Opportunities and challenges of adopting mobile technology to enhance WPL

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My name is Franziska Trede I am the co-director of the Education for Practice Institute. I want to open up the dialogue at CSU about workplace learning (WPL) and mobile technology (MT). I am not talking about simulations I am talking about student learning in authentic workplaces.

Making the most of WPL through MT, remains an under-researched and ill-understood area of WPL. This is a little surprising, because learning, working and living are rapidly and relentlessly changing with MTs. They have changed workplaces and how colleagues work, communicate with and relate to each other, and professional practices are being radically technologised to varying degrees.

It is also surprising because MT seems like a great solution to the many challenges students face on placements:

Students tell us they have limited opportunities to talk with someone in the workplace about their experiences; and MT can connect them to peers and academics as well as other professional and personal networks to make sense of practice experiences.

They are removed from the library and cannot access information that they need on placement; MT makes it possible to access the library, Wikipedia, relevant blogs and also the website of their placement.

Some students feel isolated in a foreign workplace; and MT can keep them connected with friends and family.

Some students find it hard to ask questions. Their supervisors might be too busy or students feel awkward to ask their supervisor silly questions that might expose their ignorance and students might find it particularly hard to ask any sensitive questions that have to do with ethical, gender or social justice issues. MT can help them broadcast any of their questions and connect with other people in their search for improved meaning about professional practice.

On top of that MT can be used to record their thinking, film how they perform specific skills in practice situations and diarise experiences and reflections. And these activities can be instantly shared and assessed.

MT seems an obvious solution with its multimedia functions and power to connect people anywhere anytime.

But wait, aren’t there situations where time and place do matter in WPL. Sometimes there are only split seconds you have in work situations and it is crucial that supervisors are there.

Blending virtual and physical spaces well, and learning safely across personal, professional, public and educational spheres is no simple task.

We should not kid ourselves because these mobile solutions come with challenges and here I am just throwing in a few to the discussion: there are still connectivity problems in some workplaces with firewalls, no WIFI access and therefore extra cost to students.

Some workplaces have a social media policy that bans students to use personal digital devices. There are great differences between professions about the uptake of MT.

Professionalism in the mobile age is a murky area and there are unresolved conflicts with confidentiality and privacy that drastically reduce the possibilities of filming student performances on placement.

Students might talk more online with academics, peers, friends and family than with professionals on placement.

For academics to stay connected with students online can present as a substantive additional workload.

Despite these obstacles MT is relentlessly changing the learning and practice landscape. Students will use MT no matter what, so we better ensure they use it well for learning to prepare them for their future practices.

I believe, best use of MT will emerge when academics, workplace educators and students are on the same page, when there is shared understanding of ways in which students’ personal mobile digital devices can best be used. To achieve this students, academics and workplace educators need to talk, compare their expectations, bias and current practices and come to a shared understanding. A mobile technology capacity-building framework for workplace learning is currently being developed with the help of the Office of learning and teaching (OLT) funding. I am leading this project with three other university partners. We are collecting data from students, workplace educators and academics about their expectations and practices using MT to enhance WPL. Our first online resource for students is based on the principles explained in the introduction to the online resource.

We are currently testing this online resource which we call GPS for WPL. This is our first starting point to assemble the MT capacity building framework. To learn more about the project and to continue this conversation about enhancing WPL through MT do contact me, or go to the project website, contribute to its blog and see you at CSUed.

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