UNESCO series of mLearning working papers

UNESCO are releasing several working papers focusing on different regions of the globe and mapping what mobile learning initiatives are in place, particularly in regards to policy, and teacher professional development.

You can read them all at Edutechdebate: https://edutechdebate.org/archive/mobile-learning-initiatives/

Here are my thoughts on the Latin America report:

- I really found the drivers, enablers and blockers section to be very useful – a simple way to communicate a lot about what the issues are.
- BridgeIT and SMILE sound very interesting – although SMILE seems to be the innovative one in actually going beyond just the ‘substation’ level of the SAMR model.
- Sadly, or perhaps, to be expected, virtually all are still ‘early days’ with no results of the wider impact (apart from user numbers) reported.
- Most seem to have neglected teacher PD therefore are just re-inforcing traditional pedagogy (ie. bridgeIT videos) – I know this must change soon.

So what are these super popular tablet computers capable of anyway?


Its hard to deny that in the book that tells how computing has become more and more mobile such that its already almost ubiquitous, the current chapter would be titled ‘tablets’. While they have been around for some years in various forms, the recent maturation of mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS to match the slate style has seen an explosion in the adoption rates of tablet computers. The iPad is selling over 1 million devices a month, and it seems that conversely, about a million different Android tablets get announced each week. The Dell Streak, Asus EePad and Samsung Galaxy are all examples of high profile Android tablet computers that will be released in the next 4 months. There are also education specific initiatives around Android tablets in the shape of the Marvel/OLPC $99 project, and India’s $35 slate. Of interest also is what HP releases in the way of a ‘PalmPad’ tablet that will run the WebOS they bought along with Palm.

Ok, so enough about the hype of devices. What can they do? And specifically, what can they do for learning? Not having access to an Android tablet yet myself, my observations are based on the using the iPad. For a list of Android education apps though, go here.

I’m aiming then to post semi-regular articles on what these tablets can do, starting today with this example: iBrainstorm (free from the appstore). This app (an others like it) allow you to map out ideas, plans and thoughts visually. Where it really provides a new experience is that, being available on a tablet, all the work is done by direct touch, just as we would have once done pre-PCs. So we get to arrange notes and draw in a paper-like way, but with all the advantages that working digitally brings – such as instant sharing and storage of the brainstorm session. And, you also get to instantly collaborate. iBrainstorm allows other devices (iPhones or iPod touches as you’d expect from this platform) to connect via bluetooth and create their own sticky-notes which can be passed to the main iPad with a flick of the finger.

In a classroom, I can just see the group work possibilities. You could have four – five students summarising a topic, with up to four students creating sticky-notes of key points and flicking to a fifth student with the iPad tablet who then arranges them. I am really hoping that in near future the developers will add a video-out capability so the work could be projected to a big screen to show the brainstorm taking place live – that way the whole class could contribute.

If this is any indication of the kind of applications that tablet computers of any platform are capable, I for one am excited about the the kind of learning they will help enable. Of course it all depends on teachers facilitating their use – would love to hear from other teachers attempting to do so.

Presentation tool goes super mobile too

This is the IPEVO Point2View document/web camera. I’ve just got one after reading this excellent overview at Learning in Hand so I can show device screens (XO laptop, iPod touch) via projector in several mobile learning workshops I have coming up. Excited at how small and mobile even this kind of digital tool has become.

Posted via web from Jonathan Nalder’s posterous

The other great mobile education movement

I am aware dear reader that much of my writings on how learning is handling the inevitable rise of ubiquitous computing centre’s around the iPhone/iPod touch/iPad platform. But in this post I’d like to reflect a little on the other great mobile education movement of the last three years – that of the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) ‘children’s machine’. While even the latest version 1.5 of the XO laptop they build and supply  has tech that is getting a little behind, it does have at least three distinct advantages over the iPod/iPhone/iPad platform:

1. Designed for children – yep, rather than being a consumer or business device that crafty educators are able to integrate into educational settings, the XO was designed ground-up to be in students hands. I mean its bright green! When a student first sees one, they know already this is for them – and that means their use of it for learning starts at a unique place. This is a factor not to be underestimated.

