The evolution of mobile technology has brought the term mLearning (mobile learning) into the mainstream in the last year or two although it’s been around for a number of years. What is mLearning? According to Wikipedia its “related to eLearning and distant education with the distinct focus on learning across contexts and learning with mobile devices.”
In my view, it can also be defined in combination with Social Learning and/or Informal Learning. Recently I had an experience that encompassed mLearning with both a social and informal. The story goes…
First, a little back story: A couple of weeks ago my wife suffered a deep core back muscle injury that caused severe spasms and inflammation. She’s not 100% yet, but she is back on her feet. For about a week she was literally locked in one position while this muscle was having a fit. We have what I think a well-balanced life together sharing certain responsibilities. One such chore/errand she has taken ownership of is the weekly trip to the grocery store. I go with her often, but most times she can whip through three stores in two different cities dealing out coupons faster than I can get a gallon of milk from the local convenience store!
This particular week was without question I would be tasked with this errand. I accepted with gusto and looked at it as simply a mission that needed to be accomplished. Just like the many missions I conducted while serving, I needed an Operation Order:
MISSION: To successfully navigate the grocery store and purchase items on the weekly list.
SITUATION: Given a weekly grocery list and a domestic family with the primary grocery-getter incapacitated due to a back injury.
EXECUTION: Depart on an azimuth to the local grocery store with a pre-approved grocery list by the primary grocery-getter and successfully acquire each item in the determined quantity, dispense coupons, return home, and properly stow each item in their appropriate place.
First lesson? My wife is a smart cookie – she actually listed the items in order of how they will be in the store from back to front so my journey would be streamlined. Simple enough. I was given a briefing on the list, flashed a ‘thumbs up’, and headed out with my shoulders back and head high!
First item on the list was Key Lime flavored Fiber One yogurt for my stepdaughter’s school lunch. Bam! Found it. I went right to it and I was feeling confident in my navigation skills – until…no Key Lime flavor, only Peach and Strawberry. Uh-oh, first obstacle. I know! I’ll take a photo of it with my iPhone, text it to my wife, and ask. There’s one thing worse than coming home without an item on the list is coming home with the wrong item. Strawberry was the second choice.
Through the dairy section and onto the household cleaners. The list indicated the 10-pack of Clorox toilet wand refills. This is where I saw an opportunity to flex my shopping prowess by comparing prices. The 10-pack was $4.28 where the 20-pack was $8.14. A savings of .42 cents. I took another photo and texted for authorization. Granted. Moving on.
The mission was going well until the meat section. On the list was Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage. Somehow the word “Italian” and “Turkey” shouldn’t be in the same sentence, but who am I to question the high command? No photo here because I couldn’t find it, so just texted, “Turkey sausage not where it is supposed to be.” Her response, “Where is it supposed to be?” Me, “By the turkey?” Her, “No, by the sausages.” Whooda ever thunk that?!
Wounded, but still sufficient enough to continue I moved to the front to finish up in the produce section to acquire squash, asparagus, zucchini, bananas, strawberries, and a few others fruits & vegetables. Just as I was regrouping to confirm completion, I noticed them – apples. Green apples. Green apples and October are synonymous! I grabbed a bag full knowing full well they were not on the list. I risked the overall accomplishment of a successful mission. I took the risk!
In retrospect, my iPhone saved me on a couple of items that would have proven fatal for any future trusted missions. The social aspect of this journey tickled me at times when my wife and I bantered back and forth via text messages. If only the other patrons knew a man lost in the jungles of a Super WalMart was being blindly guided by his wife-in-chief. The Informal Learning had the most impact for me, though – start in the back and work to the front, don’t park your cart in the middle of the aisle (you’ll get the “look” from seasoned pros), have a list to prevent backtracking, and coupons can really save a lot of money provided you remember to use them – I’m still getting flak for that!