Ubiquitous learning

I walked into work this morning while listening to the lectures on a set of bluetooth headphones. I sat under a tree outside my office and read over the first chapter of conceptualizing e-learning. The technology of my mobile phone allowed me the opportunity to select the environment that I was going to engage with the material in. 

In many regards this has been a godsend for me and people like me who have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time. I think better when I am walking and tend to be in a much more productive frame of mind when I have exercised. 

While at first glance these two points may appear trivial or mundane they actually underline one of the key ways in which ubiquitous learning can help at risk students. To put it simply when a person feels they have control or a sense of agency over what they are doing they are more likely to engage more actively with the subject.  

The mobile phone in your pocket has more computing power than what was used for the entire Apollo space program. With mobile technology now following along with Moores law on computing power and the invention of the lithium ion battery and low power consumption displays it is possible to be online almost anywhere in the world. What in 1991 required a bicycle mounting now comfortably fits into a pocket. (http://fusion.net/story/50476/this-insane-mac-powered-bicycle-from-1991-will-make-you-jealous-as-hell/)

There are certainly advantages to this technology that education has yet to take advantage of.   The ability to engage with information anywhere at anytime is within the grasp of most users. I myself listen to my video lecturers when I am walking into work and have been known to browse a blog or forum while out shopping. This has great potential for education as it allows the learner more autonomy over when and where they engage with the material available to them. Having some control over over when and where a task can be completed has been shown to have an empowering effect. Leading to people becoming more engaged with the material. This freedom of choice and control that a student has is one of the best arguments for ubiquitous learning.

There is a down side to Ubiquitous learning however, probably best exemplified by the French right to disconnect law (http://fortune.com/2017/01/01/french-right-to-disconnect-law/). If learning can happen at any time and anywhere what is to stop it from becoming more pervasive and thus interfering with other aspects of a students life.  

Learning outside of the classroom is not a new concept it has been around from the very first  in the form of homework. Sadly it takes what makes ubiquitous learning so promising (the ability to chose when and where to engage) and kills it by making it a requirement.

You can also be sure that ” Whenever reformers attempt to improve the academic outcomes of American schooling, more homework seems a first step. The justification for this probably has more to do with Philosophy and with the ease of implementation than with new research findings” 

(Strother in Vattrtott “re thinking homework” 2009)

The criteria to judge any new pedagogy should be is it as good as, or even better than, the best traditional classroom learning. The risk with ubiquitous teaching is that it will simply become a new method for assigning the same style of homework tasks that traditional learning is so fond of with the added joy that  “you won’t be able to say that you’ve lost your work anymore, because it’s in this cloud environment”. 

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