29 November 2011

Our Mobile World

The new "e" is "m". We've moved on from "eLearning" to "mLearning" and nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the world of EFL. It seems that if you aren't downloading the latest mLearning app and learning something new every spare minute of the day, you've lost the plot. The edublogs telling us about Smartphone apps to help our students learn English "anytime anywhere". These apps, we are told, help you (or your students) to learn English quicker and better than anything else to help their dreams to come true (ie. get a job). Instant learning, and access to the world, literally at your fingertips.

All this sounds great - and I'm all for learning. In fact, I've been an active learner all my life. But I sometimes wonder where all this "m" availability of knowledge is taking us. I know that for myself, if I have 5 minutes to wait for the dentist (or the usual 30 minutes), I enjoy sitting and staring at a blank wall, or looking at the pictures of smiley people wishing my teeth were as brilliant white as theirs. I love the feeling of freedom of responsibility for my time that washes over me as I convince myself that there's nothing I can do. And I don't feel guilty about doing nothing - after all, it's not my fault the dentist is running late, is it?

Or, is it? Lately, I've started getting that niggly feeling that I should be doing something while I'm waiting in a queue, or sitting on a bus or even walking down the street. I've got a Smartphone therefore I've got access to knowledge therefore I should be using it. Shouldn't I?

Well...these are questions I ask myself daily. I've also been asking my teenage students these questions and I've had some interesting answers. The most common answer being they don't have this problem. Most of them either don't have Smartphones (and until very recently didn't know what one was) or don't have Internet access because it's too expensive. And those lucky enough to have a Smartphone (or more commonly a Blackberry) say they wouldn't "mLearn" anyway because they prefer chatting with friends on Facebook or Tuenti in their free time. Anyway, they've got so much homework from school and English academy that the last thing they want to do is get their phone out when they have 5 minutes and use it for even more learning!

So, I can relax a little, because where I am, mLearning isn't going to take off for the time being, and certainly not with my teens. Or maybe it isn't for teens - ever? In the meantime, I can look longingly at those amazing apps (and some of them truly are!)and I can hope that my students don't get left behind in a world that is surging ahead as far as technology is concerned. As far as people are concerned though, who knows where we really are.

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