Faculty generally design courses on their computers, but many students interact with courses through mobile devices. In this episode, Christina Moore joins us to discuss the benefits of being mobile mindful in course design.
Christina is the Associate Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She is the author of Mobile-Mindful Teaching and Learning: Harnessing the Technology that Students Use Most, which was recently released by Stylus Publishing.
- Moore, C. (2023). Mobile-Mindful Teaching and Learning: Harnessing the Technology That Students Use Most. Stylus Publishing, LLC. Use discount code MOBILE20 for 20% and free shipping when ordered through Stylus.
- Behling, K. T., & Tobin, T. J. (2018). Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: Universal design for learning in higher education. West Virginia University Press.
- Moore, Christina (2020). Now is the Time to Embrace Mobile Learning. EDUCAUSE Review. June 22.
- Lang, J. M. (2020). Distracted: Why students can’t focus and what you can do about it. Hachette UK.
- Reach out to Christina at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John: Faculty generally design courses on their computers, but many students interact with courses through mobile devices. In this episode, we discuss the benefits of being mobile mindful in course design.
John: Thanks for joining us for Tea for Teaching, an informal discussion of innovative and effective practices in teaching and learning.
Rebecca: This podcast series is hosted by John Kane, an economist…
John: …and Rebecca Mushtare, a graphic designer…
Rebecca: …and features guests doing important research and advocacy work to make higher education more inclusive and supportive of all learners.
John: Our guest today is Christina Moore. Christina is the Associate Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She is the author of Mobile-Mindful Teaching and Learning: Harnessing the Technology that Students Use Most, which was recently released by Stylus Publishing. Welcome, Christina.
Christina: Thank you so much. So glad to be here.
Rebecca: Today’s teas are:… Christina, are you drinking tea?
Christina: I am.
Rebecca: Woohoo,what kind? [LAUGHTER]
Christina: I have to, of course. I am having honey vanilla chamomile tea. Just something refreshing and light.
Rebecca: That sounds perfect for a Friday afternoon. [LAUGHTER]
John: And I have one of my usuals, ginger peach green tea, today.
Rebecca: I just got a new shipment of my blue sapphire tea pack. So I’m back to drinking that. It’s a good spring tea.
John: And it’s all sparkly, isn’t it?
Rebecca: It’s not sparkly, it’s blue sapphire.
Christina: I never heard of sparkly tea, but I’m intrigued.
Rebecca: There is. We need to get our hands on some.
John: It was the same episode where you describe that tea. We’ve invited you here to discuss Mobile-Mindful Teaching and Learning. You note that you started writing this book on your phone? Can you tell us a little bit about the origin of this book project?
Christina: Yes. So probably the very first step is my interest in Universal Design for Learning. I find it to be a really useful framework for thinking as expansively as possible about how students can learn and how we, as instructors, can be involved. So my very first interest into mobile-mindful teaching in earnest was reading Tom Tobin and Kirsten Behling’s Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone: UDL in Higher Ed, and they have a chapter on “Meet the Mobile Learners” that was really this important call to learning with our phones and how, as educators, we’re really missing out if we’re not willing to consider the role that that could play, and I thought the argument was really convincing. So I started to do just a little bit of exploration into the topic. And that was probably in January 2020. And then a couple months later, COVID hit in earnest. It really upended our lives. I’m a mother of two young kids, and they were two and four at the time. So it was sometime in late March or early April, that we had been so cooped up, and we had used the family minivan so seldomly that we decided just to play in the car, that that would be the activity; not moving in the van anywhere, just playing in there. The kids would crawl around, listen to the radio… it was just one of those really comical moments just totally different than life in general. And it was really during those days that I was using my phone for work a lot more than I ever had before, because I just sometimes needed to keep things moving while we didn’t have childcare. I would read articles, I would take notes on how they might apply to something else I needed to write or work on that day, or it would spark an idea. And it was really at that point that I realized, it’s not just 18-, 19-, 20-year olds who want to learn on their phones, it’s really something that all of us, at least the vast majority of us, take advantage of. And during certain periods of our life, we need to lean on them more heavily. So I actually started to realize this while I’m sitting in the van, and I started writing down some notes about this experience. I was connecting back to some of the things I started to read and work on earlier. And then I sent the piece to EDUCAUSE and they were really interested in publishing it. It was a really short piece, but I was really surprised with how many people resonated with that, because mobile learning is still something that tends not to excite most instructors, it just feels like this distraction device, something people don’t want to think about, we’re already frustrated about it. But a lot of people recognize themselves, I think, in the story that I told and in some of the practical places to start. So in many ways that was sort of the seed to what would become this book, because honestly, while my interest has been in educational technology for a while, I would not have guessed, I would have written this book, but really it was the need to address something that I think we’ve been ignoring, or just haven’t been able to find a really accessible entry point to as far as a really good learning opportunity and even a good teaching opportunity for us. I was really inspired in this book to say “Okay, let’s come up with a starting point for at least considering what role mobile learning can play. And let’s start developing our curiosity and see where we go from there.
