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The Unique Affordances of Mobile Learning

Chad Udell, Managing Director of Float Mobile Learning and author of “Learning Everywhere” is telling ASTD TechKnowledge 14 participants about how awesome mobile really is.

“There is SO much possibility”
I’ve heard this message before.

I wondered why I would join this session. I was a non-believer. Finally, thanks to Chad, I get it…

For the last 2 or 3 years, Tony Bingham has been opening ASTD conferences saying that mobile is important. Personally, I didn’t get it. Today I realise this was my fault. There was I thinking that “the Americans were stuck in the past, over-focused on delivering more knowledge content via a screen”. I assumed that what was meant by mobile learning was “pushing mini e-modules and video with mobile screens”; my own investigation into what apps I could make myself showed only glorified websites with a few buttons and a few screens.

I could not have been further for the truth. And it is my own fault. I almost feel guilty for being so short-sighted. I had a limited vision. Mobile is not about screens at all…

Mobiles can do a lot of stuff.

Here are some functions that many of today’s smartphones contain…

  • Camera
  • Motion detector
  • Geolocation
  • Portable memory
  • Microphone
  • Notifications
  • Touch screen
  • …to really get the most out of mobile, you need to think of the different possibilities mobile affords us.

    ..and then ask: What can you do with these affordances?

    During our awesome interactive session with Chad, the audience did a lot of brainstorming on possibilities per those functions. Literally, we came up with 100s of ideas and Chad has promised to release those ideas (capture with via the #astdtk14 Twitter hashtag later this week. (Watch this space, I will add to the comment section) For now, a few ideas of things you could do…

  • Ask questions (eg Jelly)
  • Measure physical human movement data and correlate with performance (eg Nike Fuel)
  • Find an expert (literally, in the building)
  • Collaborative bookmarking
  • Receive advice from your phone about how to improve performance, based on previous performance and current situation
  • Let people know about changes in processes
  • Give safety alerts or facility information based on location
  • Learn anything from guitar to morse code via touchscreen
  • Practice hand-eye coordination for specific tasks
  • It was impossible for me during this session to capture all the different ideas and I wish I had, because without them here it is difficult to share my enthusiasm. So, try for yourself: Look at your smartphone or the list of functions above and just ask what is possible and what (and how) you could learn with these functions.

    Mobile is awesome. And even if the “everyman” amongst us can’t develop very good apps ourselves today, the future is bright…

    I believe in mobile learning!
    Thanks Chad 🙂

    Tony Bingham (still) encourages you to go mobile (again)

    Following this morning’s Acrobatic Stunt Tempting Death with the awesome and funny comedy juggling duo The Passing Zone, ASTD President Tony Bingham opens the second day of the ASTD2013 ICE in Dallas.

    What’s on Tony’s mind today?
    According to Tony Bingham, the “me, me, me generation” is having an impact on how we do learning today. Our new learning participants have grown up on fast self-service mobile connected learning. They don’t want to sit in slow static training classes, 6 months later than they asked for it. The traditional model of static HR-organised boring learning is not going to work forever. We need to deliver a new learning model. Generation Y will prevail. Are you on the train?

    …and it’s not just the kids
    Tony Bingham tells us that even if it is the younger generation that has forced us to be aware of new (learning) needs, the issues are relevant for everyone. He asks if anyone still thinks that mobile is going away, despite the fact that there are more mobile devices in commission that humans on the planet. He encourages the learning community not to pass-off mobile as a fad that will go away, or use the “fad-argument” as an excuse for inaction. And he tells us to take more action. At the moment, not enough people are taking up the opportunity: Only 31% of learning organisations utilise mobile to deliver content. Mobile IS here to stay and it’s a great opportunity.

    On a personal note, I heard this same point from Tony Bingham last year on day 2 and apparently it was on the opening agenda in 2011 as well. This begs the following questions:

  • Are the folks at ASTD the only ones who think we should adopt mobile?
  • Or are learning people all late adopters?
  • Or am I just impatient, unaware of the natural adoption curve of any new technology (it will take another 10 years….)?
  • If you ARE going mobile, here are some tips:

  • Make learning lessons short and easy to digest
  • Keep your visuals simple
  • Don’t include too much actual “interaction” with the device during the lesson. This causes problems when implementing across diverse device types.
  • Don’t let the IT and risk departments brush off mobile learning and “bring-your-own-device schemes as any more risky than other things, like laptops, USB sticks, email and phonecall. Separate what is confidential and what is not and for what is not, think about what you can push-out with mobile.
  • Identify the early adopters and work with them
  • Read the ASTD literature on the topic
  • Think mobile. Put it in your design approach, at least asking the question: Is mobile relevant here?
  • Thank you Tony!

    ps I had the chance to speak with Tony prior to the conference. You can read the interview here.
    …and don’t forget to watch the Daily Dallas Weather Reports live from ASTD2013 on

    The perfect learning platform = Mobile + Brain

    According to ASTD President Tony Bingham, the role of L+D has never been more important than it is today. Despite (or because of) unemployment issues, CEOs of leading companies are changing their strategy to work even more on employee attraction, development and retention.

    One important element in this strategy (that we are all aware of) is the massive arrival of the millennial generation and their 3rd hands…


    One Cisco report says that “online communication is challenging face-to-face communication as the number one method of interpersonal collaboration”. Another report states that the importance of devices and the information they carry is rivalling the importance of money.

    Tony Bingham underlines: We need to leverage mobility in learning with these devices.


    Not convinced? How about this for a statistic?
    By 2015 over 300 million school children across the planet will be carrying a mobile learning device. And they will be expected to learn with them. And they can.
    All they need to learn is a finger!

    What do the Millenials want? What they need, when they need it, with immediate practical impact.


    Still not convinced?
    According to the ITU (International Telecoms Union) over 5 billion mobile devices are in action on planet Earth…. for only 7 billion humans! We are connected.. ..and this media MUST be utilised in learning.


    Tony Bingham says that mobile devices compliment our brains: Our brains are excellent at recognising patterns and implementing them into our reality… …but rubbish at finding and remembering stuff. Mobiles + brains = perfect learning platform.

    Despite challenges to mobile learning like budget, integration and security issues and IT infrastructure, Tony Bingham is convinced.

    The Millenials are convinced.

    Are you?