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Learning is Anywhere-Anytime!

Students today communicate, collaborate, socialize, work, explore, and learn with personal technologies every day. They stay engaged with the world around them whether they are in the car, at home, on the train or in the hallways at school. The Millennials are eager to share their dreams on social networking sites, follow their favorite celebrity on twitter and they use technology for reading, writing and many other aspects of their lives. They want to be engaged! Rapidly evolving technology and the new Web 2.0 tools have made information and sharing an everyday part of our culture. Educators of today and the future need to ensure that students develop the critical thinking skills necessary to make sense of the tools and information available to them. Today learning is anywhere and anytime. To the right view a video on the effect of the new Web 2.0 tools and social learning.

Social Learning

What is Ubiquitous Learning?

The book Ubiquitous Learning edited by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis, offers several definitions for ubiquitous learning. One definition is that ubiquitous learning means learners can engage with knowledge about "anything", and that this learning can be experienced by "anyone." Bertram Bruce in the Chapter titled "Ubiquitous Learning, Ubiquitous Computing, and Lived Experience" from the same book has a different definition: "Ubiquitous learning is more than just the latest educational idea or method. At its core the term conveys a vision of learning that is connected across all stages on which we play out our lives.

Learning occurs not just in classrooms, but in the home, workplace, playground, library, museum, nature center, and in our daily interactions with others. Moreover, learning becomes part of doing; we do not learn in order to live more fully but rather learn as we live to the fullest. Learning happens through active engagement, and significantly, it is no longer identified with reading a text or listening to lectures but rather occurs through all the senses-- sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste" (Bruce, 2009, p. 21) Nicholas Burbules in Meanings of Ubiquitous Learning says that ubiquitous learning is more than anytime-anywhere. The distinction between formal and informal education is blurred. Teachers are no longer just the source of learning; they should be and will be more guide, more broker and learning is not and will not be just in educational institutions during distinct time periods. Learning will be more and more in immersive environments.

Mobile Learning

Mobile learning, or m-learning is one facet of ubiquitous learning that removes the restriction of time and place to learning. Wi-fi hot spots have become more and more popular. Today people can stay connected through mobile devices whether they’re at the gym or in the grocery store. Businesses understand the need to provide access wherever people congregate. Furthermore, mobile devices are marketed and created with capabilities that used to be only available if a person was sitting in front of a computer linked to a network through a cable connection. Many telephone companies are targeting audiences with slogans such as “the now network” or “Your world. Delivered.” Users expect anytime, anywhere access to data, services and programs that not too long ago needed a home base.

Nowadays, a home base is not necessary; owning a mobile device can keep people just as connected.
With the new class of devices that has emerged in 2010, it is apparent those who need more flexibility and power from their mobile device will get it. Users who don’t want to carry a laptop or netbook have other options. With companies such as Apple, HP and Google leading the field with the iPad, Slate and Tablet, staying connected on the go is no longer a dream for the future. Many schools of all grade levels are experimenting with mobile programs.

Professor Lifang Tien at Houston Community College ran an experiment in 2009 where she compared two sections of a Hybrid Anatomy and Physiology course. One section of students were loaned an iPhone while the other section's students were not. Students in both sections were asked to keep a journal of where and how they accessed the course. Students accessing the course through the iPhone reported working on the course more and at more unusual times-- sometimes while they were on the go. Preliminary results of Tien's study showed that the mobile users spent more time studying than those without mobiles. (Young, Chronicle of Higher Education, 2009)

Below view a video that shows some innovative applications children can use on mobile devices.

Toddler Touch Screens

According to a 2010 Ruder Finn survey, 91% of mobile users go online to socialize. They are more likely to manage their finances and rally support for a cause through mobile devices than traditional desktop users. "Mobile phones have become the way people organize their lives—managing finances, connecting with friends, purchasing products—and this trend will only accelerate..the mobile phone is becoming the most powerful online device." said Kathy Bloomgarden, Ruder Finn co-CEO. (New Study Shows Intent behind Mobile Internet Use, PRNewswire.)

With these mobile devices pervasive in society, educators will need to provide opportunities for students to access smart devices and tools inside the classroom. This is the age where students of all ages are acquiring their first mobile devices. Visiting any fourth grade or twelfth grade classroom will show how connected students are. Despite these innovations in technology and the resources they offer, some schools still ban electronic and mobile devices.

Educators need to consider the use and ability of mobile devices in their classrooms. Most students today own a mobile device by the time they attend secondary school. With the portability and store of reference material that these devices now offer, learning and collaboration can be changed forever. Mobile devices can be used in the classroom to record observations, research, capture real time events and even assess student learning. With capabilities such as voice, text, multimedia and a plethora of books and sources readily available at their fingertips, students and educators can stay connected anywhere and anytime. Learning no longer is bound by four walls or school buildings; instead it becomes global, readily available and easily accessible.

Schools and educators need to see the possibilities offered by mobile learning. For example, GPS and Compasses would allow location and positioning data to be used in geography classes, accelerometers and motion sensors could allow new uses like digital capture and editing for video, audio, and imaging. (2010 Horizon Report for K12) Imagine having students twitter about a character in a novel they are discussing, or having students create their own mobile application using research and critical thinking skills. See some example of mobile learning, augmented reality and geolocation in our Emerging Trends section under Simple Augmented Reality.



ECAR Study Undergrad use of devices


The possibilities for anywhere-anytime learning are endless with mobile devices. Costs in educational settings would not be as great since the majority of students already own mobile devices. Take a look at a recent study (see graph on right) of undergraduate students conducted by Educause( ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology October 2010). The study found that 89% of undergrads use laptops/netbooks, 9 out of 10 use text messaging and social networks, 2/3 own smart internet capable mobile devices, 1/4 of students are using e-books or e-texts while only 4% own an e-reader.

Students are becoming more mobile and using cloud based applications. So, why not take their skills and further develop them for educational purposes?

Read more on anywhere-anytime access in our pages Emerging Trends: Mobile Learning and Online Learning.

Next up, Digital Citizenship