Rebecca: Can you talk a little bit about who the audience of the book is?
Christina: I really tried to make this book to the person who is excited about teaching, they really care about their students’ learning experience, even if they’re not so excited about the idea of students learning on a mobile device. And I would describe the audience that way, because I think that’s the audience that a lot of the enthusiasm around mobile learning has been missing. And we haven’t had that critical mass of instructors who are finding a good entry point in. So I would say it’s like the learner first, tech second, type of instructor who uses technology, normally, because they see it has a real benefit for students. And they may not always be comfortable with it, but they’re willing to try things as long it isn’t too overwhelming. So with that audience in mind, I really tried to take a beginner approach to tech. I explain how QR codes work, how you can create one, might even explain what the share icon is, because that’s really important for fluid learning and connecting our learning experiences. But I also allow space to dive into more course activities and possibilities that you can do with students, even if you don’t feel completely mobile tech savvy, because I’m somewhat in that boat as well. Of course, I learned a lot through this book, but I hope I did some of the learning and pre work so that faculty readers and other educators can just feel free to try things out, even if they’re not totally sure how they feel about these things.
Rebecca: Can you define what you mean by mobile learning, just to make sure that we’re all on the same page early on the conversation?
Christina: Yeah. So mobile learning, first and foremost, makes us think of learning on a smartphone, which mobile learning can sometimes mean like tablets, and even non-smartphones. But we’re normally talking about smartphones, phones that have the capability to connect to the internet, especially because increasingly, most people, most adults, have mobile phones. But I do think a little bit larger about mobile learning as well, just acknowledging the fact that we learn in motion. I think a lot of us sit in front of a computer for a lot of the work that we do. But what I try to guide us to think about is the fact that we learn and work in multiple places, with our laptop, with our phones, while we’re on a walk, while we’re on a drive. We do not stop learning or stop thinking the second that we are no longer in front of a screen officially working on things. So I also try to tease out that much larger idea of we are learners in motion and that we are learning and responding to our environments.
John: And smartphone ownership by students is close to being ubiquitous, nearly all students have a smartphone. And they normally have them with them all the time. And they use them regularly for learning. Yet there is some faculty resistance to students using smartphones in the classroom. How do you address that when faculty say “I don’t allow smartphone use in my classes?”
