Friday, February 16, 2007

What is U Learning?

A recent email from Alexander Hayes referred to a paper about U-learning, or ubiquitous learning. I shot back some thoughts which ended up on the NSW Learnscope blog, which I wasn’t expecting and should of realized could happen!. I also hear there is a podcast on the topic coming up on Talking VTE with Alex and Stephan Ridgeway – a friend of mine got a phone call at 10.30 last night to participate!.

Alex is everywhere, talk about ubiquitous!

I like this presentation of ulearning from Janet Fraser of Monash University which is titled U learning = elearning + mlearning.

Another take on this is that ulearning is a broader concept that sits outside technology and has always been with us in the form of informal learning that occurs everywhere in the community. Now with the internet and mobile devices the ubiquity of the learning has further reach and is more powerful.

I was talking to Sean Fitzgerald about this on the ubiquitous telephone who directed me to early discussions on the TALO chat group

This is what Sean was saying a year ago (Mar 16 2006 to be exact!:
“As technology becomes ubiquitous and gets integrated into learning, the
concept of "technology in education" will start to be less relevant.
Indeed the word "elearning" will probably become redundant, as all
learning will have an networked, online or technology component in the

Pens, paper and books have been integrated into learning for a long
time. We don't call it "Pens, paper and books learning". These
technologies have become an invisible part of the process.”

Sean was quite urgent in his declaration that “Educators seem to be the only people that talk as though learning isn’t happening all the time, and, we are returning to the way we used to learn anyway

So in simple terms, for people like me:

U learning is about a conceptual shift that includes informal learning
Elearning is about online learning and conjures up vision of learner at computer
Mlearning is about learning using mobile devices

I was also put on to this quote from Sean:
The Computer for the 21st Century
- by Mark
Weiser, where he states:
The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave
themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are
indistinguishable from it.

Perhaps the quote from the signature file at the bottom of Seans email post says it all
“Technology is anything that wasn't around when you were born.”
-– Alan Kay


Sean FitzGerald said...

I think my declaration was about trying to say that it's ironic that we need another theory - U Learning - to describe what has been happening anyway as we move away from the idea that learning only happens in in certain places (schools) and at certain times (class time) delivered by certain, approved, people (teachers) - an idea that has only been around for several hundred years - and return to the type of community-based, studio-style and informal learning that preceded the current model.

As well as referencing technology, the Mark Weiser and Alan Kay quotes can also speak to the way that the "traditional" class-and-teacher-centric system only appears to be the norm because that's what we've grown up with.

And I agree the conceptual shift is in many ways more important than the technology. Before "modern schools" learning was happening everywhere and all the time anyway, without technology.

The technology for ubiquitous computing and learning is just around the corner, but without the conceptual shift it will make no difference. The new technologies that provide access to a world of knowledge, resources, peer support, expertise etc. will continue to create increasing pressure as long as teachers and institutions continue to see themselves as the gatekeepers of knowledge... until something snaps or gives way.

Without the conceptual shift I think we will continue to see those who resist these changes take more and more desperate measures to retain control and the status quo, such as banning mobile devices from the classroom, limiting Internet access during school hours and blocking Web2.0 sites.

Anne Paterson said...

Thanks for your articulation of the conceptual shift and the barriers presented with or without technology!

Sue said...

Anne, I really like your blog on U Learning especially how you link to the excellent article from Monash University. It was really good to read the article and be able to go to their web site and see how their students can access their study using a computer or a PDA.

It was interesting seeing how their website worked on a PDA. I would love to know how many students are actually accessing remotely using a PDA.

It certainly gives me food for thought with the work I do with PDAs.

If you have time I would love interview you for my podcast site

alexanderhayes said...

I felt the same as Sean when m-learning came up to define what we were up to anyways.

I'm not sure what Sue's up to however your take on u-learning Anne as we look at ways in which the internet and new and emergent technology squeeze a new definition out of us.

The conceptual shifts to understand technology as imbedded and pervasively present without fearing nor creating recourse will be our biggest issue as educators.

We are by nature control freaks and thats why we treat technology that needs to set out in rows...or handed out to interact with.