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Nomadic Swarms

M-Learning 4 Generation Txt?



...Alexander prefers "mobile" to "wireless" or "ubiquitous" because "none of these terms really grasp one key feature of the new milieu: the modeling of subjects as creative, communicative participants rather than as passive, reception-only consumers. We lack a term for describing the world as a writeable and readable service, encompassing mobile phones forming communities, P2P handheld gaming, moblogging, and uploading to RFID chips. For now, and to retain the educational focus, I’ll use m-learning."



Alexander asks us to start by understanding that mobile machines are by their nature intimate media -- they are not just untethered from the desktop, they are carried in the pocket, held in the hand, rested on the lap. Because of this intimacy, "emotional investments increase," Alexander claims, citing research to that effect: "Michele Forman, the 2001 National Teacher of the Year in the United States, notes that her high-school students became very attached to their wireless laptops. They significantly increased their personal writing and composition. Such machines become prosthetics for information, memory and creativity. Are we ready to respond to such attitudes from IT staff, instructors, and participants in the physical and information architectures of campus spaces?"



Blogs and wikis were yesterday. Moblogging is today. Tomorrow, Alexander anticipates the arrival of sensor networks, digitally tagged objects and places, augmented reality, location-based knowledge, and something Alexander calls "swarm learning."



"Perhaps we are beginning to see the emergence of learning swarms," Alexander ventures: "We already know the precursors, in the form of interested learners who appear at campus libraries and museums, driven by an experience that excited them, such as a film, a book, or a conversation. Now the socializing powers of mobility and wirelessness could expand this drive into collaboration. An interested learner could ping a network or site for learning engagement: digital objects, digitally tagged materials, learning objects, instructors, other learners and instigators. We’ve seen a part of this in the global, collaborative use of MIT’s OpenCourseWare. Are instructors ready to join in learning swarms on their specialties or to facilitate the ad hoc growth and flourishing of such learning swarms? … How should our institutions approach thinking about this possibility? Are we ready to sense which of our students arrive at our campuses with such experiences already under their belts? How do nomadic swarms work with our anthropologically sedentary campuses?"



Alexander alludes to "An Old Manuscript," Franz Kafka's story of a nomadic army's arrival in an imperial city: "The nomads arrive suddenly, surprising the urban population and appearing without warning in city streets, markets, libraries and homes. Kafka’s tale focuses on the incomprehension of the city-dwellers, as well as on their dogged willingness to attempt living life as if the nomads simply weren’t there. The story charts their progressive decay and their slipping grasp on reality while the nomads build a new civilization literally in their front yard. It’s a very funny story, in Kafka’s unique way, but of course it’s also a cautionary tale, especially for those of us in higher education. At colleges and universities around the world, the nomadic swarms are already arriving."


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