That was a very disparate collection of items in that title, but it wasn’t false advertising. I am in the midst of writing season and the attendant paper and conference submissions that accompany them. I wanted to share a few of these as I think they are quite related to the broadening of mobile learning.


Networked Learning Conference 2014

My frequent collaborator and colleague Pekka and I had a paper accepted for the Networked Learning Conference 2014 in Edinburgh and we couldn’t be more excited. I am assuming since we share a brain that he wouldn’t mind me relaying his excitement for him. It is a conference I have always wanted to attend, let alone present at. It is also as close as I can get to getting my entire Twitter network in one location at one time, so I am very excited. I see Edinburgh as my intellectual ancestral home in some way, being a graduate of the profoundly transformative MSc in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh in a previous iteration.

The paper is titled Mobile Learning Generated from Field Activity: Pedagogy of Simultaneity to Support Learning in the Open. It relates a bit to the work that Pekka and I are constantly doing or tinkering with, namely using mobile technology out in the field and developing pedagogies to support that practice. The feedback was very welcome and we are in the process of revising it, situating the simultaneity bits a little more clearly, defining and making consistent our terms a bit more, and illustrating all our abstractness with relevant examples from the literature and/or our own professional experience. The abstract (as it stands currently) is below:

Field activities are presented in this paper as a mechanism for enacting mobile learning in the ‘open’, either in response to formal disciplinary learning activities or to support those moored in informal learning practices. Field activity represents a disciplinary model found across the (field) sciences and throughout the humanities. It has traditionally involved using disciplinary process (observation, data collection, analysis, dissemination) to research social or biological phenomena. Mobile technology has accelerated the process and potential for “coming to know” in the field by allowing the learner to engage multiple layers of meaning, social presence, time, and space simultaneously. These mobile learning field activities represent an authentic application of both informal and formal learning. Examples include learning walks and urban exploration.

However, the context, content, and social permutations of this learning can be incredibly complex. This complexity requires a pedagogical response that acknowledges this complexity, identifies the layers of engagement and activity taking place, and proposes strategies that maximizes the potential of learning in the open (or in the field). These strategies for open activity are named in this paper as existing in three continuums: the serendipity-intentionality of learner orientation, the informal-formal activity structure and the initiative-seduction-sense of intervals continuum of human presence. All three speak to the variety of learner engagements that occur as a result of mobile learning and field activity.

This paper advances the belief that new pedagogical approaches are needed to account and make use of these layers of time, space, social presence, and purpose through these continuums of activity. These layers overlap and are simultaneously engaged in by the learner to generate context and understanding in fluid mobile spaces. The Pedagogy of Simultaneity is proposed to account for these layers of overlap and simultaneity. It advances a pedagogical response to this complexity by emphasizing ‘human’ methods. These learning methods are established through trust, discussion, and collage (or composition). Teachers can generate both field activities and learner engagements that emphasize this layered reality for learning and everyday pedagogical attunements of trust, discussion and collage. This pedagogy has great application not only to mobile learning and field activities, but also to elearning, open learning, and MOOCs, environments of great complexity that require learners with capacity for making use of the volatility of these learning spaces.


British Educational Research Association (BERA) 2014

Falling right on the heels of all this work on mobile learning in open spaces (literally out in the open) is my realization of all the ethical complications that arise from such work. So I submitted an abstract to BERA 2014 towards that effect. I want to explore a bit the ethical dimensions of doing field work with mobile technology, technology that makes use of commercially available third party applications to record data, location, etc. I am presenting this one below as it is as it hasn’t been accepted or anything, but I still think this is an amazingly relevant topic in light of 2013 being the year of NSA revelations. I am not sure we will ever be able to imagine a world again without surveillance, and this feeling/fatigue/disillusionment has application to any education making use of technology.

Title: Field Activities mediated by Mobile Technology: Ethical Complications for Learning Out There

Background to the Topic

This use of mobile technology for learning purposes has generated challenges to our understanding of ethics in research overall. These challenges are exacerbated by recent revelations of government and corporate surveillance of mobile activity. This presents a complex environment for educators to design sound ethical practices into their learning and research activities.

The specific instance of mobile learning under investigation in this paper are mobile learning field activities, broadly defined as self-generated or teacher-designed learning activities taking place outside the confines of the physical classroom. In these activities, the environment itself is an object of and an environment for learning. Learning takes place in the open using widely applications and technologies towards disciplinary or vocational learning. Teachers supply learning objectives; thereafter, the learners’ themselves define roles, strategies, and reflect on their learning.

The author and colleagues have conducted these activities in Helsinki, Talinn, and Seoul as part of formal learning activities or workshops; in London and New York as individual self-directed learning activities. These activities have proven useful in generating new models for learning and pedagogies to support that learning. However, research conducted into these field activities have raised ethical questions directly in keeping with BERA guidelines, most notably in relation to Privacy Sections 25 and 28 regarding anonymity and data protection (BERA, 2011).

Purpose & Research Questions

Research being conducted into these mobile learning field activities has generated ethical questions that this paper will look to address.

  1. Can anonymity be reasonably assured within mobile learning field activity that relies on mobile technology and third party applications (social media, etc.), both of which have real-name identification features and geolocative functionality?
  2. Can the learner data generated from these activities, often through third party technology or applications, adequately be protected?
  3. What complications does learning and research with mobile technology in the field pose for the Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research?

This paper will engage research conducted on the ethics of mobile learning (Dyson et al, 2013; Traxler, 2007, 2005, most notably), identify gaps in the research related to mobile learning field activity, and propose additional or revised guidelines for ethical research in this pedagogically rich and ethically challenging space.


  • Dyson, L. E., Andrews, T., Smyth, R., & Wallace, R. (2013). Towards a holistic framework for ethical mobile learning.
  • Ikonen, V., Kaasinen, E., Niemelä, M., & Leikas, J. (2008). Ethical guidelines for mobile-centric ambient intelligence. Tech. Rep.
  • Lally, V., Sharples, M., Tracy, F., Bertram, N., & Masters, S. (2012). Researching the ethical dimensions of mobile, ubiquitous and immersive technology enhanced learning (MUITEL): a thematic review and dialogue. Interactive Learning Environments, 20(3), 217-238.
  • Traxler, J. (2007). Defining, Discussing and Evaluating Mobile Learning: The moving finger writes and having writ…. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 8(2).
  • Traxler, J., & Bridges, N. (2005). Mobile learning–the ethical and legal challenges. Mobilelearning anytimeeverywhere, 203.
  • Wishart, J. (2013). Why ethical issues in researching mobile learning are a concern and ways forward. QScience Proceedings, (12th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning [mLearn 2013).
  • Wishart, J. (2013). Why ethical issues in researching mobile learning are a concern and ways forward. QScience Proceedings, (12th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning [mLearn 2013).



By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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