Monday, December 22, 2008

Reflections on 2008

It has been a busy year! I have learnt much via the mobile portfolios project. Working with the capabilities that ‘cloud computing’ offer has led to many ‘lightbulb’ moments as I come to understand the possibilities for using the many tools available online to enhance learning opportunities for students.

Attending & presenting at both mlearn2008 & handheld learning 2008 provided opportunities to network with many kindred spirits. It was heartening to hear encouragement from many people including Andy Black, Inge de Waard & Tony Bates on the concept of combining mobile with web 2.0 to compile eportfolios. I think that it does take people who have a good understanding of the concepts to appreciate what the CPIT mobile portfolios project is about.

Presenting workshops & papers at many conferences this year has made me realise how far our project is ahead. Especially when we speak to educators who have never looked a bebo page OR to enthusiastic tutors who cannot access web 2.0 sites from their workplace and have to read their student’s blogs at home! OR to teachers from schools where mobile phones are banned and who have never sent a text message. Yet, there is much room for optimism. Most people now have heard of youtube and a large majority have watched youtube videos. Youtube videos have replaced actual video tapes as the main way to entertain students when there is a lull in a theory session! It’s these tutors that I now nab to work with on using web 2.0 tools that require them and their students to become active participators & not just spectators. Students & tutors could make their own vodcasts or podcasts, work collaboratively on concept / mindmaps or comic strips as alternatives to blogging and make better use of the innate creativity their students have to learn together.

So I am looking forward to a couple of weeks of rest & re-creation. Just returned from an 8 day tramp around the Cobb Valley and now looking forward to celebrating Xmas with the family. Then another 3 day trip to Black Hill just before the New Year & a 5 day camping /tramping trip around the Mt. Richmond Forest park at the start of the year. After that it will be a good three to four weeks of thesis writing, working on the final draft J before the 2009 work year begins.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Creating websites / portfolios using mobile phones

Due to the rejection by the TEC of the CPIT / Unitec mlearning project, I need to chug on with work on exploring how to make eportfolios more feasible using mobile phones. The overall project applied for was to use the pilots that Thom Cochrane at Unitec & myself have been running to come up with concrete guidelines for the use of mobile learning in the tertiary sector in NZ. Our concept has always been to make use of mobile phones & to harness web 2.0 sites so that the mobile phone was used as the ‘computer in my pocket’.

Feedback from the TEC was much better this time around. “This is a well articulated application, however the focus is on technology rather than learning, and the best approach to achieving learning outcomes. The outcomes expected from this project are not clear.” However, it still means that I will have to find another source of $$ to continue with mobile learning research next year.

The eportfolio collation of our project has had to resort of desktop computers to access sites like Google pagecreator, vox, multiply and comiq. However, many of our students still have very limited access to desktops. Therefore there is a need to push the envelope with the use of mobile website creators and to evaluate if they may be useful as eportfolio collators & disseminators. Much of this work will also be relevant to content creation on mobile phones so the project will also inform me with regards to how to best make use of mobile phone websites creators in mlearning.

A trawl through google reveals several sites to work with next year. These include ones that need re-looking at like winksite & wirenode and newer ones like mob5, mobiSiteGalore. swiftmob and zinadoo. For a start, some desktop research using a variety of phones to sort out access & usability issues will need to be completed. Once the sites have been sifted through, we will need to trial them with student phones. A basic eportfolio needs to have photos, short video clips and text. We will still link up the student sites via Moodle so that other students and the tutor are able to view individual sites. Technology has moved along rapidly so our project needs to keep up with the play as well.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Whakakotahi: Communities of Practice , West Coast Tertiary teaching & learning conference

Yesterday afternoon, I travelled across to the West Coast to present a workshop at the inaugural West Coast Tertiary Teaching & Learning Regional Conference sponsored by Ako Aotearoa & Tai Poutini Polytechnic.

I was teaching all day yesterday so just managed to catch the opening of the conference that evening which featured a powhiri followed by welcomes from Russell Nimmo, chair of the West Coast Tertiary Education Forum, Dr. Peter Coolbear who is Director of Ako Aotearoa & Geoff Knight, ex- motorcycle gang member turned opera singer. Dr Coolbear introduced the audience to the work that Ako Aotearoa is taking on to improve the educational outcomes for all learners through. This is accomplished by the dissemination of funds to further research in the tertiary sector and providing opportunities for the building of communities of practices. Geoff Knight performed two opera pieces and gave a very inspirational, well delivered and thought provoking presentation. In particular, he was lucky to come across key mentors and supporters at crucial times of his life & these provided impetus & support for him to develop his gift.

The conference is a wonderful initiative to provide professional development to tertiary teachers based on the West Coast of New Zealand. A beautiful area which has a low population spread along 600 kilometres.

This morning started off with a keynote from Dr. Marion Bowl, from the University of Canterbury who spoke on communities of practice (COPs) & how the concept could be useful for both the formal & informal tertiary sectors of the West Coast. She also covered the factors that hinder or inhibit the formation and continuation of COPs, the supporting factors that encourage COPs to form & grow in organisations & at a local level eg. Buller ACE sub-network.
Workshops followed on a range of topics. I presented one, so only able to attend one by Peter McRae from Tai Poutinit about developing a programme beyond unit standards. Feedback from employers in the civil plant industry was that skills, knowledge & licencing were important but attitude was the most important. Therefore work attitudes need to be integrated into pre-trade programmes.

The after lunch keynote was from Dr. Tony Barrett (ex-Lincoln University) on how the social nature of learning shapes our student’s identity and ability to build knowledge. Activity, learning & identity are interlinked. Social activities are part of learning and becoming. COPs are easier to analyse than to describe ie COP formation is organic & based on the context, social organisation etc from which they evolve therefore to impose rules on how they form, stops them from forming in the first place. A good overview of the concepts of COPs including the need to offer authentic learning experiences, the roles of learners in COPs & the need to identify processes important to the understanding a concept and then making them visible to the learner.

A plenary panel session with Dr.Coolbear, Dr. Barrett, Dr. Bowl & Dr. Sheila Granger (principal of Buller High School) on learning as a social process followed afternoon tea. This consisted of questions collected from the audience & answered by members of the panel. Most of the questions were on the concepts for COPs, how to involve more people, keep the COP going, ignite passion for learning etc. The discussion moved across to the role of technology in supporting COPs & the ways in which technology may be used to better connect with learners. There was also a need for institutions to provide support to staff who are working on projects that have goals of improving learner outcomes. Suggestions for future conferences included having more students attending / presenting & looking at other models for structuring / organising a conference.

A successful conference was then closed by Marja Kneepkins who is the campus manager for Tai Poutinit Polytechnic (Westport campus) who provided a personal summary. A poropororaki then officially closed the conference.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another way to connecting mobile learners

After mlearn2008 & Handheld Learning 2008, I indulged in a spot of travel and joined a bus tour that took me from London to Rome via Paris, Lausanne, Venice & Florence. All up, 10 days of travel which provided a quick overview & introduction to the possibilities for more travel in the near future.

As usual I took the opportunity to make observations about the uses of technology by both the tour company & the tour participants. The young English tour director (who also spoke French, German & Italian fluently) make copious use of her cell phone to liaise with a multitude of local tour guides, hotels, restaurants, shops & other tourist attraction operators. The majority of the tour participants were aged over forty but the dozen or so younger participants were queued up in front of the hotel internet or would pay for the hotel wifi access every time the tour checked into a hotel.

During the tour, several visits were made to tourist attractions like Versailles, the Vatican & Sistine chapel & the Coliseum & Forum using the ‘whisper tour guide system’ or similar. This was an FM radio system that supplied a transmitter to the tour guide & a receiver plus earphones to the tour participants. The tour guide could then discourse on the various aspects while tour participants wandered around inspecting the area or reading visual material. The entire tour could listen to questions posed by the more inquisitive tour members & participants who were ‘wanderers’ could keep track of where the main body of the tour was without becoming totally separated from their tour group.

