Location Independent Learning

Enhancing Teaching through Digital and Physical Harmony

As mobile technology has evolved, so has its capability to shape and enhance learning. Learning doesn’t just have to take place in the classroom anymore. It doesn’t even have to take place in a school. With the help of mobile technology, it can take place – almost – anywhere. The digital world can now be enhanced and expanded by the physical world – you take the technology wherever you want, and reap the educational benefits.
We’ve seen before the ways in which digital devices can be used to take learning outside of the classroom. We’ve also seen the ways in which digital tools can help us view the physical world in different ways – with tools like augmented reality – but what about how the physical world can shape our digital experience? It’s not just about being able to take your device anywhere, it’s about using your surroundings to enhance the way you are interacting with your device and the digital world. For example, imagine you’re teaching a lesson about British history. Wouldn’t it be ideal to engage and inspire the class by taking the lesson out of the classroom and to a historical landmark, like the Tower of London? And with technology like tablets, it doesn’t just have to be a typical class day out with children listening to tour guides talk or wandering off.

On the 25th November, organisers of the annual learning technology event BETT launched their weekly ‘BETT Chat’ (#bettchat), and the topic was “exploring bringing the ‘real world’ into learning”. Contributors to the discussion – many educators themselves – clearly arrived at a general consensus that there were countless benefits to bringing the real world into learning, and learning into the real world.

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They can engage in an immersive way with their surroundings,which coupled with digital tools will enhance the learning experience, and help them get a better understanding of the topic of study. Students can be looking at an artefact, building or museum exhibit whilst reading about or discussing the topic online, adding a whole new context to their learning.

We recently attended the Microsoft Immersive Classroom in Victoria, and spent the day finding out about how educators and students might use tablets and other mobile technology to enhance the learning experience. Actually experiencing this technology in real time, it’s easy to see the benefits of being able to use these devices anywhere to connect with other students and the wider Internet. For example, using software such as Lync, college students working on a project together could nominate a member of the team to visit a place relevant to the work, and report back live to them “from the scene”, rather than having to provide feedback in hindsight. With another Microsoft app, OneNote, pupils on
a field trip to a museum could be collaboratively creating a notebook with things they have learned and experienced during the day, adding photos, videos, excerpts of text and drawings.

Another aspect to consider when thinking about location independent learning is the concept of the flipped classroom. In a ‘flipped classroom’, a teacher will provide students with learning resources such as videos prior to the lesson. Then, in the lesson itself, students complete their ‘homework’ and have more time to discuss and solve questions with teachers, creating a more personalised and guided learning experience. In this situation, a student might find it
more beneficial to take their work to a location outside of their home, whether that be a location related to the topic or not. It could be a park or a library where they feel more focused, or a building or landmark relevant to their work. They can then use their physical location to enhance their digital experience and shape their understanding of the topic ahead of the lesson.
Mobile technology – devices, applications and infrastructure – is constantly evolving and with it
bringing the potential of expanding the way learning is undertaken outside of the classroom. It’s not just about being able to take learning home or to a different part of the school, it’s now about being able to take learning to a place that will expand the digital experience and maximise understanding of the topic at hand.