Thursday, October 26, 2006

mlearn day 3

The gala dinner last night was well attended despite the weather changing to rain. We were treated to a good meal & a wonderful display of first nation dancing including the spectacular hoop dance (picture of hoop dancer at bottom of page). Day 3 dawned fine with a cold Northerly wind.

I have had to choose one presentation out of six at each session. There were several papers I would have liked to also have attended but will need to catch up with them once the conference proceedings have been published. I find attending presentations bring life to papers which are often couched in academese. The personalities of the presenters does not shine through in many academic papers, so I find that attending the presentations brings better focus to my later reading of the actual papers.

The day starts with a 2 hour panel discussion on cultural perspectives from around the world convened by Jill Attewell.
Elizabeth Hartnell-Young (now based in at Nottingham, UK) provided the Australian perspective on mlearning.
Herman van der Merwe gave a South African overview & in particular the need of low cost, easily accessible, low threshold applications.
Mike Sharples presented the UK view, starting with the historical background that in the UK, learning taking place in the community & lifelong learning would have be active in the UK from 300 years ago. Mlearning provides greater opportunities for people learning in their communities to share knowledge with a wider audience than before. Check out on the informal learning network.
Tak-Wai Chan’s 10 minute powerpoint on the Asian perspective provided a great deal of information . Asian countries are producing most of the hardware for mlearning & many Asian governments (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore) have put in policies to introduce mlearning into schools. Many interesting examples were provided on the application of mlearning.
Rory McGreal talked about the North American viewpoint. He posited that due to less discrepancy between the cost of voice & text communications in North America, that the North Americans would bypass the SMS stage & move more fully into the development of 3G based mlearning applications. An example is the elibrary that has been developed at Athabasca University which provides free content not only in the form of text but also in all other forms of digital media.
During the questioning session, the following were brought up:-
the cost of using mobile phones came out. The cost of both voice and text messaging is actually very low, it is the price that is high! So it is important for educational organizations in individual countries to lobby their telecommunications providers for cheaper prices.

What would be the next killer application for mobile learning. Mike thought that language learning using games on mobile devises would push the use of mobile learning in the far east. A member of the audience suggested that it would be using browsers on mobile devices. Another suggested the importance of ensuring that there was interoperability between various devices, applications and systems.

There was agreement that the device that would support future mlearning would be the current 3G phone & the future 4G phone. However, there was a need for phones to have better battery life, more memory, better screen displays and the ability to Bluetooth data to peripherals like data projectors & printers easily.

Last presentation was from James Wen from Positive Motion on user-interface techniques for using flash-cards on small mobile devices. He took on the view that the limitations provided by small screen size, limited keyboard etc. actually made the production of customised user interfaces easier.

The conference was officially closed with a keynote from Dr. Mohamed Ally on mobile learning bridging the learning divide. The digital divide is disappearing but the learning divide has now appeared. Who is going to help provide learning material for mobile learning to take place?

Mlearn2006 was then handed over to mlearn2007 to be held in Melbourne from 16th to 19th October. Caryl Oliver & Elizabeth Hartnell-Young invited delegates to meet next year at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

After lunch, the first annual general meeting of the International Association for Mobile Learning (AML) was held.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

mlearn2006 day 2

Well, day 2 dawned fine and clear, 3 fine days in a row. I have started to look at the mountains surrounding Banff with some longing. However, day 2 brought with it another batch of interesting presentations. Writing this for blog is a good way for me to reflect on the presentations before the next batch arrives tomorrow! I am writing each section of this blog as each presentation takes place. WIFI access to the web is patchy but sufficient for me to search for and insert hyperlinks.

We began the day with a keynote from Dr. Tom Brown from South Africa. He presented the conference with the challenge of whether we are developing mlearning for the present generation or for the generation that is just now coming into the education system. In particular, we should be working at anticipating what future generation’s learning needs will be. He provided a good overview of Netgen learning needs along with developments in mobile devices, new learning paradigms & new challenges for educators.