The sound quality was good even over quite long distances & between several rooms. So this technology would be very useful in some areas we teach in at CPIT which have a high level of noise. Examples include the bakery, mechanical engineering & panel beating workshops. Classes that take on field trips should also benefit from this system along with practical sessions that spread learners out over a wide area (building, horticulture etc). I will need to see if the elearning team is interested in investigating this option plus I will have to look at how to better use Twitter as another way to replicate some aspects of the FM link up with hardware the students now all carry with them & as an option.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tablet & rugged UMPCs for mobile learning

As a follow up to looking a UMPCs & netbooks as alternatives to mobile phones, I did a bit of desk research on how many possibilities there might be. Googling netted a currently incomplete comparative chart on Wikipedia.

The Kohjinsha range was recommended to me by the team at Canberra Primary School in Singapore as one of the hardware possibilities for their mlearning project. The school is a ‘future school’ @ Singapore & involved in rolling out mlearning to the entire school over the next two years. There are also a large number of schools in the Uk who are using game consoles like the Play station portable (PSP) & the Nintendo DS for mobile learning.

Therefore I googled Kohjinsha & New Zealand and found the Australian / NZ distributor for the Kohjinsha series. Emailed them to find out if I would be able to have a look & play with one. The email reply came back promptly from the Tegatech Sydney office & the NZ representative contacted me.

The price of a Kohjinsha in NZ is pretty steep (over $2000!!) which would allow the purchase of 3 or 4 asus eees. However there is the added lure of the tablet & touch screen. The agents also emailed specification for three ruggedised UMPCs which would be more suited to use in a trades workplace environment. All of these are tablets as well. They included the GETAC , the Eo TufTab & a sahara tablet. All looked great but very expensive!

The above caused me to look at tablet netbooks that would help obviate some of the evaluations of the small keyboard & screen we have had from apprentices with the current crop of 7” to 9” screen size netbooks. Not many around but there should be more in the next couple of years. Looks like we will have to keep working with mobile phones for the moment.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Checking out tech gadgets in Singpore

I have not been to Singapore for almost four years, so took an afternoon to check out the shopping centres which specialise in IT & mobile tech gear. Here are some observations on changes I saw in the tech gadget shopping centres in Singapore ie Funan IT & Sim Lim Towers & Sim Lim Centre.

Mobile has grown. In the three places I visited & other city & suburban shopping malls, shops that stock mobile phones outnumbered generic electronic goods stores which stock consumer products & computer gear. The range of brands (there are many Chinese & Japanese branded phones I have never come across) & models is mind boggling.

Trends for higher end phones seem to be larger screens, at least 3” across for a better web surfing experience. Phones that can take photos up to 8 megapixels & touch phones were the latest trend. Wifi capability on phones has to be a given. Singapore has many readily accessible Wifi hotspots – wireless@SG hotspots. The international airport terminals offer free internet & free WIFI! Inspired & perhaps indoctrinated by the seductive TV ads of the iPhone, touch screens are seen to be a standard requirement. Slide out keyboards are not cool as it leads to having to carry a ‘brick’ around. The preferred look was for thin, sleek phones that allowed you to clip-on your choice of faceplate. Clamshells were being superseded by touch phones.

Net books abound. I managed to test drive the MSI Wind U100 with a 10” screen along with netbooks from Toshiba & Dell. The asus eee 7” was often sold (or offered for very low prices) with mobile broadband / mobile cards for ease of use. I was not able to find a Kohjinsha UMPC which has a touch tablet but will make a more concerted effort to trace one back in NZ. In Singapore, netbooks are seen to be alternatives to the poorer connectivity speeds & expense of using a mobile phone to surf the web by mobile white collar professionals who tend to carry a mobile phone & a laptop as a norm. The netbook replaced the laptop but they would still carry a small ‘hand phone’ for phone calls & texting.

The trend is therefore for greater mobility, smaller sized hardware to access the web by free WIFI & increased capability, speed, memory capacity etc. at cheaper prices. Looks also count. Smart phones that look like the iPhone are preferred to those that look like a Nokia N96.

The other item I picked up on was the ability to link your iPod to your car stereo system, something my son had rigged up in my car as well. I also came across an auto audio firm that would link your ipod to the in-car DVD to allow you to play downloaded videos.

Many mlearning projects target their content development on students who are commuters. In NZ, many of our students do not use public transport instead they travel around in their own cars. Therefore, our focus, when creating content for our students, is to ensure that the content is accessible via formats that do that require regular input from the student as they might be listening to the content while they are driving. Also the time our students (within Chch) spend driving to work etc. is relatively short compared to the hours of commuting that people in Europe & Asia complete. Construction of revision content etc. suitable to playback on an mp3 player should therefore be shorter snippets & perhaps more repetitious as our students are not just passive commuters and have to concentrate on driving as well as revision.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

reflections on mlearn 2008 & Hand Held Learning 2008

Spending over a week of immersion in the world of mobile learning provided me with a large amount of information to digest. However, looking back at my notes, I see several patterns emerging that I will carry into the mlearning projects at CPIT.

My basic premise for using students’ own devices (ie mobile phones) & web based platforms is sound. The ongoing work on making computers smaller (ie netbooks like the Asus eee, mobiles more web capable plus increased mobile access to the web means that we are well placed to make use of the building capabilities of cloud computing.

I will need to stay with the overall vision to form eportfolios based solely on mobile phones. There are now many more sites that are mobile accessible, including sites like wirenode, winksite & mob5 which allow mobile phones to be used to set up mobile websites. Capabilities for these for forming eportfolios are still basic but things are moving along to make our vision possible.

Mobile phones will still be the most ubiquitous mobile tool as they now number over 3 billion. The ability of game consoles to take on various operating systems (eg the Nintendo DS) will hopefully be replicated at some stage with mobile phones as well. Although material can be accessed direct via the web, having the ability to distribute content etc on SD cards or similar might be more convenient for some learners. The use of game consoles might be an option to explore with other projects at CPIT

The use of netbooks opens up many possibilities for bringing ICT into the classroom & creating blended learning opportunities in any learning space. In particular, the ability to work on collaborative projects, find information easily, create individual & group resources & to make use of serendipitous learning opportunities. Most web capable mobile phones are also suitable for this teaching method but the cost of web surfing on the mobile phone & the poor reputation mobile phones have in the education sector put mobile phones into the ‘too hard basket’ for this. Will need to lobby for better WIFI coverage at CPIT & to investigate the funding options available to provide class sets of netbooks.

Sharing of resources, content, eportfolios etc. need not be only via the web, bluetooth capabilities on many devices, memory sticks, SD cards etc. are also methods that can be useful for mobile learners to archive & share their work. Need to explore this with regards to the various learner profiles we cater to at CPIT to see which option for transfer of digital material is going to be most useful.

Smartboards seem to be standard in British classrooms. Using smartboards with powerpoint presentations seem to be a real waste of smartboard technology. I will need to have a better play with the ones we have at CPIT to work out the best way to model the interactive capabilities of smartboard technology. In particular, the possibilities for collaborative work in conjunction with mobile devices & blended learning.

There is a great deal of innovation taking place around the world. Passionate teachers are going that extra kilometre to make learning more realistic, authentic, creative & collaborative for their students. Mobile learning enables the classroom to be more easily networked with the ‘real world’ & for students in one geographical location to make contact with students studying similar topics in other places. These are skills we all need to make the world a better place to live in. Teachers who model these skills not only teach their students the importance of these skills but also reap the benefits from their own connectivity.

Flexibility combined with a good underpinning of pedagogy is important when working with any project that is of a cutting edge nature. Persistence combined with the ability to make pragmatic choices are also important attributes!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Handheld learning 2008 day 3 - school project showcase

Again several sessions going on so I made the choice to attend the Schools showcase to better understand what is going on in the school sector in the UK. Although there is a dependence on using PDAs in many of the projects, the advent of netbooks means that many of the handheld projects now have greater transferability across to other hardware platforms.

The session was started off with Tony Parkin with encouragement to check up the ICT Register to find schools working on various projects.

First up, Stephen Quayle presents a session on using Mediascape to promote PLTS frameworks based on work from the Foulston City Learning Centre. This project includes 80 primary schools & 14 secondary schools. The project provides students with activities to complete during ½ day visits to ‘stately homes’.

Asif Anwar then talks about using the bluetooth feature on mobile phones for resource swapping at Birkdale High School. Students developed resources using & shared these with each other leading to better engagement not only with their phones but to greater engagement and enjoyment with learning.

