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Across the Device Spectrum: Thinking about How Learners use Devices

In: DesignWhat If Ideas

Turtle projects are infrastructure projects that improve bandwidth in schools[…] They focus on cognitive ergonomics not consumer electronics. Lesson here – stop the largely wasted research on device-based projects, the endless stream of apps and do not keep on taking (and buying) the tablets. Think about learning and learners not devices.

– Donald Clark

Last week, I came across this excellent post by Donald Clark on how “device fetishes,” as he terms them, ruin ed tech initiatives. He makes a ton of excellent points and I’ve seen many of these fails play out in organizations around me. One of the things that he made me think most about was the way L&D talks about mobile and responsive learning. Now, Clark writes that we don’t use our mobile phones to learn. I don’t think that’s strictly true. We use our mobile phones in performance support often. Don’t know how to change a flat tire? You might whip out your phone and take a look at a video. Concerned that your dog may have swallowed something poisonous? You may take out your phone and check out a dog first aid app or website. However, it’s true enough that we don’t normally use our phones to take the type of learning objects we create using most rapid development tools. Drag and drops, complex scenarios, and the rest of the serious elearning we create for use on desktop screens are not appropriate for smaller devices.

“Sure,” you say, “We know that.” But then, I wonder, how does the responsive elearning solutions rolled out in many of the updates to rapid learning tools make sense? If we know how we use mobile devices, then it seems to make sense that our learning solutions shouldn’t be so much responsive as customized for use across a device ecosystem. Perhaps a training solution should consist of a desktop elearning course, performance support for mobile devices, and job aids. These are not new ideas of course, many L&D folks are talking up this kind of thing on Twitter and in other spaces. But it definitely clicked for me after reading this article and watching this great talk about the multi-device world.

It makes me wonder whether or not, in preparation for a device-agnostic approach, whether simpler interactions, responsive websites (like those made in the Adapt Framework) and HTML5-type games make more sense than the rapid development tools I’ve been using. What do you think?