Monthly Archives: February 2010

ISTE SIGML 2010 Video Contest

Just announced at

SIGML 2010 Video Contest
Show off your best practices in mobile learning in the 2010 SIGML Video Contest! This is the first in what we hope will become an annual event. Make a short video (3 minutes max) that showcases what you are doing with mobile learning and share it with ISTE members. An independent panel of judges will pick the top 10 videos. ISTE members will have an opportunity to vote for their favorite 3. Winners will receive some fabulous prizes! Please make sure to read the contest information and rules carefully. All documentation, including a full set of rules, submission forms, and other materials are available at

If you have any questions about the SIGML Video Contest or would like to be a judge, please contact us at

There is also a short podcast.

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Carnival of the Mobilists #210

Now online at

A common theme this week seems to be the opinion that the key to success in mobile is going back to basics – and getting the right skills, people and partners to deliver.

Image Credit: Carnival of the Mobilists, Logo:

eTech Ohio 2010: Tuesday Morning Panel

Some notes from the Tuesday morning panel, featuring John Merrow, Gail Matthews-DeNatale, Dennis Harper, and Lalitha Vasudevan. The speakers had some interesting comments about education in general. I may add some of my own thoughts later….

Lecture halls are becoming data-driven environments that are changing students before our very eyes… Is this true?

 Matthews: we are inundated with data. Classrooms aren’t changing as fast as the world around us. All of us are creating lots of data? Are we taking enough time to step back and look at what we are producing?

 Harper: data should not be driving education, students should. If a teacher says a student learned something, why do we need to give him/her a test, made by somebody who doesn’t know that student.

Vasudevan: there are also daily data, teacher observations. So the question is: what do we consider to be data?

Matthews: what do we consider to be data? And who is looking at the evidence? The teacher? The student? What evidence are we asking students to provide? Who gets to look at it and decide?

Harper: Every change in history has been brought by youth: Civil Rights movement, Women’s Rights. Youth have to be the agents of change. Schools make up 93% = youth. We need to utilize that (i.e. use their expertise). You don’t put kids entirely in charge; teacher like a coach.

Matthews: Adult role: mentor. We need to teach kids technology/media literacy just like we teach them how to read and write.

Harper: We complain that students do trite stuff on the web. But we don’t teach them how to use the web well (read and write), because it’s not on the test…

Vasudevan: We need to change the way we look at adolescents and their behaviors. Maybe we don’t trust them enough. What we consider to be off-task may not be (example of PSP use as extra hard drive for video editing project).

Matthews: We need to express more of an interest in what kids do with technology, which may not be the same as what adults do with it. So how do teachers get to this kind of trust? Relationships.

Vasudevan: Curriculum often stifles relationships (it’s too scripted).

Harper: Today, technology is doing things to kids: keeping them off the web, testing, drill and practice. Students should be doing things with technology if we want to foster creativity and innovation.

Empower communities by empowering youth (health, nutrition, even before they get to school). Does that mean adults have to give up power?

Matthews: Students already have it, adults need to know when to get out of the way. Example of teachers letting students use mobile phones to video record science experiments.

Vasudevan: Most of the spaces that students can use though are outside of school. Pedagogy of collegiality, where kids have a say in the decision-making process.

So can schools change enough to give up control? What has to change?

Matthews: Importance of communities. Building relationships between schools and communities.

Issue of testing: we test kids to rate schools, property values….. we test too much, with bad tests. Companies spend more money on tests for products than education is spending on testing kids.

What do we create in schools to make things better? Meaningful, relevant curriculum, teacher/student assessment (no one else). No more high stakes tests.

