Blog Post

[MLIRG] How mobile situates learning


Last week, we came together with Kurt Squire to discuss the foundations of mobile learning. Here’s some knowledge we picked up in that discussion. And we are excited to hear what you think about it!

November 28, 2012
Facilitator: Dr. Kurt Squire
Topic: Mobile

Reading Outline:

Chapter 1 in Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning : legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press.

Chapter 9 & 10 in Squire, K., & Jenkins, H. (2011). Video games and learning : teaching and participatory culture in the digital age. New York: Teachers College Press.

Mobile situates learning

One of the goals we have for this reading group is to develop a vocabulary to talk about mobile learning. Kurt proposes that the situated learning literature gives us just that. That said, he immediately cautions us, explaining that situated learning theory isdescriptive not prescriptive. As researchers, Kurt offers that we haven’t gotten very far since Lave & Wenger’s book; specifically, we are not at the point where we have highly predictive modeling for situated learning. When we properly consider the constraints of situated learning, it still becomes a useful theory for us to draw from to understanding mobile.

One of the most unique contributes mobile offers to learning environments is how it situates the learner. Particularly, we arereconnecting people and places in unique ways. But is place the only situative characteristic of mobile?

Back to the continuums...

At the Mobile Learning Incubator, we often think about things in terms of continuums. In our discussion with Kurt, we may have uncovered another one in answering the question: “how situated is this [activity/experience/environment]?”

Taking a step back to look at situated learning theory, we see that many different epistemological frameworks have converged at this theory. For example, the cognitivist theory of situated cognition and the sociocultural theory of communities of practice have both substantially shaped our conversations about what it means for learning to be situated. Additionally, linguistics theorists and embodied cognition theorists talk about different ways to situate learning. Kurt explained that, despite their epistemological differences, these theories can be united in interesting ways, using Jim Gee’s work as an example.

Given mobile learning’s deep roots in situated learning theory, we have a strong hunch that mobile learning is going to reveal a similarly complex web of relationships. For example, when we take a broad look at ARIS through this lens, we can see that perhaps the different genres afford different levels of situativity. A few of the genres we’ve defined so far: tours, geo-locative storytelling, ethnography/field research, and physical engagement/health. In each of these genres, we often focus on situating a different piece of the learning environment.

What level are we changing?

Kurt suggested useful way for us to effectively map out the landscape of our projects (and really any mobile project). A big part of the question of situativity is: what grain size are we trying to change? Is it a unit within a course? The course itself? Instructionoverall? Or the school/university level? Right now, most ARIS projects live on the unit or course level (and equivalent levels in informal learning environments).

Lingering questions

How can we use the projects we have to have a bigger impact on instruction and/or the university? Is this something that we shouldpursue?

What are the affordances and constraints of situating learning in different ways?

More resources
Situated learning is something David and Breanne spent some time looking at last year for the Engage program’s “Situated Learning: Case, Story, Place” award. Here’s an annotated bibliography that they put together.

Up next... game design with David Gagnon!

To wrap up the year, we’ll be digging into game design in the context of mobile.

Until next time,
Mobile Learning Incubator
Academic Technology, DoIT, University of Wisconsin-Madison



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