From PC to Mobile

This is the presentation From PC to Mobile: Changing Mindsets for the New Paradigm that I gave at the 2016 Practice Based Education Summit in Sydney on the 13th of April.

The presentation explores how mobile technology has changed the very paradigm of computing, how we are changing the ways we engage and utilise these technologies, and finally how we can employ these changes to improve our practice with a focus on Work Place Learning assessment.

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Almost under our noses one of the most dramatic technological changes has occurred. A global phenomenon that has altered the very concept of computing

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The Smart Phone

PC-to-Mobile4Prior to the smart phones computer looked like this. They required keyboards, mice and monitors.

PC-to-Mobile5And wires

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Lots of wires. And all these wires need to go somewhere, so now you needed a special room to house them in.

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Then there were the power points & the furniture.

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Finally there’s the peripherals. With all this stuff required it’s no wonder Computing became tethered. Tethered to very specific place and space that could contain all the wires and house all of this stuff that you needed in order to make it all work.

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And because computing had to be situated within a specific space, to make any use of it required you to go there. Into a seperate room and away from what you may have been doing. It was inconvenient and the practice of using a computer was often abstracted away from the task at hand.

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We also relied on pretty passive forms of interaction and communication too. We replicated physical letters with email. We broadcast our opinions and ideas onto discussion forums, which tend to look more like a room full of people shouting than an actual discussion! Getting these technologies work in order to properly interact and communicate is almost a hack.

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The experience of using this kind of technology, these kinds of interactions and communications is isolation. Using this kind of technology was separate from our lives. We had to go somewhere else to engage, a room in our house to be alone, and it leant credence and weight to the idea of “virtual” being seperate from our real lives.

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Then in January 2007 Steve Jobs launched the iPhone and changed the paradigm of computing. This wasn’t just an iPod with a Phone attached this was the beginning of something much bigger and in just 9 years the paradigm of computing has changed.

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Today we carry around our computers in our pockets. There’s no keyboard or extra peripherals required. In fact there’s more more equipment stashed away inside this thing than your average PC or laptop. There’s two cameras, a microphone, speakers, a battery, accelerometer, gyroscope, bluetooth, WiFi, 4G, NFC, fingerprint scanner, barometer, GPS, 128GB of storage, 2GB of RAM and a screen with more pixels than your High Definition TV.

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All of a sudden we have hardware that can match, if not out perform, our PCs. And in a more convenient, portable and capable form that fits into the palm of our hand. Whether we are conscious of it or not, the paradigm of computing has changed. Technology today is driven by a “mobile first” mindset. Companies like that have leveraged that mindset – Instagram, Uber, Snapchat, Twitter and Apple – all depend on mobile, not just for their success but their financial viability.

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But culturally the mindset most of has towards online and digital technology is stuck with PCs. We think desktop before mobile, we think mouse before touch, and it’s time to change how we think about how engage with technology.

PC-to-Mobile16I developed this table to suggest the kinds of changes that have been taking place in how we engage and interact with technology. The idea is that we are moving from the PC mindset into the mobile one, and it changes how we relate to each of these key areas. 

(I did riff a little off this slide – let me  know in the comments if you think it might be useful to follow up with more details)

PC-to-Mobile17So how does this effect PBE?

PC-to-Mobile18uImagine and EFPI have been working on a project to investigate Assessment in Work Place Learning, and in particular how mobile technology can be utilised to enhance its purpose and process. The main area of work that I’ve been involved in has been analysing what the current practices are across a number of disciplines are, and from that developing a needs analysis and to begin to map out some of the functional requirements in order to develop a prototype of an enhanced WPL system. Through this processes I’ve identified a number of key areas that form part of the assessment process and how they are currently being managed. 

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The key areas are:

  • plan – develop and list the outcomes or objectives
  • track – what students have done
  • record – details about the tasks carried out
  • report – what supervisors observe students doing
  • reflect – on students ability to perform these tasks
  • verify – that students are completing tasks
  • measure – of students ability and progress

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In the current practices that were reviewed in this project each instance utilises a “Document Model” to perform these tasks. The Document Model describes how all information is recorded in a single “document”, which is either a paper or digital file. These documents take the form of paper or digital handbooks, manuals, workbooks, forms and spreadsheets. These documents and the data they contain inhabit a singular location, whether that be physical or digital. This means that there is no co-location of data and only a single copy exists which is only accessible via proximity to the document.

PC-to-Mobile21So how can we address this problem thinking “Mobile First”?

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So I’ve been working on an alternative model for these practices which I’ve dubbed the Cloud Model which essentially entails moving from the current document model to an online database. This would provide significant benefits to current practices.

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It would allow a paper free workflow and eliminate the associated inefficiencies. It would allow multiple users to access the data but also customise the interface to suit the users role – whether they be students, teachers, administrators, supervisors or even accreditation bodies. It could provide rich reporting and visualisation tools that are accessible in Real-Time. It would also utilise the ubiquity of mobile devices as a primary access point and utilise the additional available data they can generate (e.g. geolocation, video, audio, photos). This extra data would also improve the security, verification and authenticity of the data collected. So if we look at those key areas of assessment:

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Planning moves from a to-and-fro process to something that can be dialogic and collaborative – regardless of the environment or location.

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Students can record in rich detail what tasks they’ve done using photos, audio and video. Rather than just ticking boxes students can gather much richer evidence of their placement and their practice.

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By utilising mobile technology students can update their tasks at the point that they do them. This data can then be reported back to their supervisors and lecturers in real time which eliminates the delay inherent with document model.

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Reflection is often seen as an add on to the assessment process and it can simply be enhanced through something like video diaries. But there are significant gains to be had is in making reflection part of the verification process. By recording their reflections students can marry the pedagogical benefits of reflection to the administrative requirement to verify their actions and their learning.

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Another way mobile can be utilised is in bringing together the process of measurement and the provision of feedback. By allowing students to record their tasks in richer formats we gain a much richer data to measure with – rather than just a score between one and ten. It also opens up the possibility for supervisors and teachers to provide feedback in richer ways. By utilising video, images and annotation tools in the process they can provide more comprehensive feedback. This feedback in turn provides a more effective tool to measure against in terms of a student’s learning, ability and progress.

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More broadly – mobile can be key to building bridges between institutions and practice. and between learning and working, between knowing and doing. Mobile technology provides the material for building the bridge to allow the professions to come into the classroom and for the classroom to come in to the professions. By changing our mindsets and rethinking the ways in which we can utilise and engage with technology, we can transform the pedagogies and possibilities for engaging education for and with the professions.

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