Why mobile devices are an absolute must in vocational learning

On Saturday, whilst shopping, I met the first checkout on an iPad. The staff scanned the barcode on items with it and then it remotely contacted the till. Essentially this freed them up to be able to walk around the shop and interact with customers.

This morning walking into the office there was the ubiquitous white van parked outside. However in the reception area the three workmen were all focussed on a tablet discussing the building’s security system. The need to carry round sheets of plans, or dig them out of filing cabinets is redundant.

Photo by Nathan Jones

Photo by Nathan Jones

In another experience, in a restaurant, the menu was presented to us on an iPad. Now this may seem a little extravagant for a menu, however it had significant value. The restaurant was in Prague, it had an international clientele. Through the use of the iPad it allowed the menu to be in many language options, and had the additional benefit of pictures of the food to aid your choice.

These three encounters show how mobile devices are becoming part of everyday working. The potential application is many fold. A gas fitter no longer needs to know every type of boiler inside out, he can simply call up the manual as required. For medicine and veterinary use x-rays can be pulled up and examined in detail in operating theatres, and these can even be controlled by voice command reducing the risk of infections.

In any form of vocational education it is important to make use of mobile devices to begin to give authentic learning experiences. Helping learners to understand that their phones and tablets are so much more than connections to social media and mobile gaming. Alongside this is an opportunity to foster social responsibility with these devices, understanding when and where it is acceptable to use them, and the need for security when they are used for work purposes.

smartphone-459316_640Simple exercises like using learners’ mobile phones to find and verify information during taught sessions are a good starting point. It allows the setting of rules about usage, and also encourages learners to think about their devices as something more than entertainment. As a means of recording evidence it can be an invaluable way to capture photos, audio and even video clips to upload to an ePortfolio. And the connectivity of the devices means there is no awkward search for the right cable or program to download the results.

Judy Bloxham

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