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Mobile Learning Technologies for a Place-Based Pedagogy

The appearance of new mobile, portable, wireless and always connected devices seems to radically transform the way we communicate, work and learn. These new products are labeled under the expression “ubiquitous computing” and they are also considered as the result of an era in which mobility plays an increasingly significant role in the computational experience.As it has been stated in several editions of the Horizon Report1, Mobile Media is seen as an emerging trend full of possibilities in very diferent fields, specially in education. Currently, digital Mobile Media devices are incorporating many new technologies which allow the introduction of Augmented Reality applications, the use of geopositioning systems as well as other actions such as mapping and geotagging. As far as location is considered a key aspect because it adds a layer of meaning, we should distinguish a subcategory of Mobile Media: Locative Media. Locative Media fosters the importance of place as well as the social interactions that happen there. Despite the use of mobile technologies, such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS), laptop computers and mobile phones, in locative media projects the focus is kept on the meaning and social impact that these technologies may have on the space in where they’re used.

“Locative media is many things: A new site for old discussions about the relationship of consciousness to place and other people. A framework within which to actively engage with, critique, and shape a rapid set of technological developments. A context within which to explore new and old models of communication, community and exchange. A name for the ambiguous shape of a rapidly deploying surveillance and control infrastructure.” (Ben Russell, 2004)

How does mobile communication affect the notion of place? Shall we talk about informational territories as André Lemos suggests due to the amount of informational flows that resizes the physical place by adding new informational layers? Is the digital space replacing the physical one as the first becomes a place for meeting and participate? How can/do Mobile technologies affect learning? Should schools and universities embrace these new technologies in order to incorporate them in formal educational systems? If so, how and why? What’s the criteria for deciding when to use Mobile Technologies for Learning purposes?

As it happens each time an emerging technology is detected, myths and promises about the potential benefits these technologies may have for education start to appear. For instance, Mobile Learning seems to encourage participation and collaboration. Despite the need of a deeper research in order to analyse how and why Mobile Learning Technologies can become collaborative tools, it’s necessary to determine what kind of skills and competencies users should acquire in order to be able to use these technologies efficiently.

The introduction and use of New Technologies doesn’t make us more critical, responsible and “reflexive” As users, we also need to reflect about the implications of the use of any technology, in this case Mobile Technologies. What is supposed to be learnt through these technologies and for who is the benefit of that learning?

1 The Horizon Report is one of New Media Consortium (NMC) best known publications about global emerging trends and technologies in education. The NMC  is a non-profit international consortium lead organizations specialized in learning and dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and technologies.

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