Microlearning and Mobile Learning

Microlearning and Mobile Learning

Theo Hug (University of Innsbruck, Austria)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch041
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Mobile learning proves to be an emerging, and rapidly expanding field of technological, educational and psychological research which is especially important in view of formal and informal learning contexts. Terms like microcontent, micromedia and microlearning gained significance during the past decade, too. Although many aspects of learning, didactics and education have, of course, been addressed on what can be called a micro-level for centuries, technological, geographical, cognitive and socio-cultural dynamics of mobility involve new options for the enhancement of didactic thinking in the digital age. This article provides an overview on historic and systematic aspects of mobile learning and microlearning including directions for future research.
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In the rapidly-changing world of the Internet and the Web, theory and research frequently struggle to catch up to developments, interactions and permutations in technology and the social forms and cultural practices evolving with it. This is especially true in view of more recent mobile developments. Although the term ‘mobile learning’ (m-learning) is widely used today, there is no commonly accepted definition available. In many cases definitions have been created around technical aspects in the sense of a sub-domain of e-learning. Clark Quinn (2000), for example, defined m-learning at the “intersection of mobile computing and e-learning: accessible resources wherever you are, strong search capabilities, rich interaction, powerful support for effective learning, and performance-based assessment. e-learning independent of location in time or space” (Quinn, 2000). Similar ways of defining m-learning in the sense of e-learning enabled or supported through mobile computational devices (Pinkwart et al., 2003) are widespread in the context of business applications and commercially oriented applied research. In academic discourses various aspects have been taken into consideration. Mike Sharples et al. (2005), for example, provided a framework for analyzing mobile learning in the tradition of Activity Theory, focusing on moving facets of the learner’s environment and conceptualizing learning as a “cultural-historical activity system, mediated by tools that both constrain and support the learners in their goals of transforming their knowledge and skills” (Sharples et al., 2005, p. 64). Elsewhere Sharples et al. (2008, p. 5) define mobile learning as a “process of coming to know through conversations across multiple contexts amongst people and personal interactive technologies”.

In their comprehensive analysis also Norbert Pachler et al. (2010) point out that mobile learning is not primarily about technology or about delivering content to mobile devices “but, instead, about the processes of coming to know and being able to operate successfully in, and across, new and ever changing contexts and learning spaces. And, it is about understanding and knowing how to utilise our everyday life-worlds as learning spaces” (Pachler et al., 2010 p. 6). The need of an educational relevant definition of mobile learning is underlined, too, by Yiannis Laouris and Nikleia Eteokleous (2005) who developed an integrated set of formulas including temporal, spatial, mental, environmental, methodological, content related, contextual, conceptual and other aspects of mobile learning.

Like ‘mobile learning’ the term ‘microlearning’ has become used since the beginning of the twenty-first century mainly in the context of technology-enhanced learning (TEL), web-based training (WBT) and digital education. Commonly it stands for an abbreviated manner of expression for various kinds of short-time learning activities or learning with relatively small screens, small learning units, mobile devices or microcontent. The expression has also been used as a synonym for flexible Community Learning Centers (CLC) in contrast to formal educational institutions, in speech and language therapy, or in the sense of micro self-government in differentiated classroom learning. From a wider perspective, the term ‘microlearning’ refers to various micro-perspectives in the context of learning, education and training. More frequently, the term is used in the domain of e-learning, for example, as related to special activities like microblogging, tagging or commenting, to elements of educational settings (arrangements, scenarios) or situated learning, or to collaborative activities like mind mapping, film scripting, digital storytelling, etc. Corresponding definitions and characterizations can be analyzed from meta-theoretical perspectives on learning processes in mediated environments. In doing so, especially following dimensions are relevant for the description, analysis, design, or creation of versions of microlearning (Hug, 2005):

Key Terms in this Chapter

Educational Media Ecology: Refers to a variety of conceptualizations addressing educational aspects of mediated learning environments, patterns of relationships between learners, educators, and their media environments, interrelationships between cultural resources, media practices and educational processes and purposes, connections of learning, media and informational ecologies with the material, global and ecological challenges, as well as interconnections of family, home, school, media, and community in which people grow up in media societies.

Self-Determined Learning: Refers to learning processes in which learning is initiated, planned, organized, and evaluated by learners starting from their individual experiences, deciding for themselves what, why, how, when, where and with whom together is learned; in doing so, learners are aiming at self-imposed goals, above all the enhancement of abilities to act.

Microlearning: A relational cross-over concept referring to various micro-perspectives in the context of learning, education and training.

Self-Regulated Learning: Refers to learning processes in which learners autonomously are planning, directing, regulating, monitoring, and evaluating actions toward goals of acquisition of information, knowledge or skills, expanding expertise, or self-improvement; in doing so, goals, scopes for actions, and modes of collaboration, may be defined by the learners themselves or by others.

Medial Form: Signifies (a) a sub-area of media (for example, wikis or podcasts as forms of social media), or (b) shapes and structures of distinguishable tools in transversally linked media systems (for example, structural elements of comic or games in film, or the use of icons in various medial constellations) which are related to dynamics of migration and imperceptible transitions and which can be described and analyzed on the level of middle range theories.

Medialization of Knowledge: Refers to changing forms of the production, representation, description, reflection, analysis, assessment and critique of knowledge by semiotic means of communication (for example, textualization or visualization), by application of media technologies of production, storage and transmission, or as part of sociotechnical integration, extension of natural or cultural boundaries of human capacities, substitution of one form of knowledge production by another, or accommodation to media change or media logics.

Mediatic Turn: Refers to the notion that media present a kind of “a priori” condition for communication, cognition, culture, knowledge, and learning; related conceptions encompass an increasing awareness of the epistemological relevance and constitutive power of media.

Mobility: Signifies motion potentials, moves and the ability to move, or positional changes in physical, geographical, technological, cultural, social, cognitive, or virtual spaces including, for example, forms of movement of people within or between social strata and milieus or in terms of temporal or permanent migration, moving cultures and changing media practices, movable technical devices and technologies, or flexible use of cognitive structures in complex situations or heterogeneous conditions of life.

Education: An umbrella-term that encompasses a variety of analytic and normative perspectives on a wide range of phenomena including preparation for life, upbringing, learning learning, transformation of self- and world-relations, capacity development, qualification, acquisition of knowledge, school career, learner achievement, mediation of skills, values, or habits through teaching, training, or research, and an academic discipline dealing with these and related phenomena.

Mobile Learning: Learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using mobile devices.

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