Handheld Learning 2009, Day 1 HHL Festival


I’m in London this week for Handheld Learning 2009. Today was the first day, the Handheld Learning Festival. It was very busy and somewhat chaotic, but successful. I sort of hopped from session to session to get a little bit of everything. Not sure if it was the best way to go, but here’s a brief recount of what transpired today. For descriptions of the individual parts of the day, please see the HHL program:

HHECKL: I caught the tail end of this session with Tony Vincent, who promptly got called up to the front to make one change on the Cool Wall of technology. The participants in the session picked as their top three cool technologies: iPod Touch, Nintendo DS, and Apple Tablet (wait, but that’s not out yet). By the way, no mobile phones were picked in the top three. Here is a 30-minutes qik video of the event (sound starts after 2 minutes), posted by Dave Sugden.

The Industry Showcase looked bare compared to last year. Maybe it was just me, I don’t know. We spent about 10 minutes there, then left. I know this is what brings in money, but I’m not sure what else it contributes to the conference.

Learners’ Y-Factor: I caught the first two presentations here in a room that was absolutely packed. The first was done by Burnt Oak Junior School who brought half of their school, or so it seemed. Their presentation about the use of iPod Touches in their school was good and covered the apps they used, but I was left wondering if the devices went home with the kids. Use of devices for learning is so much more limited when they don’t. The second presentation was done by kids from Oakdale School in London, who shared their experiences in using Nintendo DS for learning math and a few other things, nothing earth shattering. I left the session after this presentation, wasn’t able to get back in later on. Highlight of what I saw was Jason Bradbury, who was very engaging for adults and kids alike, and managed to coin the term “plearn = play + learn”. I found out via Twitter that Normanby were the winners; they’ll present at the main conference this week.

Pecha Kucha: I watched a few presentations here, after hearing that last year’s session was good. This year’s session was chaotic, to say the least, and I wasn’t real impressed with the presentations. During the presentations I attended the technology wasn’t working half the time and then some of the presenters just did not use the 20 x 20 rule. The sessions I saw included (and these were the coherent ones):

  • Design for web: PC v. mobile and how they reshape each other. Saw some interesting examples, not sure how it impacts teaching and learning.
  • Stuart Smith’s mobile web as the killer m-learning tool. Interesting idea, now convince me…
  • M-Ubuntu project in South Africa: using mobiles to teach literacy. The project looks very interesting, and is always looking for mobile phones to sustain its project . Contact Lucy Haagen if you have some to contribute.

Best Practices: I watched three presentations here.

Derrick Welsh showed examples of using technology for drawing in art, e.g. using the Wii to draw on top of photos, and using phones for drawing. The best part of the presentation was a question that came from the audience: How to convince art educators to use technology, as there is the perception that there is a lack of the tactile when using digital technologies. I also picked up a link to a Reuters article on mobile phones for drawing.

Nick Short: presented “Androids in Africa”. He apologized for the looks of his presentation, done in Google Docs, but it serves the purpose and does the job, and that’s the point! His presentation was about the use of mobile devices for vet services to livestock in Africa. Native vets were already using mobile phones to text each other to help each other out, to get more vaccine into the field, etc. What else could be done? Enter the Android phone, which can also be used as a media player.

The Royal Vet College sends out teams to Africa, to do research to help local vets. This year’s team used Google’s Open Data Kit to record animal exams and Twidroid to tag sampling locations (gps). Communication done with team members and RVC experts using Twitter, email, and Google Chat for expert advice, team communications, etc. Also updated a team blog using Blogger daily to show funders what was happening. Restraints included: slow GPS, cannot change forms easily in field, questions were linear, unlike using paper; expense of devices, no picture function in ODK.

However, there are many opportunities in Africa for the use of mobile phones in Africa, using SMS, and this was a very interesting session that showed innovative uses for mobile technology and the power of mobiles to make a difference.

Louise Duncan from Australia presented: “Essential ingredients for the successful implementation of mobile learning” using iPod Touches. They include:

  • Agree on a device and a platform
  • Students need to have access to devices 24/7
  • Kids want to personalize their learning
  • Have a parent evening: share learning outcomes and get AUP forms signed
  • Learning strategies change, less paper used. Use apps like StudyWiz Mobile, an online learning environment to support learning.
  • Use of a personalized interface on the iPod Touch
  • Installing new software should be easy and quick, can download directly to iPod Touch or sync
  • Software reviews on YouTube, Learning in Hand, and iear.org
  • Some favorites: Classics, Story Kit, Civ Rev, Leaf Trombone, Wurdle, Geared, Strip Designer (combined use with Maps, Street View, and Strip Designer, see TV blog post), Brushes. Etch-a-Sketch lite
  • Give teachers a device 6 months before students get them.
  • Strong pedagogy: don’t allow into the classroom to use as toys or IM, have clear learning activities
  • Integrate within the larger school community: use for school administrative tasks such as daily bulletins or roll taking
  • But there is no camera: is this an issue? Maybe not, makes it easier to explain to parents the mobile device is a learning tool…
  • Netbook v. mobile question. What do schools supply, etc. According to Louise it’s not an either/or argument. “It’s all well and good to use netbooks and iPod Touches in the classroom but do they really improve student outcomes?”
  • Sustainable model for implementation across K-12
  • IT support is crucial
  • iPod management, uses students to help
  • Students need to be responsible for the devices (i.e. bring them).
  • Louise mentioned about students being sad when having to hand them back at the end of the year. This is one of the problems with school-supplied devices.

What they do at Louise’s school seems to work. Most of this stuff is common sense and has been done in other places.

First impressions of Handheld Learning:

  • Maybe it’s just me but I didn’t see or hear anything really inspiring or eye-opening (is this just me?). The basic ideas of mobile learning are there and have been there, but now we need a more comprehensive push of actually implementing them on a larger scale, not just in isolated projects.
  • I think the conference could use more hands-on sessions. Why are we still doing death by PowerPoint? (and that includes Pecha Kucha)….
  • Still not much talk about use of learner-owned devices, at least for K-12, and how to make that work. I think we’re still too stuck on a controlled learning environment, where schools provide devices and software, and own both. It makes mobile learning less mobile in my view.

Impressions from others:

  • @tecnoteach: Day 1 at #HHL09 was like flicking through the apps on the iphone – here, there and everywhere… (and yes, I would whole-heartedly agree with this one, my head is still spinning).
  • @NickSpeller: I agree with other posts – some good stuff going on but missing the WOW! Well done to Normanby as I understand it winners of Y-Factor
  • Response from @tomcooper: @NickSpeller don’t undersell the day today the kids were the stars!!!! the next 2 days the contrib have a lot to live upto !

One response to “Handheld Learning 2009, Day 1 HHL Festival

  1. Pingback: Carnival of the Mobilists #196: handsets, learning and lucre

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