I went to the Apple University Consortium Mobility Seminar at ECU today and enjoyed the presentation by Stephen Atherton and team in which they gave a good overview of recent going-ons with Apple in higher education. The focus was on mobile learning and in particular the “magical and revolutionary” iPad and associated apps/iTunesU. Links and references used during the presentation were made available here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/272671/mLearningTalk.txt
Many of the apps demonstrated by the team facilitate collaboration over “content” (their words), that is, the ability to annotate, mark-up and otherwise share ideas related to the content. For example, one app gave the ability for students to highlight text and insert sticky notes for a “power user” (the teacher) to read. We were told that this would be a great diagnostic tool for the teacher to know where their students were up to in their reading and what problems they were having.
Great. Lots of opportunity for feedback, analytic-reflective teaching, and formative assessment. On the other hand…
A lot of the practical applications presented during the seminar place the onus and responsibility for learning on the teacher rather than on the student or on student groups. I’m sure this wasn’t intentional, but as I saw more and more examples, I felt more and more uncomfortable. As a teacher, I don’t want to be responsible for knowing where my students are up to in their reading or reading their annotations on their work-in-progress all of the time. I have far too many students to follow with that kind of detail. I’d much prefer for them to go through self-assist strategies of researching, asking a peer, asking a member of their PLN, etc before coming to me. As a teacher, I don’t want to be responsible for uploading and managing course “content” (which, by the way, I think we should think of as “learning materials” or “resource”). I want the students to be produsers. As a teacher, I do want to be responsible for providing opportunities for my students to learn, but I want them to be responsible as well. And accountable. And I have to respect their right to fail.
But the idea of access to ongoing, point-of-need feedback and facilitating/mentoring got me thinking. There’s a lot of talk about mobile learning and “anytime anywhere” access – access not only to physical resources (books, videos, podcasts, etc.) but also people resources (teachers, tutors, critical friends, PLN communities). So does anytime anywhere learning lend to expectations of anytime anywhere access to teachers/tutors? To formal learning? A lot of tertiary educators talk about the struggle of email and being contactable 24/7. Well, what about apps like the ones demonstrated yesterday where the teacher/tutor/facilitator is the “hub” of learning, and all roads for feedback lead back to them? Certainly, it is normal to take home with you as a teacher (“pull”) but what about when work comes to you at home (“push”)? Ding! You have new mail! Ding! You have a new blog post delivered via RSS! Ding! There’s an annotation in this .epub where a student needs help. Ding! It’s now midnight and you’re still trawling forum posts and you haven’t uploaded that lecture-cast yet…
Some educators set office hours and stick to that rule, and I admire those who do. But I’m still interested in the expectations for and of anytime anywhere learning. Are there expectations of anytime anywhere teaching? In the tertiary context? In K-12? And what does this mean for how we envisage ourselves, our jobs, and our careers?
Cross posted to my research blog: http://www.exploringthehyper.net/blog