I attended the following sessions
Designing a digital internet & mobile phone e-learning environment (DIMPLE) is a concept designed by Diana Andone & presented by Dr. Jon Dron from the University of Brighton in the UK. The design of DIMPLE was based on interviews of young people in the UK, Romania, Finland & Hungary. DIMPLE allows transfer of data between mobile phone (including SMS), PC, Ipod on to a learning environment that includes WIKIs, blogs, forums, IMS, VOIP etc. (integrating many Web 2.0 applications) along with usual learning platforms (email, calendar, diary etc). Its a start at developing a personal learning environment (PLE).

Using mobile to improve the quality of clinical nursing education was presented by Richard Kenny & Caroline Park from Athabasca University & Jocelyne Van Neste-Kenny & Pam Burton, nursing tutorial staff from North Island College, Vancouver Island. They described the pre-study that they have taken to support a pilot mlearning project in 2007. They included a review of the literature of the use of mlearning in health care & nursing that found that PDA use has “exploded” – mainly in the use of pharmacology. This was followed by a study of the needs for nursing education to see if mlearning could meet some of the needs that changes in nursing practice caused by a greater need for community care have brought about. A mobile solution was seen to be feasible due to students being scattered across a wide part of the Vancouver area, with many practicing in isolated communities that can only be reached by boat.

After lunch, I attended another health related technical showcase presentation with Maria Parks & Mark Dransfield (York St. John College) on the topic of using moblogging to support health studies students in the UK. They are using moblogging to assist with the assessment of work placed practice in a clinical setting. The project was to see how well mobile phones would work for the task & to see if their anticipated outcomes (reduction of paperwork, electronic record, enhanced relations between tutor & workplace based educators & targeted support for workplace base educators from the college). A video demonstrating how moblogging worked was used to introduce students on how to use a Imate SP5 phone to blog on and flickr. Students had to set up Email, blogger & flickr accounts on the phones. To resolve problems with inputting text using a mobile phone, Bluetooth portable QWERTY keyboards were also offered as an option. students using the Bluetooth keyboards produced fuller sentences (11 pages compared to 3 pages for mobile keyboard) & reflections were in greater depth.

Ilias Lazardis & Matthias Meisenberger from Austria presented eLibera, a mobile learning engine (MLE). This allows multi-media learning to be distributed to almost every Java-enabled (J2ME) mobile phone. It works in place of the browser on the mobile phone. The MLE allows content to be uploaded on to the phone. Then while off line, content can be viewed and formative assessments can be completed. Links to mobile WIKIs, blogs or forums and also mobile wikispedia, news, ebooks etc. are also accessible. A very promising application which we will need to try out. It is supposed to work with a Treo 650, so I will need to test this out when I get back to NZ.

Next a session on knowledge transfer in mobile learning presented by Allan Knight from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Looked at mlearning as not just a subset of d or elearning but a form of learning that uses tools that provide mobility, ubiquity & accessibility. Therefore, mlearning can be used to extend interaction, build learning communities & for the transfer of knowledge. However, performance feedback (are they engaged, are they using the content etc) might be missing for the students & the teacher.
Developed a Moodle module called Moodog (a performance based feedback system (PBFS) that tracks student access / participation to various parts of the course. Students are encouraged to look at the graphs on Moodog so that can find out what other students on the course are engaging with.

Last session of the day was on using a SMS based querying system for mlearning. Presented by Dr. Dunwei Wen from Althabasca University. Their premise was to extend the uses of SMS as it was a popular medium in some countries for mobile phone use. The querying system would provide the possibility to allow SMS to be used for searching content or to set up glossaries. Searches can be made from an existing knowledge base or via the internet. This extends the use of SMS beyond its traditional usage & provides a way for students to ask FAQ type questions.

