Mobile Devices, healthy carriers of good education

Mobile devices have become everyday tools, supporting and facilitating a series of common actions: finding the route in the car, consulting a recipe, making a multi-party call, learning a language or a procedure, obtaining information on events, chatting in a group. These are just a few examples, but enough to make us understand how we, in any environment and situation, have grown accustomed to considering smartphones, tablets, pocket PCs, smart watches and other devices as real "super tools", which can enhance our personal faculties and our social and professional presence. For us, these devices are natural extensions of competence, skill and personality. In this article, mobile devices are meant both as the physical supports and the software running on them.

 

 

Even those who use them on and off understand that learning through these devices is not equal to learning from the computer or in the classroom. Leaving aside the age-old debate about learning methods – and just noting that learning activities can be carried out in different ways and can obtain more or less optimal results depending on a number of variables and contingencies – let’s focus on how to present content on mobile devices, which have the following features:

  • Brevity, conciseness, immediacy of communication
  • Strong visual appeal, involving not only a strategic choice of images, backgrounds, logos, icons and colours but also the wise use of fonts applied to titles and paragraphs
  • Branding of learning: the content is strongly tied to the app that distributes it or the store from which you can download it
  • Poor depth of information and overall vision (usually subsequent levels of content can be acquired (both free and paid)
  • Extreme fragmentation of information with good traceability of key content
  • Reading aids (bookmarks, sound on/off, search field, highlighting functions)
  • Sharing and reviewing features
  • Use of emotion and/or play

Are these characteristics effective? Yes, within the limits of the objectives to be achieved, and this is true for any learning content.

At this point it is worth quoting Robert E. Horn, to remind us of a concept that perfectly applies here as well: the crucial importance of a good content organisation and its breaking down into information blocks to be organised through the information mapping technique, to which we will come back later.
The effectiveness of training pills running on a mobile device is actually enhanced by the very "containment" of information, which is:

  • Distilled and transmitted in a simple and clear way, accessible to everyone
  • Repeated in such a way as to be rooted into the memory of the reader with ease
  • Strengthened by emotional enthusiasm or sense of adventure, and
  • Encapsulated in a stimulating multimedia shell that can trigger curiosity and motivation.

Their brevity is instrumental and adapts to the rhythms of today’s life. This type of learning, which is informal by definition, is perfectly framed between subway stops, within a break at the coffee shop, or while waiting for a friend who is arriving late.

"I want to know and I want to know now". This approach is an important key to understanding the “take away” culture that is currently so popular .

Will this replace formal learning? To be honest, we do not think so. At least not in all fields of science. If on one hand the pill approach to training involves the user in an extraordinary way (but is also limited to a desire for knowledge that is often temporary), on the other hand we have to recognise the value of formal learning, made of in-depth exploration and research, learning programs that are shared and institutionally recognised, moments of evaluation and certification. And that is especially true when formal training leads to a professional qualification.

True enough, these are two different learning experiences, involving very different time frames and investments in one’s education, but it is natural to think that our learning will be increasingly multi-channel and a middle ground between the two. It is important for formal learning, a little dusty and not always in sync with reality, to learn from the successes of informal teaching or at least to take into account its fresh and attractive approach. Conversely, informal education should guarantee scientific rigour even while presenting itself as edutainment. As usual, the virtue is in the balanced mix of good learning contaminations of which we, in constant search of knowledge, are healthy carriers.

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