Last week’s post outlined the suitability of mobiles for informal learning. This week, more ideas lead us to think that, effectively, informal learning seem to be the genuine arena for mobiles. Likewise, the theoretical foundations of mobile learning “examines how learning flows across locations, time, topics and technologies” (Sharples et al., 2009, p. 235). That kind of learning may happen in a variety of daily life situations: from a phone call to an app for tourists, as well as a Google map of the city, a video, or a podcast with the latest news (Sharples et al., 2009).
However, we should not conclude that mobiles has nothing to do with formal education. Quite on the contrary, there is a powerful reason to believe the opposite: Formal and informal learning cannot be independent from each other.
Classically, duality was the frequently stated. On the one hand, formal learning was identified with academic education, and the conception of learning was reduced to that. On the other hand, informal learning begins to be considered mainly during the second half of the 20th Century. Its characteristics are clearly different: it’s 100% pursued and chosen by the learner; it happens anytime, anywhere; it is highly unpredictable and quite unstructured, and is not provided by any teacher or institution. In summary, both types of learning are mainly seen as different.
But that traditional duality is no longer conceived. No matter how clear are those differences, human learning does not make distinctions. As Bransford et al. stated, synergy among all types of learning must be the new paradigm of learning sciences (2006). Such synthesis advocates for integrating neuroscience and implicit learning, formal learning, and informal learning, into one learning science (Bransford et al., 2006).
Two questions arises. Let us start by this one: what can contribute formal education to informal learning? Actually, it should contribute not a little, since formal learning intends to prepare students for the exterior world and the daily life. We may find challenges to the idea of knowledge transfer from formal learning to informal tasks, as Scribner did (Bransford et al., 2006). Even, we may find provocations that describe school as “a lousy place to learn anything” (e. g. Becker, n.d., as cited in Bransford et al., 2006). However, “numerous studies show modest to large correlations between school achievement and work performance” (Anderson et al., 1996, p. 6).
The second question is the symmetrical one: what can contribute informal learning to formal education? I would say that a lot: variety of contexts, experiences, continuity of learning, and complex unstructured problems among other things. Informal learning makes formal learning more meaningful.
Mobiles are continually carried on anytime and everywhere. In addition, it is a device highly oriented to communication, allowing voice, chat, sms and e-mail. Lots of teenagers use Facebook or Whatsapp to ask questions while doing their homework. Therefore, “a central task in the design of technology for mobile learning is to promote enriching conversations within and across contexts” (Sharples et al., 2009).
Apart from communication facilities, many teenagers use their mobiles like tiny laptops: They can search on the internet, watch and listen media content in other languages, consult wikipedia, check spelling, and take photos of an exercise. Such information can easily stored -and later reflect on it-, or shared with peers, facilitating collaborative working.
All theses are good reasons for thinking that mobiles are useful tools for informal learning and, consequently, for formal learning too.
- Bransford, J., Vye, N., Stevens, R., Kuhl, P., Schwartz, D., Bell, P., … Sabelli, N. (2006). Learning theories and education: Toward a decade of synergy. In P. A. Alexander & P. H. Winne (Eds.), Handbook of educational psychology (2nd ed., pp. 209–244). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Elerbaum Associates.
- Sharples, M., Arnedillo-Sanchez, I., Milrad, M., & Vavoula, G. (2009). Mobile learning: Small devices, big issues. In N. Balacheff, S. Ludvigsen, T. Jong, A. Lazonder, & S. Barnes (Eds.), Technology-enhanced learning (pp. 233-249). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-9827-7
- Anderson, J. R., Reder, L. M., & Simon, H. A. (1996). Situated learning and education. Educational researcher, 25(4), (pp. 5-11).