When it comes to Mobile Learning, or mLearning as it’s become known, it’s amazing how quickly attitudes change. Today, with the staggering growth of iPad and iPhone apps, the learning community is scrambling to apply the new technology. But that hasn’t always been the case.
Back in 2002, my company released a product called “Knowledge Direct PDA.” One of my genius coders, Michael Roberts, engineered a web app that enabled administrators to log in, create modules of content, and assign tests and interactive checklists.
Learners could login from any WEP-enabled cell phone (preferably a PDA), access the modules and complete the assigned tests and checklists. It seemed to us as though the benefits of the application were obvious. For the employee, they had instant access to content wherever they were. For administrators, test scores and task completion reporting could be wirelessly transmitted back to the server or updated during the next synch. To us, this product was the next logical step in combining “learning on demand” with mobile performance support.
In 2003, we presented the product to the eLearning Consortium – a group of about a 100 or so thought leaders from mostly Fortune 500 companies led by Elliott Masie. No one was interested. Despite being members of the leading-edge learning technology consortium, not a single attendee had any plans for mobile learning.
A recent article by Fast Company magazine describes how receptive kids are to mLearning. Whether teaching themselves the alphabet with First Words or playing KidsCalc Math Fun, they get it. Granted, our first-gen mobile app didn’t compare with Clifford’s Be Big with Words app, but I sometimes wonder how different things might have been if I had been pitching to a roomful of seven-year-olds. “The Child is the Father of Man.”
Let’s hope that the latest onslaught of technology has made us all a little more receptive to recognizing what might appear to be a crazy idea.
What’s your favorite mLearning app? I’m pretty addicted to the PromeToys’ Spanish Conjugations for the iPhone.
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