2. Automatic collaboration – while there are a growing number of  iPod touch apps that can use wifi or bluetooth to do some basic screen-sharing or sending of files etc, another of the distinguishing features of the XO laptop is that sharing and collaboration is built in automatically to practically every activity, even the camera. Its not something students even have to think – ‘oh can I work on this with someone?’ (or two, or four etc), but is simply a matter of switching to the dedicated ‘friends’ screen and sending the invitation.

3. Dual screen modes – the announcement of the iPad means that one of the XO’s advantages (larger screen) will shortly be neutered, but the ability of the screen to work as a regular colour LCD indoors, and a black and white screen outdoors with full readability in direct sunlight gives the XO a big advantage over the glossy  iPad as far as true mobile learning goes.

4. Ok I know I said three – but this one is not one of mine – Flash support. I don’t use flash hardly at all, but I know alot of educators that do rely on it for hundreds of interactive learning objects that are totally unavailable in the Apple mobile world. How long it takes for these to eventually be ported over to Java/HTML5 or turned into the mobile apps (via Adobe conversion software) that are becoming more of the standard for such software I don’t know, but until then, educators are great hoarders, and so Flash support remains an issue.

Of course there are downsides to the XO laptop also (such as the aforementioned aging hardware, and the fact that a more natural touch-based version may be more than two years away). As a final note to this comparison, I don’t know how many of the 140,000 iPod touch apps are educational, but a developer in that space recently mentioned a figure of 3-4000 to me. Anyone reading out there know how many XO activities (the OLPC name for apps) there are?

iLearn personalised learning unit: Journal 4


This will be the final journal of my current ‘how to learn’ unit before we hit the end of the educational year. Remember the intent of the unit was to shift the emphasis from me teaching to students learning, and especially to students taking responsibility for their learning. The unit has been aided by mobile, ubiquitous devices (in our case, the iPod touch) – chosen because of the power of such devices to put learning tools right into each learner’s hands.

First, I’ll report on how the last weeks of the unit have been going. As alluded to in the last journal, school events such as swimming and compulsory PD I had to attend have really impacted on how much time I’ve had with students, such that we will not complete the unit. Now, two things – first, this is still ok as I’d built the critical thinking/ making learning decisions throughout. Secondly, in reflecting on this I’ve realised that all units suffer from interuptions – I just need to plan less – or maybe not – perhaps I actually should keep planning ambitious units but just plan in agility for the sub-parts.

Agility really has shown itself to be the key to the success of the unit actually. Because even though I planned for reflective points every two weeks, some students only needed one week, some three to work through the ‘solution’ (app) they had found (duh!). To help manage this complexity, rather than go back to a one-size-fits-all unit, in this phase I introduced a data-base tracking where each student was up to. By displaying this at the start of each session via data projector, I could begin each lesson discussing with students exactly where they were up to. This database also includes a cell for student comments – I quiz students constantly about their app – what, how, why questions linking it back to their decision making and chosen focus area. These comments then form the basis of the review that students write once they either complete an app, or decide its not helping them.

So as we near the end of this ‘proof of concept’ run through of this unit, I must ask – did it work? I’ll answer for myself, and for the students. For me, what I’ve found is that this unit has been very hard work. Thrilling yes, exciting, but also – going uphill – ie. creating rather than just using an exisiting program, and stepping back rather than always stepping in. These are not always natural teacher behaviours, and despite knowing in my head lots about student-centred learning, the power of what is established (both for myself and my institution) has shown itself to be very strong. But I do believe in personalised learning, so I’m committed to this now.

For the students – I’ve had comments like – ‘why are we doing this?’, and ‘do I have to come?’ – exactly the kind of questions that students have always asked in regards to being part of learning support. Does this mean it wasn’t the revolutionary change the world unit I had thought? I hope I never did expect so much of it – what I did differently though when asked these was respond back with a question this time – putting the emphasis back on student decision making. I see that it will take more than one unit though to have students take full responsibility for their learning. But now they have successfully completed pro’s and con’s charts for example, they have begun to learn critical thinking. Some students have completed these independently to such a degree that I am sure they will be able to do this.

As for 2010, I’ve already started planning two additional units with the same approach but building on what I’ve learned. And I’d like to set up some ‘critical friends’ as part of this – email me jnxyz at mac dot com if you are interested!

The iPod Touch for mobile learning: a presentation

I was recently fortunate enough to be able to present at the Innovative Technology in Schools Conference in Brisbane on the topic of mobile learning. Imagine my excitement at having a set of 30 iPod Touch’s available for the participants to learn on! This was a chance to show what the combination of current developments like ubiquitous mobile devices, wireless connectivity and cloud computing (via services like Evernote) will mean for learning in the near-future.

Despite various technical hurdles (ie. batteries being flat, proxies keeping us from using the wifi fully, twitter search being down!) the attendees seemed to have a great time discovering what possibilities mobile devices hold for education. So here are several ways that you too can experience what I was able to share:

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on1GNs3193w

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/jnxyz/ipod-touch-for-mobile-learning

Scribd: http://www.scribd.com/doc/16041976/iPod-touch-for-mobile-learning

Mobile wireless eReader a sign of the ubiquitous future to come

I’m not a fan of Amazon’s Kindle eBook Reader. Not only is it not available in my country, but I feel the days of paying over US$350 for a device that only does one thing are long gone. Having said that, as en educator and former libary worker, I can see several direct eduational applications, especially with the just announced Kindle 2 having the ability to read out its content. Read a detailed overview (via Appleinsider).

Why I’m writing about it however is more because of what the Kindle 2′s other features don’t do – they don’t sync with a PC or laptop. Just as Google’s Android mobile operating system gets all its contact and calendar data directly from the cloud, so too does the Kindle 2 interface via 3G connection only with a home eBook site, or with other Kindle eReaders. This is the future of mobile, wireless devices and why they are leading towards a true ubiquitous, everware future. Even small mobile devices now have the ability to connect wirelessly to all the information etc they need to be fully functioning.

Are education departments setting up such networks to unleash the power of having this kind of computing available 24/7 from any location?

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

Posted via email from Jonathan’s posterous

Can your Smartphone do this?

Not to start any disputes as to which Smartphone is better because several modern platforms are now capable of the feat I’m about to report, but can your phone do this?

Can it: ”Look for files on your remote home or office computer and download those files to your device or e-mail them to a friend or colleague. ’ReachMyFile‘ provides easy, secure, instant access to remote files over cellular (3G, EDGE) and Wi-Fi networks”. In other words, can you browse you home computer and access, download, email etc its files? THIS is what the mobile, wireless, cloud computing, everywhere or ubiquitous computing is all about. Local storage capacity becomes a non-issue with this kind of capability. 
For Education, there a few implications. Firstly, in the coming years it may mean closed, safe school networks can be easily bypassed by students ‘beaming’ in their own files. But secondly, and on a positive note, it means that no assignment or homework can be left at home!

Posted via email from Jonathan’s posterous

Rising Netbook sales a sign of things to come for Educators

Netbooks, those super-small but just capable-enough laptops, have been around long enough now that their impact can be measured in more than just how many have been released (very many) or how much they have been hyped. While the One-Laptop-Per-Child program that started it all is encountering difficulties at the moment, Education departments the world over have still embraced the mini-laptop concept as the best way of delivering 1:1 laptop rollouts in a cost-effective way.
Tangible proof of the impact of this new class of PCs is showing up in sales figures – the following Appleinsider article reports on recent US sales data showing that Acer has re-taken the 3rd spot at the expense of Apple, which has fallen a place for the first time in some time. Acer’s success is reported as being due to the success of its strong Aspire Netbook line, while Apple has no products at present in this clearly growing category. Apple’s Steve Jobs recently opinioned that the iPod Touch and iPhone were its equivalent, but maybe the current harsher economic times will force Apple’s hand, making the many Mac-using schools of the world rather happy I imagine.
Article is HERE:
> http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/09/01/14/apples_share_of_us_pc_market_slips_to_8_at_hands_of_acer.html

Posted via email from Jonathan’s posterous