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Informal Learning using Mobile Devices. Gill Clough Handheld Learning Conference – Oct. 2006. Informal learning. Informal learning can be defined as:

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informal learning using mobile devices

Informal Learning using Mobile Devices

Gill Clough

Handheld Learning Conference – Oct. 2006

informal learning
Informal learning
  • Informal learning can be defined as:
    • Learning in which both goals and processes of learning are defined by the learner, and where the learning is “situated rather than pre-established” (Vavoula, 2004)
  • Up to 98% of adults engage in informal learning(Tough, 1979)
  • Adults spend an average of 15h per week on informal learning projects (Canadian Study: Livingston, 2000)
research questions
Research Questions
  • Are mobile devices used to support informal learning?
  • Does the collaborative potential of mobile devices translate into collaborative learning?
  • PDA and Smartphone enthusiasts recruited from web forums
    • PDAStreet at
    • Wormhole Creations PocketPC and Smartphone forums at
    • PocketPC Forums at
    • Handheld Learning forum at
    • Laptop and PDA User Forum on the OU student web site
  • Participants invited to complete a web questionnaire
  • Over 200 responses
  • Of these responses, over 100 described informal learning with mobile devices
  • Are mobile devices used to support informal learning?
    • Yes

Research Question 1

mobile learning framework
Mobile Learning Framework

Based on functional framework for mobile learning - Patten et al., 2006

intentional informal learning
Intentional informal learning
  • Retrieving reference material relating to specific context
    • “Downloadable online or onsite: -Museum, zoo or aquarium tour narrative and expanded exhibit information. -Sightseeing, same thing.”
    • “Researching information on locations I intend to visit on holiday.”
    • “Downloading web sites and other documentation to have while out with family for reference.”
  • Parallels formal research scenarios such as the electronically guided museum visits described by Hsi (2003).
intentional informal learning cont
Intentional informal learning (cont.)
  • Access to learning material to use while out
    • “Have downloaded OU course material to my PDA and used it when travelling”
    • “Ebooks, I download music theory books and philosopy books to keep with me and read on the bus or when I’m out.”
    • “I use it to download papers that I may be interested in from specialist apps (Merck Medicus Mobile, Avantgo etc) and from RSS feeds. This is automated every morning and I check it all on the train to work.”
intentional informal learning cont11
Intentional Informal Learning (cont.)
  • “I make flashcards using the notes application. To do this, i first write out the question or "front side of the flashcard" on the note. Then i make a recording of the "back side of the flashcard" and put a link to the recording right next to the first part. Then, you look at the first part, say your answer, then check it with the voice recorded correct answer.”
  • “Writing an onboard compiler … and most of my applications directly in my device, as a hobby and a never ending learning process in programming knowledge. The ultimate knowledge being for me to write a compiler ("an application to build other applications").
intentional informal learning cont12
Intentional informal learning (cont.)
  • Recording notes, audio, images for later reflection
    • “Take pictures of diagrams, models and participants to aid retention of knowledge from a workshop/seminar”, or “pictures of electronic components showing connection layouts”
    • “took pictures of the textile designs with treo, wrote notes....”
    • “Making notes, keeping information with me so i can revise it often”.
unintentional informal learning
Unintentional informal learning
  • Mobile connectivity provides situated access to information
    • “I also frequently look things up with Google if something piques my interest. eg finding out about a band I hear, or about a place I saw on TV.”
    • “This week I looked up the bitter history of Pink Floyd while watching Live8 on TV.”
    • “I do a lot of informal learning through (and that includes using it on my smartphone). I may be thinking about a subject and then I can quickly get out my phone and look the subject matter up on the internet”
unintentional informal learning cont
Unintentional informal learning (cont.)
  • “I learned the history of soft drinks after checking who owned 7-UP during dinner. I learned about the Ironman Triathlon after watching the Tour de France. I looked up the greatest cowboy in the world after seeing something on TV (Ty Warner). Whenever a question comes up somewhere, I whip out my pda and look it up.”
  • “Surfing the web where a laptop is impractical (e.g. in bed - how sad!).”
research question 2
Research Question 2
  • Does the collaborative potential of mobile devices translate into collaborative learning?
  • Asked if they used their device to communicate with others:
    • 100% Smartphone users responded “yes”
      • Of which 19% said they did collaborative informal learning
    • 80% PDA users responded “yes”
      • Of which 21% reported collaborative informal learning
collaborative activities
Collaborative activities
  • Weblogs
    • Can be updated by more than one person
  • Wikis
    • Group website, collaboratively maintained
  • Web forums
    • Themed websites maintained by administrators containing threads to which members may contribute
  • Beaming
    • F2F information sharing using infra-red
collaborative activities17
Collaborative activities
  • “I regularly contribute, also, to Palm PDA forums (at; again to learn from others and also to add my own experience to the community's knowledge”
  • “...forums are also a great resource for pooling collective knowledge and experiences”
future directions
Future Directions
  • Devices have more powerful capabilities:
    • GPRS & wifi for internet & communication
    • GPS for location-based activities
    • Higher quality cameras
  • Does the mobile connectivity, location-awareness and powerful communicative features support learners in informal science learning, and if so how?
  • What is the role played by co-operatively createdvirtual knowledge repositories in informal science learning?
Gill CloughInstitute of Educational TechnologyThe Open UniversityWalton HallMilton KeynesMK7 6AA

Supervisors: Professor Eileen ScanlonDr Ann JonesDr Patrick McAndrew

  • Hsi, H. (2003) 'A Study of User Experiences Mediated by Nomadic Web Content in a Museum', Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, vol. 19,pp. 308-319.
  • Livingston, D. (2000) 'Exploring the Icebergs of Adult Learning: Findings of the first Canadian Survey of Informal Learning Practices', [online]. Available from: (Accessed October 10, 2006)
  • Patten, B., Arnedillo Sanchez, I. and Tangney, B. (2006) Computers & Education,46, 294-308.
  • Tough, A. (1979) The Adult's Learning Projects, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Ontario.
  • Vavoula, G. (2004), 'KLeOS: A Knowledge and Learning Organisation System in Support of Lifelong Learning.' PhD Thesis, Birmingham, University of Birmingham.