Friday, April 28, 2006

Evaluating some moblogging sites

I have started using my Treo 650 to evaluate various moblogging platforms. These include boltfolio, busythumbs, kaywa, lifeblog (Nokia phones only)and winksite. There is quite a comprehensive list of photoblogs and moblogs along with a good introduction on what they are capable of on

I am unable to test the lifeblog site as I do not have a Nokia phone. However, I will keep this site on the list so that an apprentice with a Nokia phone could try it out.

So far I have found that boltfolio & other PC based photo / video archiving applications like fotolog and phlog take a long time to download on to a mobile phone. The pages also do not display very well & there is some difficulty with accessing important buttons / links.

Kaywa has a charge of 99 Swiss francs annual fee to use. Beyond an average apprentice’s budget. So I am down to, busythumbs, buzznet and winksite. I have also decided to see if I can find an apprentice with a mobile phone that is supported by Shozu to make use of flickr.

winksite stands out with its fast page downloads and clarity of navigation. It is a site built for mobile phone access. However, I am finding it tricky to post on to the page I have set up but am working on it. The other three are more straight-forward as the photo I need to post on the site just needs to be MMS / emailed to the site’s email address.

Next week, I intend to assit apprentices sign in to a page that they will be assigned. I am setting aside an hour for the task. During the week, I hope that we will have time to have a play with the sites using each apprentice’s mobile phone. At the end of the exercise, they should have access to the site and have set up a page that they will be able to post their photos to.

Just being able to upload photos into an archive is very much a basic level eportfolio. I need to find out how much text we can embed within each photo and see how feasible it is to put in the text using a mobile phone. I am also keen to explore the concept of attaching an audio file with the photo. This is a better way to input descriptors into an eportfolio using a mobile phone. So I will need to work on finding out how to do this & find some sites that will allow this to be done.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Getting to know my Treo 650

Part of the research funding for the mportfolio trials has been used to purchase a Treo 650 & to pay for the monthly Telecom fees to make use of the phone. So some thoughts on how the conversion from Treo 180 to Treo 650 has gone, along with my learning experiences as I familiarise myself with the new Treo.

The Treo 650 arrived two weeks ago & I have been busy setting it up. So far so good but I haven’t been able to get the Palm desktop to start up on my PC. Apart from that, everything transferred well from my Treo 180 into the Treo 650. I emailed the Palm support centre & they emailed back promptly with some suggestions. I went through the very long list of instructions (quite clearly set out) & things improved, I could now hotsync. The Palm desktop however still refused to open, so I emailed Palm support and they very promptly emailed back another list of instructions. I am impressed with Palm support, mainly for their prompt replies and their clear instructions.

Meanwhile, I am accessing the various parts of the Palm desktop via clicking directly on the .exe files from my C:/ programs folder. Seems to work with installing ebooks and manual hotsync. The web browsing capability is working so I have started checking bloglines. The Versamail (email) is also up and running. I have also put in a 2G SD card & am storing photos & music on it. Realplayer came along with the Treo & this works well although some of the music on my CDs had to be converted before I could transfer the music onto the Treo (a time consuming process). I also bought a audio plug converter from Dick Smith for $2.50 so that I could fit my existing stereo ear plugs into the smaller audio plug on the Treo. Music quality is OK & I will be working on transferring a few podcasts from my MP3 player on to the Treo.

The backlit colour screen on the Treo 650 is just wonderful after the drab black & white screen on my faithful Treo 180. Navigation around the various applications, using the keyboard and installing applications are all familiar tasks. I am weaning myself away from using the stylus and trying to do as much as possible using the directional keys and the keyboard. One handed key entry is a bit difficult as I have small hands and I am more used to holding the Treo in my left hand & using my right hand to key in text. However, I am getting to grips with it & using my left hand to do most inputting.

