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If at first you don't succeed, text, text, text again

Mobilising mobile phones may be the next big step in lifelong learning, the conference heard.

The use of mobile technology, or m-learning, has particular potential to engage hard-to-reach learners, Jo Colley of the Cambridge Training and Development consultancy told a seminar. The consultancy has been taking part in an international project using mobile technology to improve literacy and numeracy among 16-24s in the UK, Sweden and Italy.

"The key element is that learning must be motivating and inspire people so that it overcomes barriers," Ms Colley said.

M-learning, she said, was very good at individualising learning. "Nobody knows when you have got it wrong," she said, "and you are simply prompted to try again and text the right answers.

"It's a non-threatening way of learning without exposing yourself as being ignorant, where it's OK to fail and is no big deal."

Feedback from those involved in Scotland, who ranged in ages from six to 80, was very positive, according to Angella Hodgson of CTAD. Concern about learners making off with a gadget worth pound;200 proved to be groundless, she said. The portability and mobility of the XDA device issued to each learner meant that learning was not held back by illness or difficulty in attending a learning centre.

There was also evidence of "role reversal" in which the tutor gave help with literacy and the student helped the tutor with the technology. Tutor training was none the less vital, Ms Hodgson said.

* Providers of learning should run a rule over their offerings and then learn lessons from customer feedback, Gordon Brown of the Circuitbreak marketing agency told another seminar.

Mr Brown advised them to do a Swot analysis on their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats - and then check the results with their learners.

"If you think you are good at something and they think you are good at something, great.

"But if you think you are doing something well and they think you are not, no matter how good you think you are, you have got to change it and do it differently."

One of the top 10 tips to remember about marketing, Mr Brown advised, was to "design your product or service to be a pleasure".

* Another discussion group heard from Ian Smith of Learning Unlimited that "all learners are different, although they are different in similar ways so there are learning styles or preferences."

Traditional approaches had ignored the fact that 70 per cent of people learn something by talking about it first, while 30 per cent learn by thinking about it first. "What this means is that extroverts are often asked to shut up and introverts are asked to become extroverts," Mr Smith commented.

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