To Mobile or Not to Mobile

I recently found myself drawn into a protracted and rather robust discussion between people who agree and disagree about whether learners should be able to use their devices in the learning environment. It is important to note that this rather robust discussion took place on Facebook. Most of us are in the learning field, whether live training or content development. Others in the stream are theorists (and dare I say thought leaders?). And, still others are in an academic setting. When I say robust--it was!

I was most surprised that well into the year 2017 there is anyone alive who still fights the fact that we all carry phones that can record voices and convert them to text in apps, Dragon dictation. How fab would this have been, back in the dark ages, as a college student who struggled to keep up, while taking copious notes in lectures by some of the “profs”. Of course, this likely wouldn’t help for those situations where the prof spoke English as their 2nd or 3rd language. Great modern tools. Color me envious!

Further, it is possible to take photos with our phones and tablets, thereby making it easy to embed a photo of a slide or graphic at the exact point the lecturer made it. How wonderful to reinforce the learning notes with images? Also, this helps improve retention of learning for later studying or application on the job. You know. After we might have slept and brain drain occurred.

But let me get to the heart of this robust discussion:

  • Those from academia ban the use of devices in their classrooms because they believe the students learn more successfully through taking handwritten notes.
  • e-learning isn’t effective and not a viable alternative to classroom style learning.
  • There are no differences between teaching (training) children/young people and adults. Let’s unpack this one first.

Academic Learning

  • Largely children as students. However, adults from young to old might find themselves in an academic situation, too.
  • Pedagogy has been around a very long time. It has its origins in ancient Greece and its meaning is, “to lead a child”.
  • Pedagogy largely assumes that the learners, or students, know nothing about the content when embarking upon the learning path.
  • Practices based on Socratic methods begin with core principles to form the base of knowledge. Then, succeeding lessons build upon that base with layers of more and more complexity.

Training Learning

  • Malcolm Knowles is the Andragogy guy, having determined that the way adults learn is different than the way the kids learn in school. Andragogy relies largely on the learner taking responsible for their own learning, with the “teacher” present to facilitate the learning.

Hey guess what? Know what facilitate means?
“To make easy or easier.”
Hmmm… So there ya go!

  • Adult learners are more likely to engage and invest if they are easily able to determine how the learning applies to them and/or their work. Relevance is a big deal.
  • Ignore this at your own peril. You might as well not even spend the time building the content. Your adult learners will feel that it is all a waste of their time.
  • Something else to know about adult learners. They thrive in environments where the facilitator recognizes they already have at least some of the skill and knowledge. Even better, when they are given the opportunity to share this expertise they will engage more, learn with zeal, at a deeper level of retained learning.

Conclusion: There are distinct differences between teaching in academic settings and how best to be effective training adults.

Next up is whether so-called “e-Learning” is an effective method for learning. Who knew this would even be discussed in 2017? Let’s get clear: e-learning is a way of bringing content to a learner. One delivery method in a quite an extensive list of delivery methods. Every single one of the delivery methods on the list can be highly effective—or fall flat on its face, in equal measure. In every case, the way the content unfolds largely determines success or failure. This is true for in person, in a live web-based event, or in an e-learning course. Could be the teacher or trainer’s fault. Or, it could be the designer’s fault. But, no matter whose fault it is, it is time to lose the ego, stop placing blame, and fix it.     

Now back to the use of devices and laptops for learning. I suppose in an academic setting, having rules that students should follow might be its own form of learning, too. And, in lower grades, I can see minimizing the use of cell phones in the classroom. However… banning devices such as tablets isn’t the answer. For students where the possibility of using these devices at home isn’t a possibility, banning them in the classroom denies them the opportunity to learn how to use technology they’ll likely need and possibly rely on later. Students who do use these devices at home might experience some resentment over having their options severely limited unnecessarily.

Instead, why not build assignments specifically designed for the students to use them? The list for what to do and how to do this is practically endless. Be sure that the assignments build skill using the device, provide reminders for proper attribution of resources, lead the students on a journey—and, so much more!

Just forget trying to legislate the use of devices. Let’s just say doing that only creates barriers to success and a whole lot of resentment. Why would you want either of those? Surprising as this might be to some, there are people who are excellent at multi-tasking and they can hear, absorb, and be keying something on their device all at the same time. Don’t assume that just because this doesn’t describe you, doesn’t mean legislating the use of devices should be your thing. Cut it out. Today.

Nope. There is no listing of resources and links to sites for you to review. If you don’t believe, then it is incumbent upon YOU to do the research. Everything I provide would reinforce what written here. Most important is to ask. Ask your students how they prefer to learn. Ask your adult learners what works for them (and employees in meetings, too).

Food for thought:

  • How about stopping the fight and learning to embrace what is here to stay?
  • How about being open to a new way of doing old things?
  • How about letting go?
  • How about choosing not to be the expert on this topic, too?
  • How about joining in?