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3 May 2009 / erikduval

Rencontre d’amis au bord de la mer du Nord – the essence of mobile learning..

I get many nice requests to come speak or participate in a discussion. I value and feel honored by each of those – really – and often regret it deeply when I cannot accept an invitation. When I received an invitation under the title of ‘Rencontre d’amis au bord de la mer du Nord’ (gathering of friends on the shores of the North Sea), I soon realized that it was a bit ‘different’ – not only because of the nice title.

Yes, the room was great (the view, the coffee, the fruit, …). So were the people. But the thing that charmed me most was the plan:

  • collect: each participant got 10 minutes to present his views on mobile learning;
  • connect: each got to ask one question to one of the other participants;
  • conclude: each defines one conclusion that was not part of his original statement;
  • culinary: we all went for a nice lunch to continue the conversation – sorry, seems like I’m stuck in ‘C mode’ 😉

In order to prepare the meeting, I developed a simple mindmap:


And, of course, I tweeted to take advantage of the collective intelligence – now included under ‘also’ on the mind map.

At the event, I started by pointing out that mobile learning is really about ‘always connected’ learning, connected to content, connected to people, connected to the physical environment… However, for me, the essence of mobile learning is not so much that you can learn anywhere, anytime – though that is nice. What I focus on more is the ability to know more about the context of the learner (and the teacher!): the sensors capture who you are, where you are, whom your close to (physically or virtually, so you can learn together), what you are close to (through the web of things, so that you can take advantage of learning opportunities in the physical world). Soon, sensors will also capture how you feel (emotion must impact on how we learn best)…

The result is that friction can be reduced, so that the learner can take advantage of an opportunity when it is hot: in a negative sense, this is sometimes referred to as the quest for ‘instant gratification’ of the ‘always on’ generation. Honestly, I don’t see the problem: for instance, during the meeting, another participant mentioned The Clever Sheep podcasts. I subscribed to them on the spot, and listened to some of the issues on my way home from the meeting. In the ‘old days’, I would have had to make a note, go on-line when I could and then subscribe. Most probably, that would have been an opportunity lost.

Of course, by reducing friction in this way, we can really get the Snowflake Effect to work to its full effect: in many cases, we can anticipate what the learner or teacher will want and make it available at the relevant time.

There are many examples that illustrate this idea, like the Sixth Sense or Siftables or Wikitude or Shazam or CompareEverywhere. You may have seen these before. If you haven’t, then please do take a look: they’re all good examples of where I think ‘mobile computing’ is going…

In any case, it was nice to have 6 hours of intense conversation on this topic: MANY thanks to the organizers!

And, of course, I’d be interested in your views on mobile learning…


One Comment

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  1. Phillip Long / May 5 2009 5:04 am

    Erick: the notion of ‘friction reduction’ as a key characteristic of mobile learning is a useful metaphor. It is particularly powerful its representation of the PLE that professional learners seek. What brings me pause is the process by which young people acquire the skills and mental models that let them take advantage of the potential benefits of the mobile learning environment you describe.

    The end state presupposes the prepared learner equipped with the attitudes , skills and fundamental concepts on which to build. Does mobile learning also get us there? Of course mobile learning is an infrastructure and what you build to leverage it is perhaps a separate discussion. But it all to often is a discussion that happens either infrequenrly or out if public view.

    Thanks foe your post and the links. To your point, I’m reading this at a conference in Perth, Australia, responding via my iPhone having discovered it through following you on Twitter! Q.E.D.

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