Keep taking the tablets: integrating the mobile in work based learning
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25 February 2014
The issues addressed here have arisen as part of a development project that seeks to produce a mobile app. It follows the successful development and implementation of a mobile app that is used to handle the secure delivery of course materials to distance learning students. However, the current project seeks to go a step further, instigating a broad review of the way that pedagogy and technology inform each other in the development of approaches to work based learning.
This reflects a logic that is internal to the process. App design is fundamentally a process of rethinking technologies for a specific context and combining and configuring them in new ways so as to create a new set of affordances. Some of what I will talk about, therefore, concerns the ways in which an understanding of the processes, roles and relationships involved in work based learning can be expressed as functional requirements for a mobile application. However, this is only a starting point. Although most of the technologies ‘on board’ mobile devices are already used in work-based learning, the portability, multi-functionality and ubiquity of mobile devices means that they are likely to overcome many problems relating to access, training and compatibility. However, an approach that only saw the mobile device as a refinement on traditional technologies would limit their potential.
You don’t have to be a hard bitten technological determinist to recognise that technology doesn’t only facilitate certain practices. It informs what those practices mean and how they happen. In an ideal world, therefore, we would never adapt technology for a purpose without first asking whether the purpose should not itself be adapted in light of new technological possibilities. In practice there are all sorts of obstacles to this. It has not been possible, for most of us anyway, to take an approach to learning technology in which both the learning and the technology can be shaped in a way that accounts for the implications of each for the other. Mobile devices, however, do allow this; not because they offer new or radically enhanced technologies or because they are multifunctional, portable or ubiquitous, but because it is possible to create apps that imbue them with new affordances.
In this session I will present a vision of the application in the form of use cases that describe how the proposed app would work, its implications for the key roles of learner, tutor and mentor and the outcomes, both tangible and elusive, for work based learning. In doing so it will be necessary to declare some limitations and caveats. The scope of the app, for example, has been designed in order to allow for its implementation in a variety of different contexts, reflecting the very many different forms and environments in which work based learning manifests. In addition to this the project is in an early stage and everything about this app is provisional. If we are to be true to the principles outlined above, it must be envisaged that it will evolve as it goes through development. However, I hope I will be able to show how app development allows pedagogy and technology to inform each other in the design process.
In order to do this I will describe a pedagogic starting point: a set of principles and practices relating to self and peer assessment and indicate their relevance to the roles, processes and interactions involved in generic patterns of work-based learning. In very general terms these define roles so that the responsibility for defining learning outcomes, lies with the tutor while responsibility for defining the precise form that the learning takes lies in the workplace, with the student and other individuals. Assessments of the student’s performance undertaken by the student and others in the workplace then provide the basis for periodic interventions and, ultimately, summative assessment by the tutor.
This of course requires us to confront two key issues commonly arising in the workplace. The first concerns obstacles that limit the capacity of individuals based in the workplace to undertake meaningful roles in relation to the learning that happens there. The second concerns the quality of communication and information exchanged between the learner and the tutor and issues this creates around the meaningfulness of interventions and the reliability of assessment. This provides the context for introducing the app as a set of technical affordances. However, by looking at two areas of app design in detail - in the design of an audio recorder and a system for monitoring workflow between parties - it is possible to move towards an understanding of how technology and pedagogy can inform each other rather than one setting an agenda that the other must follow.
23:36 on 25 February 2014 (Edited 09:30 on 26 February 2014)