How do you handle disruption? Disruptive innovation happens quickly and can be overwhelming. It’s hard to keep up with, and sometimes it arrives wrapped in so much hype that we want to tune out. It’s tempting to just keep on doing things as we have always done them, at least until the new technology becomes the universal default. The trouble is, that strategy doesn’t work.

In this article, I suggest some sessions at The eLearning Guild’s mLearnCon Mobile Learning Conference & Expo 2013 (June 18 – 20 in San Jose, California) that in my opinion will be extremely helpful to your ability to better understand and leverage mobile devices and their supporting systems. These sessions will provide you with insights you need today to build mobile learning now rather than waiting.

Disrupting the course mindset

Mobile technology—and the shift in thinking that goes with it—has already changed how we do many everyday tasks. Learning and performance support are two of the areas where the availability of mobile devices and applications will have the greatest effect. Sooner rather than later, mobile learning design and implementation, backed up by built-in and cloud-based performance support, will disrupt our present-day default model of learning: courses.

We don’t have the “perfect” mobile learning device yet and we may never have it. What we do have now is powerful mobile computing and communication devices, plentiful storage, excellent search, plenty of bandwidth, and a lot of resources in the cloud. We also have an incredible amount of information available through search engines and proprietary databases.

The devices in our pockets also have a great deal of information about us. Our phones know where we are. Potentially, depending on the device, the apps installed, and how we use the device and the apps, our phones and tablets have access to what we are doing (to-do, schedule, and/or calendar apps), who we know and what they know (social software), and what we are interested in (wish lists with various vendors, memo apps, search history).

Make an app for that!

Why not use what we have? Don’t think that you have to build a course for mobile learning. Go beyond the static learning site or course that sits on a desktop. Build an app that uses the information that mobile devices have access to.

All it may require is a little imagination and a little stretching of how we think of “learning.” The phones learners carry in their pockets and the tablets in their messenger bags may be perfectly capable of finding and delivering information and, yes, support for developing knowledge and skills relating to their interests and their needs and work tasks of the moment.

Make the app aware of where the user is, the context, and the situation. Give the app the ability to autonomously gather and organize the information and resources that will serve the user in his or her current context. Give the user control over the information the app delivers to them. Design the app so users can filter, tag, annotate, make notes about, archive, curate, link to, download, share, and otherwise make use of what the app finds for them.

Get inspired!

Some designers and developers already know what it takes to make opportunistic learning apps. Don’t know how where to find those designers and developers? Come to mLearnCon, meet them, and learn from them.

Pick one or more of these mLearnCon sessions to see how to execute alternatives to putting desktop courseware (or classroom courses) on mobile screens. Open the session description links—the titles don’t tell the whole story! These sessions come from several of the conference tracks, so it’s a pretty eclectic selection.

Show & Tell: mLearning DemoFest

The mLearning DemoFest is a new feature for The eLearning Guild’s mLearnCon Conference & Expo, although it has been a successful part of our other conferences for several years. At the DemoFest, dozens of individual presenters will be showing the mobile learning and performance support applications they have developed. You will be able to try out applications, talk to the developers, and trade notes with others who have looked at these creations. You can come away with ideas to try out, information about authoring (what worked and what turned out to be the wrong tool for a given need), and contacts to network with after you get home.

Go native!

Learning is going “native” in the mobile world—ubiquitous, always on, real-time, built into everyday life. The kinds of learning that have traditionally been the subject of classroom instruction, webinars, and even of asynchronous eLearning will soon cease to necessarily be an event-driven static interruption for employees, students, and customers. The kinds of learning that we have called “informal” or “lifelong” will be facilitated by mobile technology as well.

The sessions I’ve listed here are not the only sessions you will want to think about attending. Many others may also meet your needs; these are the ones that I believe will be most helpful if you are trying to break out of the courseware mode of thought. There is certainly no other event this summer where you can gain so much high-quality information and help with what could be a daunting task—creating the next generation of mobile learning and support!

More information and registration

The eLearning Guild’s mLearnCon Mobile Learning Conference & Expo 2013 will take place June 18 – 20 in San Jose, California. You will find a complete conference agenda and registration details at the link. Discounts for Guild members are still available—if you are not already a Guild member, you can join today for $99 and receive the 20 percent member discount. There are also substantial discounts (up to 35 percent) for group registrations and for employees of nonprofit, government, and academic organizations.