A very enriching day from my point of view. Several ways in which I could use the ideas from several presentations already percolating in my brain. All of them are generally easy to put into place and cost effective.

mlearn2006 day1

Had a very busy & productive first day. Several enlightening presentations led to a few ‘light bulb on’ moments for me. Also met several interesting people during the wine & cheese on Sunday evening, so one of my objectives to network is a short way towards being met.

First impressions are that there are more papers on mobile phones this year. There was also more work on the use of location based mobile learning being presented with variants on geo-caching / treasure hunting / links to google maps (but no one has mentioned frappr as yet), tagging plus locational social linking (ie you tag that you are interested in mlearning and when someone with the same tag is near you, both of you will be texted) and barcode recognition cum location specific technical information (ie if looking for specific article in store/warehouse, the barcode will generate not only the items name but any important precautions for handling the article etc.).

The day opened with a key note from Mary Lou Jepsen, one of the directors for the $100 laptop / a laptop for every child project. I enjoyed the talk as it again showed how much can be done when there is a concerted effort combined with support from suppliers and various funding bodies. Their timeline is to release 5 million laptops to 5 countries by mid – 2007 and then 50 to 100 million laptops in the following year! The laptop features many innovations that including an improved screen that is cheaper to produce but is still viewable under sunlight conditions.

I attended the following sessions:-
Marguerite Koole from Athabasca University session was on the comparison of various mobile learning devises. It gave me some good evaluative points for choosing mobile learning devices for distance learning. Also an interesting Venn diagram bringing together the aspects of flexibility, portability, usability and student learning needs to encompass the social, physical and cognitive dimensions of mlearning.
Dr. David Metcalf from Walden University and Nova Southeastern University gave an interesting overview of renaissance mlearning – making the best use of existing mobile applications in new ways. These included using bar code readers for workplace learning (walking into a specific area or scanning a certain product produces formative assessment activity), CMA codes and their uses in treasure hunt type scenarios and access to technical information that includes the use of blogs to keep technical information up to date.
Then a session by Glenda Nalder & Alexis Dallas from Griffith University on personalizing mlearning to individual learner needs.
Followed by a lively session from Adele Botha, on the Mobiled project. Using a mobile phone to create a Wiki textbook on science principles by South African secondary school students. As there were 54 different models of cell phones, the textbook was constructed using SMS and then later brought together by the students on to a wiki set up on wikispaces.
The session by David Whyley & Terry Russell reported on a large scale implementation of PDAs in primary schools in Wolverhampton, UK. David made a very interesting remark about the first cohort of students born into the 21st century starting school this year (it would have been 2005 for many young Kiwis). We need to think about whether education in the 21st will now prepare young people for their working lives in the 21st century. Their project – Learning2go seems to have been successful in engaging young people in to doing much of their own learning with good examples shown of student work that exhibited good understanding of basic principles using the tools provided with each student’s PDA.

My presentation was one of 6 slotted into the last session for the day. All went well and good questions were generated with several people staying back to have a chat. I think the use of Web 2.0 applications will change the way they will approach mlearning and lead to more interesting work on eportfolios.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Looking forward to mlearn2006

I leave NZ in a couple of days & am looking forward with excitement and some trepidation to my trip across to North America for the mLearn2006 conference. I need to put down some goals that I would like to achieve so that my trip is more focused and I come back with concrete objectives completed.

I do not enjoy long air flights. Being confined me to a small space for a long a time is not something I enjoy. Hence my travels thus far have been limited to frequent short trips across the ditch to Oz & obligatory trips back to Singapore to catch up with family. As with other trips, I have set up several items that I plan to catch up while on the plane. I have downloaded several ebooks on to my Treo plus photocopied readings etc. pertinent to the three research projects I am working on so that I can do a bit of a catch up. Keeping my brain busy will help while away the time.

