The frontier of networked communication for the average capitalist consumer had evidently not yet arrived in Parnngurr and therein that capitalist rhetoric, that one seemingly innocent expression lay the answer and the challenge which still faces many communities in Australia.

In retrospect, many years later, I realised that the paradox of my engagement with the Parnngurr community lay in my struggle for network connection which had rendered me physically mute and unaware to what was happening physically around me. Despite my ignorance, the Mobdeadly moblog is a testament to the values of Aboriginal community for connection that counteract the ideological discourse and continued intervention western society imposes on traditional Aboriginal custodians on country.

The creative inception of using a moblog for pedagogical purpose laid the foundations for my research into the socio-ethical implications of handheld, wearable and body worn technologies in an educational context and more broadly on society. Despite the technical complexities of information systems and engineering which support the use and uptake of these technologies, a qualitative and predictive ethnography from key stakeholders in government, non government and industry was determined as most productive for gathering intelligence and evidence of the apparent trajectory of a western contemporaneous technological determinism, a Singularity.

I expanded further on that concept of educative arrangement to be more likened to 'architectures of participation' which I spoke to here - http://www.slideshare.net/alexanderhayes/architectures-of-participation-2007

By 2007 I was leading initiatives that explored the notions of mobile learning ( in the hand and in the head) as what became popularly known as 'mlearning' engaging and interacting with people worldwide on these notions of networked mobile hybridity.

As they say the rest is history. I began using Facebook in 2007.

Repeatedly trying to break the damn thing.

Mobile learning became synonymous with learning when PDA's gave way for flip phones and Web 2.0 brought forward a zillion floppy names, apps and a multitude of ways to socialise. 

The term 'mobology' resonates clearly for me as a stage in my life where everything that I interacted with became life-logged...but that's another chapter in it's own right.