Mobile learning for civil food literacy engagement

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As escalating rates of dietary disease and environmental degradation are increasingly associated with the contemporary agro-food system, food literacy, that is the knowledge and skills that relate to food, is being recognized as of growing importance. However, such learning remains, for the most part, informally learnt and, to date, poorly understood. This thesis explores informal food literacy acquisition through the lens of mobile learning, which is both a way of learning and a field of inquiry. This perspective can inform the interpretation of existing phenomena, as well as aide in the design of educational initiatives to address new problems. Situated within an interpretivist research paradigm this research uses emergent, qualitative, multidimensional approaches within the context of a case study of a participatory food literacy project, Red Hen Recipes. This project allowed adult learners to explore food provenance by creating and sharing augmented recipes that trace ingredients from ‘farm to fork’ through text, image, video and GPS map data. The Red Hen Recipes project facilitated food literacy development through learner-centered approaches that were supported by conversational and participatory structures that privileged learner agency. The research used interview and survey methods to explore how people learnt and made meaning through praxis (what people did) and multimodal analysis to examine the semiotics of learner-generated content (what people created). Web and social network analytics data supplemented this and demonstrated wider engagement. Findings from this thesis characterize participants’ mobile food literacy learning as one that is situated and embedded within daily life and spans traditional and digital technologies. Mobile devices were critical for people in creating content for their recipe and typically functioned as a satellite to other devices in the individual’s wider ICT ecology. Mobile learning was found to be not ‘anytime anyplace’ but rather a specific time and a specific place within a learner-generated context. This interdisciplinary study contributes to existing mobile learning theory by extending this to new learner cohorts (adult informal learners outside the education system) and new learning problems (food literacy). Since no previous research into mobile learning and food literacy has been undertaken this can be considered a novel contribution. This study also demonstrates the value of slow philosophy within mobile learning, especially for fostering reflection on complex issues such as food provenance. Furthermore, the study develops the construct of a mobile continuum that enables researchers to articulate the ways that learners exercise agency through appropriating personal devices for different tasks in varied contexts.
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