Christina: I think I take a balanced approach to this. So first, I acknowledge that and understand. I think even our students don’t really like how distracted they constantly feel by technology. Our institution actually just facilitated a student engagement panel with students talking about creating a collaboration around student engagement and learning with faculty. And even that was expressed by the students themselves. And that was corroborated by the research that I looked into. So, I think, and I have this mantra a lot throughout the book, which is somewhat the mindful aspect of it as “Well it’s okay, let’s acknowledge and notice that we have that skeptical feeling, but sort of suspend it and just be a bit curious.” So my first piece of advice is to talk with students directly about this issue, because our classes look different. They’re small, they’re large, they’re gen ed classes or major classes. So I think it helps to first talk with the students, maybe on the first day, if you’re discussing the course syllabus, “What should tech use look like in the class?” It can either be in class or in an anonymous form where you’re saying: “Some research has found that cell phones can be distracting not only to the person using it, but to the person next to them. How do you feel about this and your learning environment?” Then that can help at least bring them into the discussion, so that with whatever you decide, they feel like they have had some say and input, or at least some understanding of why you do what you do. That being said, I would definitely not support just a total tech ban. And that’s because, and the book does get into some of this research, there’s pretty strong indication that students are using these phones for e-texts, sometimes they are caregivers who really feel anxious if they don’t feel like they’re going to know right away if there’s an issue and they’re the primary contact. So there’s lots of evidence that by banning this technology altogether, we can do real harm to the students who really need it the most, which overwhelmingly are women, or people of color, and people with disabilities. So I wouldn’t encourage a total tech ban, a conversation with students, and really, similar to what James Lang has talked about in his book Distracted, that we don’t have to take an either/or stance, it’s not really reasonable to expect totally undivided attention. I mean, think of any faculty meeting and how many phones are even out during those. So just thinking realistically, but also maybe guiding your students, like, which point in class do you think it’s really important to put away the phones because you’re just talking to one another, and then maybe prompting students to do that. Whereas other active learning situations, you might not worry so much about the technology being used, because the activity itself is so engaging that you don’t really have to worry about that. So overall, I actually encourage us to think more about the mobile learning possibilities outside of a classroom, because I actually think that that’s where its virtues come out a lot more than it’s vices.
Rebecca: I’m really struck by the idea of this fluid learning and learning on the go. [LAUGHTER] And having learning in your pocket and work in your pocket. Your story was reminding me that just the other day, I was enjoying the nice weather, but had a lot of work to do, so I got out my mobile device and I talked through the presentation I needed to give so I could get an outline done while I was on a walk without having to be at a computer. And there’s lots of ways that we can use our devices. We talked a little bit about QR codes, and that might be one obvious way to use a mobile device in a classroom, but what are some of these other ways to use a phone that are in these other spaces that we don’t always expect?
Christina: So I think your example of being on a walk is one that I talk through, because part of the book, a fairly large section of the book is called “Start with Self.” And this is really guiding us through the basics of what it means to be a mobile learner, what are some basic skills that will help you actually become more familiar with what it is to be a mobile learner firsthand, because we’re really not used to thinking of ourselves in that way. And I like the walking to sort of get a break, but you’re still actually being very productive. And maybe you’re being more productive because you’re breaking up your thinking, your body is moving, your muscles are moving, so your brain is likely going to be better and more responsive. But I think, for most of us, we have to sort of walk through the steps of “Okay, but how do I make that happen? How do I use voice to text in order to be able to speak into the phone and have the text written out? Where do I do that? What app do I use?” And along with fluid learning, which is the idea that we design learning activities so that if we do our learning in one place, we can then access it in a useful way, in a different context, a different device, in a different situation. So it gets into that decision of am I taking my notes in a app that I can easily access when I do decide to sit back down at the computer? So I think going through those simple steps of “Okay, what buttons do I have to press? How do I find out how to do that? What tools and processes are going to work best for me?” I think is something that we have to start with, because many of us aren’t used to putting all of those pieces together. But just to use this example, again, the idea of being able to walk and learn in a productive way, is a really good example of something that’s good for our bodies that in a way actually takes us away from screens a little bit because we’re not so focused, even on the screen in front of us, we’re just using it basically as a recording device. And that’s why I do like us to think a little bit broader about mobile learning because yes, it is learning that is made possible because of phones but it is not always just us with our thumbs staring at this teeny tiny screen, but it’s also how it allows us to take pictures of things that we find so that we are actually connecting whatever we’re talking about in class to something that we are seeing in a completely different context. And if we think about the application that we make possible, how much more powerful is that learning that we’re able to take it from our environment, and then find some way to share it with our classmates, such as a shared messaging platform or a shared folder where people can put their pictures, I’ve heard really amazing examples, especially in like biology and STEM fields, where instructors are using, whether it’s something like social media or just a shared photo folder, where both the instructors are sharing photos and asking their students to identify them, sometimes on a daily basis, where also students are actively collecting samples via photos. And then they are working as a class together to label the genus or species of whatever leaf, plant, or whatever that they have identified. So I think that answer was a little bit mobile in and of itself, it might have kept going, but I think it provides some examples.
