the OLPC XO: further impressions after 5 weeks

Having  had the chance to use the XO with students for five weeks now, I wanted to share some further impressions on how using this kid-friendly, unique mobile device have gone:

“Although limited to 12 XOs in a class of 29, I have seen the potential of the XO to transform learning first hand. Students (although not all) take to the machines and learn them very quickly, or are at least prepared to help eachother, a great development that makes it easier for the teacher if you’re willing to give up some feeling of control in this area. The mesh networking/sharing means that every activity has the potential for extension built-in, and students themselves are often coming up with innovative and new ways to use the XO for their learning.

The XO itself is in need of an upgrade (version 1.5 appears in November I hear?) and does struggle at times and suffer from known faults like the trackpad skipping or freezing up, and some activities refusing to close or hanging, requiring a restart. We also sometimes had problems connecting more than two machines at a time for sharing, not sure why. Battery life proved shorter than expected, so dimming of the screen/ sleep mode do need to be aggressively used. Our ‘uptime’ overall was probably 90% for each machine though, and when compared to the previous amount of technology in the class (3 old PC’s), just having such student-friendly, adaptable and capable machines has proven a huge step forward.

Gathering of Educators using ubiquitous devices

Last night from 12:30am until 6:30am I attended my first full day web conference. What could have tempted me to stay up all night you ask? It was the ACU Connected event, and you can go HERE to see what sessions were held. As one of 130 educators from around the world (and two from my institution Education Queensland), we logged on to hear real life stories of Universities and Schools that are integrating connected, mobile, wireless devices into their learning activities. To get an overview, its well worth visiting this twitter summary at twazzup.com – it’ll provide you with the most popular links and tags that were shared.

So was it worth staying up for? Well I’d be a dill if I hadn’t made sure beforehand that it would be worth it! But yes, it was. Its one thing to read about and even take small steps oneself towards see effective teaching and connected, mobile learning come together; its quite another to hear directly from the actual practitioners involved in large scale rollouts. ACU has over a thousand students with iPhones or iPod touch’s. FHU has many more. Even some of the K-12 schools had up to 800. It was also a big help with my thinking about the small temp trial of OLPC XOs I’m managing at present. In some ways, the XO is like a big, kid friendly iPod touch… more on this in a future post.

Here’s some of my favourite quotes/ideas:

  • Effectiveness of connected mobile platforms for student use is a big debate as alot of the apps classified as ‘education’ are rote based only.
  • “treat mobile devices as full participants – media players AND content creators”
  • “don’t extend outdated pedagogies into new media”
  • Campus bookstores sweat as faculty move away from expensive textbooks to mobile readers and cheap/free learning resources (via @ruben_r)
  • MCG medical school has a youtube video showing their mobile learning www.mcg.edu/mobile
  • interesting FYI: iPhone vs iPod Touch in education – ACU finds iPhone users more satisfied/ use the device a fair bit more.
  • William_Rank (ACU) “We’re having so much virtual contact with students now that we’ve changed university policy about office hours.”
  • FHU 7 mobile learning objectives (link)
  • At FHU 87% of faculty felt comfortable requiring use of mobile device for class activity (via @allisonoster)
  • “I’m not sure that personal productivity & learning can function separately with these sorts of devices. It’s an artificial distinction.” “many see learning as seperate to personal productivity. Is there a distinction?” (via @agrie8)

    Review of the iPhone 3GS from a uLearning perspective

    The iPhone 3GS is the most advanced converged mobile device and as such, is one that teachers and educators need to be familiar with. Its really a signpost on the road to ubiquitous computing, where mobile, miniaturised, wirless and cloud-based devices proliferate.

    This review looks at how the 3GS is an update to the 3G – its faster speed, video recording, better camera, universal access tools, compass, Nike+ and improved battery all make a compelling case for this new model to find a home with educators. The review details what each of these improvements means for educators looking to advance 21st century learning.
    Go here to view in 3 parts: http://www.youtube.com/user/jnxyz
    or here to view in full (21mins) http://gallery.me.com/jnxyz/100260

    Posted via email from Jonathan’s posterous

    What I believe about learning

    I am currently working towards achieving the highest level of technology in teaching recognition that my employer (Education Queensland) awards. Known as the ‘Digital Pedagogy License, Advanced’, it forms part of the worlds best practice in this area ‘Smart Classrooms framework‘. The main thrust of the preparation work I am doing for the license is not about sounding off about learning theories, or naming the tools I use, but about real, practical ways that I believe and KNOW technology is improving and transforming my ability to lead learning. Its also been designed as an incredibly and deliberately self-reflective process, and I will over the next couple of months share some of my thoughts and the drafts of the different sections I am compiling. Here’s the first – Enjoy!
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    (excerpt from a draft of my belief statement)

    I believe that ICT, while an essential component of schooling students for life in a digital world, is not as important as the learner themselves. Thus any learning experience must start with where the learner is, and be based on a relationship that both challenges and makes a student feel safe.

    I believe that ICT exists to serve learning. Thus rather than teaching ICT for its own sake, ie. where students learn specific technology skills that can go quickly out of date, I instead seek to teach life-long skills such as digital storytelling that can be adapted across technology platforms.

    I believe that the learner and their understandings of the world come first, and so choose to initially consider student needs, and then choose technology that is capable of enabling their improvement. In this way, my practice incorporates simple, mobile devices that can be taken to the small-group spaces where I work with my students, and which can be learnt in seconds such that they become an invisible part of students learning. These simple voice recorders and PDAs do however allow students to capture their learning experiences and use the technology to help them reflect and improve in ways which their learning difficulties prevents them from doing.

    Finally, I believe that I must learn with my students to be a role model for going where I in turn can ask them to go. Thus, if the world of technology is going towards ubiquitous, real-time communication, so must I. And also so must I share this world with them in responsible AND innovative ways.