Life-long learning and mobile technologies appear to be moving towards a ubiquitous state… but not for all. Nomadic and/or isolated learners appear to be under-represented in current conversations: access, feasible learning designs (if indeed there are any) and theoretical underpinnings, the users themselves, sustainability and equitable education for all are just some of the less-charted waters to be explored. This is encouraging in terms of scanning for research potential in my current formal learning (Masters of Education) but presents some challenges for my own future as one of many nomadic learners!

Who are they? Where are they? How/are they learning? What enabling technologies are available/not available? Can they afford them? How do they learn to use them? Which learning design options are feasible? What theoretical frameworks and approaches are usefully applied?

Jan and Anthony Herrington have explored “Authentic mobile learning in higher education” in an excellent paper presented at the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) 2007 Focus Conference.

In general, mobile learning—or m-learning—can be viewed as any form of learning that happens when mediated through a mobile device (Winters, 2006) and a form of learning that has established the legitimacy of ‘nomadic’ learners (Alexander, 2004)” (2002, P3).

It’s not just generational differences to consider in mobile learning, but also the sub-cultures, the diverse communities existing under the umbrella term ‘nomadic learners’. The Herringtons refer to Reeves’ findings that “differences within these generational groups are greater than differences between them” (P 6). It’s not just traditional nomads: some contemporary versions include itinerant workers and their families, Recreational Vehicle (RV) nomads, corporate nomads, liveaboard boat cruisers and technomads (the latter two will be me!).

Mobile technologies are evolving rapidly, encompassing mobile phones (particularly multimedia and web enabled), PDAs, portable media devices (such as iPods) and smartphones that converge these capabilities, epitomised by the new Apple iPhone3G (a mobile phone, a touch controlled wide-screen iPod, and an Internet communications device all in one). Prensky (2005, cited in Herrington & Herrington, 2007) urges educators to recognise and design to realise the potential for more than just transmission of information. Communication and social networking, user-generation and sharing of digital artefacts, collaborative projects and complex problem-solving offer rich media choices and channels for engaging, authentic, situated, networked/connected, distributed learning environments and experiences. We’re talking ‘2.0’ and beyond here: web 2.0, pedagogy 2.0, learning 2.0, and Bruns’ pedagogy of produsage.

There are and will be many ‘conversations’ to explore apart from those touched on in the Herrington & Herrington paper (that appropriately looks to Lave and Wenger; Brown, Collins & Duguid, George Siemens, Prensky, and Lee & McLoughlin among others). Jay Cross, Stephen Downes and Axel Bruns are further sources of enlightenment and are sure to lead to more again.

I’ll be back living aboard an Adams 49 steel sloop soon and technology options are a huge consideration, specifically, access to the internet. Once cruising the options and expenses make decisions critical. Some in mind to date are mobile wireless broadband (better when in metropolitan areas but need something for when up and down the east coast and eventually further abroad) or mobile phone as modem (3G or GPRS). Back-up or supplementary options include internet cafes and libraries. There’s also marina net, and I’d like to check out ham radio also. All ideas or information welcome.

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I’m sure variations on this question have appeared elsewhere, in spaces where educators and learning/instructional/educational designers are sharing experiences and exploring the potential of MUVEs (multi-user virtual environments) for teaching and learning. The myriad conversations are lively, creative, connected, critical, reflective, practical and illustrate the intense interest virtual worlds such as Second Life engender.

The number of Australian universities (and other sectors such as TAFE) with a presence in Second Life is on the rise. Queensland University of Technology is one of the more recent entrants, inspired by established examples such as University of Southern Queensland’s Terra Incognita, an inspiring sim from visionary PhD innovator Lindy McKeown <aka Decka Mah>. I’ve been fortunate enough to be working as a learning designer with QUT in Teaching and Learning Support Services (TALSS) at a time when support for exploring the teaching and learning possibilities and activities outside and inside the organisation was beginning. My avatar, Rilla Shan, was only a couple of months old at that stage and had been developing basic mobility and communication skills whilst discovering what the environment had to offer in education… and socially.

I’d heard about Second Life a couple of years before from… yes, a librarian! I’d been involved in a TAFE Learnscope project with her previously and had continued to exchange ideas and information on emerging technologies and learning. However, I didn’t follow up on it as the tone was one of doubt in terms of value in a real world context and there were other interesting paths being explored for digital storytelling through the basic Windows MovieMaker application, Audacity for sound editing, podcasting, wikis, blogs and other ‘web 2.0’ tools for publishing.

It is involvement in the field of education that has brought me into Second Life. Innovative people and open attitudes abound I’m pleased to find; here I am encountering a strange ‘land’ with its own protocols, standards, communities, skill-sets, tools, learning, administrative and support challenges. I had played some PC games such as Myst, my children were engaged in some multi-player games, yet Second Life didn’t feature.

It would be interesting to know how others have come to enter Second Life. Responses welcome!

It may pay to read the instructions for effective use of this WordPress blog opportunity… but as usual I will leap in and try the rapid prototyping approach. This is better than holding off on tapping the keys until I’m confident the words are judged worth publishing.

It is now four weeks into the current unit I’m studying through University of Southern Queensland, Instructional Design for Flexible Learning. Discussion forums are plugging along but a little quiet this past week as our first assignment, a project outline, is due. It’s unfortunate timing for me as responding to high priority issues has been my work focus with study coming off second best. Throw in the work-life-study balancing act where journeying to visit family and friends was also a high priority, a simultaneous quandary on the project … and I’ve had to request some extra time to submit. Ah well!

I’ve decided to go with blogging for my reflective log we’ve been asked to keep throughout the unit. It’s easy to share with my cohort that way with the bonus of keeping me commenting on other areas of interest related to work projects, readings and education overall. I may well create another page in this blog for the reflective journalling, just as I have created one focused on Second Life in education.