John: In the title of your book, you use mobile mindful, rather than mobile learning. Why is that distinction important?
Christina: Even stepping back to when I was thinking of mobile learning directly, I was really wanting to use my phone more productively so less mindlessly, because I was noticing I was just going to my phone to pass the time. And I was doing things I wasn’t even interested in or was consciously thinking of. So I began thinking, “Okay, how can I redirect this habit into something that is more intentional?” So that’s one reason for the use of the word mobile mindful is this idea of intention, and using our phones for the things we actually want to do rather than just for this pure distraction. But I also use the word mindful with it as a hopefully less intimidating and less techie sounding approach to it. So when I think of mobile mindful, I think of something that’s mobile aware, or mobile-ish, or it’s an adding a piece to our already existing rich ecology for learning that we create in our classroom. And just adding this as like an extra tool, an extra really powerful way to connect all of these pieces together and help our students learn more often and think about the content more often. So it’s a mindful approach to mobile learning, but also like, let’s start with mobile aware before we like go diving into mobile learning. So I contrast it with mobile first learning, which some people are doing amazing work on, which is putting in the constraint and challenge of let’s try to create a whole learning environment that can take place on a phone. That is not the approach that I take in this book. I think it’s productive for most college and university instructors to first start with, “Well, how can this be one piece and one delightful added element to all of the good work that we’re already doing?”
Rebecca: I’m curious in your role as an instructor and in a teaching center and your interactions with students, what are some of the most interesting ways you’ve seen that students have just adapted to using their phones to help with learning?
Christina: Well, I’ll answer the question, but I’ll also add something to it that I think is important for us to realize, that once we go through the learning process of being a mobile learner ourselves, there may need to be a little bit of prep work that we also do with students. Well, a lot of our students have only known the world that is mobile phone capable, it doesn’t always mean that they are ready to be mobile learners. They have definitely internalized messages that phones are bad for them, phones shouldn’t be in the classroom, even though they bring them in anyway. So there’s very much this vice type of attitude towards it. And therefore they haven’t had always a lot of opportunities to use their phones as these powerful learning devices. So I would add sort of the caveat of “Yes, students are doing amazing things and can do amazing things, but they may need to be guided into it a little bit just as much as we do.” So with that being said, I would say that some of the exciting things that students are doing and going back to QR codes, I really liked the example of audio essays that were taken to specific places. And again, QR codes have become so much easier to both use and create. You can basically create them from any browser. The QR codes in my book are purposely created for free by right clicking on any website and there’s a drop down option that says create a QR code. You can create fancier logo specific ones, but I decided to just use the default one as sort of a demonstration of the fact that they are really easy to create, and that’s how I went about it. So I think even just adding an element to maybe research presentations or things for a specific audience where you say, “Okay, how could you use a QR code to direct people to a different learning element?” And so it might be directing them to a piece of audio where you’re explaining something that is in a very specific environment. So again, thinking about learning being mobile is you are creating learning experiences that take place in very specific locations, or could take them to a form that they fill out or a petition or something like that. So I think it creates a lot of convenience and thinking about your audience and makes it a little bit more creative. And then the one other really interesting use that I cover, and I talk about the ethics of mobile phone use and inviting students to use their mobile phones. That’s actually a really good opportunity to get students to think more critically about the data being collected on them. So some faculty have done really interesting work in places like statistics, or other data analysis type of classes, and students have been invited to download the data that is collected about them on social media or on Pokemon Go, especially those that are mobile dependent, like especially Pokemon Go. It not only teaches the students a really useful content skill and applies it, but it helps them be a little bit more critical about what is actually going on behind the scenes when they don’t actively take a role in limiting data sharing about what they’re doing and where they are. So I think that type of application of getting students to think and actually dig into their own data is a really good example of what I think faculty could start to find as really exciting about mobile-mindful teaching, as they start to see that there is a lot they can have students do that really isn’t as possible in other ways.
