Course Spotlight: “Introduction to Mobile Phone Learning” Dr. Dominic Mentor Ed.D ’11 Instructional Technology & Media and Dr. Nabeel Ahmad Ed.D. ’09 Instructional Technology & MediaBy mst • Sep 16th, 2013 • Category: Communication, Computing, and Technology Education, Lead Story
Dominic and Nabeel, graduates of the CCTE program, are adjunct professors at Teachers College, teaching two courses: Introduction to Mobile Phone Learning in the CCTE program and Cognition and Hand-held Devices in The Human Cognition and Learning program in the Department of Human Development. Over the past four years they have established this mobile learning course at TC, which was the first course in the country that covered this topic. The two courses differ slightly; the Cognition and Handled Devices course focus on the deeper cognitive perspective of a wider plethora of mobile use for learning.
Dominic Mentor grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, during apartheid. He named his sister as the initial connection with technology. Access to technology was sparse due to apartheid policies. His sister started a computer technology organization with three others, with the sole purpose of providing computer technology access to teachers, so that they could produce newspapers, newsletters, or use it for teachings, purposes. In addition to this childhood experience, his cousin received a keyboard device that connected to the television, creating an interactive experience for children. The device beeped and blinked, allowed for the screen to receive input and make the user a producer, rather than a consumer, which made this experience stimulating for Dominic as a child. The device mimicked the functions of a computer, which consisted of word games, mathematics games, as well as programming. These early experiences with technology were exciting and piqued his interest.
When he started teaching in South Africa, most of the teaching materials were paper-based at various schools. The apartheid government gave schools of color one computer, if they were lucky. With use of the computer they could generate materials and save them electronically to be updated later. While he was still studying, at his first university, the University of the Western Cape, he was able to follow in the footsteps of his sister and generate guideline documents and booklets for new teachers. Having access to the electronic files allowed them to provide the most recent and up-to-date materials as new teachers went into their teaching experiences. This process of transitioning from paper-based models to electronic served as a turning point for Dominic.
He earned a master’s degree in Hypermedia for Language Learning, where he was able to fully use the multimedia capabilities for language learning purposes. This allowed him to create a self-contained interactive experience, making the language learning experience more dynamic.
Dominic recalls how the Introduction to Mobile Phone Learning course was developed, “We saw a real need for this field to come into being. We were walking through the park… changing our dissertation focus. There is this area and it really needs to be explored, as well as shared with people. We were investing all this time in looking at this as new emerging arena, then realizing that many people in the States at the time weren’t even thinking about this as an area of study. Yet we were seeing the amazing potential in all fields, not just education, in people’s personal lives. That led us into this course and creating the course… We were investing so much effort and energy into the research and were only able to just talk to one another. What would be required to make this happen? What are the theoretical aspects? What are the pedagogical practicalities? We were collecting all of this and so much of it we had to leave out of our dissertations. But there was so much rich material there, so putting a course together to be able to share that was really helpful, not just to fellow peers, but other students.”
Dominic predominantly works in the area of workforce development, to prepare young adults for internships, IT internships in particular, within various corporations. In addition to this work, he is a consultant for after school organizations to help students with STEM subjects in order to help them to succeed and do better in the STEM fields. Much of Dominic’s work is grant funded and he does some work, potentially using mobile technology and leveraging it for education and personal benefit in many spheres of students’ lives. Dominic also worked as a consultant with the Mayors Office of Adult Education serving on projects ranging from aiding previously incarcerated women, and GED students, creating a space for the tutors of the New York public library that offers classes in computer literacy, ESL teaching to immigrants and senior citizens, and the Emmy award winning “We Are New York” program. Making all these things accessible for people to use.
Dominic’s experience as an adjunct faculty at TC has been rewarding; technology is readily available and constantly updated. He also mentioned that he has the freedom to explore new technologies, since new technology is available to the students and faculty. “I appreciated it so much more because I have worked in environments where that’s not possible, where many segments of society and other institutions just do not have that in many places in the USA.” This access allows faculty and students to stay on the cusp of new things that are happening as well as encourage and celebrate innovation.
“We have students from diverse backgrounds, diverse work spaces. We’ve had students in our classes from psychology, mathematics, science, adult learning.” The course is set-up in such a way so that all students benefit, “Again we cater and learn from these diverse backgrounds and experiences that students come with and share with us as well as seek help bring their mobile learning ideas into existence.”
In addition to these two courses Dominic teaches another course entitled Cognition and Handheld Devices and helps out on another titled Strategic Learning in the Adult Learning and Leadership program in the Department of Organization and Leadership. The mobile phone learning course is structured in such a way that at the beginning of the course prior knowledge is activated to recall students’ first and previous experiences with their phones and their current experiences with mobile phone use. The course discusses what is currently happening in the field of mobile learning and mobile use and what is to come in the near future, all of which follows from a solid foundation in mobile learning theories and pedagogical practicalities… and cultivates ideas of how the simplest of mobile phones, and mobile phone tools can be repurposed for various fields and needs.
