Category Archives: Mass media

Social Networkers Reach Out More with Cell Phones…

… which is the title of an interesting article that appeared in USA Today a couple of days ago that discusses the market potential for mobile social networking. The piece basically reaffirmed my belief that mobile and connected are strongly related and that one reinforces and amplifies the other.  A couple of quotes that struck me:

Senior analyst Jill Aldort of the Yankee Group calls “mobile social networking a hot market with lukewarm potential.” (with regards to profitability)

Jyri Engeström, co-founder of mobile blogging site Jaiku, says, “Mobile social networking is more like ‘social peripheral vision.’ You have an idea what people who somehow matter to you are up to.”

Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz says its mobile user base is growing faster than the website. … “Things that are inherently social are inherently mobile.”

But location-based networking has Big Brother implications. “It’s really cool, but it’s also possibly the creepiest thing happening,” says Facebook’s Moskovitz. Privacy controls are crucial. Buddy Beacon, for one, lets you switch to a “cloak” mode to stay under the radar.

The article also sports a sidebar with a listing of some of the more popular mobile social sites, including ComVu PocketCaster, Flickr Mobile, Groovr, JuiceCaster, JumBuck and Multiply.

Finally, there are a few interesting thoughts in the string of contents, especially those that are more critical of the whole 24/7 connectivity and feel the need to be disconnected from time to time. My favorite one is by McGarrett:

Why don’t they just wire a social networking chip in our brain? Oh yeah, our brain is already wired for social networking. So why do I need this?

Thought provoking indeed ….


Image Credit: “rickshaw-phones”, abaporu’s photostream at


Handheld Learning 2007, Day 1, Opening Session, part II


The international speakers…..

Tarek Shawki, Section Chief, ICTs in Education, Science, Culture, Information Society Division, Communication & Information Sector, UNESCO.

On ICT Utilization towards Building Global Knowledge Societies

UNESCO as a laboratory of ideas and standard-setter; also a clearing house to disseminate info to member states.


  • Access to networks and high quality content
  • Dealing with cost of access; capacity building
  • Content development
  • Freedom of expression
  • Media development
  • Knowledge preservation

E-knowledge requires a lot of (different) players

Mr. Shawki then continued to talk about organizational structures and partnerships, which I won’t try to describe here, but which is important in that it shows how ICT developments are happening globally.

Final comment: UNESCO is working on a report comparing all of the different mobile devices for individual governments who are confused with regards to what’s out there.

Next up, Francesc Pedro from OECD’s CERI. His presentation is pretty much the same thing he did at NECC, which I blogged here. He did show some interesting MacArthur-Foundation-made videos.

Francesc’s key point I think is that there is a real need for solid, research-based information in the area of ICT for learning, especially on an international  level, and a need to focus on the changes that learners are bringing.

Not a lot of talk about mobile learning in these two presentations, but more big-picture issues to think about …

Carnival of the Mobilists #93, and the Power of Mobile

Just in time for me to read before heading over to Europe is this week’s Carnival of the Mobilists (#93), hosted by Communities Dominate Brands. My favorite post of this week’s Carnival is probably the one about the use of cell phones in Myanmar/Burma, to record the civil unrest that has been taking place. This event is also an illustration of once again, the powerful roll that mobile phones can play as a medium to not only report news as it happens (see also this account on SmartMobs), but also to rally large groups of people for a cause. As a Reuters article from Sept 24 states (as quoted in the MobileActive Blog),

the military generals are “caught in a rare dilemma,” exacerbated by the presence of mobile phones:

They can either come down hard on the Buddhist monks leading the protests — and risk turning pockets of dissent into nationwide outrage as reports and grainy mobile phone images of revered, maroon-robed men and boys being beaten up leak out. Or they can give them a free rein to march round a few cities and towns — and risk the movement spreading across the country, and into other social groups, such as the students or civil servants, the other key players in the 1988 uprising.

More info on the issue of using mobile phones in the Burma/Myanmar protests can be found in this MobileActive post, with links to other sources as well.

Obviously, this situation is very similar to the protest in the Phillipines as described by Rheingold in Smart Mobs (see also here). Both are examples of the potential power of mobile phones as a medium to share information and take action, as described by David Cushman:

Now the media (the power to move minds) is in everyone’s hands – Literally with a mobile phone.
So, as the Burmese people shoot video of what’s happening – and share it with each other and the world – does this bring true power to the people? Knowledge is power – information shared is power growing exponentially. … The Burmese are sharing their problem with the world. But, like all communities of purpose, if we aren’t prepared to respond, in real time, then all their sharing is for nothing.
Share the problem. Defeat it.

