Why initiate dialogue about and with mobile technology?

As an element of the capacity building framework designed to help students make better use of personal mobile devices (PMDs) for workplace learning (WPL), this specific resource aims to help students design and initiate dialogue with academic teaching staff and workplace educators (WPLEs) to ensure common expectations, and shared learning activities and goals while on placement.

WPL occurs in workplaces. Each discipline, and even each workplace, has their unique ways of working ‑ how employees in workplaces do things, say things, use mobile technology and relate to each other to get things done. Increasingly, workplaces have their own policies around the use of PMDs and social media. On top of that students, academic coordinators and WPEs all bring their own assumptions and expectations about the use and value of PMDs to WPL. These policies and assumptions need to be explicitly discussed in order to reach a shared understanding of how students, WPEs and academics will use PMDs to enhance students’ learning.

How can academics, WPEs and students develop their capacity to discuss and negotiate expectations, skills and value around the use of PMDs and to address cultural issues and power relations as well as work within policies?

Students on placement often experience a range of challenges. Lack of communication and connection are listed as major challenges.[1] More specific examples of these challenges include:

  • Feeling and being isolated from home
  • Being confronted by cultural barriers
  • Being scared to ask questions
  • Finding it difficult to establish learning relationships with WPEs
  • Being confronted by confusing experiences
  • Not knowing what to expect
  • Not knowing where to go to find answers
  • Not getting (enough) feedback
  • Being anxious about not ‘performing’ well

As these challenges highlight, we cannot assume that students have a smooth transition to WPL. We also cannot take for granted that social interactions take 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. Rather than assuming a shared understanding, it is safer to discuss these challenges. Also, be mindful not to restrict social interaction to educational interventions aimed at cognitive processes, to the detriment of socio-emotional processes.

Successful placements need, amongst other things, clear, robust and shared understanding around coordination and communication with and between students, academics and WPEs.[2] In addition to this, beyond placements, learning and decision-making, in general, requires dialogue.[3] Indeed, research has shown that collective, reciprocal, cumulative, supportive and purposeful dialogues “can improve student perceptions of learning environments”.[4]

West & Vosloo [5] recommended the use of dialogue (as well as advocacy and leadership) to raise awareness of mobile learning. Coulby, Hennessey, Davies & Fuller argued, as did Wenger, 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”.[6] As such, the use of mobile technologies can create a community of practice.[7]

Dialogue should be conducted amongst and between the following people:

  • students
  • peers
  • academics
  • WPEs
  • professionals
  • assessors

Mobile technology can be a useful communication tool to:

  • connect, motivate and enhance relational aspects of learning and social interactivity[8];
  • support “the interchange between explicit and tacit knowledge”[9]; and
  • foster the development of collaborative and cooperative learning situations in powerful integrated electronic environments.[10]

Kirschner [10] 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”.[9] However, online dialogues should not be simply seen as a replacement for face-to-face interactions. Asynchronous technology-mediated contributions 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: Before placements, students could start a conversation with their WPEs about expectations, perceived barriers and opportunities for using their PMDs for learning. We propose that this process can be initiated, fostered and structured around a series of questions in key domains.

Refer to the associated resource page for some examples of how to initiate such dialogue.

 

References

[1] Jackson, D. (2014). Employability skill development in work-integrated learning: Barriers and best practice. Studies in Higher Education. Doi:10.1080/03075079.2013.842221

[2] 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

[3] 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.

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

[5] West, M., & Vosloo, S. (2013). UNESCO policy guidelines for mobile learning. Paris: UNESCO.

[6] 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 (p. 259).

[7] 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).

[8] 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

[9] 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 (p. 8).

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

[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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