Where is Australia at on the mLearning to uLearning journey?


Nearly two years ago, I closed down my Google top ten Mobile Learning blog after 3 years and over 10,000 hits. I felt that the time of calling from the roof tops that mobile learning existed was over. People had started paying attention to the rise of mobile phones etc as the preferred computing platform of those who education should be centered around, ie. students. Reports like New Media Consortiums ‘Horizon Report’ were including mobile learning as one of the top educational trends. Game-changing next-gen devices like the iPhone were just appearing, and when I went to write an mLearning paper for my Masters thesis, I discovered there were plenty already.

So I was forced to research where mLearning was going, and to think about what was the next phase that the world of education needed to be hearing about. It seemed logical after a time that of course as computing became more miniaturized and mobile, it would eventually become ubiquitous, or an unnoticed part of everything – invisible as all other technology that has proceeded it has after enough time has passed. So in a world such as that, what will ubiquitous learning need to look like?

I’m still not really sure exactly what it will look like, but as you know if you’ve been following this uLearning blog, I’ve been continuing to follow several mLearning developments as a way to track the overall journey. There are two in particular I’m most involved with here in Australia, and I’d like to detail whats been happening and what learning that takes them into account looks like.

1. Single use – multi-use – ubiquitous uses

The first is the continued convergence of the standard mobile device from being a phone or a mp3 player into one that does everything. Dedicated devices will always be around, but what has also occurred is that the average device, especially now that touch-screens have replaced buttons and mobile app stores are proliferating, is becoming ubiquitous-use devices. Its safe to say for instance that the 300,000 apps in the iOS App store provide at the very least thousands of potential uses, be it as a digital level tool for building, or a portable weather radar etc, as well as the more traditional phone, camera, GPS etc.


In Australia, the uptake of the iPhone is the highest in the world. That alone has to tell you something about how deeply entrenched these kinds of devices are here already. The state of Victoria is trialling 800 iPads, and I personally know of over 40 schools (there will be many times that number I don’t know about) here in Queensland who have deployed iPod touches and now iPads. In fact the second Slide2Learn conference focusing on these devices in education recently sold out 80% of its places in only 2 1/2 days.

Here are some links to explore more of what the actual practitioners are doing:

http://epsipadtrial.globalstudent.org.au ,








Also significant has been the spread of educational net-book programs into countries that have skipped the desktop PC era (for various reasons) and gone straight into the mobile computing one. In this category we have the One Laptop per Child XO laptop, as well as the Intel Classmate. OLPC has seen over 2 million XOs deployed, with many more ordered. Classmate numbers are harder to get a hold of, but large orders have been placed in addition to the many schools that have opted for standard netbooks.


Like the iPod touch and iPad deployments happening here in Australia, the OLPC XO laptop is much more in the complementary/ personalised learning device category. What this means is that most schools already have PC labs and other ICT infrastructure, but they don’t have mobile devices that allow students constant, anywhere access to the potential benefits of having connected, personal tools in student hands. The rugged nature of the XO device in particular makes it ideally suited to use by early and primary school aged students, especially in remote locations far from repair sites.

Here are some links to see more of what has been happening:






I’m sick of teaching: OR all about my plan to grow self-learners (iLearn project preview)

Keywords: Personalised learning, challenge-based learning, digital pedagogy, iPod touch, OLPC XO laptop
As a learning support teacher, I happily spend my days teaching struggling and disadvantaged students in years 4-7 some of the basics that they have missed or have difficulty with. I see groups of four to five for 60 or 90 minutes a week for about half the year. Is that enough time for one teacher to ‘fix’ them, or have them ‘catch up’?

No. And yet for five years I have been content that the regular improvements 75% of them make each year are sufficient. But I’m changing my mind now. I’ve identified that in fact, much of the improvement I see is in danger of falling away once my regular but limited scaffolding and support is not available. Some of their classroom teachers are able to provide ongoing scaffolding also, but in a room of 28 needy kids, I ask how can learning support students experience ongoing success in their learning?

I recently blogged about just how many giant shoulders I feel I stand on in being awarded a Smart Classrooms Teaching Award and being a finalist in the Handheld Learning awards. Giants like my own Education Department’s Smart Classrooms framework, the Connectivism ideas of George Siemens, the ‘death of education but the dawn of learning’ thinking of Stephen Heppell, the ‘less us, more them’ philosophy of Gary Stager, the #eqelearn twitter network of engaged and dedicated Queensland teachers, fellow edtech bloggers (especially this post from shanetechteach and this one from josephperkins and this article), the Challenge-based learning tenets of Marco Torres and fellow Apple Distinguished Educators, the ‘addicted to learning’ mindset of Kristine Kopelke… All these and more have been percolating thru my mind over the last few months.

So in recent weeks when I asked ‘how can students experience ongoing success in their learning?’, an answer has started to emerge. Its probably not half as innovative or radical as I’d like to think, but it does reflect a big change in the way I’m going to approach my teaching. A change from incorporating bits and pieces of digital pedagogy into existing programs where I as teacher chose entirely what students needed to learn, to one where the presence of digital tools makes it possible for students to begin to take charge of their learning.

