April 13th, 2010
Michael Feldstein has had a couple of good posts of late on mobile application for learning. In a reflection on BlackBoard’s new mobile application, he makes the following observation.
Looking at apps like this one, you could imagine LMSs becoming more like Twitter in the sense that everybody uses their own preferred client (whether native or web-based) and mostly ignores the original UI that is delivered by the application maker. It could be possible for students to use an LMS every day but never log into it or look at its interface. What interests me more is that the educational services (I mean that word in the technical, software sense) that the LMS provides can be disaggregated and mashed up with other apps. I could attach a class discussion thread to any web page, or put an evaluation rubric button on students’ own blogs. The LMS as a monolithic user experience can stay as it is, fade into the background, or disappear entirely, depending on your needs, preferences and philosophy.
I think I might extend Feldstein’s comment on the disaggregation of LMS platforms to other learning containers as well, particularly the digital textbook. I say this because textbooks these days, unlike trade fiction books, are veritable multimedia collections and designed to be the central instructional container of the classroom (note, I say “designed to be” not that they are necessarily used that way). A General Education textbook created by one of the leading publishers, or example, contains video, image galleries, quizzing material, etc. Putting the textbook label aside, it is really more like a turnkey course package — just add the teacher.
I was thinking about textbook containers and mobile apps yesterday when I ran across Alice for the iPad app.
This mobile app, in its own way, seems much closer to what digital textbooks may become on tablets/e-readers that the current attempts to shoehorn them into trade e-book e-reading software. And if digital textbooks were to evolve in that particular mobile direction, the services architecture Feldstein mentions will become even more critical.
With all this in mind, here are some possible mobile learning trends I see emerging.
1. Disaggregate tools– Like Feldstein, I think a general trend will be to wrap more granular tools and toolsets into individual apps, and to disaggregate them from the traditional LMS. I also think these will be developed in a way that allows users to mash these up to create personalized learning suites. In the near future, I see users on Android and iPhone OS platforms being able to mix and match tools such as calendars, discussion apps, and quizzing to suit their specific needs.
2. Aggregate content — In the same way, I think more effort will go into aggregating content — OERs in particular — that can be accessed universally by such apps.
3. Learning packages as apps — I also expect that the app ecosystem, over time, will eliminate much of the outdated distinctions between textbooks and courses. It’s all just learning content, really, and the old print/digital definitions are disappearing. In the next five years we will also become more and more focused on individual pieces of content that can be mashed up via mobile apps however we want them. What we call those custom learning collections is anyone’s guess.
4. Focus on productivity apps — Finally, I believe we’re going to see a pervasive distribution of actual content creation to mobile platforms. This will be the biggest shift from the current educational technology paradigm. Mobile devices will become more than content viewing platforms and users will no longer rely on notebooks or the LMS mothership to do actual content creation.
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