Monday, 18 March 2013

Trends in Learning Tools.

Back to the Future.

The tools of my learning were the over head projector, the slide show, the white board and if we were lucky a video, complemented by hand written lecture notes, reams of paper and an intimate relationship with the photocopier.

Having declared my hand I would now like to introduce the pedagogical concepts of Personal Inquiry, Seamless and Rhizomatic learning (Gaved & Whitelock, 2012) blending them into a learning project for midwifery students utilising a mobile platform.

Learning Contracts.

Currently midwifery students have a portfolio that they complete throughout the entire programme, with inserts from many different courses (soon to be modified into an e-portfolio when Bridget is done). One of the components of this, introduced in the Midwifery Practice Skills paper, is a 'Learning Contract'.  Click link below to see an example and more about learning contracts.

Personal Inquiry. 

This is a paper exercise where the student identifies their learning need, then follows the prompts within the contract to create an action plan to achieve their personal learning goal. Hence 'personal inquiry'.

Best Practice and Reality Gaps.

Often, as the learning goals are skill based, the learner needs to then seek the guidance or assistance of a practicing midwife to demonstrate or assess the learners competency with the skill. Armstrong (2010) writing in the British Journal of Midwifery discusses the gaps between how skills may be taught in education institutions and how they are practiced in the workplace and the difficulty this causes learners who are seeking skill proficiency and workplace acceptance.

If we were able to close these gaps then the transmission of learning between educational institution the workplace and the learner would become 'seamless'.


In the context of Learning Contracts this could be achieved by the use of a mobile learning platform such as an ipad or smart phone.

The learner could identify their goals and create a plan that they then could load onto their mobile device. When there is a learning opportunity around this skill they could show the midwife in practice their learning contract and also any prior learning or research they have done around the skill. This would give the midwife the opportunity to view how the skill is taught by the institution, review any best practice suggestions the learner has researched and add in any adaptations of her own. The learner could use the video functionality of their mobile device to film themselves executing the skill, or document what the midwife's comments are (all with consent of course) to serve as evidence of their learning, which can be reviewed and discussed with their educators.

This could then be shared amongst the learners peers with the thought that by creating a network of learners, many of whom are trying to acquire the same skills, information and knowledge could be passed amongst them, they could learn from each others learning. This would spread learning in a 'rhiozomatic' fashion.


Flexibility of learning would be enhanced as the learner would not be limited to carrying around her paper contract and could in fact have many contracts on the go in her mobile device, which she could access when ever she wishes. This would create time efficiencies for the learner who currently has to spend time writing up their workplace experiences around the skill, whereas with a mobile device it would be instantly captured.Learning would be enhanced by creating a network of learning rather than isolated learning and in sharing between learners and educators a commonality of practice may be achieved.

And after all those words, here is a picture of our dog, who cannot use a mobile, does not have an ipad and thinks flexible learning is picking up your bone with your hind legs......oh for a simple life :)


  1. When I click onto the link to look at a sample of a learning contract it asks me the question: You are about to enroll in this course are you sure you want to do that?
    Not sure if I want to click on that.

    Interesting and informative post Emma. I can see how an iPad or smart phone would come in handy in the situations you are describing (mobility/learning contracts).

    Love the photo of your dog :-)

  2. Hi Jacqueline
    If you click Yes - all that happens is you get to see the file. You are not really enrolled as a student in the course.

    This is a great post Emma, and I love the way that you have weaved in some of the terms (seamless and rhizomatic) from the Horizon report with your examples. It would be great to see the reference to it on here.

    What web-based/mobile learning tools do you suggest could be used to enable material to be "shared amongst the learners peers with the thought that by creating a network of learners"?

    One way would be for the class to set up a youtube account and subscribe to it - then they would receive alerts when new material is added. How else could students network with each other?

    For more information see: Networked learning AND social media.