The XO Tablet – first impressions

xotablet_au

Its not often one gets to brag about owning the only gadget in a whole country – but as the XO Tablet is only available from the USA, and the Australia arm of OLPC aren’t touching it, right now this is the case. Thanks to the generosity of fellow EdTech experimenters Wayan Vota and John Hunt, my 6 year old daughter has now logged about 10 hours on this latest iteration of what a ‘green machine’ can be and I’m ready to report some first impressions.

I’ll get to her thoughts shortly – but first, given the at times highly charged nature of all-things OLPC, some context. I have written for OLPC News before, am the Dad of a child in the target audience for the XO Tablet, and am a long-time OLPC supporter (with nearly 4 years of being employed by a state education department to support XO deployments). I’m also a well-known exponent of that other transformative mobile platform, the iPad, of which I’ve owned every model and even co-founded the Slide2learn.net community to support. I’ve also owned a Nexus7 Android tablet since its launch. What I’m trying to say is that I couldn’t have been more excited to get an XO tablet that sits right at the convergence of all these interests.

So, first impressions: I love the green case. Its chunky and grip-able and …

- Read the whole article at OLPC News here: http://www.olpcnews.com/tablets/xo_tablet/the_xo_tablet_-_a_first_impression_in_750_words.html

 

 

 

Response to a PC-era’s review of the XO Tablet

OLPC News xo tablet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At OLPC News there are a few good articles overviewing the XO Tablet and what it means for learners and well as One Laptop per Child’s overall program. The most recent one gives a more negative view than some which is good for balance but seems to be coming from someone still thinking that PC and PostPC devices can’t both have a place.

Go here to read it.

(http://www.olpcnews.com/tablets/xo_tablet/the_xo_tablet_violates_fundame.html)

Here FYI was my response :)

Nice to see a balanced overview here thanks Edward. For my part tho – and I’ve worked with XOs for over three years, and tablets as well – the one thing (something Wayan alluded to in his articles) that has me interested in the XO Tablet is the bundled software – I don’t think anyone could seriously think that part time volunteer coders writing in Python for Sugar can now ever compete with the quality of apps available for Android and especially iOS – there is no comparison in capability. So whatever hardware design one prefers (and lets face it, cheap but decent bluetooth keyboards can be used with the XO tablet very easily – some even combine with a case) IF the software is lacking then you can do very little with them, or at least very little in comparison to what’s in the Play Store and App Store. Am I right? And isn’t a sugar port headed to the XO tablet anyways?

 

The touchscreen XO – a (p)review & update on OLPC Australia

Preview: XO-4 Duo hybrid laptop/tablet from OLPC Australia

  • Based on use of an early XO with touchscreen prototype

 

Announced just recently but under development for sometime is the next hardware iteration of the ‘its an education program not a laptop program’ XO. Once hyped as the ‘$100 laptop’ at at time when such machines cost many hundreds more, the final manufacturing price of the XO-1 was closer to $200 plus – but even so the impact of the XO’s development was enough to shock traditional computer companies such as Intel and Microsoft into helping birth the netbook and focusing on emerging markers with new energy.

Since this time, well over 2 million XOs have been deployed worldwide, some successfully into sustainable programs that are still on going, and some not so successfully (the difference has often been the quality of teacher training and the level of partnership with education providers). An upgraded XO-1.5 with a faster processor and improved trackpad was released in late 2010, but since the original model with its unique Yves Behar child-friendly design debuted back in 2008, the world of computing has dramatically changed. No longer are cheap netbooks the frontier of computing. Instead, it is even lighter and longer-battery life tablets and smartphones with touch screens and accelerometers that fill Christmas stockings. So how is the XO design evolving to stay relevant in such a ‘PostPC’ era? And can OLPC continue to partner with existing education systems so that this new design can get into students hands?

Externally the design of the XO is staying unchanged. Like a classic car (or even Apple’s product designs that often don’t change much for years) the basic rugged green XO exterior that screams ‘made for kids not adults’ remains. I can personally attest to the ruggedness of the design, having seen it thrown across classrooms and known it to have been immersed in water with no negative effects. So its a good thing to know that this tried and tested design will be continued for the XO1.75 and XO4 Duo.

One thing that is being changed in the next versions however is the keyboard. While the rubberised keypad of the original certainly helped it maintain its water resistant reputation, typing anything more than a few words quickly becomes a pain – perhaps not for the littlest kids who haven’t known anything else, but from about year 3 many schools know that students can become as likely to pick the rubber apart as to enjoy a lot of typing. Partly because of this, and also because its responding to teacher request for the keys to feature upper and lower case letters, the keyboard has been redesigned. New XOs will feature a keyboard much closer to the standard plastic ‘chiclet’ keys of other laptops – still with a rubber membrane underneath I believe. Wether it can stop the keys being damaged is yet unknown, but typing I can confirm is improved by many magnitudes.

The other external item also being updated (for the XO4 Duo) is the screen. A Neonode touchscreen is being added in a move that allows the XO design to properly embrace the tablet mode it has always had (the ‘Duo’ branding to be used in Australia has been chosen to reflect this fact). Where the current model limits tablet-mode use to a few activities where the side controller buttons have been programmed to provide some control (Camera, Maze), the XO4 activities will all be controllable via touch, something which many schools who have deployed iPads have discovered is something students find inherently intuitive.

As far as responsiveness goes, I have found the early prototype I’m previewing to be good. A full analysis will have to wait for a production model probably when the software hopefully will have been updated and optimised (at the moment the prototype just enables touch but with the old, mouse and trackpad orientated interface). One other thing to note is that at least in the one I’m using, this change to a touchscreen has also dramatically improved the clarity of the screen. After the rubber keyboard, my biggest personal criticism of the XO has been that even though its screen has always been quite hi-res (1200×900 at 7.5 inches at a time when standard laptops had this resolution on 12inch or larger panels), something about the design of the new one (reportedly almost of ‘retina’ class at 300dpi) has removed the slight blurriness of the old one that meant for me at least that any prolonged use tended to involve eye strain.

Internally, the changes are much greater due to the change of the whole processor architecture to being ARM-based – the same kinds of chips that smartphones and tablets use. These chips use much less power but provide faster processing than the equivalent laptop or PC chips of larger devices. This means that even on this early prototype, the machine is noticeably faster at nearly all tasks, bringing it in line with the current laptops and smart devices. Bootup time in my testing is almost doubled, and opening and closing activities, which even on the XO 1.5 left students sitting idle for several crucial seconds, is also much better.

Apart from this, I can’t comment too much on the non-touch optimised software, however activities like Paint already work well. It will be very interesting to see how others get updated (and what a potential touch-friendly version of Gnome looks like) in the leadup to the XO4 Duo’s anticipated release date around April 2013.

 

Despite all these technological improvements, I want to highlight another development that I consider to be even more important – that being the partnering and training focus that OLPC Australia has developed to support its XO deployments, particularly the upcoming ‘One Education’ expansion that could see 50,000 XOs in student hands here by end of 2014. Where once OLPC has had a reputation for going-it-alone and seeing established Education systems as being part of the problem, the Australian arm has been able to change from also having this stance to partner and work with schools and education providers. In this way, its mandating of pre-deployment teacher training, its having schools contribute some of the support funds, and also its offering of post-deployment training and extension modules like XO Champions and XO Mechanics has been adopted and even advocated for by the state schools sector in a way that is already strengthening the sustainability of the program across the country. The challenge will be for OLPC to maintain this sense of partnership so that that their program can reach the current 50,000, and future 300,000 goals it has set.

In 2007 as a young mobile learning blogger who had been writing about digital voice recorders, Palm and Windows Mobile PDAs and dumbphones (although we thought at the time they were smart) I wrote about how the XO was the first major computing product that had been designed for children first, rather than just being corporate hardware requiring teachers to translate into schools. At the time I never dreamed I’d get the chance in 2009 to trial them at my own primary school, or help manage the deployment of thousands of them across Australia. With a continued focus on partnering, the training that comes with the One Education program, the classic tried and tested design, and soon the upgraded hardware, I, and many other teachers and students across Australia are gaining access to the potential of connected learning.

We (as in the education department I work for) don’t see the XO as being the entire solution itself however. Indeed some of our XO classrooms are also using iPads and other devices in tandem with their green machines. Committed teachers and schools are making the difference – but it is an advantage to have a ‘personal learning device’ built for education first.

[PS. As usual, opinions expressed are mine and not necessarily those of my employer]

Some new info on OLPC ‘dropped by helicopter’ project

OLPC News has managed to dig up some more info via ITProPortal.com – its worth reading in terms of the wider debate about how ICT deployments should be executed, and where the balance between trusting the serendipitous nature of human curiosity and responsible planning for long term success lies…

My comment:

So they are not even XO’s? I guess the 3.0 is not available – begs the next question of what version of Android they are running – not perhaps something the villagers themselves would be concerned about I suppose.

Actually if its a motorola, it could very well be the ET1: http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/10/motorola-unveils-rugged-et1-android-tablet-for-enterprise-types/

or the Xoom 2 which is at least water resistant (but larger at 10 inches) – neither of which are low cost devices by any means.

- Actually the photo if genuine on the original ITProPortal.com site shows a 10 inch Xoom.

More to the point is the reports on the pilots progress – learning to turn it on or rote repeat alphabet may seem massive if in fact the starting point was zero – but now they know these things, what is the benefit to the village? Was an environmental impact study done first or is the only benefit to the researcher?


Computers aren’t so special anymore, but the kids may be better off: An introduction to mobile ‘appliance computing’ in Queensland schools

 

 

 

 

 

 

A strong case can be made that a revolution is underway in how computers are being perceived and used in schools across the world. In Australia it could be said Queensland is one of the epicenters of this change.

How do we know this? Several recent reports have shown that Australia has just about the highest uptake of smartphones and ‘mobile’ computers in the world.

  • Figures from analyst house Telsyte show that 1.4 million tablet computers were purchased in Australia in 2011 and that Australians are taking to tablets – especially the iPad – at a higher rate per capita than other countries (http://delimiter.com.au/2012/02/15/apple-australia-sold-1-million-ipads-in-2011).
  • The results of a Telstra Neilsen survey from July 2011 revealed that Australian smartphone ownership may already be as high as 46%, a 10% jump from 2010 (http://www.telstra.com.au/abouttelstra/download/document/fact-sheet-telstra-smartphone-index-2011.pdf).
  • Google research from September 2011 showed not only that Australia is number two in the world for smartphone ownership (behind only Singapore), but that Australians also download more apps than users in the US and UK (http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/australias-white-hot-smartphone-revolution-20110908-1jz3k.html).
  • In Queensland, Optus reported that by October 2011, 55% of regional phone owners (traditionally a sector that lags behind in gadget adoption) had a smartphone (http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/story/2011/10/14/smartphones-hit-regional-qld).

This high uptake of mobile computers could mean that Australia is a key place to observe the move from computers being seen mainly as specialised machines that sit in their own category, to one where they are readily available at hand to enhance learning. This process can also be described as a move towards ‘appliance computing’, where the low cost and wide-spread use of mobile computers reaches a point where society views them as expected utilities, or everyday appliances in the same category as TVs, DVD players or microwaves.

It’s a situation which may be the norm for many of today’s students. For example an informal survey of over 600 students conducted by the Principal at a lower-socio economic school north of Brisbane in 2008 showed that more students already owned a mobile device such as an MP3 player, Nintendo DS and digital cameras than used a PC regularly (and this wasn’t even counting mobile phones!).

This rapid uptake by the Australian and Queensland public is one of the two main factors supporting the belief that this country is in a position to lead the way in pioneering ‘appliance computing‘ in education. The second factor is the growth in availability of these devices in schools. While some teachers in Queensland participated in a small PDA (personal digital assistant) trial in 2005, and others purchased small numbers of Nintendo DS handhelds, it has really been the release of the iPod touch (and then iPad), as well as the introduction of the XO mini-laptop program from One Laptop per Child Australia (OLPC), that has boosted the numbers of devices in schools.

Twenty–eight schools across Queensland ranging from lower-socio economic schools in northern urban centers, to the most remote in the very far west and in the Torres Strait have now been joined the OLPC program. Some schools partner with OLPC to deploy only one class-set, while others such as Doomadgee have over 350 across years P-7. OLPC Australia has been recognised for its training program that focuses on educational outcomes rather than just the laptop itself.

In addition, With mobile phone subscriptions now outnumbering computers, TVs and even FM radios (T. Ahonen, 2010) to the point where by as long ago as 2004, 45% of 13-15 year olds owned one (Allison, 2004), it is inevitable that such devices are having an impact in Queensland. Much has been said about the parental responsibilities involved with students having mobile phones by experts such as the Queensland Governments bullying adviser Michael Carr-Gregg who has advised parents not to “outsource responsibility to schools” (Brisbane Times, October 26 2010).

There are many schools that have reacted responsibly to the high ownership of mobile phones by students by instituting mobile phone use policies that suit the needs and expectations of their communities as well as legislation and state policies such as those posted at http://education.qld.gov.au/strategic/eppr/schools/scmpr003. One example that can be googled forms part of the Drillham State School ʻResponsible Behaviour Planʼ (see p20).

Apart from the behaviour management side of the impact of mobile phones, there are many examples of teachers gaining prior-approval and taking advantage of the mLearning (or mobile learning) capabilities of such devices such as their portability, simplicity and potential for improving the personal learning productivity in ways that donʼt actually use the ʻphoneʼ capabilities but rather the devices other features.

One of the main educational uses sees old or second-hand mobile phones being used as audio and video recorders. At Tullawong State School Learning Support Teacher Jonathan Nalder employed an old phone in this way to allow students to listen back to their reading and correct their own errors. A Year 6 Teacher at Worongary State School has supervised students to use them as mobile sound effects recorders to capture sounds not available in the classroom that are needed for stop-motion video creations.

At Strathpine West State School, a year seven teacher has also used old phones to record student verbal responses which would otherwise be lost on those occasions when they are working outside the classroom. These same students have also used them capture images whilst on excursions for later integration into learning tasks back in the classroom. Senior students at Kelvin Grove State College, which has begun incorporating the use of reference Apps (or software applications) into its Science Department ICT Strategic Plan, are using phones that can download apps to allow learning tools such as calculators, timers, stopwatches, periodic tables and biology charts to be available on a much wider basis to support ‘just-in-time’ learning as it happens than was possible before.

Not all educational use of mobile phones is driven just by teachers however. A Physical Education Head of Department at Palm Beach Currumbin State School has had his students approach him to request permission to use their mobile phones to improve their learning productivity by recording lessons. This allows them to better concentrate on the class because they can now review and study what was written and said at their own pace later on.

It is widely acknowledged that tablet devices are also becoming more popular, and an official Department of Education trial of iPads was conducted in Queensland in 2011 in two schools (http://education.qld.gov.au/projects/educationviews/smartclassrooms/2011/feb/ipad-110224.html). As well, enough other state schools had also purchased iPads such that a site was established in 2011 in the online community known as the Learning Place to support them. Several private schools such as Redlands College and The Southport School have also run trials or initiated 1:1 deployments of iPads. The latest development is the policy of the new LNP government in Queensland to deploy 20 tablet devices to every special education school, and 10 to every school with a special education unit to support students with special needs.

While it would be easy to assume that schools are just jumping on the latest bandwagon, the reality is that innovative professional development is being conducted to maximize the use of these devices as enablers of learning. All teachers from schools who join the One Laptop per Child program receive an initial 15 hours of training, with options for further accredited training to become local expert trainer. Students also can receive certificates for learning and then through demonstrating their skills, including becoming an ‘XO Mechanic’ become qualified to pull apart and conduct basic repairs on the devices.

Schools using other mobile devices such as iPads have been able to access for some time, numerous training sessions provided by the Department of Education and Training’s ICT Learning Innovation Centre. This centre, which is based at the University of the Sunshine Coast, delivered several online and in-person iPad-related workshops in 2011, with others already also conducted in 2012. In addition, the Department’s Division of Indigenous Education and Training Futures ran an in-person day of mobile device workshops in Cairns in late 2011, and due to demand, this was expanded into a two-day forum known as ‘Learning@hand’ attended by 130 educators in April 2012 (http://www.learningathand.info).

What has the impact been of all of this activity? A number of research projects overseas show that mobile devices have had a positive impact on learning; for example one from Maine in the United States where kindergarten students’ literacy and engagement levels saw a dramatic increase when using iPads (http://www.loopinsight.com/2012/02/17/ipad-improves-kindergartners-literacy-scores). Indications closer to home also show similar improvements.

In one of the first documented iPad trials anywhere in the world, Trinity College (TCFS) in Victoria deployed devices across eight classes and conducted a number of surveys (with 106 responses). They found that not only did the use of paper dramatically decrease, but that iPads were “effective, durable, reliable and achieve their educational aims of going further, faster and with more fun” and that they “have advantages for TCFS over other technologies such as netbooks and laptops”. As well, 80% of students and 76% of staff indicated they would recommend the iPad for others as a learning tool. (http://www.trinity.unimelb.edu.au/Media/docs/iPadPilotReport2011-1b1e1a52-79af-4c76-b5b6-e45f92f2c9e9-0.pdf)

A pioneer in this area has been Hambledon State School in Cairns who initiated an MP3 player program in 2009 that has since expanded into a parent-supported and Showcase for Excellence Award winning iPod touch and iPad project that ran from 2010-2012. Results from students participating showed that the number of behaviour tickets issued decreased markedly, and that 96% of students themselves reported they were learning better.

In its trial of iPads with Year 9 students in 2011, Brisbane’s Kedron State High School found that 15 out of the 24 students involved “improved their performance in comparison to previous grades” and assessments (http://education.qld.gov.au/smartclassrooms/pdf/ipad-trial.pdf).

At Doomadgee State School in far north west Queensland, use of XO laptops has been partially credited by the Principal Richard Barrie, with helping the school’s Year 3 students achieve what the Courier Mail described as ‘stunning’ results (http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/doomadgee-state-school-produces-stunning-naplan-results-thanks-in-part-to-technological-advancements-in-teaching/story-e6freoof-1226137211426) in national numeracy testing (results went from 31% to 95%, where the state average is 95.2%). Overall, the school, which has 350 XO laptops in total and 30 iPads, saw NAPLAN scores lift in 13 out of 15 categories.

Using community engagement as another measure of success; the recent explosion from 65 to over 100 Prep enrollments at one Cairns school who promised XO mini-laptops to their 2012 Prep students as a way of addressing a local ‘digital divide’ in access to technology.

So it is not just the increase in numbers, but the positive examples of mobile technology use in Queensland schools and the willingness of schools to engage with these devices as additional tools to enable student success that demonstrates the possibility and flexibility these devices value add to the technology toolkit available to students, families and teachers.

 

Keynote Speakers for Learning@hand mobile learning forum

Learning@hand is a first of its kind mobile learning forum being held in Cairns April 29-30. We are very excited to have Wayan Vota, Victor Steffenson, Dr Chris Sarra, Theresa Feletar as our keynote speakers and wanted to share their speaker bio’s so you can learn more about the amazing level of wisdom that attendees will have access to from these speakers, and from Rangan Srikhanta of OLPC, Richard Barrie of Doomadgee State School, as well as Slide2Learn.net team members.

Visit www.Learningathand.info for more details.

Download the PDF: Learning@hand Keynote Speakers

 

 

One Laptop per Child Australia ‘flips’ the ICT in education deployment model

 

(Disclosure: Assisting OLPC Australia to support schools has been one of my primary employment duties since mid-2009).

(Full PDF with higher res figures can be downloaded HERE).

There has been a new buzz word added to the education lexicon of late (as if one were needed) – the flipped classroom. This is an idea thats not so much brand new or revolutionary as it is one whose time has come. Technology now allows anyone (ie. any teacher or lecturer) to quickly and easily record and share lesson demonstrations online. Access to such a capability is now allowing teachers to schedule the content-consumption aspect of the curriculum as pre-lesson time work so students view it in their own time and come to a lesson already with a basic understanding. Thus the lesson is ‘flipped’ and class time can focus on discussion, interaction and tasks that build upon the basic content, rather than just on the content itself.

Case in point is Salman Kahn whose prolific creation of online science and maths lessons is often cited as one of the best examples of the flipped classroom. Salman is not a trained teacher, but through his creation and sharing of the online Khan academy, and indeed by using tools like a video camera and YouTube, or even a mobile app like ‘Explain Everything’, any teacher can provide students with content that prepares them for lessons that they can access in their own time, at their own pace. Indeed, students world-wide can also access (and create) such content themselves, without having been directed by a teacher to do so.

There is understandably much potential in this model thanks to the extra ease and accessibility current technology such as ubiquitous video cameras and internet access is providing it, but it is by no means an answer of itself. In fact, too much focus on the technological side of this model could be its downfall if educators use this aspect as a substitute for a solid curriculum and pedagogy underneath the learning itself. This is a trap that many ICT in education programs have fallen into in the past.

One high-profile example where the focus on the tech itself has at times become the problem rather than the enabler is the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative started by Nicholas Negroponte at MIT university in the United States. This project has five core principles: child ownership of devices; low ages as the target; saturation of whole schools; connected learning; and free and open source software. It has delivered over 2.5 million XO personal learning devices to countries across the world. But what does their strategy for supporting and nurturing the learning experiences that the XO can enable look like?

Some sense of the OLPC thinking in regards to this may be gained from the recent plan announced by Negroponte to deliver XOs by helicopter (‘I Want To Give Poor Children Laptops And Then Walk Away’, New Scientist, December 2011) and have no actual contact with those receiving the devices until one year later. Not to mention how many extra devices could be procured for the cost of the helicopter hire. If there is no local buy-in, planning or commitment – what is the purpose of such an exercise? A research experiment?

As my own experiences over the last four years supporting technology deployments here in Australia have shown me, the initial stage of getting the hardware out to schools can be such a massive job, and the excitement of the students when it arrives so rewarding, that its often easy to confuse this stage with what George Bush once called ‘mission accomplished’.

An example of this is a 2010 OLPC laptop deployment that I now have mixed feelings about having been a participant in. A remote community in Western Australia was taking delivery of 60 devices in the middle of a busy term. Teacher training that had occurred prior to delivery? None. Planning by the school on how such laptops fitted with their existing learning goals? None. Time until the school stopped returning our calls or replying to our emails? Three months. And yet this model of bringing the hardware, meeting with teachers for a few days, and then leaving has been a common one here in Australia whether it’s laptops or interactive whiteboards or any of the other technologies regularly deployed into classrooms.

Also known as ‘shiny object syndrome’ or ‘miracle transformation falacy‘, the belief that a new piece of technology is itself enough to ‘transform’ education is either an agenda of supreme hope or extreme negligence. Hope and belief are necessary traits for those working in difficult schools and regions, but placing that hope entirely onto a device, no matter how well designed (and the XO is one of the best education-tailored devices) leaves no room for investing in people, ie. those whose lives and futures are at stake.

So we’ve seen briefly that some of the best intentions of OLPC have foundered at the delivery stage, the ‘engaging with the very people expected to run, operate and learn with the XO’ stage. Indeed, the failure to provide teachers with appropriate guidance in a rural OLPC deployment in India led to the Write activity being used simply as a ‘routinised’ worksheet substitute almost to the exclusion of other XO tools such as “the group and community collaboration features, the Internet, the Chat activity, pedagogical activities such as Turtle Art, and the Hindi keyboard language feature”(2009, p154).

In ‘OLPC laptop: Educational Revolution or Devolution’ (2007) authors  Bastiaens and Carliner own survey revealed that before there could be any guarantees regarding the XOs potential to provide an education, a deployment program that includes planning around curriculum and evaluation needs to be developed. Further, a 2009 review of global OLPC projects by the Australian Council for Educational Research suggested that all future projects needed to “embed an evaluation framework at the very beginning of a deployment, preferably at the project design and planning stage” because the paucity of evaluation conducted by deployments to that point meant it could not be known what impact they had had, if any.

Around the world however, there have been regional OLPC organisations that have recognised the need to flip the XO deployment model that early on assumed countries would sign up for 1 million devices without ever having run a trial – to move the emphasis from the pre-delivery to the post-delivery stage in much the way that the flipped classroom attempts to move basic remembering of content from being the centre of a lesson to just the setup for the lesson.

- Figure 1

OLPC Australia is one such regional arm, and they are accomplishing this ‘flip’ in several ways. The first is by putting school-based demand at the top of their deployment model (figure 1) such that the program is one done for schools rather than one done to them. A second is that remote and disadvantaged schools themselves contribute funds ($80 per device) to the project to cover training, spare parts and ongoing support. This local ‘skin in the game’ as it is called, means that the chances of schools abandoning their initial work are greatly reduced, while still allowing the program to exist at a low cost-of entry.

Another unique modification has been adding of two extra ideals – empowering teachers, and community engagement – to the five OLPC core principles. Take note that both of these could not be delivered on from a helicopter in the sky, nor from a delivery visit of a few days. Instead, it means that OLPC Australia interacts with schools over a longer term to initially provide training (through the laptop.moodle.com.au course) even before class devices are scheduled for delivery. This training (which is itself another major investment not often seen in technology deployments) is targeted not just at teachers, but includes tailored versions for local teacher aides and assistants, as well as for community members.

Following the pre-deployment training, which includes planning and lesson-creation, other training modules are available for staff to become local trainers so their use of the XOs becomes one that is driven by local knowledge and know-how (see figure 2). Even community members can now become an ‘XO-local’, while students now have targeted modules where they can become ‘XO Champions’ and ‘XO Mechanics’ as a way of recognising the skills they are developing. To further build on and support the knowledge staff in XO schools develop, the program in Australia also has a dedicated Yammer social network where support can be provided by OLPC Australia staff but also by other teachers and community members.

 

- Figure 2

Finally, OLPC Australia have begun to work closely not just with schools but with state education departments, (and in my case, the Indigenous Education and Training Futures Division) to ensure that the program can be aligned with existing education frameworks (such as the Smart Classrooms Professional Development Framework in Queensland) rather then existing separately (and thus adding to teachers’ workloads). They are also partnering in training events such as the Learning@hand mobile learning forum to share what they have developed.

This engagement has also seen them develop localised versions of the Sugar OS that XO devices run which can be easily updated from USB drives, and seen OLPC Australia supply its own unique warranty for XOs as another sign they are supporting schools on a longer-term basis.

In starting with school demand, being committed to teachers and communities, providing pre-deployment training and post-deployment followup, as well as by working with education departments, OLPC Australia is now in a position where all their work on fundraising can translate to an ongoing project with a chance of sustainable connected learning in schools that in the past have often been the ones to miss out on the benefits of such an approach. Hopefully the flipped classroom movement can similarly learn from past experience to keep focused on the learning, not just on the technology that enables it.

Visit www.laptop.org.au to read more on One Laptop per Child’s yourself.

 

Spanish Translation (only by Google Translate) for South American readers:

(Revelación: Asistencia OLPC Australia para apoyar a las escuelas ha sido uno de mis funciones principales de empleo desde mediados de 2009).
(PDF completo con mayores cifras de resolución se puede descargar aquí).
No ha sido una nueva palabra de moda añadido a la educación en el léxico de la tarde (como si se necesita) – el salón de clases vuelta. Esta es una idea eso no es nuevo tanto o revolucionario ya que es uno cuyo tiempo ha llegado. La tecnología ahora permite que cualquier persona (es decir, cualquier maestro o profesor) para grabar rápida y fácilmente compartir lecciones y demostraciones en línea. El acceso a dicha capacidad está permitiendo a los maestros para programar el aspecto de contenido el consumo del plan de estudios como el trabajo a tiempo antes de la lección para que los estudiantes que ver en su propio tiempo y llegar a una lección ya con un conocimiento básico. Así pues, la lección es “volteado” y el tiempo de clase puede centrarse en la discusión, interacción y tareas que se basan en el contenido básico, y no sólo en el contenido mismo.
Ejemplo de ello es Salman Khan, cuya prolífica creación de la ciencia y en línea las clases de matemáticas a menudo se cita como uno de los mejores ejemplos de la clase volcó. Salman no es un maestro capacitado, sino a través de su creación y puesta en común de la línea de la Academia Khan, y de hecho mediante el uso de herramientas como una cámara de vídeo y YouTube, o incluso una aplicación móvil como “explicar todo”, cualquier profesor puede proporcionar a los estudiantes con el contenido que los prepara para las lecciones que pueden acceder en su propio tiempo, a su propio ritmo. De hecho, los estudiantes de todo el mundo también se puede acceder (y crear) el contenido de tales a sí mismos, sin haber sido dirigido por un profesor para hacerlo.
No es comprensible que un gran potencial en este modelo, gracias a la facilidad adicional y las tecnologías de accesibilidad actual, tales como cámaras de video omnipresentes y acceso a internet que ofrecen, pero no es en absoluto una respuesta de sí mismo.De hecho, centrarse demasiado en el aspecto tecnológico de este modelo podría ser su perdición si los educadores utilizan este aspecto como un sustituto de un plan de estudios sólido y la pedagogía bajo el mismo aprendizaje. Esto es una trampa que muchas de las TIC en los programas de educación han caído en el en el pasado.
Un ejemplo de alto perfil donde el foco en la propia tecnología ha sido a veces convertido en el problema, más que el facilitador es el One Laptop per Child (OLPC) comenzó por Nicholas Negroponte en el MIT, la universidad en los Estados Unidos. Este proyecto consta de cinco principios básicos: la propiedad de los dispositivos de niños, las edades más bajas como el blanco, la saturación de las escuelas integrales, el aprendizaje conectado, y el software de código libre y abierto. Ha entregado más de 2,5 millones de dispositivos personales XO de aprendizaje para los países en todo el mundo. Pero, ¿qué hace su estrategia para apoyar y fomentar las experiencias de aprendizaje que permitan a la XO puede parecerse?
Algunos sentido de un pensamiento OLPC en lo que respecta a esto puede ser adquirida en el reciente plan anunciado por Negroponte para entregar XO en helicóptero (‘Quiero darle a los niños pobres Portátiles y luego a pie “, New Scientist, diciembre de 2011) y no tienen real póngase en contacto con aquellos que reciben los dispositivos de hasta un año después. Por no hablar de la cantidad de dispositivos adicionales podrían ser adquiridos por el costo del alquiler de un helicóptero. Si no hay participación local en la planificación o el compromiso – ¿Cuál es el propósito de este ejercicio? Un experimento de investigación?
Como mis propias experiencias en los últimos cuatro años de apoyo a las implementaciones de la tecnología aquí en Australia me han mostrado, la etapa inicial de conseguir el hardware a las escuelas puede ser un trabajo tan masivo, y el entusiasmo de los estudiantes cuando llega tan gratificante, que su a menudo fáciles de confundir a esta etapa con lo que George Bush llamó una vez “misión cumplida”.
Un ejemplo de esto es un despliegue de 2.010 portátil OLPC que ahora tengo sentimientos encontrados acerca de haber sido un participante in una comunidad remota en el oeste de Australia fue aceptar la entrega de 60 dispositivos en el medio de un término ocupado. La formación del profesorado que se había producido antes de la entrega? Ninguno. Planificación de la escuela acerca de cómo las computadoras portátiles de ese tipo con sus metas de aprendizaje ya existentes? Ninguno. Tiempo hasta que la escuela dejó de responder a nuestras llamadas o responder a nuestros mensajes de correo electrónico? Tres meses. Y sin embargo, este modelo de lo que el hardware, reunirse con los maestros durante unos días, y luego dejando ha sido muy común aquí en Australia si se trata de computadoras portátiles o pizarras interactivas o de cualquiera de las otras tecnologías de la regularidad desplegadas en las aulas.
También conocido como “síndrome del objeto brillante” o “falacia de transformación milagrosa”, la creencia de que una nueva pieza de la tecnología es en sí misma suficiente para “transformar” la educación es tanto un programa de la esperanza suprema o negligencia extrema. La esperanza y la fe son los rasgos necesarios para que las personas que trabajan en las escuelas y regiones difíciles, pero la colocación de esa esperanza por completo en un dispositivo, no importa lo bien diseñado (y el XO es uno de los mejores dispositivos de la educación a la medida) no deja lugar para invertir en las personas , es decir. aquellos cuyas vidas y futuro están en juego.
Así hemos visto brevemente que algunas de las mejores intenciones de OLPC han fracasado en la fase de entrega, el “compromiso con las mismas personas que se espera ejecutar, operar y aprender con la XO etapa. De hecho, la falta de profesores con la orientación adecuada en una zona rural de implementación de OLPC en la India llevó a la actividad de escritura que se usa simplemente como un sustituto de ‘rutinizada’ hoja de trabajo casi hasta la exclusión de otras herramientas de XO, tales como “el grupo y las características de la comunidad de colaboración, Internet, el chat, las actividades pedagógicas, tales como Turtle Art, y el teclado Hindi característica del lenguaje “(2009, P154).
En ‘OLPC laptop: Revolución Educativa o la devolución “(2007) Bastiaens autores y las encuestas Carliner propia reveló que antes de que pudiera haber ninguna garantía con respecto a las XO potencial para proporcionar una educación, un programa de implementación que incluye la planificación en torno a las necesidades del plan de estudios y evaluación que se desarrolló .Además, una revisión de 2009 de los proyectos globales de la OLPC por el Consejo Australiano para la Investigación Educativa sugiere que todos los proyectos de futuro necesaria para “integrar un marco de evaluación en el comienzo de un despliegue, de preferencia en el diseño del proyecto y la etapa de planificación”, porque la escasez de la evaluación llevada a cabo por las implementaciones de ese momento significaba que no podría ser conocido el impacto que había tenido, en su caso.
En todo el mundo, sin embargo, ha habido organizaciones regionales de OLPC que han reconocido la necesidad de dar la vuelta al modelo de implementación de XO que desde el principio asumió que los países en firmar para arriba para 1 millón de dispositivos sin tener hacer un ensayo – para mover el énfasis de la pre-entrega a la etapa posterior a la entrega en gran parte la forma en que los intentos de clase volteado para mover básica recordar el contenido de ser el centro de una lección a poco la configuración de la lección.

- La figura 1
OLPC Australia es uno de los brazos regionales, y que están logrando este “tirón” de varias maneras. La primera es poner la escuela basada en la demanda en la parte superior de su modelo de implantación (figura 1) de tal manera que el programa es un hecho para las escuelas en lugar de uno hecho para ellos. La segunda es que las escuelas remotas y desfavorecidas contribuir con fondos propios ($ 80 por equipo) para el proyecto a cubrir la formación, repuestos y soporte continuo. Este local de la piel en el juego “como se le llama, significa que las posibilidades de las escuelas que abandonan su trabajo inicial se reduce en gran medida, al tiempo que permite el programa a existir en un bajo costo de entrada.
Otra modificación único ha sido la adición de dos ideales adicionales – los profesores empoderamiento y participación de la comunidad – a los cinco principios básicos de OLPC. Tome en cuenta que ambas cosas no se pudo entregar desde un helicóptero en el cielo, ni de una visita de la entrega de unos pocos días. En su lugar, significa que la OLPC Australia interactúa con las escuelas de más de un más largo plazo para proveer inicialmente de capacitación (a través del curso laptop.moodle.com.au) incluso antes de que los dispositivos de clase se han programado para la entrega. Esta formación (que a su vez es otra gran inversión no se suele ver en las implementaciones de la tecnología) está dirigido no sólo a los profesores, sino que incluye versiones adaptadas para los asistentes de maestros locales y asistentes, así como para miembros de la comunidad.
Después de la capacitación previa al despliegue, que incluye la planificación y la lección de la creación-, otros módulos de formación están disponibles para el personal para convertirse en capacitadores locales de modo que su uso de las XO se convierte en uno que es impulsada por el conocimiento local y know-how (ver figura 2). Incluso los miembros de la comunidad ahora puede convertirse en un ‘XO-local “, mientras que los estudiantes ahora se han centrado en los módulos donde se pueden llegar a ser los Campeones’ y ‘XO XO Mecánica”, como una manera de reconocer las habilidades que están en vías de desarrollo. Para construir más allá y apoyar al personal los conocimientos en las escuelas XO desarrollar el programa en Australia también cuenta con una red dedicada Yammer social donde el apoyo puede ser proporcionado por personal de OLPC Australia, sino también por otros profesores y miembros de la comunidad.

- Figura 2
Finalmente, la OLPC Australia han comenzado a trabajar en estrecha colaboración no sólo con las escuelas, pero con los departamentos estatales de educación, (y en mi caso, la educación indígena y de la División de Formación de Futuros) para asegurar que el programa puede ser ajustado a los marcos de educación existentes (tales como el Smart Marco de las aulas de Desarrollo Profesional en Queensland) en lugar de existir por separado (y por lo tanto añadiendo a las cargas de trabajo de los docentes). Ellos también se han asociado en actividades de formación como el foro de Learning @ por el aprendizaje móvil para compartir lo que han desarrollado.
Este compromiso se ha visto también a desarrollar las versiones localizadas del sistema operativo de azúcar que se ejecutan los dispositivos XO, que puede ser fácilmente actualizado de las unidades USB, y he visto OLPC Australia suministrará la garantía propia y única para la XO como otra señal de que están apoyando a las escuelas sobre una base a largo plazo .
Al comenzar con la demanda de la escuela, estar comprometido con los maestros y las comunidades, proporcionando formación previa al despliegue y el seguimiento posterior a la implementación, así como mediante la colaboración con los departamentos de educación, la OLPC Australia está ahora en una posición en la que todo su trabajo en la recaudación de fondos se puede traducir en una proyecto en curso con la posibilidad de aprendizaje sostenible conectados en las escuelas que en el pasado a menudo han sido los que disfrutan de las ventajas de este enfoque. Esperemos que el movimiento del aula volteado de manera similar se puede aprender de la experiencia del pasado para mantener la concentración en el aprendizaje, no sólo en la tecnología que lo permite.
Visita www.laptop.org.au para leer más sobre One Laptop per Child es uno mismo.

 

Where is Australia at on the mLearning to uLearning journey?

cropped-ulearn-banner-new1-www-info2.jpg

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.

Learning?

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 ,

http://www.applesforkids.net/Apples_For_Kids/Apples_For_Kids/Apples_For_Kids.html

http://louiseduncan.globalteacher.org.au/

http://slidetolearn.ning.com

http://www.slidetolearn.info

http://ipadtrial.posterous.com

https://ishare.plc.wa.edu.au/groups/mlearningplcperth

http://ipad.redlands.qld.edu.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.

Learning?

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:

http://laptop.org.au

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68p4kmKilyI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykzcQIh9-8c

http://www.olpcnews.com/countries/australia/journal_of_an_olpc_australia_d.html

http://www.olpcnews.com/use_cases/education/reflections_on_australia_class.html


Get some perspective… (a primer piece re: lofty ideals vs on the ground realities in regards to educational technology deployments)

Perspective graphic sm sm
I just found out that I’m one of about 20,000 people in Australia working in the area of information and communication technology in education (http://www.acs.org.au/statistics/compendium2009/pdf/ICTStatsCompendium.pdf). Wow. That’s a lot of us. My first reaction was, why aren’t we having a bigger impact?

Turns out this figure is actually only 3.71% of all the nations ICT workers, so maybe thats why. You see what I did there? The big picture perspective does matter.

I’m fortunate that my job does have scope for analysing research around ICT integration and pondering these kinds of matters so I can best support schools who are moving towards mobile and transformational learning programs (specifically the XO laptop, but also other platforms such as iPad’s and iPod’s). This led me today to this big picture article: Global trends in ICT and Education http://blogs.worldbank.org/edutech/10-global-trends-in-ict-and-education that lists mobile learning, cloud computing, 1:1 computing, ubiquitous learning, gaming, personalised learning, redefinition of learning spaces, teacher generated open content, smart portfolio assessment and teacher managers/mentors as the top 10 trends happening in ICT and education right now. Shorter and easier to quickly read than the similarly useful Horizon reports (http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/CSD5810.pdf), this blog post has however inspired a series of comments many times its length, my summary of which is: ‘lofty ideals vs on the ground realities’.

We seem to waste so much time in this field debating which of these two extremes deserves to be the guiding light. In response, I’m going to commit the cardinal sin of saying – there is an easy solution (more on that in a moment). Basically the commenters were saying either that yes, these big picture trends should be what educators aim at, or that no, realities close to the ‘coalface’ (there’s that industrial vestige still hanging around) of schools and classrooms should be the priority. One comment from a teacher in Morocco in particular really effected me (‘the true trends’, anonymous). This teacher states that “that in most parts of the world teachers are still fighting to get colored chalk from the administration of their schools”. Wo. Didn’t see that one in the top ten trends. They go on to say that while their school has one multi-media room with PCs, its little used, and that a training program for teachers to encourage ICT use only focused on theoretical topics, not practical issues, and thus was largely irrelevant. The teachers own efforts in using a blog to enhance learning had gone completely unnoticed and supported by the schools administration. You can understand a person like this questioning the if the global trends were trends or just buzz words.

So instead of ‘global’ trends, perhaps we should say ‘western’, or ‘for those who can afford it’, or ‘for those who live in cities’ etc. My own work in partnership with One Laptop per Child Australia’s 1:1 XO laptop deployments is giving me a unique and treasured chance to see what education in some of the disadvantaged schools of my own country is like. One Laptop per Child could certainly be said to have lofty goals. “Give poor, disadvantaged children a laptop?!” Many people say “What about food, clothing, and water?” Even those who can see that a digital education is key to help give students a chance to connect with a wider world and create their own solutions to such problems may have other questions such as “what about our existing curriculum and mandated testing?”, or “we don’t have a culture of individual ownership here, how can we give laptops to kids to take home and expect them to come back to school?”.

So, should we aim high? Or take care of local problems first? If we do aim high, how can we stop on the ground complications from impacting the benefits that ICTs might otherwise bring? Does it have to come down to a one or the other choice?

“There is another” (- Yoda, Empire Strikes back). My offering here in this debate, gleaned from spending a few years now working in my own school, with teachers across my state, and now across the country to help teachers integrate technology in their pedagogy amounts to this – there is a middle way. See, easy! Don’t take one or other side – look for the exact mid-point. Ok? Article over.

So why doesn’t this occur? Why is it that the continuous commentary on the success or otherwise of One Laptop per Child on a site like www.olpcnews.com, or the debate on the Global Trends post referred to in this article always come down to aim high, OR focus on local problems almost exclusively?
Hard work, thats why. Not that educators are avoiders of hard work, far from it. But whether you are an administrator planning a technology deployment, or a teacher dealing with a busy classroom, you are no doubt already working at your limits, and finding an approach that marries the best of two lines of thinking is always going to be harder than sticking with one or the other.

So am I going to specify what this middle way is to ease the burden so to speak, if I really am saying this is the way to go? I would, except I don’t fully know yet myself… , sorry.

See what I did there again? I raised your hopes, only to leave you somewhat disappointed. Why would I do that to someone who has faithfully read the last 850 words? Because, you don’t need my solution. In effect, you are your solution, as long as you know not to stick just to one camp or the other.
What I do humbly suggest though, is these two things:
1.Plan plan plan: The most lofty but potentially transformative ideas tend to convert into hot air if left to do all the work themselves, or if its assumed that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is sufficient. Please don’t allow this to happen. Effective transformation opportunities in schools are too rare to not do the hard work behind the scenes of planning every step, and answering every local question first before they get asked. In this way, you can base your plan on the right big picture goals, but address on the ground issues as well.
If you’d like a basis on which to do this planning, have a look and download this detailed planning guide that gives 21 steps to take your school through http://education.qld.gov.au/smartclassrooms/pdf/scbyte-21steps.pdf. It bravely but sensibly leaves handing out the actual technology until step 20. Have a read to see why.

2. Change the minds. “THERE IS SOMETHING WHICH COMES BEFORE TECHNOLOGY. It’s the mind of people.” So says our anonymous teacher from Morocco. Research shows that teachers are the biggest factor effecting the long term success of technology deployments (see page 10, http://escholarship.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1236&context=jtla). Therefore, it is vital that teachers engage in processes that allow their pedagogy to best support the possibilities that 1:1 classrooms and technology rollouts in general offer. This means effective teacher training that gives the theoretical big picture argument as well as the means to apply this locally in ways that enhances existing practice as a means to starting them on a journey where the potential of ICTs to inspire transformation can begin.

I’ll have more to say about this stage of the process in a future post…
NB. The thoughts and opinions expressed in these posts are all mine, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of anyone else, including my employer.

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

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)…

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?

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

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)

    ubiquitous computing for kids – via the OLPC XO

    Having written about the One Laptop Per Child’s XO laptop project back in 2007 when it first started, imagine my happy surprise at getting to manage a small trial of this device at my school at the moment! The OLPC Australia website currently states that 500,000 XOs will be rolled out to remote communities across Australia in the coming months, and as a fair few of these will be into Queensland schools, some in-context knowledge about how they fit within the education system I work for will come in pretty handy.

    So what are my first impressions? Firstly, as the only designed-for-kids-first device of its kind, its a wonderful wonderful machine. Unlike some organisations whose rhetoric uses all the right buzz words but fails when it comes to living up to them, the XO device really does encourage creating, sharing and connecting just by its very design. I’ve only had limited time with two XOs in connected mode so far, but they are so easy to hook up via their built-in mesh networking that almost every activity can be shared between multiple students. This includes co-writing or drawing, or even controlling each others camera, or using the sonar sound activity to measure distance between machines. It really is the learning theory of connectivism personified in a device.

    Even the Sugar OS that they run has an interface of brilliant simplicity, with every activity running full screen and auto-saving, while a ‘journal’ of every activity they have done is accessible with just one button push. I’m also looking forward to using them outside regularly thanks to the special LCD screen they have that allows full readability in sunlight.

    Be sure to head over to http://www.laptop.org.au/ to read up about the full vision. If mobile devices are becoming more and more ubiquitous as we know they are, why shouldn’t kids get to use ones designed for them rather than for business or universities?  We’ll see how this mass rollout goes across Australia, but if the logistics and training of teachers with the devices can be properly managed, there is a ton of potential here ready to be released.