How to start a discussion about the use of mobile devices to help students learn on placements?

Workplace learning (WPL) occurs in organisations and within disciplines that have their unique ways of doing things – how employees work, say things, use things and relate to each other to get things done, etc. This also applies to the ways in which personal mobile devices (PMD) and online networks are used and accessed. On the one hand, more and more workplaces have their own policies around the use of PMD and social media. On the other, students, academic coordinators and workplace educators (WPE) also bring their own assumptions and expectations about the use and value of PMD to WPL. These policies and assumptions need to be explicitly discussed in order to reach a shared understanding of how students, WPE and academics will use PMD to enhance students’ learning.

If that is a given, how can academics, WPE and students develop their capacity to discuss and negotiate expectations, skills and value around the use of PMD and to address cultural issues and power relations as well as work within policies?

We cannot take for granted that social interaction takes place automatically. Just because people are physically in the same place and allocated to work together does not mean that they have communicated about and addressed these issues.

Successful placements need, amongst other things, clear, robust and shared understanding around coordination and communication with and between students, academics and WPE [1]. In addition to this, beyond placements, learning and decision-making, in general, requires dialogue [2]. Indeed, research has shown that collective, reciprocal, cumulative, supportive and purposeful dialogues “can improve student perceptions of learning environments” [3].

Some researchers [4] recommended the use of dialogue (as well as advocacy and leadership) to raise awareness of mobile learning. Others [5] argued that “[t]he introduction of a new device for learning into the community of practice facilitated an opportunity for staff and students to open a dialogue and further develop shared meaning and experience”. As such, the use of mobile technologies can create a community of practice [6].

Mobile technology can be a useful communication tool to connect, motivate and enhance relational aspects of learning and social interactivity [7]; support “the interchange between explicit and tacit knowledge” [8]; and foster the development of collaborative and cooperative learning situations in powerful integrated electronic environments [9].

Kirschner [9] argues that the future of learning is based on a shared meaning making design. Mobile technology can also be the conversation starter to “augment these discussions by preparing trainees so that they can have a more informed, more confident and potentially more efficient discussion” [10]. However, online dialogues should not be simply seen as a replacement for face-to-face interactions.

Asynchronous technology-mediated exchanges often lead to monologues rather than dialogue [11]. Also, in practice, there are many obstacles and challenges to students actually using their personal digital devices while on placement. For example, there are cultural and professional biases against the use of mobile devices or a lack of shared expectation.

Therefore it is essential that before placements students start a conversation with their workplace educators about expectations, perceived barriers and opportunities for using their personal mobile devices for learning. We propose that this process can be initiated, fostered and structured around a series of questions in key domains:

 Workplace culture (What for and how are staff using mobile devices in the workplace?)

  • Policy and guidelines (Where can I find the workplace’s policies and guidelines about the use of mobile devices?)
  • Ethical conduct (What ethical issues do I need to consider if I use my mobile device on placement?)
  • Personal preferences (Can we discuss how I plan to use mobile devices?
  • PMD use and tasks (What work and/or learning tasks might I be able to complete using my personal mobile device and when? )
  • Digital literacy skills (Do I need to upgrade my digital literacy skills to complete the negotiated tasks?)

Does this resonate with activities that you know of? How do you get students to initiate dialogue around the use of PMD for learning on placements? We look forward to your comments.

References

[1] Howard, C., Fox, A. R., & Coyer, F. (2014). Text messaging to support off-campus clinical nursing facilitators: A descriptive study. Nurse Education Today. Doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2013.12.011

[2] Kreijns, K., Kirschner, P., & Jochems, W. (2003). Identifying the pitfalls for social interaction in computer-supported collaborative learning environments: a review of the research. Computers in Human Behavior 19, 335-353.

Hardyman, W., Bullock, A., Brown, A., Carter-Ingram, S., & Stacey, M. (2013). Mobile technology supporting trainee doctors’ workplace learning and patient care: An evaluation. BMC medical education, 13(1), 1-10.

[3] page 15 in Simpson, A. (2015). Designing pedagogic strategies for dialogic learning in higher education. Technology, Pedagogy and Education(ahead-of-print), 1-17.

[4] West, M., & Vosloo, S. (2013). UNESCO policy guidelines for mobile learning HERDSA Review of Higher Education (Vol. 21, pp. 002196). Paris: UNESCO.

[5] Wenger (1999), cited page 259 in Coulby, C., Hennessey, S., Davies, N., & Fuller, R. (2011). The use of mobile technology for work-based assessment: The student experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(2), 251-265.

[6] Holley, D., & Sentance, S. (2015). Mobile ‘Comfort’Zones: Overcoming Barriers to Enable Facilitated Learning in the Workplace. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 2015(1).

[7] Mettiäinen, S. (2015). Electronic Assessment and Feedback Tool in Supervision of Nursing Students During Clinical Training. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 13(1).

Hardyman, W., Bullock, A., Brown, A., Carter-Ingram, S., & Stacey, M. (2013). Mobile technology supporting trainee doctors’ workplace learning and patient care: An evaluation. BMC medical education, 13(1), 1-10.

Howard, C., Fox, A. R., & Coyer, F. (2014). Text messaging to support off-campus clinical nursing facilitators: A descriptive study. Nurse Education Today. Doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2013.12.011

[8] page 8 in Hardyman, W., Bullock, A., Brown, A., Carter-Ingram, S., & Stacey, M. (2013). Mobile technology supporting trainee doctors’ workplace learning and patient care: An evaluation. BMC medical education, 13(1), 1-10.

[9] Kirschner, P. (2001). Using integrated electronic environments for collaborative teaching/learning. Research Dialogue in Learning & Instruction 2, 1-9.

[10] Hardyman, W., Bullock, A., Brown, A., Carter-Ingram, S., & Stacey, M. (2013). Mobile technology supporting trainee doctors’ workplace learning and patient care: An evaluation. BMC medical education, 13(1), 1-10.

[11] Kreijns, K., Kirschner, P., & Jochems, W. (2003). Identifying the pitfalls for social interaction in computer-supported collaborative learning environments: a review of the research. Computers in Human Behavior 19, 335-353.

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