Tip #535: M-Learning Doesn’t Appeal to Me

“Technology is fine. . ., but that popular vision of the future, where you plug somebody in and leave them there and they don’t get out and interact with actual flesh-and-blood humans — you know the answer before I say it — that’s not good.” Dennis Miller

I was recently introduced to the concept of m-learning, which stands for mobile learning. Wikipedia defines it as “learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices.”

M-learning is touted as being convenient and accessible, as well as being collaborative.

I use my smart phone to look up information all the time. Yes, it is very convenient. If knowledge is knowing where to find the information, my smart phone helps me to become knowledgeable. However, true learning requires opportunities to check for comprehension and, if it requires a skill, an opportunity to practice. This cannot be accomplished simply through reading or listening. Personally, I have to verbalize and use information or skills to feel confident I’ve mastered them. M-learning, like e-learning, is an acquired taste and not for everyone.

M-learning and e-learning also seem to me to be very isolating rather than truly collaborative. One can spend one’s time in front of a computer or peering at the small screen on a handheld computer, MP3 player, notebook or tablet,and never have to engage in a face to face conversation. Certainly, you can share information or photos, participate in an online conference, or work together in a chat room or in composing or revising a Wiki. Most of these activities are very cognitive. Learning and retention are typically increased when more senses are involved.

I know that I am not the first person to note that communication is becoming a lost art. When someone is looking at a screen, there is no compelling need to read body language or use active listening or even try to be articulate. That’s a huge problem as far as I’m concerned. I have spent years conducting training classes to help managers and supervisors improve their ability to interact on a constructive personal level with their employees; and to help employees improve their ability to communicate respectfully and effectively with their customers and their peers. Those interpersonal skills are essential to effective supervision and customer service, to name just two applications.

I personally feel that interpersonal relations require not only proximity (because two people can sit next to each other and still be focusing on their smart phones rather than on each other), but also direct attention to each other. If learning is emotional and depends upon sensed experience for memories to be retained, m-learning would have to be pretty spectacular to even come close to approximating true experience.

Given the popular love affair with all manner of electronic devices, I am probably a dinosaur. But I fear that the ability to really relate to one another erodes away with each new app.

May your learning be sweet.


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