A first look at mLearning
Well begun is half done! This old adage works perfectly as an introduction to the first project in my portfolio. As I started the MDE program at Athabasca university, I'd had little experience with distance education (DE), other than one disappointing attempt at learning through audio-conferencing in high school. And so I wasn't so sure where to begin with my own studies of DE. After all, how does someone with no experience (or a negative experience) decide where to start, or more importantly, where to focus.
I mention focus because DE is a very wide field, and, particularly at the graduate level, I was hoping to find a particular interest (or two) within the field that might motivate me to continue. Motivation had always been a problem for me, study-wise, and with my negative past experience I was apprehensive. But it wasn't even halfway through my first course that I found my first area of interest: Mobile Learning (mLearning).
This assignment, the second in the MDDE 601 course, was a group collaboration dealing with the use of Podcasts from iTunes University as a means of mLearning. It is a simple literature revue, shared between 4 student-writers, and as such may appear insignificant in the grand scheme of one's studies. Except that it wasn't; at least not to me.
This assignment, along with the next one in the MDDE 601 course (see the third VIEW in this portfolio) inspired me to consider mLearning as a key means of teaching in my current post. To make sense of that, I'll need to introduce some background. I teach at Huizhou University, in Huizhou, China. It is a small undergraduate university with no current DE program. As such, it has been a continuing struggle for me to integrate my DE learning from the MDE program into the face-to-face environment I work in every day. But mLearning fits like a glove.
Essentially, that's because students here have practically universal access to mLearning playback devices, be they in the form of mobile phones, or in the form of mp3/mp4 players. Using that knowledge as a starting point, I have managed to offer audio/video content as part of my spoken English and listening lessons in the form of mLearning, and have also coaxed the students to create video content using their mobile phones, all to great effect. In fact, by asking them to create mobile content, I have, for the first time since I started teaching at Huizhou University five years ago, been able to confirm, without following my students around, that they are in fact practicing their English lessons in between weekly classroom sessions.
In this regard, mLearning has been a real game-changer for my students and me.