The important question for me is though, are we truly preparing our students for a world in which information is often shared virally, and actions are based on this information, actions that can have far-reaching consequences? Are students, in the words of Cushman, prepared to respond in real time?

Image Credit: Carnival of the Mobilists, Logo:

Preparing to Attend Handheld Learning 2007, or the Wild, Wacky, Wireless, and Wonderful World of Mobile Learning

Handheld Learning 2007

I can’t believe I’ll be at the Handheld Learning conference in London in only a few short weeks. Besides having an opportunity to make the quick jump from London to Amsterdam to visit relatives before the conference, I’m really looking forward to the event itself, as it has gotten quite the reputation.

I will be doing two presentations while I’m there, fitting them in with this year’s theme of Learning while Mobile. They are described below. The full program is on the conference site. If you’d like to attend the Handheld Learning conference, register before it is sold out (like last year). Discount codes can be found at Tony Vincent’s Learning in Hand and the moblearn blog.

How to Create 21st Century Learners:

How do we create 21st century learners? This is a complex question that is puzzling educators across the world. As we all know, society has been changing in faster and more complex ways than ever before. Knowledge is growing at exponential rates, digital tools we use are constantly changing, the nature of family and community are in flux, markets are shifting, and institutions constantly have to reinvent themselves.

We are now preparing children for a world that will have jobs that don’t exist yet, tools that haven’t been invented yet, and problems we don’t know are problems yet. The distinction between the physical and digital is becoming increasingly blurred as well.

What should learning in such an unpredictable environment look like? This presentation will provide a brief glimpse of what the not-so-distant future of education might bring, including increased personalization and customization, learning in context, networking, and of course, the role of digital technologies.

Related links: (Map of Future Forces Affecting Education)

Citizen Journalism

In November 2004, Dutch film maker  Theo van Gogh’s body was captured by a passer-by on a mobile phone minutes after he was murdered. The picture appeared on the pages of the Telegraaf, a daily Amsterdam newspaper, and made the news globally. The next month, images n(see e.g. here and here) and videos of the Asian tsunami were available on the Internet within minutes of the waves crashing ashore. When bombs exploded in London’s public transportation in July 2005, citizen reporters were on the scene before the major news networks got there. Almost immediately following the explosions, commuters in the Underground uploaded pictures and video to the Internet, using their mobile phones to capture and transmit the events as they were unfolding.

News reporting as we used to know it is changing. Younger generations are turning away from traditional media outlets in ever-increasing numbers, and instead are using mobile and networked technologies and web-based tools to collaboratively (re)create, analyze, share, and digest what is happening in their world. A new generation of digital storytellers and citizen journalists has emerged, blurring the boundaries between producers and consumers of news.

This session will focus on the implications for education of this trend, including the need to prepare students to actively and critically partake in an evermore global, digital, and participatory culture; an increasing responsibility to teach and learn about how to deal with the massive amounts of information that are literally at our fingertips; and emerging ethical issues such as copyright, privacy versus the right to know, and honesty in editing online content.
It is funny how when we try to predict the future we often end up looking back. In the case of reporting the news, there are strong indications that we may return to a time when storytelling and pamphleteering were vital ways of sharing information and passing it from generation to generation. The only difference is that this time, storytelling will no longer be oral and local, but digital and global.

Related links: (Gillmor’s We the media; the Media Center’s Synapse on the future of news; Annandale’s article in the Thunderbird; and many, many more).

Image Credit: Handheld Learning Conference Logo:

Mobile Phones, Mobile Minds


Here is an interesting video from, sent to me by my colleague Graham Brown Martin from Handheld Learning in London. It is called “Mobile Phones, Mobile Minds,” and can be found on or google video. The 26 minute video is an amalgamation of the pros and cons of using mobile phones for education. It’s an interesting piece, containing interviews with lots of different people, including students. According to, the video provides

A look at the world of young people with mobile phones, and the impact on schools and education.

Owning a mobile is becoming an indispensable element of young people’s lives, for both teenagers and increasingly primary age children, all around the world.

Are mobile phones a force for good, or an example of technology gone awry? Is it sensible to ban their use in schools or should this device be given a place in lessons and learning?

I like the video because it does a nice job of juxtaposing statements pro and con, without showing a bias toward one side or the other. Some items of note is the discussion of Prof. Yong Zhao from Michigan State (at about minute 20:30) who is investigating classrooms as ecosystems, with everything in it (teachers, students, technologies) as individual species that compete in a sort of Darwinian way. Also of interest are the closing statements in the final minute or so of the video.

While mostly shot in England, this is definitely worth watching for anybody interested in mobile technology and K-12 education. If you watch the video, please post some comments here.

