Critical Mobile Pedagogy

John Traxler discusses his forthcoming book: Critical Mobile Pedagogy – Cases of Digital Technologies and Learners at the Margins, co-edited with Dr Helen Crompton.

At the end of September, I was invited to give the closing talk to Sustainable Education 2020 (, an international online conference, not only invited to give the closing talk but specifically invited to promote my forthcoming book, actually ‘our’ forthcoming book, with my co-editor, Dr Helen Crompton, from Old Dominion University[1]. Apparently advance orders on Amazon are looking good even with only a nondescript place-holder front cover. The actual front cover below is much, much more fun and is an oblique homage to the Penguin edition of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Critical Mobile Pedagogy

The delegates were extremely diverse, ranging from ministers to consultants to representatives of the various types of stakeholder in what has been characterised as some intersection of the ‘EdTech industry’ and ‘international development industry’. Given that my talk was about the woeful impact of their industries, and ministries, on the marginal and the oppressed I guess the delegates were fairly tolerant and appreciative.

The majority of the book is contributions from communities around the world, from the San in Namibia, the Welsh valleys, Aboriginals in Australia, the Cree in Canada, villagers in the heart of Borneo, native Americans in Alaska for example, talking about their attempts to use digital technologies for the learnings they actually value. The only thing they have in common is their distance and difference from ‘modern’, global, corporate, national and Anglophone mainstreams. Wrapped around these individual accounts is the argument that

‘mobile learning’, as conceived and delivered over the last two decades, has failed, failed except amongst affluent students, affluent institutions and affluent countries[2].

The argument growing out of this was the following. These peoples are different from us, ‘us’ meaning for example researchers and developers in prestigious European universities, and different from each other. Consequently, we need to review and revise the research tools and techniques we use to understand them because they grow out of our culture not theirs and only answer the questions that we pose rather than the issues of importance to them. Only with such improved and authentic tools and techniques can we have conversations that help us truly understand the lives and needs of these communities and culture, and the type of learning that we, as outsiders, could help them develop.

We propose a variety of tools and techniques with the potential for adaptation, from disciplines as diverse as development studies, personal construct theory, soft systems methods, business studies and software requirements engineering[3]. These tools and techniques might show how the widespread acceptance and usage of social media and web2.0 such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Flickr and the adaptation of pedagogies such as badges, project-based learning, curating external resources, learner-generated content, flipped learning and gamification, and then using participative and collaborative development processes might produce digital community learning spaces[4] that reconcile the preservation of local languages, traditions, livelihoods and culture with the global knowledge economy and the information superhighway.  Once the book is published, in November, we will see how people, communities and agencies pick up the ideas and whether they can gather solidity and momentum.

I started a Jiscmail group, “Critical Digital Learning Research 4 Dev and Empowerment” to pursue these topics. Email to subscribe.

[1] Traxler, J. & Crompton, H. (2020) Critical Mobile Pedagogy – Cases of Digital Technologies and Learners at the Margins, New York, NY: Routledge

[2] Maybe if we use the phrase ‘mobile learning’ to refer just to delivering and discussing content within the highly regulated domains and resources of formal education and corporate training there is less of a problem. That however only serves to point to the growing discrepancy between the digital experiences of learners and trainees inside their respective organisations, learning inside a structured, bounded and managed environment, and their digital lives outside, going digitally feral, ‘going off the reservation’, digitally.

[3] Traxler, J. & Smith, M. (2020) Data for development: shifting research methodologies for Covid-19, Journal of Learning for Development

[4] Traxler, J. (2018) Community MOOCs – Back to Basics, Back to the Future in D. Jansen OpenupEd Report:  Latest Trends on MOOCs


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *