Nurturing Collaborative Networks of Mobile Learning Researchers and Practitioners

Nurturing Collaborative Networks of Mobile Learning Researchers and Practitioners

Thomas Cochrane, Vickel Narayan
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2018100105
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In this article, we present the development of a framework for supporting and facilitating collaborative networks of reflective practice using mobile social media. Developed throughout a two-year collaborative mobile learning project #NPF14LMD, the framework has subsequently been used to support two wider international networks of mobile learning researchers and practitioners. The #NPF14LMD project was a national project comprised of three universities and three polytechnics across New Zealand. One of the goals of the #NPF14LMD project was to create a collaborative network of practice across the six institutions participating in the project. The network provided a support and communication structure linking the six institutional communities of practice, enabling sharing of their experiences and a sense of belonging to a wider national and international community. This article outlines the use of mobile social media to facilitate the #NPF14LMD network, and the subsequent application of this framework to support two international networks.
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1. Introduction

Scaling and supporting mobile learning initiatives beyond individual practitioners and localised case studies has been one of the key impediments to mainstream adoption of mobile learning in higher education (Parsons, 2014; Punie, 2013). The lessons learnt from the several large scale mobile learning projects have had limited long-term impact on mainstream teaching and learning environments (Traxler, 2016a, 2016b). Mainstream adoption of mobile learning informed by the lessons learnt from the last 16 years of research and practice is hampered by an ever-increasing rate of technological change. However, we believe that one of the keys to support the integration of mobile learning across mainstream education is the need for practical frameworks to support collaboration between mobile learning researchers and practitioners (Laurillard, 2007, 2012), and technology stewards (Cochrane, 2014; Wenger, White, & Smith, 2009). Such frameworks will support the exploration of mobile learning to facilitate new pedagogical strategies within a wide variety of educational contexts. Alongside the development of mobile devices has been the rapid development of social networks and social publishing platforms that are increasingly designed around mobile devices to facilitate sharing and show casing of user-generated content and user-generated contexts. As Cook and Santos (2016) argue, this confluence of mobile devices and social networks leads to three elements of state of the art mobile learning:

  • 1.

    The ability to use social media and apps to enable new patterns of connected social, learning and work-based practices.

  • 2.

    Design research allows us to engage in inquiry surrounding the transformative possibilities for m-learning. Particularly, designing for ‘m-learning’ at scale is a big challenge.

  • 3.

    Participants in new mass communications are now actively engaged in generating their own content and contexts for learning. (Cook & Santos, 2016, p. 3)

Reeves (2015) makes the case that establishing “consortia of collaborating researchers, practitioners, and funding agencies focused on the most salient problems facing education may realise much greater impact” (Reeves, 2015, p. 618). The mobile learning research community in New Zealand is small (Cochrane, 2013; Cochrane, Narayan, & Oldfield, 2015), with researchers and practitioners spread across the country and across institutions, leading to discussions in 2013 around the potential of establishing a national community of practice of mobile learning researchers and practitioners. Thus, we explored establishing a network to support best practice in mobile learning. These were some of the key drivers behind the establishment of the #NPF14LMD project.

The National Project Fund 2014 Learners and Mobile Devices (#NPF14LMD) project was the largest scale mobile learning in higher education project undertaken at a national level in New Zealand to date (Frielick et al., 2014). The #NPF14LMD project drew upon the authors’ experiences of reimaging professional development as communities of practice (Cochrane, Black, Lee, Narayan, & Verswijvelen, 2012; Cochrane & Narayan, 2012; Cochrane, Narayan, & Oldfield, 2013), and the wider literature surrounding establishing and nurturing collaborative networks and communities of practice (Jameson, 2011; Learning and Skills Network, 2009; Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder, 2002; Wenger et al., 2009; Wenger, White, Smith, & Rowe, 2005). The development of supporting communities of practice (COP) was identified as a critical success factor for transforming pedagogy via mobile social media (Cochrane, 2014), and thus the project was initially framed around creating a network of COPs from six tertiary education institutions across the country. The project encompassed 54 researcher practitioners and over 1000 students across New Zealand over the period 2014-2015.

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