Learning All the Time and Everywhere: Moving Beyond the Hype of the Mobile Learning Quick Fix

Learning All the Time and Everywhere: Moving Beyond the Hype of the Mobile Learning Quick Fix

Tilisa Thibodeaux, Dwayne Harapnuik, Cindy Cummings, Rachelle Wooten
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3949-0.ch011
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We are witnessing some of the most significant advancements of technology in most aspects of society, but our educational institutions are still mired in the industrial and information processing models of the nineteenth century. Why? We have used technology as a quick fix and ignored the fact that established organizations are dominated by nineteenth century organizational and management structures and cultures that prevent the effective adoption of twenty-first century technologies. In this chapter, we argue that we can break this cycle of wasteful implementation of educational technology by focusing on learning all the time and everywhere and by shifting our instructional practices away from the command and control teacher-centered perspective to the learner-centered perspective. This shift gives the learner choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning opportunities that enables them to use technology to learn how to learn and adapt to the challenges of the future.
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In too many cases, we bolt new technologies on top of current learning tools in the standard learning environment, which effectively means we give our kids a thousand-dollar pencil. – Alan November (2013, p. 6).

If you have spent any time at all engaged in exploring how to use technology to enhance the learning environment, then you will recognize that November's lament is one that the educational establishment either chooses to ignore or simply is not capable of making the systemic changes required to really take advantage of the power of technology. Why is this such a persistent problem or more importantly, what can we do to address this shortcoming and genuinely use technology as a catalyst for meaningful change? One of my undergraduate philosophy professors shared an analogy with me that I have returned to time and time again to help me understand the broader picture on how change works and more importantly how one can influence change. He used the example of a white glove and a pail of mud and asked a key question. If we take a white glove and place it on our hand and then fully immerse our gloved hand in the mud, does the glove get mudded or does the mud get gloved? Obviously, the glove gets mudded.

This is a key analogy to keep in mind as we explore why powerful and potentially transforming mobile technologies often have little impact on our educational system. Harvard researcher, Shoshana Zuboff (1988, 1991), points to over a dozen years of research that confirm that the biggest obstacle to successfully implementing technology is not the technology itself but with the fact that well-established organizations are dominated by nineteenth century organizational and management structures and cultures that prevent the effective adoption of twenty-first century technologies. Zuboff also argues that to successfully implement twenty-first century technology you need to do so within a twenty-first century organization. As we know from the past several decades of educational reform research our north American educational institutions are still mired in the industrial and information processing models of the nineteenth century. So, using our analogy of the glove when we introduce mobile technology into this environment, the mobile technology has little impact because it essentially gets mudded by the culture and practices of our antiquated educational system.



Moving away from analogies, all we have to do is look Cuban’s (1993) seminal article Computers Meet Classroom: Classroom Wins and the body of Cuban’s work and research to see that Zuboff’s warning needs to be heeded by our educational systems. Cuban has been arguing for several decades that we are wasting our money on technology by the ways that we are attempting to implement it into our classrooms. Papert (1993) has also warned that what we are doing with technology in our schools is equivalent to strapping a jet engine to a horse cart. This is not a new problem. John Dewey, the father of progressive education, started calling for a complete change to education back in the 1920’s and 30’s (Dewey, 1916, 1938). Bruner (1960, 1961) and Piaget (1964, 1976) also started calling for a full-scale shift in education in the 1950s, and up to the 1980s. As we have seen more recently in the work of many learner-centered advocates, we are still missing the bigger picture and are not making the full-scale system changes that are necessary (Jonassen, 1990, 1999; November, 2013b; Papert, 1993, 1997). But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Academic Quality and Standards: Preparing our students to learn how to learn and how to adapt to opportunities that don’t even exist must be our true measure of academic quality.

Instructional Delivery Formats: To take advantage of our ubiquitous access and social networking, we must respond to the learner’s needs so that our learning delivery can be mobile, online, blended, and even when face2face, is digitally enhanced.

Support and Infrastructure: When people talk about learning technology, they think of tablets and laptops being used in the classroom, or learning management systems. But this is the wrong focus; we should not focus on the technology itself. We should focus on using the technology to help you do what you need to do. Learning technologies do not lead to, or substitute for, effective learning outcomes. Learning technologies are just tools that we use to enhance and empower learning wherein the best technology disappears. As Amory (2014) reported, technology is a tool that provides information, supports teaching and learning, and enables transfer of information; however, technology is not where the learning occurs. Learning occurs in the mind of the learner and the focus should be on the learning experience itself.