My itinerary includes:-

  • A few days in Los Angeles with my aunty and uncle. They immigrated to the U S or A 27 years ago. Apart from catching up with them, I will be visiting several artisan bread bakeries and farmers’ markets.
  • Next will be a couple of days in Calgary with friends. R. is an academic researching road safety who has lived in 6 countries in the last twenty years. Always interesting to catch up with R. & his wife S. as they represent the ‘travelling academic family’. Their views on life in various countries is always refreshing as they can take on an observers viewpoint while being part of the country that they live in.
  • A week at Banff for mlearn 2006 follows
  • Then three days in Vancouver, staying with my mother’s cousin plus visit to Vancouver Community College and other foodie places.

I see that Gary Sewell from Hunter Institute of TAFE & Caryl Oliver from William Angliss TAFE will be presenting as well. It will be good to catch up with them on their mlearning projects.

Things I would like to achieve for my mlearning project include:-

  • Find best practice examples of converting content to mlearning on mobile phones
  • Look out for anyone else doing any work with integrating Web 2.0 applications to mlearning
  • Find out if there is anyone else thinking of using mobile phones to coordinate eportfolios
  • Brush up on mlearning operating systems and mobile phone programming software
  • See the latest offered on PDA platforms & work out if relevant to mobile phones
  • Source LMS or CMS that others have used for mlearning and information on assess, compatability, usability, costs etc.
  • Make contact with hardware suppliers to see if there are possibilities for collaboration with piloting out eportfolio trials next year
  • Allow serendipity to do its thing
  • Network, network, network

Monday, October 02, 2006

Thoughts from efest 2006

Had a busy and enriching time in Wellington for efest 2006 last week. There was a thought provoking keynote by Steven Downes on the difference between groups and networks. The next day, we had Diane Obinger’s live streaming video keynote from the US of A. A good demonstration of technology working to lower the boundary of distance. Her quick fire presentation provided a great overview of how we should be asking our students about how they would like to see their learning structured and the role of learning spaces in helping to bring about a change in the teaching styles of teachers.

Also managed to catch up with the open space conf. for networked learning, On Thurssday they had set up an open space in one of the rooms for a couple of hours and people could come in and engage with the participants of the networked learning road show. I met up with Alex Hayes and we had a very fruitful conversation with regards to his work with rural aboriginal communities in Australia and my work on mlearning.

Efest has certainly grown each year I have attended. The number of presentations has increased and generally, all the speakers were well prepared and the topics were well thought through. There was also plenty of opportunity for networking starting with a breakfast session at 7.30am, lunch time forums and a drinks cum nibbles session at the Loaded Hog (sponsored by Catalyst) on Thursday evening. Along the way, there was morning & afternoon tea plus many of the sponsors had set up booths with their wares for conference participants to have a look at.

During this conference, I saw much more information and awareness of social net working and Web 2.0 type applications as compared to last year. At a panel discussion on Friday afternoon (moving technology), I raised the question about where the panel thought web 2.0 applications would be going. The range of replies was very interesting. Some institutions were unable to readily access Web 2.0 tools due to the nature of their network’s firewalls. There was also agreement that many Web 2.0 tools were put on line to gauge the market for the product. Once there was an established pool of users, there would often be a charge for an upgraded form of the tool. The tools that did not attract the requisite number of users were likely to suddenly disappear, leaving the students who had been using the tool (& the tutor who was relying on the material to assess it) stranded.

A couple of invited speakers inspired me. Meegan Hall from Cultureflow gave a down to earth description of how their business filled a market niche for learning Maori and then went on to adapt their product to help learners of other languages. Her can-do attitude epitomised the Kiwi ‘have a go’ capacity. Hazel Gamec and Lin Yew Cheang from Wanganui School of Design presented Lin Yew’s work on interactive audio – visualisation. His work on the manipulation of icons on a computer screen along the lines of the movie Minority Report was visually beautiful. His concept of using icons as a form of language was also very interesting. They provided a glimpse into the possibilities for the future when interaction with a computer would become much more intuitive and pictograms / icons may be used as a form of communication.