Last Thursday I spent a very interesting day at MediaTrust’s Go Mobile conference which has made me think about mobile technology and the impact it can have on digital inclusion. Today we’ve launched a new look Learn My Way website – it’s mobile friendly and device neutral – optimising for mobile to include more people who want to learn using tablets, but still realising the majority will come via a computer.
The eReading Rooms pilot (details to be shared soon) has proven what we have known for quite some time – that mobile technology, and tablets in particular, can help take learning to the familiar places where people are, as well as helping people to learn in relevant places (like learning cooking in the kitchen or learning about gardening in an allotment).
One of my “lessons” on the panel on Thursday was: “Don’t get giddy over mobile”. Donald Clark’s blog is worth a read; he lists the seven reasons that mobile could inhibit or even damage learning. While for adult learners – and in particular those who are resistant to technology – mobile technology can break down barriers but they’re not a catch-all solution. It’s all about context. I love reading my book on my smartphone, but for job applications – or even doing a weekly online food shop – tablets and phones are still inferior to a computer.
It’s all about balance and providing people with the chance to choose the technology that’s right for them, whatever they want to do online. We need to be ready for mobile, but not to become obsessed with it as the silver bullet for getting the nation online. So from today LearnMyWay.com is inclusive to mobile learners, but it won’t by itself end the digital divide: we need other platforms in the mix too, and patient and commited people to inspire, guide and support those who are still excluded.
Thanks Helen for sharing this piece.Tablets and other hand held devices are great for the quick ‘pick up, switch on and use’ moments, and I find they really come into play at events and conferences where we can regularly see delegates tweeting and joining in conversations as a communication platform. I’m pleased to see the new learnmyway site optimized for mobile and tablet devices and agree that by doing so this could help bridge the gap of inclusion but at the same time hinder.Lets take for example a digitally excluded older person learning the Internet for the first time on a tablet…. Great, its touch screen, and learning is at their finger tips! Yet get that same older learner who you’ve just helped become familiar with the Internet and ‘a form of technology’ using a desktop PC? The look and feel is different again. Using Gmail as an example: write an email and the large ‘Compose’ button has been replaced on a tablet/mobile device by a red square with a pencil in it. So now move that learner from a tablet device to a PC or indeed visa-versa and how confusing does it become with new unfamiliar icons? The learning process starts again.Perhaps developers should learn from this lesson. Human Computer Interaction is a minefield still being explored.So I agree Helen, mobile = inclusive but not necessarily inclusion.