I have also tried out the camera and video (eats up memory). Picture quality is quite good but I have not printed out any pictures yet, just displayed on my PC. Next week, I will be working out how to moblog with various Web 2.0 applications. It’s the foundation of my research evaluation so I am looking forward to putting in a couple of days of learning by doing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Trialling eportfolio compilation using mobile phones

I have been putting together this year’s research proposal & it’s just been submitted to the faculty research committee for their approval. The objective of the research project is to look into using moblogs or ‘enhanced’ WIKIs that are accessible using mobile phones. Apprentices will be asked to connect with these web based applications to collect, collate and organise photos and text that will form the base of a portfolio for the purposes of completing work based skills.

The main focus will be to evaluate how user friendly the apprentices find each type of software. As the majority of apprentices will not have access to personal computers, it will be important to find out how much of the eportfolio compilation can take place using just the mobile phone to take photos, add text descriptors, send the photos and accompanying text to the website, collate and organise the photos and share these with their peers.

As a tutor, I would like to find out how much information can be gathered using the mobile phone and whether the evidential material will be sufficient for me to make a decision about an apprentice’s competency. I am also interested in the underlying process that will take place as apprentices work through the requirements of collecting evidence, archiving and collating their work. In my experience, a lot of thought often goes into compiling portfolios and it would be good to see if this thought process is reflected in the composition of the eportfolios that apprentices will be working on. I am also interested in finding out whether the process of using a particular application with a mobile phone would constrain or enhance the portfolio experience for apprentices.

From the CPIT point of view, I will need to find out the advantages and disadvantages of various web based software. Then, when we built a customised platform for student eportfolios, we will have a better idea of what works or does not work. Using mobile phones as the main interface between users & their portfolios will be an added challenge to setting up a customised eportfolio platform.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Future of mLearning (a mashup)

I have been trying to keep up with the onslaught of articles, blogs and podcasts about mLearning and eLearning. The more I read, the more I gravitate towards the view that mLearning will become mainstream. Mobile learning brings together many traits that make us human. We are social animals, we learn much from interacting with others and we learn best when our learning is situated (as when we are trying to solve a problem and need to work out how to go about it). Mobile phones with web access provide the references, contacts and networking for these processes to take place.

In an interview with Judy Breck reported on mtrends, the many possibilities for providing more equal access to educational opportunities for women in the under -developed world was discussed. The interview tracked some very good examples of how mobile phones have allowed people in underdeveloped countries to bridge the digital divide. Mobile phones have provided the opportunity to make contact with the wider world and to have access to knowledge bases via the web.

Web 2.0 applications open the door to mobile users who do not have access to computers, servers and networks. With a web browsing capable phone, anyone with a mobile phone is able to gain access to their own web space from almost anywhere in the world. People are therefore able to access information when they need it from wherever there is mobile access. They are no longer disadvantaged by lack of access to libraries, learning in a bricks and mortar based institution and computer networks.

As you can see at the comprehensive list of Web 2.0 applications by Bob Stumpel via Sacred Cow Dung blog., there are hundreds of applications that are now accessible with an internet capable computer. Not all are accessible via mobile phones yet and some applications might not be suitable on a mobile phone. What I learn from this is that there is a lot of work being done out there and we are only at the beginning of development in this area. Due to the nature of how Web 2.0 has evolved, the development of new applications has been user led. Therefore the possibilities for education are going to be really significant!

Derek Wenmoth’s chart on online environments via Leigh Blackall’s blog, shows the progression into social learning & connectivism from the learning models of behaviourism and constructivism. The convenience, ubiquity and overall social application that a mobile phone allows, makes it a prime candidate for building some of the means by which social learning and connectivism can take place. mLearning becoming a platform through which learners, their mentors, the learning content and community of practice can interact, develop, network, synthesise, reflect and do the things that good learning should be about.

This article by Dion Hinchcliffe via Alexander Hayes’ blog provides us with a glimpse of what is taking place in Web 2.0 application development. Mash ups, composite web applications that are partially constructed from the services and content from other web sites are growing at a phenomenal rate. A fully online web based software environment is not too far from being available anytime, anywhere. The technology is already available, time is required for the capabilities to be realised and tapped into. All of these developments make for interesting times for those of us who are exploring the educational use of Web 2.0 applications.