Roger Schank’s Quote Got Me Thinking

I was able to finally get a post out here, and I wanted to bring up a blurb from a very respected expert that puzzled me a little bit. Before I go any further, I have to place credit where credit is due. Roger Schank is an esteemed expert in the field of learning design and I’ve read a couple of his books and learned a lot from him through those books. He wrote a recent blurb for eLearn Magazine when asked to produce his 2010 predictions and the quote was:

Bye Bye, Phone
Mobile e-learning will go away. There is always the latest thing in e-learning that everyone must do. One of my least favorite of these is mobile e-learning. E-learning will not happen, at least not seriously, on mobile phones. Why not? Because it takes time to learn something. You have to really understand a situation. You have to practice a skill. You have to consider alternatives. You have to create deliverables. At least you do for the e-learning that I build. This takes time—a lot of time. It was seriously suggested recently in a full year all day every day course I was building, that we needed to make it available on mobile phones. I don’t know about you, but staring at mobile phone for an hour makes my eyes hurt. Try doing it all day for a year. It makes no sense. We don’t learn anything instantly. Real learning is not done on a train or a bus. The kinds of courses that can be delivered that way will be shown to not be particularly useful.
—Roger C. Schank, Socratic Arts Corp., and eLearn Magazine opinion columnist

My immediate thought was that he’s wrong, and that can be expected from me as I am someone who’s passionate about the subject of mLearning. But then I dissected his quote and realized that he’s right to say that mobile learning will not happen the same way it does with real eLearning. That’s true, and mLearning is not supposed to be like eLearning. Mobile devices are not the venue for deep, broad learning, at least not as a single source for that learning (i.e. they can be part of a deeper, longer process of learning, but they are not a great place for that type of learning by themselves).

Mobile learning is often best as an extension to that core knowledge that you learn in a classroom or a good eLearning course. Mobile learning also has the potential to allow someone to access the information from those courses at any time because of the ubiquitous nature and portability of mobile devices. Mobile learning at its’ best conforms to the learner’s lifestyle in a way that traditional classroom learning and eLearning titles just can’t. So while a learner is building a base of knowledge in a traditional setting, mobile learning can act as an extension to that, allowing the learner to practice certain tasks and recall important concepts at the point of need or simply to brush up on skills.

I don’t think mobile learning will or should ever come in the form of large multi-hour courses. But I do think that mobile learning has its’ place and I do think that mLearning is gaining strength not because it’s another learning technology fad, but because it has real promise and shows real potential to help learners.

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