Image Credit: eTech Ohio:

eTech Ohio 2010: Mobile Technology Sessions


I attended a variety of mobile learning sessions during the two days I spent at eTech Ohio, including: 

What you Should be Uusing: A Look at Innovative, Collaborative, and Interactive web 2.0 Tools
Date/Time: Monday, February 01, 2010 > 10:45 AM – 11:30 AM

Presenters:  McCorkle, Sarah – Ohio Dominican University
  Weaver, Mark – Ohio Dominican University

See also the WYSBU site

Using Mobile Computing Devices and Cellphones in Education
Date/Time: Monday, February 01, 2010 > 03:45 PM – 04:30 PM

Presenters:  Collins, Ryan – Kenton City SD (Hardin)
  Dean, John – Kenton City Schools
  Abbott, Rick – Kenton City Schools

(see also this website)

Got IPod?
Date/Time: Tuesday, February 02, 2010 > 08:00 AM – 08:45 AM

Presenters:  Collopy, Renea – Liberty Union High School (Liberty Union-Thurston Local S)

Stepping into the Future With Mobile Learning Devices
Date/Time: Tuesday, February 02, 2010 > 12:00 PM – 12:45 PM

Presenters:  Menchhofer, Kyle – St Marys City SD (Auglaize)


Instead of providing details for each, I’d like to offer some general impressions here (the last session listed here was basically a repeat of the one on Monday, which I blogged about in detail. While most of these sessions looked quite interesting on the surface, I was somewhat disappointed in what I saw. Most sessions were of the here-are-ten-cool-mobile-tools variety. While it is important that educators are exposed to mobile technologies, what we really need much more of is demonstrating the power of these tools within an educational context, i.e. demonstrating how with good curriculum and learning activities, wireless mobile devices can be very powerful learning tools. As much as I support the use of technology for learning, it should never become the focus of it. Unfortunately, audience questions for the most part followed the session content, i.e. most of the questions I heard were about logistics such as charging devices and blocking inappropriate content, not about how they can be effectively utilized for purposes of learning.

I came to this realization during our own presentation on the use of mobile phones and QR codes, when somebody asked us how the use of these mobile tools at the NECC SIGML Forum in Washington DC (bottom of page) went above and beyond just using traditional media (see also this video, and this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education).

The importance of a focus on curriculum and learning as opposed to the digital tools used becomes even more important when considering the two opposing views related to the use of mobile phones in schools, as described in the MSNBC story Some Schools Rethink Bans on Cell Phones, or THE Journal’s Mobile Devices: Facing Challenges and Opportunities for Learning. We will never be able to implement the use of mobile phones for learning if we don’t focus on creating a curriculum (including assessment) and environment for learning that makes appropriate use of wireless mobile devices relevant, meaningful, ethical, and safe.

Image Credit: eTech Ohio:

Carnival of the Mobilists 209

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted these, but the Carnival of the Mobilists is still going strong. This week WAPReview hosts episode #209, which includes some posts about the iPad.

To contribute to the Carnival, send your entries to

Image Credit: Carnival of the Mobilists, Logo:

eTech Ohio 2010: Adora Svitak Keynote

Interesting way to start off the conference yesterday. I didn’t take any notes, but it’s probably better to hear Adora speak for yourself. Only 12 years old, but a very engaging and knowledgeable speaker!!

Image Credit: eTech Ohio:

eTech Ohio 2010: St Marys Mobile Phone Project

I’m at eTech Ohio this week and will blog some of the sessions I’m attending. Here’s the first one (my comments in italics):

Stepping into the Future With Mobile Learning Devices
Date/Time: Monday, February 01, 2010 > 08:00 AM – 08:45 AM

Presenters:  Menchhofer, Kyle – St Marys City SD (Auglaize)
  Menchhofer, Kyle – St. Marys City Schools
  Van Gundy, Jennifer – St. Marys City Schools
  Newcomb, Scott – St. Marys City Schools

Location: D233-235

• 3rd-6th grade smart phones: 630 plus, including 30+ staff.
• Current technology was not sufficient enough. Had to get district, parent, and community buy in.
• Financial support (they have no tech budget, but worked with eRate and Verizon to make it financially feasible).

Adminstrator concerns
• Parent meeting (had to have one)
• Sustain program for future years (this is definitely an issue with mobile projects. Most original PDA projects died after about 4 years, when the devices died and couldn’t be replaced)
• Mobile tech committee
• Stress PD

Argument that schools need to have tech that matches what students use/have at home. Don’t want students to step backwards when they get to school. Have students step into the future (funny to hear this, this was an argument for use when we did the PEP projects in 2001-2002, and has been an argument for use since).

Classroom goals
• Level the playing field (increase test scores; 11 points on average last year)
• Limit restrictions
• Access technology together
• Assignments can be completed quicker (is this really a goal? Should it be?)
• Differentiated instruction

3rd Grade:
Getting started
• Start slow – journaling (Elliot Soloway’s idea of evolution not revolution)
• Let students explore MLDs (Mobile Learning Devices)
 • Allow students to show you how to do something on the MLD
• Add new tools to create projects

(Nothing really new here, this all sounds very familiar when thinking about past mobile learning projects)

Writing projects
• PicoMap: planning
• Word Doc: paragraph writing
• Editing is faster: no rewriting
• Sketchy: illustrate writing
• Share projects: connect phones to projector or share side-by-side

(seems a little too basic almost, but then, this is third grade. Would have liked to have heard a little more about use of mobile phones by students outside of the classroom. At the end of the presentation, Kyle did talk a little about syncing pictures from a phone to a server when students were riding the bus home from a field trip).

Differentiated projects
• Gifted students: extension
• Special needs: shortened with adaptations
• Students unaware of differentiation (very important!!)
• Everyone is successful

(this is key!! Teacher didn’t really discuss the logistics of making this happen, but it didn’t sound like it’s a problem)

Traditional v non-traditional
• Planning: How would you do lesson traditionally? How can you use the MLD instead?
• Paper/pencil = boring
• MLD: engaging and exciting (yes, but….)

(This is a start, but there is so much more……)

Math achievement data
• 95% passed v. 81% (MLD v no MLD)
• Pass avg 439.72 (18 points higher)
• Homeroom ~3/4 special needs students passed math (75%)

(The question is though: was this attributable to the use of the phones? Or changes in pedagogy/instruction because of the phones? Or something different?)

Use no cell phone service or texting (blocked): hence the use of the term MLD.
Students take the phone home at the end of the day (parents sign permission slip; students are responsible for devices)

4th Grade
• Uncertainty. Will students be responsible? Screen size.
• Nothing broken or stolen in district.
• Will typing transfer to pencil/paper?
• MLDs are very motivating
• More communicating and sharing among colleagues
• More student participation
• Making learning memorable
• Students are engaged in what they are creating
• Everyone wants to share and participate
• Result: takes less time to cover material (e.g. long division).
• Record audio, take pictures, Internet (many students don’t have it at home).
• Again, start out slow
     o Incorporate into the curriculum that you currently have set in place
     o Don’t be afraid to let students teach you.
• Importance of support
     o Tech coordinator
     o Admin support
     o Fellow teachers

• Funding: District purchase (phones are free through govt pricing, pay for broadband $34/month/phone (eRate)). PDAs are dead. Verizon. Rates will go down; competition Sprint, AT&T
• Lack of teacher buy-in; not too much of an issue
• How will next phase be implemented?
• Lack of parent support due to parent knowledge
• Rapidly changing technology (e.g. iPad now)

Want to go to mobile devices for grades 3-12. Doesn’t want to look at netbooks: too expensive to buy, maintain, etc. Smartphones for students in 3-8. High school: different device (e.g. iPad)? Easy to maintain smartphones: if one goes down districts has replacements.

Only pays for phone contract during the school year, not during the summer.

Says they get a lot of visitors: open invitation to come visit (also see their website at

Using GoKnow for software, with syncing to the web (GoManage)

 At the end there were lots of questions about filtering (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) and whether students are trying to subvert the filtering. Phones are filtered through Verizon. District can call to get something blocked. Also lot of questions about logistics such as charging devices.

Also, teachers can see everything that students have on their phones (one issue with student taking inappropriate pictures).

All in all the St Marys project is an interesting one in that it has been able to implement the use of mobile phones on a relatively large scale (630 or so). However, listening to Kyle made me realize how much of what he was talking about sounded exactly like what people’s impressions used to be of the Palm Education Pioneer project in 2001-2002. The only difference really is the device used. I understand their decision to turn off mobile calling and texting (aside from cost of service, which adds up to about $160,000 for a 9-month contract in St. Marys), and the dilemma of access v. safety/appropriate use is becoming increasingly difficult and public (see for example this story on MSNBC). In that respect, I’m not sure how far we’ve come in the last ten years, as it seems that in most cases mobile technology use is either banned or heavily restricted.

Image Credit: eTech Ohio: