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Phonar Nation and Mobile, Connected Learning

November 23, 2014

Here is a presentation I delivered at MINA 2014 — 4th Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium, which took place November 20-21 at AUT (Auckland University of Technology) in Auckland, New Zealand. The sessions were recorded through Google+ and archived. My session (27:30) can be viewed on YouTube. I also recorded the audio using my iPhone, which I held as I talked. I omitted the discussion that followed the talk because the questions and comments were not picked up in the recording. The 23 minute talk, which I uploaded to Soundcloud, is embedded below along with the slides, which I uploaded to SlideShare. If you play the audio while clicking through the slides, it’s almost like being there. I also created a Storify archive of about 180 tweets that were published during the symposium.


In this paper, I discuss Phonar Nation, a free, open, five-week photography course that was offered twice during the North American summer in 2014 as part of the Cities of Learning initiative. Photographer and open education pioneer Jonathan Worth created and taught the non-credit course to individuals from 12-18 years of age through a website designed to work on mobile devices ( The author followed the course as his twelve-year-old son completed it from New Zealand. The community-based Phonar Nation initiative extends the work that Worth and his colleagues have done with Phonar (Photography and Narrative), an open, for-credit undergraduate course at Coventry University.

I argue that Phonar Nation highlights several related developments in education that are leading to innovative approaches at different levels and in different contexts. Firstly, Phonar Nation is not only open access but it also uses and produces material that is open to be shared through the use of Creative Commons Licenses. Secondly, it is collaborative, both in the way that it is produced and taught, and in the way that participants are encouraged to engage with one another in community settings and through social media sites. Thirdly, Phonar Nation exemplifies an approach to learning that advocates call Connected Learning, which is accessible, interest-driven, socially situated and geared to extending educational and economic opportunities.

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