Philip Griffin presents the mobile classroom & PIC learning project from Radstock Primary School. Nokia N800 tablets, desktops & the Uniservity Learning Platform were used to work on a ‘choose your own adventure story project’. Learning was personalised, learners set up their own assessment criteria & had the opportunity to be creative, self-directed & practice & learn many important skills.

Using the PSP as a learning device at Birmingham East City School is presented by Richard Healey. The PSP was not only used in the classroom but also on field trips and homework activities.

Handheld 2008 day 3 - emerging technologies 2

Stayed with the ‘emerging technologies’ session this morning although there were several other potentially interesting sessions.

Session started with Lt. Alex Smith from HMS Collingwood on using PSP in the armed forces to help ratings learning weapon engineering principles training unit. Makes use of rapid authoring using Lecturnity to allow for quick production of emedia & etests. These are then loaded onto PSPs for sailors to use when they are on deployment overseas & on ships / submarines etc. The Promethean Activ xpression keypads were used as a demonstration of one way to use this product. The keypads are an upgrade of clicker technology & have a phone keypad so that text messages can be posted along with the usual multiple choice type responses.

Michael Kasloff from Wireless Generation on mCLASS: Reading 3DT which provides teachers with a device that guides them through their work with primary students in the US of A. This allows real time diagnostic and decision making to be made by teachers on the progress students are making with regards to learning how to read.

John Trinder from the University of Glasgow on using mobiles in & out of the real world. This is a project to look at linking the virtual (eg Secondlife) with the real world via mobile tools (PDAs). Existing bridges between the two worlds include twitter, email, streaming video & RSS feeds. Interlife is a project to bring students studying ICT together on Secondlife & this project works on providing the ability to use mobiles to link with & interact on Secondlife.

Dr. Alan Beecham from Education Bradford on the 4 years experience of using handhelds in secondary school classrooms. 10 devices used over the course of the projects moving from PDAs eventually to Asus eee netbooks. This tracks a change from constructivism to connectivism, pedagogy to heutology. Instead of spending lots of time on constructing & then reflecting, we should spend less time to construct & reflect more on what has been put together.

Jan Lepeltak & George Plakke from the NHL University in the Netherlands on VEENQUEST which is the use of handhelds in a Frisian nature park. This was adventure game developed for year 8 – 10 students to explore the environment (including taste, touch & the use of pH papers) & the environmental issues related to a national park.

Gareth Frith, University of Leeds on mobile learning & assessment for university work based practice which was completed with 5 universities across 16 health care sectors. Mainly PDA based at the moment where by the tutor creates an assessment, the student reviews material & completes the assessment & results can be linked to students’ eportfolios.

Steve Bunce, Epict (European Pedagogical ICT licence UK) on empowering educators to become competent with ICT in education. Compulsory modules include being able to locate & incorporate online resources, use & create interactive learning materials, concepts of electronic communication & collaboration plus ICT & strategic innovation plus 12 electives to choose from. Steve took us through the learning journey he took while doing the gaming module. Interesting suggestions & hints on how to make use of games in education. Also mention of using R4 cards to put other types of media on to the Nintendo DS.

A busy morning! Use of PDAs seem to have migrated to netbooks, a very viable method of setting up a group of networked computers within a classroom without the limitations of a fixed computer suite environment. The sessions took place using the Promethean Activ Board, which provided some really interesting teacher friendly tools (like ruler, protractor) the use of only ONE pen & ability to for student work to also be easily displayed as compared to the Smartboards we have at present. A couple of things I will need to follow up with out IT people at CPIT.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

handheld2008 day 2 afternoon - emerging technologies session

A variety of sessions to choose from this afternoon. There are panels on ‘re-imaging teaching in the 21st century’, using game consoles in teaching & learning, virtual worlds & social networks & a MoLeNET showcase.

I decided to attend the ‘emerging technologies & new practices’ sessions which focused on practioners /researchers & developers reporting on their projects.

Mark Robinson facilitated the sessions.

Richard Crook on ‘praise pod’ which is the use of technology to provide appropriate praise to all people in order to motivate them towards greater excellence. A ‘praise pod’ is set up to allow students in schools to record videos when they have completed something good (via a interview) & then the clip can be emailed etc to parent’s phones.

Tony Vincent presents tips for podcasting which are also summarised in an ebook. Examples from Radio WillowWeb (7 year olds make a podcast about set topics) & our city podcast (students share information about their city with others). Planning etc will take 80 – 90% of the production time of a podcast. A source for Sound effects.

Mark Van’t Hooft & Thomas McNeal from Kent State University on students as content creators. The GeoHistorian project uses mobile phones & QR codes to take photos, videos & record audio clips about an historical landmark in their local area. Livecast or qik is used to stream the video straight to these sites. Then mobile website creators can be used to showcase the pictures etc. Winksite is used to create QR codes to direct user cell phones to the mobile website. Will need to try this out.

Lilian Soon an independent elearning developer, on ‘using gadgets to empower students with disablilites’ provided many ideas for the use of handheld devices. She started out with using SMS in 2003. Then using PDAs which have been a great tool to help less able students take photos & record audio of learning activities which can then be used back in the classroom to create their own content. At Hull College, there is the use of head cameras cum asus eee to record student evidence of automotive mechanics. A good example of using mindmaps to link various pieces of evidence to create one collective area. Mobile phones now used to collect evidence, use Bluetooth exchange of files, simple quizzes & flash cards, as a media player, QR codes to link to web sites & moblogging. Using SD cards to store photos etc. on Nintendo Wii to help students with improving motor control or use the puzzle function to make up a jigsaw or use cut & paste to do matching or labelling exercises (from an ppt. slide) plus use the pictochat function on the Nintendo DS. Also able to load flash cards with photos, text, videos or music.

Jocelyn Ford Morie from University of Southern California Institute of Creative Technologies which is sponsored by the US Army to use current technology in creating better learning for soldiers. The example used was to enhance critical thinking skills using case studies on a web based training system called AXL Net (army excellence in leadership). This was delivered on ipod classics & nano although PDAs, game consoles & the iPhone were also evaluated.

Paul Quinn, Harefield Sports academy on using PSPs to help Watford football scholars, elite gymnasts & other athletes. PSPs have been used to upload powerpoints to allow students to revise work, revise work using quizzes which will run on the PSP and review their own sports performance using the video playback function.

Sally Drummond from William Angliss College in Melbourne on ‘engaging youth in mobile learning’ with the ‘turning point project’ which was presented at last year’s mlearn in Melbourne. Students used mobile phones to create videos that would be presented on the iHubs sited around Melbourne. Students used Bluetooth to interchange information between mobiles & between mobiles & PCs. The Bluezone technology has many possibilities to push content out to Bluetooth capable mobile devices.

John Traxler on an overview of mlearn 2008. One theme that came about was the sense of community that is now forming around the mobile learning research committee. Highlights for him included Diana Laurillard’s & Yrjo Engestrom’s presentations that inform mobile learning theory, Vanessa Pittard & Jill Attewell on whether the evidence for mobile learning taking place has actually taken place. There was a growing number of technologies & systems & more case studies which also raised more challenges. Mike Short & Marc Prensky provided the bigger pictures of where technology might take us.

A very rewarding afternoon. I picked up lots of interesting ideas to try out when I get back to Chch. especially another look at potential mobile blogging / mobile website creation sites as the last time I checked them out (over a year ago) many would not work with NZ telecom providers. Also to check out if possible to revive work completed 3 years ago on evaluating game consoles for use in teaching & learning at CPIT.

handheld 2008 day 2 morning sessions

Day 2 of handheld learning 2008 starts off cool & cloudy. Last night, I attended the Handheld 2008 innovations award. A very interesting evening as it was great to see so many enthusiastic people working on bettering learning for their students. Many of the practitioner awards for primary & secondary schools went to ‘small’ schools which signals to me that the use of game consoles, pdas & mobile phones still attracts novelty value & is being used mainly by early adopters.

The days starts with short presentations from the various sponsors and then continued with Graham Brown Martin (conference chair) providing a short overview of how Handheld learning has developed including continuing the tradition of showing how ‘handheld learning girl’, Andrew’s 3 year old daughter is interacting with technology (a Nintendo DS). He also provided statistics from the BBC to encourage the concept of learning through play, 99% & 97% of girls between 9 to 16 play video games. Handheld 2009 to be held in London at the beginning of October.

