mlearn project

Charles Sturt University's Mobile Learning Project

Mobile Push & Pull

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Mobile Technology represents a unique convergence point. Typically technology is single purpose (lots of ‘A or B’ statements) but mobile often converges two very different possibilities (‘A and B’ statements). For example mobile can be used to create and consume and content can be pushed and pulled, passive and active, public and private.

The push and pull aspect is an interesting one because it represents a change and a challenge to the status quo. In his blog post Dwayne Harapnuik describes this well:

“we are moving away from the push economy where corporations, governments and academia decide what everyone will want or need and attempt to fill that need without fully exploring the actual needs of the constituent. Mobility creates a much higher degree of engagement and interactivity and is a key factor in the emerging pull economy which shifts the focus to understanding what is needed first and then coordinating or pulling together resources as they are needed to fill the need or want. The key change is that there is a more significant focus on the end user. From an educational perspective this means that the students needs are more closely examined and resources are then utilized as they are needed-which results in a much more learner centric perspective.”

Mobile opens up a range of new possibilities that challenge the traditional models that many universities have established. Not only can institutions push information to students but students can pull information of their own – creating and constructing their own learning.

The Pull challenges the notion of “The Text” – a single tome and source of knowledge. To most students The Text is an unwieldy monolith of data. It’s not information and it still needs to be processed. If you think about what you as a learner have taken away from a text – it’s not a single monolith of information. It’s been carved and sculpted, shaped and refined. So rather than the Block of information you started with, data has been removed and the information left is a form unique to the learner.

When education is learner centric students build and construct their information structures, rather than whittling away from a block. It’s additive rather than subtractive – students sculpt in clay rather than stone. They build up their information from smaller pieces – pulling in data, refining it and forming it into shape. It’s more engaging and it’s less hard work than constantly chipping away at the Block.

The challenge for universities and mobile learning is to look at these push and pull characteristics. Pushing out smaller pieces of information rather than great slabs of data to make it easier for students to pull them in and create their own information structures. Creating open systems and assessments that allow students the ability to pull data into their learning in easier and more effective ways.

The Push and the Pull shouldn’t be a tug-of-war. They should be opposing forces that create a balance to the learner. There will always be a need for a university to Push information – it’s what students pay them to do. At the same time universities need to learn how to Pull – or to accept the desire for the student to do so. We need to learn how to incorporate that function, to understand it and to build better learning experiences on it.

We need to create a balance – away from Push or Pull – to Push and Pull.


Author: Tim Klapdor

Passionate about good design, motivated by the power of media and enchanted by the opportunities of technology.

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