What should we do with Jack-in-the-box? Anticipating surprises in mobile learning

Kukulska-Hulme, Agnes (2008). What should we do with Jack-in-the-box? Anticipating surprises in mobile learning. In: Allegra, M.; Fulantelli, A.; Gentile, M. and Taibi, D. eds. Emerging Educational Technologies and Practices. Palermo, Sicily: Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Instituto per le Tecnologie Didattiche, pp. 7–18.


Today's learners are the owners of multifunctional phones and other lightweight portable devices that many of them carry around wherever they go. Equipped with connected digital devices that make learning readily accessible 'anytime, anywhere', learners appear to be moving to a position of power with regard to their ability to influence how and where learning happens and even its content and form. The technologies are precipitating a shift from teacher-centred towards learner-centred education. However, the majority of teachers and learners are unprepared. There is anticipation of exciting opportunities, but also fear of what might happen. It is also becoming obvious that established methods of researching technology-enhanced learning do not transfer readily to mobile learning research. Projects report that learners behave in unexpected ways; context of use, mode of use, and learning process have all been described as 'unpredictable'. Our aim is to examine the implications of new manifestations of mobile learning for both teaching and research. Drawing on teaching experiences and research projects at The Open University and elsewhere, the paper identifies and illustrates the 'surprise' elements of mobile learning. The image of a 'Jack-in-the-box' toy is used here to symbolise both the playful and potentially unsettling aspects of mobile learning. Anticipating surprises means expecting and welcoming them, being happy when they occur, and being able to accommodate them in our plans.

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