E-learning is so yesterday, what we are talking about now is mobile learning. Today’s students expect to be connected to their e-resources at any time and in any place.

And because cell phones are becoming ubiquitous, many libraries and universities are working on ways to offer services though hand held personal devices. Some universities, like Duke University, are even providing first year students with IPods.

Smart Phones are limited in some ways, with one way communication and small screens, but still can be used to introduce new concepts such as ‘text a librarian’,  a virtual reference service, or even a resource in which  a student can text a call number and record.

In ” Smart Phones: Potential Discovery Tool” an article written by Wendy Startweather and Eva Stowers from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the authors argue that the university should encourage their staff and instructors to create experimental outreach projects to reach the students.

If a place of learning such as a high school, college or university, is focusing their pro-active research on making their resources and services more accessible to students through their electronic devices, they are on to something. But they won’t get far without the participation of their instructors.

Today’s students, who are sometimes referred to as ‘digital natives’ because of their constant immersion in the ” twitch-speed, multi-tasking, random-access, graphics first, active.. world of smart phones, MP3 players and etcetera,  are perfectly capable of finding resources if they are out there.

Librarians and information technicians are pretty well steeped in the world of electronic information as well. But the instructors are another story.

If training is to be provided I would suggest that most professors and instructors also be included, as most of have been left behind and are reluctant to join the digital age.

In an article on the EQ website (Educause Quarterly), authors  Joseph Rene Corbeil and Maria Elena Valdes-Corbeil argue that today’s instructors must learn to” maximize learning and access to learning” so that they can reach this technological generation.

In a fictional sketch showing the actions of a young college student  starting the day immersed in technology,  the authors show two students talking to each other in the library, where they are downloading notes.  One student asks a question about the quiz, the other answers,

“I don’t know,” he answered; “Why don’t you Google it to find out?”

“I’ve got a better idea,” she responded. “Why don’t you IM the professor? He’s online right now.”

Professor Davis was on his way back to his office from Media Services when a familiar chime let him know that someone was IMing him. He pulled out his PDA and read the message. With stylus in hand, he typed the response, “Call me.” Ten seconds later, his cell phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Dr. Davis. Jason and I are in the library and we are having a hard time answering question number three.”

“Are you in front of your computer?” Dr. Davis asked.

“Yes, we are.”

“Go to this week’s lecture notes and review the section on Western Expansion. You’ll find what you are looking for there.”

“Thanks a lot,” Paula answered. “We’ll see you in class.”

This scene struck me as false. Of course, I am more the age of the instructor than the students, and don’t honestly know what goes on in college these days.  But I do have friends who are instructors who would not be happy to be IM’d as they went about their day.

And I do know, from reports from my daughter, who is in second year of a journalism degree, that when instructors lecture the students about keeping on top of technology, it is somewhat laughable.

The essence of mobile learning is access,  instructors can reach students by making content more readily available and in formats that are accessible thorugh popular mobile devices. This makes sense.

But what does it say about our present day sped up world that an electronic device meant for education is judged by its portability?

The authors of the article argue that although laptops offer many conveniences,..“they cannot be used while walking”.

Is it necessary to study while walking, will it even be an efficient use of time? Will the student walk  into a wall ?

Just by asking these questions I am lining myself up with the dinosaurs.

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