John: You mentioned QR codes. When they first came out, they were really useful tools, but you had to dig up a specific application to scan them. Once smartphone manufacturers allowed the cameras to directly read and respond to QR codes, it became such a game changer in terms of their use. I don’t think I’ve given any presentations, either in class or at a conference in the last three or four years, except during the time when all instruction was remote, and then I was more likely to drop URLs in the chat. And it just opened up so many great possibilities for sharing resources with students, with colleagues, and so forth. I’m still amazed at the number of faculty who don’t know how to use QR codes. And I was really glad to see you had a discussion of that in the book in terms of how instructors could use those within their classes. You mentioned a little bit about the use of QR codes, but how might instructors use that in their class?
Christina: Yeah, so and just as a funny note, back to the audience, my mother is reading my book, and I asked if she’s tried any of the QR codes yet. And she said, “What’s a QR code?” [LAUGHTER] And I said, “Oh, maybe you haven’t gotten that far in the book yet.” But then I was explaining it to her. And she’s like, “Oh, it’s what’s been on all of the restaurant menus.” I was like, “Yep, those are the ones.” So I also think of like, you don’t know what a QR code is and you’ve seen it, but you haven’t connected the dots. I’m hoping that this book will connect a lot of the dots. So I will give a couple of really useful examples of an instructor intentionally using QR codes. So, I think in the spirit of Universal Design for Learning, it can be really nice to add QR codes to print handouts, because I think sometimes students do like to have print handouts because it helps them resist some of the distraction that comes with phones. They like having something tactile, but by putting a QR code on them, if they would rather consult something on a phone and take digital notes, they immediately have that option. So I think that’s something that’s fairly easy that can be done if you use print handouts, but want to be conscious of people potentially using mobile phones, or directing people intentionally to other websites by using their phones. My other favorite, which I think is also useful in other contexts, is when you want to get quick feedback from your audience, such as students, displaying a really big QR code on a projector. And then even in a really large class, they can pretty easily scan it and then they can give you some really useful feedback that you have in a digital form that can be automatically analyzed or you can quickly go through it. So I think of some of the really classic active learning strategies that we may be familiar with such as exit tickets, what you want to know from students at the end of class. It might be the muddiest point, where you want to know what students are still confused on, or one-minute papers, where you want a really quick reflection about what they’ve learned in the class. So by displaying that QR code, students can take the form there, and then you quickly have all the data. Inversely, you can also do this at the beginning of a class, if you want to ask students, either three review questions, or you want to ask them three questions that are just going to prime the pump of whatever you’re about to discuss to sort of see what they know before you’ve even covered it. While I didn’t do it with the QR code, this was one of my favorite mobile learning activities that I tried the last time that I teach. Because it was an asynchronous online course, I wanted to get a sense of students feeling like I am responding to what they’re learning and thinking. So I would start the week with a really short form and say, “This will take you five minutes, I just want to know what has your experience been doing primary research? Do you know the difference between primary and secondary research?” And then I could address that feedback directly into my instructional video. So it would create that sense of presence, even though it was an asynchronous course. And by telling them it would take them five minutes, they did it right away. So like, that’s kind of the magic of micro learning, which is, I think, one of the superpowers of mobile-mindful learning is if you can break things down into smaller chunks, students will do it. And that’s kind of the interesting course design pedagogical challenges, to figure out how to get things into smaller pieces.