Within the creative learning environment, student active agency is encouraged. This empowers the students and allows Nabeel and Dominic to be accountable to the students. Student feedback is incorporated on a week to week basis for inclusion and transparency to enrich the experience for the students and the instructors.
Dominic enjoys teaching the Introduction to Mobile Phone Learning course the most, for several reasons: co-teaching with Nabeel which offers the students a dual perspective on the topics taught in the course, in addition to the multitude of student perspectives that adds to the value of the course.
Dominic indicated that, “Another reason we created the course was the snowball effect. We get the word out, we expand, but the seeds that we are planting with other people and the seeds that we get from them, then there is this great harvest that takes place. The students then employ that knowledge in whichever context they find themselves in from K-12 teaching, counseling, psychology, and corporate America. This makes it more of a realistic, practical application and experience and fruitful for us.”
One of their students in the Adult Learning and Leadership program really set the bar high with the standard of creating a business after every class. He started a business for corporate learning support in Brazil based off of the Introduction to Mobile Phone Learning course. They have had other business/entrepreneur-type thinking from their students that has come as a result of this course.
In addition to teaching and consulting, his publications and conference proceedings have consisted of e-learning and the ecology of e-learning in higher education and/or business environments, placing the learner at the center of it all. Moreover, he has written about mobile learning and the social emotional aspects of mobile communication, enables possible portable community support and how, an often times this overlooked aspect of academic journeys, can benefit the student. Dominic feels there is not enough being written about the value of socio-emotion and the connectedness it offers and how those momentary emotions of connectedness can be used for academic gain and success.
Dominic delivered the keynote address at William Patterson University of Educational Technology Conference, where he spoke about the use of iPads in the K-12 settings. He is also on the advisory board for a developing book in this field, where he will submit a chapter as well. He belongs to the e-learning Guild, Kappa Delta Pi, and the National College Transition Network.
Furthermore, Dominic is engaged in a personal project where he is using crowd-sourcing technology with the use of mobile phones and other electronic devices to retroactively document uprisings that took place during the apartheid. There were many protests, but they were not necessarily documented, hence historical crowd-sourcing is taking place.
Nabeel Ahmad grew up in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He had a home computer with educational software loaded on it (e.g., geography quizzes). He enjoyed the interactive nature of using the computer as opposed to passively watching television. By using the computer as a child he felt in control of the activity in which he was involved, in the driver’s seat and empowered by the possibilities of what one could do with technology.
His experience as an undergraduate was enlighten during his work at the call center for technical support. From this experience, he learned the significance of explaining how to navigate technological devices (e.g., satellite television, cellular phones, and computers) to someone that doesn’t know as much as you. Although the people he was working with at the time had more domain knowledge they could not explain it as well as they should have or could have. He then realized it is not about specific domain knowledge but about knowing how to explain something to someone that does not have the same level of electronic knowledge as you. His ability to communicate and explain the navigation process to people seeking technical support, were able to gain knowledge from Nabeel as a result of that interaction. After he graduated, he began to reflect on his experiences in technical support and wanted to investigate how education could be fused into this process.
Nabeel recalls how the Introduction to Mobile Phone Learning course was curated, “To put it into context. This is around the time when the first iPhone came out, around 2008. Imagine before this iPhone came out, people were texting on flip and razor phones, then all of a sudden the iPhone comes out and it changes everything. People were starting to think I didn’t know you could do this just with my phone. So that was around the time Dominic and I had this walk in the park and wondered what could we do for mobile devices in education. We then started to think we have all this research that we had done both together and independently. Dominic was a teacher in a past life and he had the good idea of saying why don’t we put this together and teach a course on it, because surely there has got to be other people besides the two of us that would be interested in it. Sure enough there was.”
Nabeel works for IBM in their learning department. He interned with them while he was completing his dissertation work at TC. Shortly after he graduated he went to work fulltime for IBM to develop their internal mobile learning strategy, which was the focus of his dissertation. He is looking at how to take advantage of video on mobile devices and what types of videos would make sense in an educational setting. How could you use audio/voice recognition for practical applications? About half of what he does now is still within the mobile space, in addition to investigating how IBM employees could use mobile devices to do their jobs better.
“Not only has it been a good teaching experience, but a good learning experience, as well… Through my teaching experience here, I think I learned a lot. Just as much, if not more than, the students from the class, but in a different way. …Being here you see a lot of students who care about being in the class and have some genuine interest. We know this because after the class we still hear from them and updating us on their projects… which has been fruitful for us to see that people aren’t just taking our class because they want to fill a graduation requirement but there are many of them that look for something deeper than that. That has really been an excellent experience for myself and Dominic, as well, to know that students really do care.”
They solicit student feedback throughout the semester and incorporate students’ comments into the course immediately within the confines of the course schedule. This strategy is used to exchange ideas to foster a creative learning environment.
Most recently, Nabeel has been presenting at several human resources and workforce learning professional organizations, such as the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), the Human Resources Association of New York (HRNY), and the Project Management Institute (PMI), in addition to writing industry articles. His focus is on using mobile devices in the workplace.
By Deiana Jackson, Graduate Student, Mathematics Education Ed.D.