And I’m going to do it! I’m going to attempt to teach my students how to reflect and HOW TO LEARN rather than what to learn. With this skill and awareness, they will be able to succeed on their own.
Now, it is true that I’m only able to do this because:
  1. The ‘digital’ in this digital pedagogy ie. iPod touch’s and XO laptops are available to me in enough numbers now to be used by students as personal learning platforms
  2. I have a supportive local and regional administration
  3. I stand on the shoulders of the giants above
  4. My education department recognises how key ‘digital pedagogy’ is
  5. I feel confident enough to attempt it.
So what will this look like in practice? Well here is a draft diagram:

iLearn draft plan JN

View this in full size via posterous

Basically the plan is that students will reflect on what their learning strengths and weaknesses are and create an iLearn plan by selecting the learning tasks (in this case, XO activities or iTunes apps) that will help them improve. They will further be shown how to ask if their choice is in fact working or what other resources (podcasts, Smartpen ‘pencasts’ etc) they might incorporate as well. Finally, because data and assessment are still the be-all of the curriculum in which we teach, the original instruments and data which students based their iLearn plan on will be re-sat/ administered.
Sound ok? A bit simple? A bit …? Please all feel free to contribute feedback – in fact I’m inviting it. After all, why not ‘crowd-source’ a project like this and give it a better chance of success?

Over to you, and the kids…

Posted via email from Jonathan Nalder’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!

(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.

Adaptability replacing knowledge as power?

Funny how it is that the more you know, the more you know how little you know? Such is the curse of an always-connected, instant-search world where every question can be googled. But are we finding that human brains can cope with such a potential flood of email, RSS, twitter, facebook etc messages beamed at us in real-time? As empowering as it is (and believe me it is!), this amount of data may be bringing a new survival skill to the forefront – adaptability.

This is my conclusion after reading this article from the ad-heavy but still excellent MasterNewMedia site. In the article, Jay Cross posits that due to the effect of events like 911 and the ever-increasing pace of technological innovation, the ability to be flexible and adaptable may be more important now than just being able to access large chunks of knowledge. 

As always, a middle path will perhaps prove best – ie. those who adapted to the introduction of micro-blogging services like twitter in the early stages have now built extremely powerful knowledge networks.

Consider technology transition – via the IRIS model

Came across a great visual chart during the week from a twitter contact, and as I have a few readers involved in the process of transitioning technology into the school environment, I thought it worthy of sharing. Go to http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2009/03/05/iris-model for the full image and explanation.

Suffice to say its a complex process, requiring extensive thought if you’re an educator charged with integrating technology into education – oh wait, thats all of us! Guess you better head over there.

6 design principles of the 21st century school

via ACOT

Came across this today and had to share. Its an overview of what a 21st century school should look like, and I like it because rather than just being theory or ideas, its very grounded in the practicalities. Something else you might notice – it doesn’t even directly mention ‘technology’ … hmmm… This is because integrating digital tools for learning = good teaching anyway. Head over to HERE (info via Apple) to read the WHY’s behind each of the categories.

Mobile, ubiquitous access to 1.5 million books

Any educators still doubting the power of mobile devices and web technologies really needs to see the following article. Not only is the around 1.5 million books that Google has scanned now available for searching and reading, but a new iPhone / iPod Touch / small-screen-optimized interface means it can now be done simply and easily from anywhere in the civilized (read cell-connected) world. Surely that must be useful for some students somewhere?
I was only discussing yesterday with my schools librarian about what he was planning to do about physical resources vs web-based (ie cheaper, less time and resource hungry) ones… TUAW.com link with more info:

Via TUAW.com

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Google & the Future of Books

In this technological equivalent of a time between times, when the digital world is growing, but still exists side by side with the analogue, this article from the New York Review of Books asks ”How can we navigate through the information landscape that is only beginning to come into view?”

This is in light of Google’s recent digitzing of millions of books and the challenge this has posed for publishers and copyright holders. A legal settlement has just been reached, and this link will take you to a long but fascinating overview of the current situation and what it means for what we’ve always thought of as ‘books’ …

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Horizon scanning, or “In 4 years, will my teaching be ready for this?”


The year may only be 24 days old, but the folks at Educause have been busy and just released the 2009 Horizon report. Horizon reports have been a key resource for a number of years for Educators wanting to prepare for the impacts of future technology, and the 2009 version provides the same kind of ‘horizon scanning’ (a Stephen Heppell phrase). Covering topics from mobile devices to cloud computing, semantic web services and geotagging, its well worth downloading and asking the question – “In 4 years, will my school/institution be ready for this?”, and “What opportunities will these technologies bring for learning?”
There’s also a great overview of the report available via eCampus News – (you’ll need to sign up to read it all).

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Student tests face hi-tech overhaul


Most modern educator probably realise by now assessment needs an overhaul to meet the needs of a
ubiquitous computing future just as much as learning does. So see this article for some hope:



Justine Ferrari | January 14, 2009

NATIONAL Curriculum Board head Barry McGaw will spearhead an international project to devise a new method for assessing school students, measuring the skills they possess rather than their ability to memorise facts.

The multi-million-dollar project was launched in London yesterday by three of the world’s leading technology companies — Cisco, Intel and Microsoft. They said the aim was to resolve the gap between what was taught in schools and the skills required in the workplace. 

The project aims to develop a computer-based assessment system that could be adopted around the world and would test students’ knowledge in cross-disciplinary problems, spelling the end of closed-book exams testing students’ memory. 

In a policy paper released at the Learning and Technology World Forum in London, the companies argue that reforming student assessment is the key to transforming education to bring it into the 21st century. 

“Businesses, entire economies and society generally have made dramatic changes over the past decades, much of it enabled by the widespread use of ICT (information and communications technology),” the paper says. 

“Yet most educational systems operate much as they did at the beginning of the 20th century. 





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