Journal of XO learning device deployment to Warralong

warralon sign

As I’ve blogged previously, I am currently privileged to be working towards bringing the ubiquitous learning benefits of 1:1 computing devices to remote schools in Australia as part of the One Laptop Per Child Australia initiative. I recently conducted teacher training and delivered XO devices to a school in the Pilbara in north west Western Australia as part of this role, and have written a journal of the experience for those interested in the project. Enjoy (right-click to download).

Warralong XO journal

Talking Carl does early years oral literacy without kids realising it

Carl exp_048

You’re 4 years old, you love bright red shiny things, and you have a parent with an iPhone. You might also be just starting to develop your oral literacy (don’t worry, you’ll understand what this is when you’re older). So is there an app for you? As of this week, and Awyse’ release of ‘Talking Carl’ ($0.99), there is.

When you first open Talking Carl, you see floating cartoon clouds, and a lovable, shiny red creature who likes to be interacted with in ways that all kids understand – tickles and pokes. But unlike your standard animated character, he also likes to be spoken to, and saves his best trick for when you do. When Carl hears your voice (microphone required for use with iPod touch) he immediatly opens up his big red mouth and repeats back what you have said in his own cartoon voice.

And thats it. Some reviews on the App Store so far point out that kids only use it for short bursts, and my own testing with a nearly 3 year old confirm this. But from a teacher’s perspective, it is exactly this kind of short-burst, repeated activity that reinforces a child’s sense of how sounds, words, and later sentences sound.

The voice of Carl could do with a bit of variation (again thats probably just an adult talking), but overall, as a cheap but fun aid to the development of oral literacy, its well worth the investment, wether for long car trips, or for classroom group activities. Perhaps a female character could be added? Apart from that, its simple and it seems to work. 4 Stars.

Classroom use? > A. simply allow students to access Carl in their device ‘playtime’ – its fun enough that they will seek it out and even in short bursts, its all adding to their development of oral literacy – sound and speech development. B. Have students practice specific sounds or words by saying them to Carl. These can be recorded using Voice Memo (which being an Apple app can run in the background while you use Talking Carl) so that students can have further reinforcement by hearing the whole session played back.

Current thoughts on ubiquitous computing and learning

Well, I started this ubiquitous learning blog just over 12 months ago as a successor to a long-runing mobile learning blog. My reason was that while mobile learning (or mLearning) had finally started to catch on amongst educators, we are often a conservative lot, and I felt there was much more yet to be done – such as using the mLearning as a basis to start preparing for the real show – what learning would have to look like in a world of totally universal, ubiquitous computing.

Writing now some 14 months later, and being based in Australia as I am, I see currently three movements that indicate we as a country are further along the road to computing becoming just another human right/ utility in the same way as electricity say. The first is the rollout of the federal governments Digital Education Revolution (DER) – a catchy election promise that is becoming a reality such that all year 9-12 students will have 1:1 access to a computer by the end of 2011. The program is about halfway deployed at present, and its only 3 year timespan has meant that every high school in the country wether ready or not has had to adapt to suddenly embracing the digital world. Some are taking advantage of all the value-adds that 1:1 and digital environments can bring, others are struggling to take traditional pedagogy and make it work when students have such regular access information and the tools to re-shape and share it.

The second sign is at the opposite end of the Australia schooling system – remote primary schools. One Laptop Per Child Australia (with and partly for whom I am currently working) is at the very beginnings of deploying up to 400,000 XO learning devices to remote schools in Western Australia, Northern Territory, and Queensland. About 1500 have been deployed in proof of concept rollouts so far, all with the express philosophy of saturation – whereby every teacher, aide and student receive the same machine. Similar to the DER and high schools, this can be a shock at first – but all signs point to the ubiquity of the approach as being a key to its success – there is no going back or choosing to be the non-XO class so to speak.

Finally, I turn to a computing movement that doesn’t even qualify definitional-y as one. You won’t find it (yet) being supported officially through Education Departments – but it is one that grassroots educators are embracing exponentially just as their students have – I’m talking about the iPod touch, iPhone, and soon (for us non-US citizens) the iPad. What started first as individual teachers spending their own money on an iPod touch for their classroom has spread to school-wide deployments of 30 or even up to 200 iPod touch’s. In my state alone we have well over 200 educators active on our iPhone and iPod touch in education discussion list. They have been called the first computer you can use without instructions, and they and their ilk (we need more Android mobile devices here please Google et al) seem to be building up a momentum that even more than the many hundred of thousands of laptops mentioned in the first two examples may be bringing Australia towards a ubiquitous computing environment (apparently over 1 million iPhone’s have been sold in Australia for instance).

And what should an educator’s response be? Possibly you’re already in the middle of deploying one of these options – and if so, my biggest suggestion is – reflect. While our sector has stood still for so long, the current rush might make us forget our usual values of tying everything we do our learning vision first. So reflect first then on how these devices can enhance learning – don’t make learning fit to them. I’ll be sharing more shortly on a guide to the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch for educators that may also be useful if that is your area (you can check out the beta HERE)…