Rebecca: I think one of the things that we often assume is that the students who are using their phones for learning or to complete work are more traditional aged college students. But from my experience, [LAUGHTER] it’s often adult learners who are using their phones the most, because they’re often double timing as your example in the van [LAUGHTER], or at soccer practice or during swim lessons and trying to complete a module or reading the captions on a video, or [LAUGHTER] any number of other things, getting a start on a paper or trying to edit or providing feedback to peers or something. So they’re taking it with them, and often maybe in an environment where there’s other things going on, but trying to make progress on something in the little snippets of time, those small chunks of time that might be available.
Christina: And that’s what I think is useful about thinking of this fluid learning environment is, of course, we don’t always want to be learning in that context. We want our students to think deeply, we want them to have time to really mull over ideas and work in larger chunks of time. But what I’ve come to realize is that there really is quality learning that can happen in those snippets of time, mostly by frequency. Because I think a lot of times with the way activities and courses are set up is that the students are cramming right before class, the last possible minute, to do everything they were supposed to do over the last week. And we know from experience that this does not produce quality work. And it doesn’t bring into our class, a really curious thinker who’s really been mulling over these ideas. So I think if we reframe this sort of micro learning as “How would your students think differently, if they thought about your course content four times a day, even if it was in really small snippets?” They would probably be a lot more prepared and have more interesting things to say once they do sit down with that hour to work on things. So even if we sort of dread and don’t love the idea of our students doing things while waiting in line for five minutes, or being in a waiting room for 10 minutes, I think reframing it as like this is a piece that will contribute to a longer work period. I think that’s a lot more inspiring.
Rebecca: You know, from my own experience, I get more reading done, because sometimes I have my device read to me and I can do that in the car or in other places… maybe not good for research kind of reading but good if I’m trying to get background knowledge on something or keep up with something that’s current.
Christina: Rebecca, you’re narrating and describing exactly the types of things that I want readers to notice about themselves, about how they learn, because I think we normally don’t notice these things. We just sort of do them because we’re trying to just do what we can. And what we want to get students to notice about their own learning emotion as well.
Rebecca: I mean, I’m a designer who designs for mobile devices, so I’m already sold. [LAUGHTER] But I think it’s important that we recognize how often people are using their devices already, and all the ways that we could use them that we don’t always know that we can. My students are often really surprised when I show them some of the features that are available to them on their phone that make their lives easier.
Christina: Yes. Exactly. And that’s why we have to take students along with us and pointing things out like, “Oh, do you know how to do this? Do you know that the learning management system has an app? Do you know that it will give you push notifications when I message you, so you don’t have to worry about catching up on my emails as much?” I think those little nudges like, “Oh, did you know or how do you keep notes on a phone?” I think those types of nudges and getting them in the right direction will help in your class and throughout their whole lives.
John: And you mentioned that you got started on this through a UDL approach. And smartphones enable a lot of assignments that can be done in multiple modes. Could you talk to us a little bit about how instructors might use that to give students multiple ways of demonstrating their learning?