Opening address from Andrew Pinder, the chair of Becta firstly covers the objectives of Becta. One major focus is to encourage the effective use of technology, in the hands of good teachers to improve learning outcomes for all learners. Various government policies to assist access to both hardware & connectivity for the most deprived learners was presented with a call to all suppliers, providers & educationalist to assist the initiative.

This was followed by a presentation from Steven Berlin Johnson. Steven covers some of the concepts presented in his book ‘Everything bad is good for you’ along with an update of what has happened since the book was published & the reactions that this book has brought up. Steven provided a great story about how the book came about (through his interactions with his nephews when they started to play Sim City together). He provided an engaging (mainly aural) presentation on the ‘sleeper curve’ which is how popular culture in the form of handheld games(Civilisation, Zelda), TV shows (Lost as compared to Gilligan’s Island) interactive web (what fans have build up around Buffy the Vampire Slayer including organising f2f meetups for fans), complex information (world of warcraft screen, Spore), social networks (blogs, wikis etc.) leads to cognitive learning that is actually difficult to actually teach (& often never assessed!).

After morning tea, dana boyd took the stage. She began her presentation about the role of educators in helping young people learn how to think. Introduction of technology does not equate to learning. Therefore educators need to understand what technology is currently available, what it is, how to best make use of it etc. She continues with an analysis of social networking sites, how they are constructed, how young people use them, what young people do on them, the customs inherent in posting, inviting friends, how some practices evolved etc. Four properties that young people bring to social networking included persistence, replicability, scalability & searchability. The dynamics in working with social networking sites include the need to deal with an invisible audience, a collapsed context (ie not distinguished by time, space, social mores), a convergence between public & private. Mobile technology brings with it the concepts of de-locability, knowledge dispersal (ability to read and add to various perceptions of ‘facts’), learning skills via learning the technology & ease of access to information. A thought provoking presentation which confirmed some of my thoughts about social networking & informed me more about how & why young people make use of technology.

Laurie O’Donnell, director of learning & technology for learning & teaching in Scotland ended the morning’s session with a presentation on ‘putting philosophy into practice.’ Compared 2 philosophies on teaching & learning with philosophy A as being the present situation whereby education can be fixed, technology drives change, teachers can be fixed, learners are the future workforce, innovation is good, success should be measured & the curriculum is not consultative. Philosophy B posits that education is a long term investment in the future, technology enables, supports & accelerates change, teachers are supported professionals, students are more than just the future workforce, curriculum is developed with guidance & support from teachers, innovation must also be scalable & sustainable & success is measured via wider term benefits.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

handheld2008 pecha kucha sessions

This was to allow for quick 6 minute 40 second presentations where presenters had present 20 slides with each slide timed to show for 20 seconds..

First up, JaquelineBatchelor from Cornwall Hill College in South Africa on teaching grade 11 human anatomy using mobile technology. Need arises from the context currently occurring in South Africa.

Then Geoff Stead from Tribal on a ‘where are the mobile learners? ‘Covering the three levels of learners & how mobile maybe able to meet especially the first two levels.

Next, Adele Botha from Meraka Institute on using mobile phones to help students revise & learn maths concepts. Text messaging costs high but bandwidth is low! Mxit which is a South African company that allows instant messaging to take place. So math homework available since Jan. 2007 from 2 – 8pm Sundays to Thursday to revise grade 12 maths.

David Metcalf provides a quick background of the projects at the University on Central Florida plus a plug for the next mlearn conference at Orlando at the end of October 2009.

Ian from Highvale Secondary at Glen Waverley in Melbourne presents the pocket PC project at the school.

James Clay from Gloucester College on myths & legends about mlearning. There is a need to put an emphasis on relationships between students & teachers as content is pervasive. Also need to allow users to use their own devices, the college needs to be the one to offer ‘content’ that will be compatible with student devices.

Tony Vincent from Nebraska on Twitter & microblogging & potential uses in education. Sharing sites, hints, keeping in touch with what others are doing, archive information for own use etc. Advantage is ease of access from a range of devices to send & receive. Education twitter equivalent at edmodo.

Merryl Ford from Meraka on MobilEd & bridging the digital divide. Uses the capabilities of mobile phone & matching these to ways in which mobile phones may be used to provide for better learning opportunities in a country where there is over 90% ownership of mobile phones amongst young people.

Tony Vincent again on ipod touch & iphones. Some good hints on how to get the most out of your iphone including how to set up web pages on webapps. Also lots of software including games that can be potentially useful for education via iphone downloads (not all are free).

Ron Edwards on Second life, providing examples of uses in simulations, virtual world meetings, data visualisation, mixing virtual & physical communities, virtual world classrooms, augmented reality (mobile), first person virtual reality, etc.

Then a quick one from me on the CPIT mobile learning / mobile portfolio project which generated some interest & questions.

James Clay back with podcasting & vodcasting which has been part of the Mole Net project. With some good hints on what to use (Windows sound recorder, Garageband, Audacity, Quicktime – for video as well). Imovies, moviemaker, Microsoft photostory for vodcasts. Gabcast to use your mobile phone to capture voice. Use RSS to subscribe.

Gavin Cooney from Learnosity on using voice to complete oral assessments. Currently trialling in Ireland to assess oral Irish as Irish is now a compulsory subject at all levels of schooling in Ireland. Also includes use of SMS daily to revise plus the opportunity to converse with a chat robot.

Mark Kramer from the University of Salzburg on Mobilmundi: emploring the impact of current & emerging mobile technologies on higher ed. There is a need to ensure that mobile technologies enhance communication & interaction between individuals & communities.

Heliotrope on Prelude (a game of discovery) that can be useful in teaching soft skills. Starts first with an analysis of ones own strengths & weaknesses, moves out to the class, community etc. so that a holistic viewpoint can be developed.

David Williams on Helping Learning is a website that enables students to make contact with a teacher who may be able to help them with work via Skype. Free to use by both students and teachers.

Last one on was Steward Smith from University of Manchester on 'engaging tutors'. If tutors do not use the technology than students will not reap the affordances provided by any form of technology assisted learning.

A good recap of some of the papers from mlearn2008 but also a good spread of ones I missed plus a few new ones to think about. The Pecha Kucha concept is good for the start of a conference as it brings up a wide range of topics very quickly & allows participants to recognise presenters so that future networking during the conference is facilitated.

mlearning2008 extras

Slight frustration at not being able to get to all the sessions due to two or more interesting sessions being presented at the same time or overlapping. A trawl through the conference proceedings reveal the following :-

James Cook from the London Metropolitan University on ‘appropriation of mobile phones for learners’ which was on how mobile phones are made used of by people to assist them in their daily lives. The paper uses socio-cultural frameworks & will have relevance to my work on mportfolios.

Jackie Haigh & Chris Dearnley from the University of Bradford are about to undertake a survey to identifying the student attributes that impact on mobile learning. They plan to find out what aspects of the student profiles & learning practices promote or discourage sustained use of a mobile device as a learning tool both in work based and university settings.

Andy Pulman from Bournemouth University reports on an evaluation of using Nintendo DS along with software around ‘brain training’. Findings include that mobile devices are ‘personal’ and help to develop familiarity, expertise and confidence in users. Using a Nintendo DS has proved to be a reliable & robust form of mobile learning and it has identified the potential of portable game consoles as a platform to help with the development of numeracy skills.

Adele Botha & Madelein van der Berg from Pretoria & Steve Voston, John Kuner from Stanford University present examples of their students’ work. Students created videos that reflected the culture of the country & city they lived in to share with another group of students living in a different country. Student work was archived in Vox.

Many of the poster sessions were of interest too. Of note were :-

Canberra Primary School a ‘future school’in Singapore in a project led by Nadiah Abdul Hamed in making use of mobile learning via UMPC / netbook tablets to extend learning opportunities for their students. The teaching & learning framework includes preparing students to be attuned, global & discovery learners who are able to integrate their skills & use these in a ethical manner. This is a laudable goal supported by sound pedagogy & research. It will be interesting to visit this school in the next couple of years as they implement their project right across the school.

Of the various companies / advertisements etc. that were displayed, the following will need to be further investigated.

Using playstations in education was a brochure I picked up. There was a session on the Friday morning which I was unable to attend. The brochure highlighted learning objects available on the playstation that would be useful in education. The playstation supports audio, internet access, has video & photo capabilities, text messaging & is able to access a wide range of file types including word, excel, html & txt files.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

mlearn2008 day 3 last day

Then I attended an eclectic mix of presentations in the ‘mobile learning, mobile knowledge & mobile societies strands.

Starting off with Dan Passey (Lancaster University) on using mobile technologies to convert ‘digital natives’ to ‘learning natives’. A gap analysis is used to detect learning domains that may be considered in encouraging better learning. Domains are mega-cognitive, cognitive, meta-cognitive, motivation, social & societal. A large number of affordances that supported learning were compared so that affordances that are well supported, poorly supported or not supported by mobile learning were presented. Activities that support learning should therefore be ‘snap & show’, ‘review & reflect’, ‘think forward’, ‘listen to my explanation’, ‘this is what I’ve done & how I have done it’ and ‘tell me how I could improve this’.

Followed by Thom Cochrane’s presentation on the mobile trials at Unitec began with a Vodaphone TV advertisement that has been running recently in NZ. The overall concept is to use access to web 2.0 via Nokia smart phones to collate the evidence of learning and to organise their learning (Gmail, calendar etc.) & to construct an eportfolio using Vox. Moodle is used to hold supporting material for the students. Evaluations from students indicate that students were receptive to the use of mobile tools to provide evidence of their learning.

‘How informal is mobile learning’ by comparing mobile VLEs & mobile PLEs was the topic of Wen Pin (Ben) Chen and David Milliard’s (University of Southampton) presentation. Firstly, there was a comparison between VLEs & PLEs. The key difference is that VLEs place control of learning on the teacher & PLEs on the learner. A four dimensional model of formal learning (why, where & when, who & what & how) along with whether the learning is teacher, student led or negotiated is used to analyse the papers presented at mLearn2007 to see what types of mlearning is currently taking place. Only 3 of the 17 papers presented fell into the formal learning environment therefore mlearning supports informal learning.

The day’s formal presentation sessions ended with Christopher Plimmer from Switzerland who investigated the area of workbased mobile learning to find answers to the question ‘How can mobile devices be used to support employee learning processes’?
Scenarios of the use of mobile learning in the workplace were presented to research participants to find out how feasible the scenarios were. Guidelines that were distilled included the need for content that would be just in case but well integrated into the work that needed to be completed, opportunities for social interaction that included coordination, coaching, collaboration and reflection & the production of learning sequences.

The afternoon was taken up with the AGM of the Association of Mobile Learning.

Conference ended with handover to mlearn2009 which will be in Orlando, Florida under aupices of University of Central Florida. Plus forward information for 2010 which will be held in Malta (organisers are the University of Malta).

Friday, October 10, 2008

mlearn2008 keynote from Yrjo Engestrom

The day started with a much anticipated keynote by Yrjo Engestrom who discoursed on the new patterns of mobility and learning which he terms as ‘wildfire activities’.

The presentation started with a ‘reconceptualising mobility’. Current definitions of mlearning tend to still be ‘content determine’ which does not necessarily reflect what takes place in the lives of the learners or the changes in society. He uses the example provided by Kris Gutierrez who posits that there is an official script of the educator and an invisible counter-script of the learner. There often collide but if we are able to to hybridize these two scripts, we have powerful ‘third spaces’ of learning.

A definition of wildfire activities & why are they important was then presented. Wildfire activities are non-linear & multi-dimensional with an emphasis on sideways trajectories & boundary crossing. This is in contrast to the standard explanation (eg Lave & Wenger) which moves novices from the periphery to the centre. Wildfire activities have immerged from very recent observations & studies on on-line social networking, open source movements & peer to peer sharing. These are examples of social production.

He provides examples of activities like skate boarding, birdwatching & participation in relief disaster relief as activities that are difficult to categorise. These activities offer little monetary reward, legal protection or institutional support. They require heavy expenditure of time & energy. They carry high risks of failure, trouble of authorities and even physical harm. They are discontinuous & persist over time. They are dispersed & distributed yet they are somehow coordinated. There is a quick adoption and creative use of up to date information & communication technologies. They are not only wikinomics, or just social networks ie they are not dependent on the web.

The metaphor of ‘communities of mycorrhizae’ was then used to explain the wildfire communities which are hybrid, poorly bounded, & where the centre does not hold. In contrast, craft communities are relatively close & stable & dominated by tradition and the traditional authority of the master. Mass production communites are governed by rules which are relatively transparent & has a known authority

He follows through with a hypothesis on learning in wildfire activities. These activities are examples of horizontal learning that cross boundaries & “ties knots between actors operating in fractured & often poorly charted terrain.” The learning is often subterranean and self-reflective. The learning is high stakes, often requires quick improvisational adaption and it is holoptic control (individuals have access but no single node of control).

Book – From teams to knots: activity theory studies of collaboration and learning at work, provides more reading on the concepts introduced in his presentation.

mlearn2008 day 2 afternoon

The afternoon keynote was from Vanessa Pittard who is the Director of eLearning Strategies at BECTA on assessing the value of mobile learning : the evidence challenge. Very few schools actually making use of the potential of wireless (access of Wifi) & mobile learning. There is a need to provide evidence that using mobile technology would enhance learning. Generally, teachers need to be convinced that using any form of technology will provide for better learning without having to invest more time. There is evidence of success in various mlearning projects in the UK. Of note is the McFarlane (2008) report on the Wolverhampton based Learning2go project whereby there was an improvement in boys ‘writing’, exam revision & games based practice.

Stayed in the’mobile learning, mobile knowledge & mobile societies’ strand this afternoon. There were two rooms with presentations in this strand, so I hopped between rooms.

First up was Christopher Murray (University of Leeds, School of Medicine) on capturing transformative learning using mobile devices. Digital stories were created by first year medical students of their first patient visit. The ELGG platform was used to collate the photos etc collected using PDAs. The taking of photos of the experience & creation of their digital stories provided the impetus for students to face transformative attitudinal changes required of them as future health professionals.

Mlearning initiatives in the British army was then presented by Major Roy Evans. iPods were used to learn Iraqi by soldiers posted to Iraq. The Nintendo DS lite console was used to provide remedial numeracy learning to new soldiers and work based learning for upgrading soldiers’ skills & knowledge.

Then attended a session on evaluating mobile learning by Giasemi Vavoula (University of Leicester). Six challenges in evaluating mobile learning are presented. These are capturing learning content across learning contexts, mobile learning outcomes, changing ethics, technology, seeing the bigger picture and formal or informal learning. A three level framework (micro, meso & macro) & 3 stages (design, implementation, deployment) can be used to assist in measuring the six challenges.

Day ended with Gill Clough from the Open University on informal learning amongst geocachers:mobile & web 2.0 technologies in action. Data was gathered via public domain data from geocaching website, web survey with recruitment via geocaching forums and a case study of 5 of the survey participants. The entry trajectory of novice geocachers was studied. Geocaching sites are social networking sites which allow the geocaching to share their finds & to learn more about the site via links provided by other people. This is then an example of how technology can now be used to enable collaborative forms of knowledge to be formed.

mlearn2008 day 2 morning

Another busy day begins with Mike Short’s keynote on ‘communications – anywhere, anytime? Mike is vice-president for research & development at Telefonica Europe. He provided a good overview of current and future uses of mobile. Some stats include - 4 billion mobile phones now being used in the world. 95% of 15 – 24 year old Europeans own a mobile phone. Users adopting new habits including social networking, microblogging, personalised consumption & user generated content (prosumers). More powerful & enabled devices. Digital content will continue to grow & be fully stored (2 zetabytes by 2011!) with a challenge being presented of how to search all the data. 2010 all UK phones will have access to mobile email.
for information on GSM usage.

Followed the ‘mobile learning for all’ stream for part of this morning.

A very interesting presentation from Inge De Waard from the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerpen, Belgium speaking on how to integrate gender & ethnicity into mobile courses. The Institute had a history of providing mobile learning courses to tropical countries. However, a survey of the course content revealed that many of the physicians were white males & the patients female / coloured. A checklist was therefore presented to be used by both instructional designers & subject matter experts to bring about the correct visual appearance that would help to intrinsically motivate mobile learners. However, encouraging content developers to use the checklist was a struggle.

