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.