Christina: Yeah, this reminds me of a course activity that I propose in the book. And it’s called “untethering the research presentation,” because I predominantly teach writing and rhetoric to first-year students, they’re required courses. So I think students are really used to doing slide presentations for their classes. And I think they do that because we’re comfortable with them and so it just becomes this routine thing that doesn’t have a lot of love and spirit behind them. So I think this idea of untethering the research presentation is like, let’s think of this in a little bit of a different way. If we’re not using slides, what else can you do? Is it a really engaging discussion without technology? Is it a video? Is it coming up with a social media campaign. And what I like about that idea is not only is it a more creative and authentic way to put whatever they’ve been researching into action with a real audience, but it gets them to think in a different way about how that information lives. So I think mobile learning can be a really important part of this, especially if students are thinking about who their audience is. They may determine that their audience is going to best be reached on a mobile device. So if they’re doing a video, and they determine that their audience is most likely going to look at this on a phone, how are they going to design that video accordingly? If it’s on social media, then doing something in portrait might be the best because it scrolls through better that way. So I think prompting our students to also be, depending on their field, be prepared to be mobile practitioners and how they can reach a mobile audience. Another example I use is if you are a math educator, we hear about the new math and reaching out to parents about how to guide them through that. How many of your parents are likely going to maybe be smartphone dependent, meaning that the only reliable internet they have at home is on a phone? So how are they going to use that sitting next to their child helping them with math? So I think by posing those types of ways of presenting information for a specific audience, is a good example of both inviting students to express their learning in a way that they are comfortable with and excited about and speaks to their strengths, but also getting them to think about the audience for the work that they’re doing too, and how to demonstrate that learning to an audience in a way that is relatable and accessible to them.
Rebecca: So one of the things that got me really curious about how students are using mobile devices is actually, how they might even engage in the learning management system. So we talked a little bit about having an app, but also sometimes there’s a web version that’s made responsively, and also exists on the mobile device. And what I’ve discovered often is that those are sometimes different, or the way you even get to information material is different. So that’s always something that I start talking to my students about is like, “Okay, if you’re using the app, you can do this one thing, if you use the website, you can use this other thing.” I’m mentioning this, in part, because the way that students are engaging with their materials sometimes is really different if they’re in the app of a learning management system versus the website version of it. We might have micro lessons or small activities that we’re doing on our devices, like videos and things and those experiences might be really different. I’m curious about the ways that we can help faculty become more aware of the different ways our students are using their learning management systems, even on our mobile devices.
Christina: Yeah, so that’s great. And I’m glad we’re bringing it up. I highly encourage us to regularly take mobile test drives through our materials. I think it’s a really good place to start. So pull up your syllabus on a phone, what does it look like? How easy is it to navigate how when you open up links that are there? How many clicks does it take or how many taps if we’re thinking mobile mindful? How many taps does it take for them to get to the content that they want to get to? So I think actually going through the tactile experience of going through your course materials on a phone is really insightful, because I actually hope that you’ll find things work a lot better than you expect, because I think mobile accessibility has gotten a lot better. And I think sometimes we might still be thinking in like a 2004, even 2012, realm of like, where everything just looked terrible on the phone. I think we might be surprised when we actually go through that things scale, and are more responsive than we expect. So I think that that’s a great place to start. If you use the learning management system at your institution, and you’ve never looked into whether they have an app, you can do that. Download it. You might discover things, like I mentioned sort of offhand earlier, that there are push notifications whenever you use the announcements forum, or whatever it’s called in your learning management system. So students get that right away, rather than hoping that they get into their email. So you may discover that there are certain surveys that work okay, but if you maybe used a slightly different tool, or you broke up the question in a different way, it might be even more responsive. And that might make you think, “Okay, if I actually just break this one 30-question quiz into three 10-question quizzes and open up that access so that they can take it as many times as they want, and then I tell them in class, I want you to do these, you can do them on your phone, it’ll probably only take you 10 minutes a day, I mean, then you start to think of how much they’re practicing and reviewing the material so that they don’t even have to think about it anymore, they can get right into the more complex thinking. I think even that test drive mentality of like, “Okay, let’s see how it looks,” then I can sort of guide students on what I think works well on a mobile phone and what I think doesn’t work well on a mobile phone. And then even, and this is what I was doing throughout the book, is taking screenshots that I wanted to save and show in class, okay, this is how it looks. It really helps reinforce that for students, and then going through your course texts, trying to identify what works well, on a mobile device, tell students to do that. You might also feel free to say: “This one text, it really doesn’t respond on mobile well, that’s something I would say to do on your computer, to do offline.” I think talking students through those options really gives them a lot more agency, because I think a lot of our impulse is to say, “Don’t use your phone for the course, it’s not designed that way.” But they are, for different reasons. Sometimes, they’re just going to do it that way. So if instead we can say, “Well, the discussion forums work well if you do a video post, but otherwise, if you need to cite things it might not.” So by giving them an action and plan, rather than just saying, “Don’t do it,” I think that’s gonna get us a lot farther. And I know that in doing this test drive and thinking about how we can leverage those five and ten minutes, it actually got me really excited to think about quiz design, how I get feedback from students, and even how I design my instructional videos. In the UDL mindset, I started to record my videos the same, but I would just pass them on to YouTube as well, instead of just in the learning management system, and then I would have a link that says access on YouTube. And then I would make that into a playlist. It’s not really any extra work, it’s just organizing them into one list. And then it gives students the opportunity to just keep playing through, which we probably know, as mobile consumers ourselves, is that it’s easy to get us to buy in, if it’s only a three-minute video. But then we’re like, “Okay, let’s just do one more three-minute video. And then we’ve been watching videos for a half hour very easily. So if we can use that capability for good, [LAUGHTER] I think that can be something exciting for us.