4-16-2007 continued


Just a couple of additional sources that shed additional light on the role of new media sources in the coverage of major news events, and the ways in which news reporting is changing. Paul Bradshaw writes in a short but interesting post in his Online Journalism Blog that

Unlike previous user generated content milestones like 9/11 and the Asian tsunami, this story took place in the heart of the new media generation, and the resulting coverage is more comprehensive, more accessible, and takes in more new media forms, including social networking.

Via this same blog, I came across this post on Poynter Online, which provides an interesting collection of “user-generated content” of the Virginia Tech tragedy, from a journalistic point of view. Lots of interesting stuff; and like Bradshaw says in his post, roles are changing:

1) the need to develop the awareness of, and skills to find, this material; 2) in the face of such comprehensive and accessible first-person reporting, the need to develop new roles, perhaps as gatewatchers, facilitators and filters rather than reporters.

And by the way, this doesn’t hold true just for journalists ….

Image credit: “One Day Blog Silence”, David Leggett’s photostream:



What happened yesterday at Virginia Tech University is awful beyond belief, and I’m sure the event will be analyzed out the wazoo by the U.S. and global news media. When I started to follow the story (not really until sometime last night), I started drawing parallels to a similar event that happened at the University of Iowa on November 1, 1991. I lived mere blocks from where that shooting happened and was home at the time of the event.

In 1991, we learned about the event from the local television stations, and a more in-depth write-up appeared in a special edition of the university’s newspaper the next morning. Compared to the deluge of information that will come from the Virginia Tech campus and beyond within the next weeks, the amount of information released immediately following the 1991 shooting was fairly small (even the wikipedia entry for the Virginia Tech shootings is already larger than the one for the University of Iowa shooting).

Anyway, I won’t dwell on the facts too much here, as plenty has already been written and will be written by the major news outlets such as CNN and MSNBC. However, what is interesting is that had this event taken place before the advent of the Internet like the shooting in Iowa City, my information sources (and therefore my take on the tragic events as they unfolded in Blacksburg) would have been very different. I didn’t really watch TV news channels yesterday. In fact, I picked up on the story via a few different blogs in my Feedreader. After a cursory look at the headlines on MSNBC, I got quite a bit of information (and links to a variety of other sources) from this post on Boing Boing, which led me to images on flickr here and here. I also found some videos on YouTube. In addition, quite a bit had already been written in the edublogger community by the likes of Anne Davis, Vicki Davis, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, and Wes Fryer.

What struck me is that pretty much everybody who mentioned the event mentioned the wikipedia entry. Wes made an interesting observation:

From an information literacy perspective, following the comments on the history page of the WikiPedia entry for this incident is illuminating. What are the authors discussing and commenting on?
– What is the reference for that?
– Are included details and links relevant to this situation?
– Is accurate language being used, or are unwarranted exaggerations being made?

These types of discussions about information posted online and its accuracy are extremely important skills for our students to master, as it is easy to just believe what’s posted online because it is online. There’s an obvious danger in this kind of blind faith, and it surfaces even in tragic situations like this one, as this follow-up story from Boing Boing shows. An excerpt:

Blogs and online discussions yesterday misidentified 23-year-old Wayne Chiang (above), a VA Tech student with a penchant for guns, South Park, and bummed-out blog entries, as the shooter responsible for the VA Tech massacre.

Mr. Chiang’s “wanusmaximus” livejournal (“Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.”) and Facebook profile include many photos of heavy weapons, and vanity shots of him posing with quantities of those weapons.

Mr. Chiang is Asian-American, and early reports indicate the VA Tech shooter was, too — which added to many internet accusers’ certainty that he was the killer, even though investigators still have not disclosed the name of the actual VA Tech murderer.

Comment fields on Chiang’s site soon filled with racist lines like “so u are the asisan that shot up the school. i hate u and your people.”

But, news alert: lots of LJs look like Chiang’s. Gloomy web poetry and a gun hobby don’t prove a dude is a mass murderer. After dozens of “j’accuse!” blog posts linked to his journal like so many pointed fingers, Chiang finally posted an update late last night:

Coming out. I am not the shooter. Through this experience, I have received numerous death threats, slanderous accusations, and my phone is out of charge from the barrage of calls. Local police have been notified of the situation.

As I’ve discussed before on this blog, the nature of news production and consumption is changing (see e.g. this post on SmartMobs), and major news events such as the tragedy at Virginia Tech are prime examples. What it means for education is that we need to seriously rethink how we teach our children to examine news, showing them the importance of not only accessing information, but carefully analyzing it, juxtaposing different points of view, and trying to construct the most accurate and comprehensive story from a large number of very different sources.

As for all of you at VT who have been affected by the shootings, know that my prayers are with you…

Image Credit: “Prayers for Virginia Tech”, from busiguy6’s photstream: