Monthly Archives: November 2006

Mobile Learning Redefined


I finally am getting caught up with my RSS feeds and ran across Steve Dembo’s presentation for the k12online conference entitled “Mobile Learning Redefined”. The presentation is a great list of resources for mobile learning, as summarized in Tony Vincent’s and Leonard Low’s blog posts on the presentation. No need to relist what Tony and Leonard already wrote about, but suffice it to say that Steve focused on various Internet-based resources and tools that can be accessed via cell phone or wireless gaming devices such as the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS (as an aside, Geoff writes in his moblearn blog that there is a need for “more PSP learning please!

Interestingly enough, after going through a long list of different tools and how you can use them for learning activities, Steve Dembo ends his presentation with

It’s not about the new technologies… It’s making use of what they [students] already have in their pockets.

Unfortunately, Steve does not really discuss this very important statement in his presentation, e.g. providing the audience with ideas on how taking advantage of what students carry with them can realistically take place in current formal educational environments.

There are some obvious obstacles to be overcome:

  • Access: not all students have access to mobile technology (although this seems to become less of a problem, even in areas where people are poor; and I mean this from a global point of view);
  • Compatibility: how to get various devices to work together (cell phones, game consoles, iPods…). However, they all seem to be converging onto the same content/tool: the Internet;
  • Privacy and Security: enough has been said about these issues. I blogged about them with regards to cell phones in this earlier post.

In addition, the Mobile Learning Redefined presentation only focuses on a small segment of what needs to be redefined. Mike Sharples wrote a nice piece about this in October 2005, entitled “Re-thinking learning for the mobile age.” In it, he discusses three foci of the Kaleidoscope special interest group on the Philosophy of Technology Enhanced Learning

  1. distinguish what is special about learning in the mobile age compared to other types of learning activity.
  2. a theory of mobile learning must embrace the considerable learning that occurs outside classrooms and lecture halls.
  3. we must take account of the ubiquitous use of personal and shared technology in the industrialised world.

Note that one of the reoccuring themes is the fact that learning takes place everywhere.

In addition, Mike Sharples lists the findings of the MOBIlearn European project as it identified characteristics of learning in the mobile age:

  • It is the learner that is mobile, rather than the technology (meaning that we should be looking at more than just devices that were meant to be truly mobile);
  • Learning is interwoven with other activities as part of everyday life (i.e. learning takes place in locations other than school);
  • Learning can generate as well as satisfy goals;
  • Control and management of learning can be distributed (i.e. less teacher control, more learner control);
  • Context is constructed by learners through interaction (i.e. the need for noise, movement, group work and no more 6×5 grid and just individual seat work);
  • Mobile learning can both complement and conflict with formal education (this is a tricky one, and not really discussed by Dembo. In an ideal world we would want it to complement, although a certain degree of conflict may not be bad either);
  • Mobile learning raises deep ethical issues of privacy and ownership (again related to issues of control over learning. Should it just be up to the educational institutions what and how we learn?).

What Mike Sharples discusses with regards to mobile learning is also echoed by some of the work my colleagues and I have been doing in the area of ubiquitous computing for teaching and learning and the rethinking that needs to take place there, as described on our ubiquitous computing website and this earlier post of mine.

Finally, there are many interesting articles in Viewpoint, the FutureLab’s online publication that includes, well, viewpoints of what the future of teaching and learning with technology might look like, including articles on the use of time, changing physical spaces in which learning takes place, and pervasive and ubiquitous computing.

Steve Dembo is right in that we need to redefine mobile learning, and undoubtedly many will continue to do so. There are many more issues to consider than his presentation covers. Nevertheless, Redefining Mobile Learning is one good place to start…

Image credit: Leonard Low’s photostream:

Information Is Ubiquitous Too


I’m trying to get caught up on my blog/news reading today, and ran across Jeff Utecht’s post “Why you are not in control of information“, which reposts the latest state of the blogosphere as reported by Dave Sifry in this post on Technorati.

Without going into much of the details (the numbers are literally running off the charts), it is obvious that the amount of information that is available to us and our students is literally exploding (and I’m just talking about the Internet blogosphere). Does that mean all of this information is good? Absolutely not. Does it mean that as teachers we are still in control of the information we teach to our kids? Even less so.

The proliferation of open content on the Internet is making it even more important these days to teach kids digital and information literacy skills as I wrote about earlier in my Information Literacy post. Instead of trying to cram more content into the school day because students need to know it “for the test”, why not focus more on the skills that will help kids deal with the flood of information our society throws at them every waking hour of the day? After all, to quote Albert Einstein, “Information is not knowledge”…

Image credit: Dave Sifry @ Technorati:

PS: And of course, right after I wrote this post I ran across this article in eSchoolNews via this David Warlick’s blog post.

Battery Life, Part II


My first real post on this blog dealt with the issue of battery life (or lack thereof) in mobile devices, and some of the research that is being done at Intel that’s looking into a concept similar to the use of how RFID devices work.

I ran across another research project a couple of days ago, which is reported on in this Technology Review article. Entitled “Charging Batteries without Wires”, the article discusses research at MIT that is investigating the possibility to recharge mobile devices wirelessly, using a small base station plugged in to an outlet.

While the work is still theoretical, the implications for mobile device users could be substantial. For educational purposes, this could mean the elimination of hassles such as trying to keep handheld devices charged in the classroom, or not having to worry any more about a mobile device dying while in a museum or even just out on the street. Of course, this could only happen if the base stations would be as ubiquitous as say, lamp posts…

Image Credit: oskay’s photostream:

Everyware Is Everywhere…


I finished reading Adam Greenfield’s Everyware a while ago, and was thinking about it the other day when it struck me that despite Greenfield’s more cutting-edge ideas about technology, society, and life, a lot of his theses do apply to education.

Let me provide a bit of context first. According to an interview with Greenfield on the Boxes and Arrows site,

“Everyware” is computing that is everywhere around us, yet is relatively hard to see, both literally and figuratively. Broadly speaking, it is what you get when you take the information processing we associate with the personal computer and distribute it throughout the environment—embedding it in walls, floors, appliances, lampposts, even clothing. I also use the word to refer to the relatively novel interface conventions everyware requires: gestural, tangible and haptic interfaces, and to some extent, voice recognition.

As the interview shows, Greenfield’s definition is very heavily influenced by the work of the late Mark Weiser, who is by many considered to be the father of ubiquitous computing.  Even so, Greenfield is adamant about the term ‘everyware’ being different from existing ones such as ubicomp or pervasive computing because he “wanted people relatively new to these ideas to be able to have a rough container for them, so they could be discussed without anyone getting bogged down in internecine definitional struggles, like “such-and-such a system has a tangible interface, but isn’t really ubicomp.””

In any event, here are some of Greenfield’s theses that seem particularly applicable to teaching and learning:

5. at its most refined, everyware can be understood as information processing dissolving in behavior.

7. Everyware isn’t so much a particular kind of hardware or software as it is a situation (just like school is a process, not a place, as Thornburg has argued).

8. The project of everyware is nothing less than the colonization of everyday life by information technology (as in anywhere/anytime access to information, whether we like it or not).

9. Everyware has profoundly different implications for the user experience than previous paradigms (see #s 5, 7, and 8).

11. Everyware appears not merely in more places than personal computing does, but in more different kinds of places, at a greater variety of scales (allowing for more opportunities for just-in-time learning).

17. The overwhelming majority of people experiencing everyware will not be knowledgeable about information technology. (i.e. you don’t have to know how an internal combustion engine works to drive a car, or in this case, you don’t have to know the ins and outs of digital tools to use them well for teaching and learning).

21. Everyware recombines practices and technologies in ways that are greater than the sum of their parts.

23. Everyware has profoundly different social implications than previous information-technology paradigms.

24. Everyware, or something very much like it, is effectively inevitable (today, many expect kids to learn with technology in schools and we can’t imagine doing without).

66. For many of us, everyware is already a reality (in society, yes; in education, a big maybe and probably not).

68. Given that, in principle, all of the underpinnings necessary to construct a robust everyware already exist, the time for intervention is now (YES, we can’t afford to stay behind in education like we have been).

73. Everyware must default to harmlessness (very important in life, even more so in schools).

77. Everyware must be deniable (must be able to opt out; see #73).

Finally, and this will come as a great sigh of relief for many educators, Greenfield is very cautious about everyware and its implications for our lives. His concern is that we are not careful enough about the development of technology that undergirds his concept of everyware, and that it is easy to sacrifice privacy/safety for the sake of convenience. Instead, he proposes that we find “an appropriate place for ubiquitous computing in our lives” so that it will do us good where appropriate and still have room in our lives for experiences that are unmediated and truly our own…

Image Credit: adamgreenfield: 

Thank You Veterans

82nd.jpg    101.jpg

This post doesn’t have much to do with educational technology but it does with learning. Today, and really tomorrow (Saturday) we remember our veterans and I hope we’ve learned some lessons from them. I am thankful of the airborne troops who liberated Holland in 1944 and jumped with the 82nd and 101st during Operation Market Garden in 1944 (as well as the British and Polish paras who fought so gallantly in Arnhem). My life could be very different today if it hadn’t been for them.

Hopefully we’ve all learned at least something from their courage and sacrifices. For some thought-provoking cartoons about Veterans’ Day, please click here. A picture is worth a thousand words…….


Image Credits:

82nd Airborne:

101st Airborne:

High Tech, Forget the High Touch


The same campus paper that brought you the editorial “Don’t IM me, touch me” in September, featured a very different editorial today: “iPod is my iGod“, by Erin Roof. This is a funny, but very different take of the role of technology in the life of current college students. A few excerpts here, to get the whole effect, follow the link above to read the editorial 🙂

Along with drowning out nature, my iPod also helps me deal with social situations. As I walk to and from class, I can easily pass hundreds of people. I breeze right by. If I see one of the few people I deem “iPauseworthy,” I may unplug my ears for a brief conversation. But this rarely happens.

To others in the millennial generation, this is not offensive. The people I pass are also lost in the social oblivion of wheeling through playlists or gabbing on their cell phones, retelling sordid details of their personal lives to the people they would rather be talking to. No one cares.Older people don’t understand. They see our addiction to technology as a cause for concern. They think we have become too isolated and risk not becoming properly socialized.The downside is, I will probably be completely deaf in 10 years from listening to my music at full blast. The large tumor growing on the side of my face from the radiation of too many cell phone conversations will also render me unable to leave my bedroom.

But it will be 2016. I can just recoil into my 3-D alternate universe and never have to see anyone in person again. Awesome.

Thanks Erin for providing me with a funny yet thought-provoking editorial today. I’ll make sure to keep walking when I pass you by on campus. 😉


Image credit: leydensjar’s photostream: