From m-learning to Humanized Digital Learning

December 8, 2016 by Pablo Langa

This guest blog is a part of our Christmas season blog series

I have had the pleasure to experience first hand the birth of mobile learning. It seems long ago but it was only 2007 when the first iPhone was released, then July 2008 the iOS app store was made public and two years later, in 2010, we got to see the first iPad! Yet, since mid 2010 we have seen an explosion of the so-called m-learning focused initiatives.

I have been invited to events worldwide to talk about the new horizons that mobile learning is opening. I have been talking about the new possibilities both for learners and institutions leveraging learning from a small screen, with a fully portable device that is always online. At the time I was working for Blackboard and its Mobile Learning group. Very often I was being asked the difficult question: ¨Pablo, this fancy mobile app looks great and I am sure my students will love it but how are m-learning initiatives improving learner outcomes?”

#How are m-learning initiatives improving learner outcomes?

There are a number of answers to this question. There is also quite some research efforts which prove that when mobile devices are used effectively inside or outside the classroom they can have a positive impact. The challenge is that there is also analysis (this one from OECD) that shows no direct relation in between positive student outcomes and frequency of access to technology based learning. In fact, in some fields the higher the frequency accessing a mobile learning device, the worse the outcome for the learner.

What does this all mean? Have we wasted millions in 1:1 initiatives, iPads, computers and software platforms to discover that this is all worthless!!?? Let´s take a breather. The good news is that the answer is NO. The bad news is that we still have a lot of work to do. A good teacher can become an even better one with the support of mobile learning initiatives. Student experiences can be enhanced and the feeling of engagement, inclusion, group work and participation can grow exponentially. In addition, technology can help us today to support teachers and provide a more personalised experience for the learner, right on his or her smart phone or tablet . However, it all starts with the teacher, the methodology, the institutional support and commitment towards participating in the learning experience versus dictating it.

#Welcome to the Humanized Digital Learning era

We have made the same mistakes with mobile learning as with other digital learning initiatives. Take digital whiteboards as an example. First, there was a boom of digital whiteboards in schools and universities. At some point, organizations had to figure out how to bring content and value to these new actors in the classrooms. Some may argue they are still trying to do so. Similarly with mobile learning based initiatives a lot of attention was put into the container, in the device, and in how to categorize content and services in different apps. Now, as we approach 2017, there is less attention to m-learning in specialized forums. People are now talking more about micro learning, competency based learning, personalised learning, adaptive learning and social learning. Of course it is expected all these initiatives are device agnostic and mobile friendly. But none of these trends are tied to a specific device, place or platform. They focus on the human aspects of the learning process. They focus on enhancing the learning experience and on bringing new opportunities for learning that were not available before (i.e on the job training).

The next time you are looking for innovation in digital learning, forget about the container and screen size and focus on the unique human aspects of the learning experience for your learners.

Pablo Langa

lives at the intersection of business and education technology innovation. He is a Spanish education technology consultant, entrepreneur and practitioner. Over the last 12 years, Pablo has been involved in more than 100 education technology projects in 6 different continents. Pablo has experience working with companies like Blackboard, Financial Times | IE Business School CLA and also kickstarting his own initiatives like ZeroAcoso.org and EDT Partners. Nowadays, he spends most of his time helping education technology initiatives accelerate their international expansion.

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