Rebecca: Christina, did you just suggest designing a learning rabbit hole? [LAUGHTER]
Christina: I sure did.[LAUGHTER]
John: We gave a workshop recently where we encouraged people if they were using videos in their class to do the embed, rather than sending students to YouTube, because that rabbit hole could often take them in directions away from the course. But if you’re directing them to a playlist with a whole series of videos, then having that rabbit hole could be very useful.
Rebecca: That’s downright sneaky.
Christina: Yeah, but let’s use the sneakiness for good. But, doing the test drive, we can also recognize where things are distracting if we tried to take them to a mobile device. And we might just be transparent about that, and for that reason, suggest that they don’t go in that direction. So it’s why it’s this mindful approach. It’s just being aware of what works well and what doesn’t, and giving our students some direction accordingly.
Rebecca: Sometimes that test drive can reveal even little details like should this open in the same window or a different window?
Christina: Mm hmm.
Rebecca: Because some tools are fine on a desktop, but as soon as you try to do it on the mobile device inside of the learning management system, it’s a nightmare.
Christina: I think that’s actually a really good example of how I think going through this thought process will reduce friction, and overall just improve the teaching design in general, because we found that with online teaching, too, is that when people began teaching online overall…I mean, as long as they did it, right, of course, and took a good approach… it actually often increased the quality of their in-person or on-ground learning as well, because it was just a different way of thinking about it. And it helped you see where there were barriers that you could take away. So I think that’s a good example of, it just helps you pay attention to the learning experience in a different way that could give you really good insight overall.
John: We always end with the question, what’s next?
Christina: Well, first is, a little bit of a break. [LAUGHTER] I definitely want to talk about the book, and I will be, but I’m taking just a little bit of a pause. But during this pause, I’m actually putting together content for a blog to kind of be the “what’s next” of the book, because the book is an invitation and it’s a framework for us to get started with mobile learning. But from there, I know that there are people doing brilliant things with mobile learning, or they’re going to have lots of light bulbs that go off because of this book. So I want to continue the conversation. I didn’t want it to end with the book. So I plan on contributing content myself, but also inviting people to share their mobile learning strategies, victories, challenges, stories. So I may provide my email address so that people can feel free to contact me if they would like to contribute something. I’m gathering up goodies so that I can start to share them out into the world. And then I also want to work with faculty to research how the application of these strategies are going, because I’d like to see the evidence and put them out in more formalized ways so that we can really build and make this a practice that is more common, more accepted and really is convincing that it is what students need and provide guidance on how to do it well.
Rebecca: Well, thank you so much for the book and really thinking about introductory audience.
Christina: Thanks a lot. This was great.
John: I really enjoyed reading the book and I’m really happy we can share this with our listeners.
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Rebecca: You can find show notes, transcripts and other materials on teaforteaching.com. Music by Michael Gary Brewer.