Creating Significant Learning Environments (CSLE): An integrated approach to creating flexible, engaging, and effective digital learning environments where educators take into account all aspects of the entire learning environment. Learners take into account environmental and situational factors to proactively design and create a learner centered environment that will help the learner learn how to learn and grow into the people we hope they will become.

Ubiquitous Access and Social Networking: We live in a digitally connected world with ubiquitous and everywhere access. The classroom is no longer the locus of control; the network is. We live in an age where we can access all the world’s information and almost anyone from the palms of our hands. Our learners thrive in a collaborative and media rich environment. Because they are socially networked and connected they look to their peers and crowd-sourcing for information and solutions to problems ( Edelman, 2017 ).

Student/Learner Centered: It has to all start with the learner. Mayer (2009) characterized learner-centered approaches where instructional technology was used as an enhancement to human cognition. Therefore, the needs of learner become the measuring stick for everything that we do. We must ask questions like - how will this learning environment support the learner, how will this curriculum support the needs of the learner, how will this pedagogy enhance learning, and will our formative and summative assessment help the learner, etc.? Essentially, student-centered learning is when students “own” their own learning ( Lee & Hannafin, 2016 ).

Voice: Learners are given the opportunity to use their own voice (V) to structure their work and ideas and share those insights and knowledge with their colleagues within their organizations. The opportunity to share this new knowledge publicly with people other than the instructors helps the learner to deepen their understanding, demonstrate flexibility of knowledge find their unique voice, sense of purpose and a greater sense of personal significance ( Bass, 2014 ).

Authentic Learning: Learners are given the opportunity to select and engage in authentic (A) learning opportunities that enable them to make a genuine difference in their own learning environments. The selection and engagement in real-world problems that are relevant to the learner furthers their ability to make meaningful connections ( Donovan, Bransford, & Pellegrino, 2000 ) and provide them with career preparedness not available in more traditional didactic forms of education ( Windham, 2007 ).

Teaching Roles: An instructor has many different roles which at minimum include presenter, facilitator, coach, and mentor. Moving from role to role or functioning in multiple roles at the same time is just part of what is in required to respond to the needs of the learner. There is no denying that the teacher is the primary designer of the learning environments and they must take on many roles. We need to shift to more coaching and mentoring because formative evaluation and feedback given within a trusted relationship yields the highest levels of student achievement ( Hattie, 2008 , 2011 ). Instructor belief systems that imply pragmatism, constructivism, and social re-constructionism among others, where the student is the central figure and the instructor is the facilitator to the learning process (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zcavek, 2012 AU45: The in-text citation "Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zcavek, 2012" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ). This shift is necessary for learners to own the learning process.

Instructional Design: To respond to the demands of the connected world of our learners, our instructional design must be equally flexible, proactive and purposeful. If we start with the end in mind, we can look at how a course or program will change learners’ lives, how it make them a better member of society, contribute to solving a particular problem and so on and we can design for these needs. Rather than be bound to a single theory or approach, learning theories and approaches can be interchanged. Depending on the end goal, Fink (2003) shared a purposeful backward design can incorporate, problem, concept or case-based learning, experiential learning, cognitive apprenticeship or other useful approaches that can fulfill that need. The key is that we use backward design methods to create an environment that is learner-centered, engaging, motivational, contextual, experiential, and authentic ( Harapnuik, 2004 , 2015c )

Assessment and Evaluation: We too quickly think of standardized testing or other forms of summative assessment when we should be incorporating formative tools like feeding forward ( Goldsmith, 2009 ) or educative assessments that help the learner to align outcomes with activities and assessment ( Fink, 2003 ). It is also most important that we focus on mastery of knowledge, authentic learning, critical analysis, and creative thinking which help the learner make meaningful connections rather than simply asking them to regurgitate information.

Choice: Learners are given the freedom to choose (C) how they wish to organize, structure and present their learning experiences and evidences of learning. The choice will also extend to the authentic project or learning experience. Choice promotes personalized learning ( Bolliger & Sheperd, 2010 ) which includes adapting or developing learning goals while choosing learning tools that support the learning process ( Buchem, Tur, & Hölterhof, 2014 ). It is crucial to acknowledge that the learner’s choice is guided by the context of the learning opportunity and also by the instructor who aides the learner in making effective choices.

COVA: A learner centered active learning approach that gives the learner choice (C), ownership (O), and voice (V) through authentic (A) learning opportunities.

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