Followed by Guiditta Azzini (Universita della Svizzera Italiana) on smart mobile school- work. This featured the evaluation of a three year mlearning project based around cell phone use. Included were pre-apprenticeship courses & electrician apprentices. Flash based multiple choice questions were used. Usage rates increased just before exams & classes with teachers who encouraged the use of cell phones retained high interest.

Geoff Stead & Jo Colley (Tribal Group) presents a session on authoring media using mobile rich resources. This presentation focused on the three levels of learner engagement (low entry threshold, no major buy in) shallow or supplementary learning (learning materials & consistent devices), focused and deep learning (bold teacher, Web 2.0 collaborative. Examples of level 2 learning objects were presented in early primary, literacy (speaking & listening skills for migrant workers), fast food workers’ written communication skills, skills audits for workers, disenfranchised school students & student generated mobile surveys.

Moved across to the ‘mobile learning landscape’ session to catch Marguerite Koole (Athabasca University) on using MobiGlam (UMLAUT-M). MobiGlam (from the University of Glamorgan) allows Moodle access through any Java – enabled mobile devices. The project was evaluated using Koole’s frame model and Drons’s (2007) transactional control theory. Although participants found that mobile access was not an important factor & useability assessment of the platform was low, there was support from the students for institutional wide provision of SMS notifications and mobile access to content.

Then a paper from Mohamed Ally (Athabasca University) on using mobile learning to bridge the distance for adult learners which is based on work by Karen Stauffer a masters student. Mohamed started with an overview of the transition from being family / one on one to become being based around religious, education & business. However current social changes have moved us back into the possibilities for one on one learning again in classrooms / workplaces without walls and countries without boundaries. Mobile technology is one way to provide one on one learning anywhere, anytime. This studied access to course material using the students’ own mobile devices which ranged from smart phones to run of the mill mobile phones and even a playstation! Over 90%of the students agreed that access to study materials via mobile devises was useful for their study. An intelligent agent in the form of a java script senses what sort of device is making a request for download & then sends the file in the correct format to display on the various sized screens & OS of the devices.

Shifted across to the ‘mobile learning, mobile knowledge & mobile societies’ stream to catch Mick Mullane( Yorkshire Coast College) on using mobile learning to support voc. ed. This featured a good presentation of an interesting application. SMS service (via text tools) are linked to a podcast server by RSS technology. Podcasts can also be accessed via the course Moodle site. Challenges include the cost of downloading the podcasts.

A very busy morning which generated several ideas for advancing the CPIT mlearning project.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

mlearn2008 day one afternoon sessions

The after lunch keynote is from Marc Prensky of digital natives fame. Marc covered the topic ‘Quo Vadis, Mobile’ providing a quick look into possibilities that technology and changes in teaching and learning bring. Pace of change is very rapid & perhaps in 30 years devices will be nanoscale, implanted, multi-sensory, thought driven, personality driven & sentient! Teaching will become more a partnership to prepare young students for the knowledge based economy of the future.

The conference continued & I attended a couple sessions in the mobile learning landscape stream.

First off, Paul Doherty with Deb Polson & Colleen Morgan on students using mobile phones to transform city gardens into dynamic learning games. This was an application of MiLK where design paths lead people through places using mobile phones. Event paths are made up of checkpoints & were originally conceived to be teacher created. However in this project, student teams also created the questions and answers for the various checkpoints during a field trip to the Adelaide botanical gardens. User generated content is an underutilised concept for mlearning. MiLK is a finalist for the Innovation award at Handheld2008. Text votes need to be in by 9th Oct. so vote for this great mlearning tool.

Then ‘evolutionary snapshots of mobile learning landscape’ by Elizabeth Apsden from Sheffield Hallam University provided an interesting contrast to Marc Prensky’s presentation. The mobile landscape of a group of students was studied for two weeks. It looked at how students use technology combined together in to a one day profile. This provides examples of how students access the internet, multitask (laptop plus watch TV), transport their work from home to café to university, read or revise work on the train, surf the web on the train, work with others in café on group project, read in the pub (so not distracted by access to a computer!), have to cope with operating systems that are a barrier & at home where access to the library would be good but the internet also OK. Therefore, people make use of their time in ways which are not always digitally based. Some people need a break from computers & access to the internet in order to reflect, read & create. The presentation also featured future possibilities included audio ebooks, telepresence (video conferencing), solar powered / wireless recharging, flexible / foldable screens, free wireless broadband, access to experts via vidmail, touchwalls, phones / location based embedded in sunglasses & 3D virtual learning spaces.

After afternoon tea, moved back across to the ‘mobile learning, mobile knowledge & mobile societies’ strand to hear John Pettit & Agnes Kukulska-Hulme from The Open University Institute of Educational Technology present on the topic ‘do mobile devises make smart learners?’ The presentation focused on the formal evaluations of a project (also presented at mLearn2007) in which lecturers, administrative & support staff were presented with Qtek 9100 smart phones and provided with support & development to use the technology for their professional development and teaching practice. Results included participants making use of the smart phone for a range of activities. Support included formal qtek club meetings which were useful for most. Challenges included using the keyboard, using the phone & problems with Wifi.

The day ended with session from Cecile Tschirhart, Chris O’Reilly & Claire Bradley from RLO-CETL (Centre for excellence in teaching & learning – reusable learning objects), London Metropolitan University on ‘language learning on the go’. Presentation on two current of projects, RLO-CETL embedding m-learning in various higher ed. courses & MOBILA (mobile phone interactive languages) by providing LondonMet epacks. Flash was used to provide learning objects that would support language learning including audio content, revision activities, quizzes and video clips.

mLearn2008 day 1 morning sessions

The conference begins with a keynote from Professor Diana Laurillard, London knowledge lab. Her topic is – towards a pedagogy – driven account of mobile learning which sets the scene for the rest of the conference. She argues that technology are optimised for business & leisure, not perhaps for education (in the form of guiding inquiry, structuring discussion, adapting collaboration, adapting learner practice etc). Pedagogy needs to be a focus in how technology is made use of to contribute to optimising education and students’ learning. She advocates the use of technology to help capture informal learning that takes place in learning with digital resources, discussions, practice environments, group work /projects, learning through production of design, products, solutions etc. She calls this process the ‘conversational framework’ and continues by making links to how learning can now be enhanced using mobile technologies which encourage cognitive and affective forms of motivation.

Stayed put in the ‘mobile learning, mobile knowledge & mobile societies’ strand for the mid morning sessions as I was presenting in the 11am slot.

Other papers included Christoph Goeth from the University of Zurich on designing tasks for mobile learning. Starts with good overview of how mobile learning links with social constructivist frameworks. Uses a continuum of an engagement framework from transmissive to interactive to explorative learning and provides examples of how mlearning maybe used in each part of the continuum. The mExplorer is a mobile learning game that supports the orientation day at a university. Game involves finding items, interacting with others and orientating themselves to the facilities at the university eg using the library catalogue. Additional information is accessed once each item is found or place is visited.

Richard Kenny from Althabasca University and others from North Island College, Courtenay, Vancouver Island presented on the feasibility of using mobile devises in nursing practice due to changes in health care & models of teaching using Koole’s framework model of elearning. Fields trial were evaluated comparing a small group of 12 students with excess to mobile learning with another group of students without access. Results indicated that nursing students found the ability to surf the web & use their drug database the most useful but the communicating options like audio (skype), email etc. not as useful. Costs involved in accessing web was seen to be a barrier.

Elizabeth Hartnell- Young from the University of Nottingham reported on the use of ‘mobile phones in mainstream schooling : resistance & change. Studying how to bring mobile learning into secondary schools when large number of schools ban mobile phones from the school grounds using Giddens work on structure and agency as a framework. Although the three schools who took part did not allow the use of mobile phones in the classroom, there was already surreptitious use of the mobile phones already! A wide range of ways to use mobile phones in learning was used 24/7 by the students over several months. After the trials, 42% of the students saw a use for their phones in learning compared to 12% before.

Ian Watkins reported on a project making use of Pocket PCs at his school from his perspective as the school principal of Highvale Secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. One objective was to have teachers who have been teaching at the school for many years to share their teaching practice, improve teaching methods, integrate technology into their teaching & making their teaching more student focused. Uses of mlearning included production of vodcasts / podcasts for revision of concepts and mlessons to assist students with study skills.

Debra Polson from the Queensland University of Technology provided background information on the MiLK (mobile informal learning kit) project which involves providing tools for teachers to build mobile learning games. Important to have buy in & agreement from all stakeholders involved before the project is structured. The project / game is successful when the result provides users / teachers with excitement about greater possibilities for future learning applications. MiLK originated via work done on other projects

Great to see many examples of actual mobile learning projects. Almost all the above presentations indicated plans for future projects, investigations and research along with some mention of the pedagogical foundations of the project. This provides good indication that mobile learning has progressed well beyond the novelty phase.

Friday, October 03, 2008

What people in education do with their mobile phones?

I gathered some interesting information by surveying the people I was presenting to in 5 separate presentations over the last couple of weeks. Basically I asked the question ‘ how many uses they put their mobile phone to’. The answers provided me with a snapshot of the current state of play with regards to the use of mobile phones by various members of the public.

The groups included a group of 30 plus CPIT staff (half of which were in management roles), a mixed group of just under 20 educators & industry people at the Tony Bates seminar and three lots of teachers. One of about 30 who were teachers of commerce, economics & IT at secondary schools, over a dozen tutors & support staff from Weltec and 70 plus ITO & polytechnic & private provider tutors from the motor trade industry. In all about 160 or so people.

Almost no one owned up to using their mobile phone for more than 10 things – voice calls and text were universal. The ownership of ‘smart phones’ was less than 10%. Almost all the ‘smart phone’ owners only used the ‘web’ to check email. In comparison, I chalked up 39 that I would use regularly including reading ebooks, playing games, listening to music / podcast, viewing word, excel, powerpoint & pdf files, calculator, converter, surfing web, clock, torch, contacts, memos / note taker, camera, video, anagrammer, to do list, email, SMS, IMS, update blog, calendar / diary etc.

All of which was good from my point of view as I was hopefully able to raise awareness of how mobile learning tools could be put to use for mlearning. Not so good in that awareness of the concept of the mobile phone as a ‘swiss army knife’ has not taken hold at all in the general public awareness. Still lots of work to be done on evangelising the mobile phone as a useful rather than as a pernicious piece of hardware that has to be fed regularly with electricity, where very time you made a call or text, money would have to be involved and which is often the bane of privacy seeking individuals & school teachers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Review of web 2.0 tools & blogs / wikis at NZCETA conference

Presented at the NZCETA 50th annual conference. My presentation followed my Melissa Stevenson, a info. tech teacher at New Plymouth Girls High School.

A good overview along with a few that I have not come across. Of note would be sythasite - for easy to set up websites, aniboom for 3D animated shapes, Skrbl for brainstorming online, slide to share ppt & moviemaker presentations & zamzar a multimedia converter.

Good to present to a group of keen teachers eager to learn about how to incorporate Web 2.0 tools into their teaching. Access to computers still not totally straight-forward & most schools ban cell phones. However, there is a groundswell of appreciation for integrating the use of technology into teaching at the secondary school level which was good to observe.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tony Bates seminar on elearning in training and education

I attended & presented usual spiel on mlearning @ CPIT at another CORE organised seminar. The seminar was pitched at both tertiary & workplace learning practitioners.

The guest speaker was Tony Bates who spoke on eLearning and vocational education and training, an International Perspective. Of interest to me was the British Columbia project on using elearning to improve completion rates in trade training. The project is still in its planning stages but the concepts behind it’s development are of interest to the NZ voc. Ed. context as well. Will need to keep an eye on how the project develops.

Besides Tony, there was also a presentation from John Clayton which provided a New Zealand overview of eLearning activities in industry in NZ. John provided a very good ‘back to reality’ presentation on how workplaces were basically focused on compliance, competence which had to be demonstratable and how elearning needed to be ‘just in time, just enough and just learn’.

Short presentations were also given by:-

  • Andrew Preston representing Tobi Gefken, lead developer, HitLab on their project using virtual-reality technology for the teaching and assessment of clinical skills. Andrew presented various ‘learning objects’ to help students learn pharmacology & other medical content.
  • Nick Ford for Dr. Tracy Kirkbride on the CPIT / University of Canterbury VIPER project which is a tool for formative assessments or revision of student learning using mainly images. The tool has been used mainly in the context of radiography so that student radiographers are able to learn how to practice reading xrays, MRI scans etc. but has wide uses in any other field.
  • Phil Garing, Synapsys on mulit-modal company induction programmes provided examples of how to use simulations & other learning activities in ‘ different contexts, with different drivers & different results’. A reflection on John’s presentation from the point of view of an elearning development company.

The seminar concluded with a workshop that discussed the following questions ‘what are the benefits for and barriers to embedding eLearning in industry training? National and international perspectives’ & ‘what are the benefits for and barriers to embedding eLearning in industry training? '

Good discussion followed. The seminars provided me with an opportunity to view the world of elearning from a wider ‘non-educational’ perspective.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CORE efellows presentation

I attended the CORE efellows presentations this morning. The e-Learning Fellowships Initiative was launched in 2003 by the NZ Ministry of Education. Each year, ten teachers in early childhood, primary and secondary ‘released’ from the classroom to conduct research on using technology in teaching with academic support and mentoring from CORE Education.

The five ‘fellows’ presented their research (some of which are still in progress). Several of the projects were related to mlearning and eportfolios which made for interesting sessions and an opportunity to find out more from a school based perspective. It was great to see classroom practitioners being provided with the opportunity to work on projects that have important applications their own teaching contexts.

  • Energising education with Matt Tippen
    What effect does the creation and the use of ICT-based energisers have on
    student engagement? An interesting & pedagogically sound way to incorporate ICT & ‘brain gym’ into the classroom. Matt’s students are formed into groups. Each group then comes up with a name & a sequence of actions that helps them energise themselves between classes. The sequence is videoed & the kids follow the video in class when ever an energiser is needed! As the ‘brain gyms’ are student produced, they become motivated to use the energisers.
  • Reaching the potential for mobile phones in education with Toni Twiss
    How can mobile phones be integrated into authentic classroom learning activities
    to develop effective information literacy skills? This provided me with good background from the secondary school perspective. The majority of schools in NZ ban cell phone use so working with mlearning is going to be a challenge from the school organisation. One important finding was the lack of information literacy skills in both year 9 & year 12 students. They all tended to type in the whole question into Google & then rely on the first link that appeared as the most reliable one!!
  • Maximising the formative benefits of e-portfolios with Nick Rate
    What can teachers do in order to maximise the formative learning benefits of
    online? Another good integration of the research done on eportfolios into actual practice. Nick uses eportfolios in a primary school & the eportfolios are used in an integrated way to meet many of the strands in the NZ school ‘key competencies’.
  • Effective blended e-learning in secondary school teaching with Mark Callagher
    How can student interactivity and historical thinking be enhanced through the use of a blended learning approach? Mark used the Moodle discussion board to springboard learning about contemporary world history (World War 2) with year 12 students. Main learning was that the ‘lower ability’ students were drawn into the discussions and this enhanced their learning.
  • Towards a better understanding with Michael Fenton
    How can students use mobile sensor technology to create authentic learning?
    Michael made use a form of mobile learning to help students ‘play’ in order to learn. A variety of projects using RIGEL as a form of data logger was presented. This included student directed & teacher directed activities including treasure hunts, robots and car maintenance. An innovative way to introduce students to ICT (interested in conversation & thinking!).

With all of this activity going on at the primary & secondary school level, it is even more important a the tertiary level to build to the skills students have attained at school to help enhance their learning experiences beyond school.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Continuing with connectivism course

I keep on finding snippets every time I dip into the various course sites for the connectivism course & am building up a good resource on knowledge & learning for future use in my adult learning courses .

Here is a slide show on the course itself, presented at the NZ efest2008 last week. Of interest is the complete (almost) overview of what bits make up the course & the inner workings of how to keep track of the 1900 or so participants. It provided me with a reference point as to where things were and the area I could still check out.

In the long run, I (& probably the majority of the other participants) will settle into the sites / tools we find provide the easiest way to access the course material and to network with others on the course.

The above is also coming through with my mlearning research. Students do not like having to put time into learning how to use a new mobile phone, especially if the operating system is different from their current phone. They also prefer to keep their existing social networking sites and resists our efforts to introduce them to sites that are perhaps more suited to building a portfolio. The effort put into relearning a new social networking platform and perhaps transferring material across into the new site needs to be motivated by more than the need to meet course assessment outcomes. How can we provide this? One way is to perhaps encourage the networking between peers so that everyone is able to look at other portfolios. This encourages a sense of competition & works well with young men. The other is to provide a ‘one stop shop’ concept so that the site is also a personal portal that links to course material, RSS feeds from subject content sites / experts that provide learning opportunities and institutional support systems (library, study skills, student union etc.) So far, all the Web 2.0 sites that we have trialled will do some but not all of the above. We could set up a prototype on Moodle but the assess to Moodle is comparatively clunky & the students will likely loose the site once they leave the institution. So lots to mull through & to work on.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Continuing learning on e & mlearning

I have started a blog to record my learning from the connectivism course set up by George Siemens & Stephen Downs. This is so that this blog does not become clogged up with my various reflections as I wrestle my way through all the material presented & work out some coherent application for my new learning. I make it a point to complete as least one course of learning a year as a student. So this year, the online connectivism course will be a way for me to learn about learning from the student’s point of view.

It will also be a good test of flexible learning delivery structures as the connectivism course runs from now until November. In October, I will be away from work, travelling to the UK for the mlearn2008 & handheld 2008 conferences. Then doing a tiki tour of Europe and ending up in Rome. So it will be a good trial of how I can keep up with the course with all the other new activities going around plus how I will access the course as I travel around in unfamiliar cities.

The rest of this month, I will be doing some intensive self study to update myself on mLearning as I will be presenting on this topic at several other forums. Firstly, at the annual CPIT research forum – Output 2008 - where I will do a dry run of my mlearn2008 paper. Then to CPIT management on the Ed. strategy team and two conferences at the end of September in Wellington. Firstly to the NZCETA (NZ Commerce & Economics Teachers Association) and then a keynote to the MITO (Motor Industry Training Organisation) professional development / training providers conference. All of the three concentrate on what is mLearning, the concepts of ‘everyware’, cloud computing, Web 2.0 / Web 3.0 and options for mlearning delivery in the various contexts that the participants teach in.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Follow up on vodcasts - using mobile phones to tell digital stories

A follow through from the previous blog on vodcasting, Derek Wenmouth provided a link to project view which utilises mobile phones to collect media for videos that help communities around the world learn more about each other.

A paper by John Kuner describes the overall concept and it’s underlying philosophy provides good background on narratives and the potential of digital story telling to allow networks of people in various countries to form.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Vodcasts in education

Last week, I attended a lunch time seminar at CPIT by Steve Tomsett from the Engineering section on using videos in teaching. Steve uses short video clips of lab work & experiments to archive for future reference as teaching resources.
On my bloglines this week, from Ideas & thoughs from an Edtech comes 10 videos on using technology in teaching by Dan Meyer. The videos are accessible via Dan’s blog or via vimeo.

The low costs of digital video recorders and easy access to moviemaker makes the process of video making accessible to anyone who has a story to tell. The videos put up by Dan Meyer, shows how a teacher is able to reflect on his teaching practice, using vernacular that is familiar to his students. Not sure how long it took to complete all of the videos. They are all short, around 2 to 3 minutes. This makes them watchable as they do not become boring. The videos also use various shooting angles, shots and include clips from other media (TV, movies, music). They provide a good guideline of the potential for vodcasts & its uses in capturing student learning. It is an approach that I will introduce to our staff education section as a way for us to make our teaching methods courses more interesting. We already take videos of tutors teaching for use in the teaching methods course. Providing tutors with the skills to edit their videos will provide a better forum for them to display their teaching plus embed crucial ICT skills and introduce the power of multimedia in capturing evidence of knowledge, skills and attitudes that we assess as part of teaching methods.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Evaluating various ways to deliver multiple choice questions to mobile phones

I completed a set of comparative trials with a group of full time baking students some time back and analysed the evaluations this week. Multiple choice questions were texted to students using eTxt, on AMS forms generously provided on two Nokia phones from the Kinross group and via access to Moodle quiz on their computers.

Informal feedback already indicates a preference for the flexibility of having the questions delivered to their mobile phones instead of just being available on a desktop computer via Moodle. Several of the students were keen to have more questions provided so that they could revise their lessons whenever they had a window of time. This finding confirms the learning from Peter Mellow’s studytxt trials.

Unpacking the formal evaluations using an activity theory framework revealed some important aspects of user behaviour which I did not expect to find. If we view the completion of revision questions as the object (or objective) of the activity, the things that impact on the object include the students who will use the questions, the tools they use (mobile phones) and the signs they use (SMS & the use of ‘bullets’ on AMS forms & moodle multiple choice questions). The other things that contribute to the activity include the rules (trying to get the answers right), the community (the course the students are enrolled in) & roles (students as students, students as research participants etc).

The importance of the tool & the signs used seemed to be foremost in how the students evaluated the differences between answering the same questions via eTXT (SMS messages), AMS forms (multiple choice with ‘radio buttons’ loaded on to 2 Nokia phones) & Moodle (multiple choice with buttons but had to access the questions via the web).

Students went for the familiar. They expressed a preference for using eTXT because it was simple, they understood how to use it without having to learn a new phone system, they could answer the questions by texting the answers back whenever they had free time to do so.
As the majority of students did not own Nokia phones, they were unfamiliar with the menu system on the phones & found it difficult to find the questions. Answering the questions themselves proofed to be easy although a few students (both younger & older) needed to work through a few questions before they were comfortable.

The majority of students were on prepaid phones and did not want to access the questions on Moodle via their mobile phones. They were happy to hunt up a computer at CPIT to complete the questions but the convenience, just –in – time & nomadic aspect of mlearning then became redundant. Students had completed quizzes on Moodle before and were familiar with how to access & work through the questions. Even after I demonstrated how to access the questions via my Treo, none of the students took up the opportunity to also do the same with their mobile phones.

My learning from this is that the “learn an unfamiliar activity with a familiar tool” seems to hold true. The layout of multiple choice questions on AMS forms & Moodle is vastly superior to just receiving the question as a text message. However, the students made a choice for the familiar & by their perception, the cheaper options. So whatever we do from now on needs to be simple to use BUT also familiar.

Friday, August 22, 2008

An evaluation of some Mind mapping tools

After having a successful play with wisdomap, I did an exploration of Web 2.0 mind mapping software that might be useful. Mashable com provides a list of over 30 mind mapping tools and there are other lists at Mehta nirav com and at rev2 org. So there are lots out there and many are available for use for free. I randomly chose three others, put up some mindmaps which are adaptions of what I would usually put up on the board at the start of a session and here are the results.

Firstly I put up a mind map on research paradigms on . It was very easy to sign up (instant) and then it took 10 minutes to set up the map and save the image as a jpeg file. To share the image, you email the link to others, or invite others to subscribe to & access your mind map. This is useful if the mind map is to be used by students to set up their own mind maps.

Both Mindomo & mindmeister required registration and then the return of a confirmation email to get started.

Mindomo has a Windows type interface, so it is familiar to use & I set up a mind map on learning styles in about ten minutes. The image is not as colourful or visually attractive as Wisdomap or but it is easy to use, you can share your maps easily and collaboration on maps is possible.

Mindmeister provides good tutorials, including a short video on how to go about using the tool. The main difference between mindmeister and the rest is that it allows more than one person to work on the mind map at the SAME time. Although not as visually exciting as some of the others, the interface is easy to use. I put up the assessment map very quickly & sharing the map is also straightforward.

At the moment, I would probably stick with wisdomap as it is visually attractive, easy to use and provides the option of attaching other supporting material to the map (photos, videos, powerpoints etc). This makes it the wisdomap useful as a ‘one-stop’ revision site for some of the classes I teach. None of the above seemed to have mobile capabilities but I did download wisdomap on to my treo but only a thumbnail was displayed as the Treo only had internet explorer 6.