Category Archives: necc2008

NECC 2008, July 1, Hall Davidson on Cell Phones in Education

It’s in your pocket: teaching spectacularly with cell phones. Great speech by Hall Davidson from Discovery Education Network about using mobile phones in education, the kind of talk many teachers and administrators need to hear. The first thing Hall said was to take out and turn on our cell phones 😀

There is a large potential for cell phones in education, but current best practices are small. Mobiles have lots of functionality, including

Text messenger
Still camera
Video camera
Video player
GPS device
Music player

Are we really going to ignore a device this powerful? Can we, when it has all kinds of applications for teaching, learning, school-to-home, administration?

In general, we still take cell phones away, and school districts ban them (e.g. during school hours). However, if this is a tool for adults, we need to teach kids how to use it.

Why we will lose the debate about cell phones: Parents (device to track kids). Think e.g. about the New York debate (see one of my earlier posts).

Cellphones: trends sound a lot like the web.
Globally twice as many users of sms as email
Text message is read within 15 minutes and responded to within 60 minutes, unlike email.
16% of homes already completely wireless in the US, more so in other countries like Japan, Taiwan, and Korea.

1st billion of cell phones sold in 20 years
2nd billion in 4 years
3rd billion in 2 years

3.3. billion active cell phones.
30+ countries already over 100% saturation..
Third world is ahead of the US in cell phone use etc.; the only ones to ban cell phones are the Taliban, and “a high school near you”

Live streaming of cell phone video

IP cameras for school security, you can access security cameras from your cell phone (Cisco).

Create and upload videos from cell (sub plans; homework, pre-post testing, etc.) to places like YouTube or TeacherTube.

Video messages (visual voicemail) instead of voice messages pushed to community;

Upload to web or download from micro SD (video, audio, pics)

Telephone part voice to text (e.g. used to document intervention), e.g. to email, blogs, twitter.

Voice to text translation, e.g. Japanese voice to English text. post voice messages to the Internet. Preso 2.0.

cell users text in their votes, instant results. Hall demonstrated this in his presentation with the audience, and this was very, very cool.

QR codes to pull info to phones.

Cutting Edge (working stuff):
Knfb Reader Mobile and kReader mobile software (for blind people)
Heart monitor, pill phone, first aid, medical records, wellness handset
Video projector cell phone.
Text google for food data

How will we move new media into education? First: look to ourselves, then people in the business.

Cable to web to mobile trend (e.g. CSPAN, TLC,, Weather Channel all went this route).

Nod to the iPhone: Jan. 2008, more than 30% of iPhone users watched videos on their phone. Other smartphone users: 14%

Takeaways from this presentation:

  • The power and immediacy of mobile phone technology, i.e. instant results, feedback….
  • Ease-of-use: Davidson demonstrated the use of many of the services he talked about DURING the presentation.
  • Difficulty (still) of integrating this type of technology in schools, at least in the U.S. There is definitely a need for a revised Acceptable Use Policy (AUP).

Best presentation I saw at NECC this year, hands down…

Image Credit:

NECC logo, NECC 2008 website:


NECC 2008, Monday June 30, SIGHC Forum


SIGHC held its first forum at NECC this year. We had presenters from both the US and the UK. Even though I had to moderate the event, I was able to listen in on Tony Vincent as well as David Whyley and Jill Purcell from the UK.

Tony Vincent’s breakouts focused on web apps (and netbooks like the EeePC)

Web apps: platform agnostic, that’s a strength. A lot of people now spend the majority of their time in their browser (I know I do!).

Mini pcs: EeePC ($299 with Linux and Open Office), HP MiniNote, Dell, Tangent MiniPC. There are many netbooks out there now.

Pros: cheap, open source
Cons: battery life, screen size

This seems similar to handhelds/mobile devices in the past. Discussion of screensize, small v. big. Kids are used to small screens and that’s what they want.

Lots of discussion about the hardware, and how it can be used in different situations, like for homebound students. There is an advantage over the use of laptops in that they are cheaper to use/maintain/replace, especially in “high-risk” situations (e.g. with potential drop-outs etc.)

Some discussion about software: Kerpoof: cartoon software (almost teaching them how to program)

Cradlepoint: to use wireless through your mobile phone service. Helps to get around blocked sites, or hotel charges! Mobile broadband speeds.
David Whyley and Jill Purcell Wolverhampton project (Learning2Go)

Implementation: integrating technology and improving pedagogy at the same time.
The device itself does not deliver everything it needs. They look at mobile devices as the 21st century equivalent of reporter’s notepad.

UK context: get lots of money to do their projects: what do you want to spend your money on? Laptops won’t work, will get stolen, especially in areas like Wolverhampton, a very deprived area. Use of technology seen as an additional benefit for the future. Replacement of schools in the UK is going on as well. Technology seems key to that.

Mobile learning goes way back to the hornbook. We are now replacing that same concept with digital tools.


Mobile devices are in Dave’s opinion still very different from something like an EeePC, because it’s a different device you’ll do different things with in different ways (e.g. voice v. keyboard input -> on the go v. you have to set it down to type).

How do we bridge between school life and e-life? Youngsters now have more technology in the home than before. Kids aren’t wowed by technology anymore, or a computer lab.
UK spends lots of money: every teacher has a laptop with a SmartBoard with audio.
• learning platforms for all learners (by Dec. 2008): mobile will be the conduit
• e-portfolios: for assessment
• computers for pupils
• learning beyond school
• engaging parents

Started with Windows, but are looking at different devices (HTC Advantage, Nokia N810)

Motivation is important
Attendance up 32% in mobile classes (as compared to avg city attendance down by 0.5%)
For girls it was personalization of the device, for boys, it was the coolness factor.

Showed video of one day in the mobile life, which was a nice way to show mobile learning by students in different settings.

Use of EDAs
Use of GoKnow stuff
Hook up to SmartBoard (Bluetooth)
Bluetooth for push and pull of content
Integration of mobile stuff with existing systems

Safety and Security: working with parents and help them understand. Naivety issues (kids hacking into unfiltered home wireless and parents not realizing that they should filter that).

Teachers need time to explore v. device market and how fast it’s changing. Therefore, stuck to one OS for now (Windows Mobile).

All in all, this was a great session. Participants had a chance to spend a good chunk of time in discussion instead of listening to talking heads. Even the presenters told me they learned a lot!


Image Credits:

NECC logo, NECC 2008 website:

Hornbye Hornbook, from Wikimedia Commons:

NECC, Monday June 30, David Thornburg presentation


Notes from David Thornburg’s presentation early Monday morning. Nothing too revolutionary here, but a fairly interesting talk nonetheless.

Given the changes in technology, our question has changed from “given current classroom practices, how should technology change?” to “given current technology, how should classroom practice change?” When looking at it from a global perspective, we need access for every learner in the world.

Bringing the tools to all children:

  • One-to-one projects must be scalable and sustainable
  • Low cost hardware and open source software and critical applications are the only way this goal can be achieved.
  • Single platform software is anti-child (this is still an issue as not many vendors create applications for all platforms). Software should serve the platform and not the child.
  • Hardware: OLPC, not clear where the future is going. Regardless of its success, the XO had an impact on the hardware industry in that prices dropped substantially. Laptop-type devices are also being developed more and more (Classmate, One2OneMate, Koolu (desktop), which runs on 10 Watts instead of 150). Also cellphone type devices like the neo1973. Also USB type sticks that will run an OS with all its applications.

Importance of open source
• Cost
• Robust applications on a graphical user interface
• New applications created daily, shared, and often cross-platform.
In Africa, some schools have freedom posts (kiosks) to distribute open-source software.
In Brazil, Linux is used by the government and in public schools (Governmental Computador Para Todos program).

Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood (Martin Luther King quote that sort of sums up what we are doing in education, at least in the U.S.)

Using pieces of your culture to motivate students to learn (e.g. corn rows for math)
A global movement has risen up in the affirmation of digital culture… the creative impulses of the Brazilian people need access to the digital world – Gilberto Gil (has set up schools for film-making in poor areas for the next generation of film makers.

Breaking borders with software, e.g. Cmap (collaborative concept map making; free)

Copyright and cultural artifacts -> open content in education (rip, mix, and burn), e.g. MIT Courseware.

In sum, the key lesson to be learned from Thornburg’s talk is that of the importance of access for all, and he showed some ways in which that can be done. There are some powerful lessons to be learned from other areas of the world, such as Brazil and the African continent.

Left session a little early to get ready for the SIGHC forum.

Image Credits:

NECC logo, NECC 2008 website:

NECC 2008, Opening Keynote, James Surowiecki

James Surowiecki spoke in front of a packed house last night. Here are my, somewhat incomplete, notes from his speech, as I was fighting with my wireless connection during the presentation:

James Surowiecki keynote. Author of The wisdom of crowds

Under the right conditions, groups of people can be very intelligent collectively. Collective intelligence improves a group’s ability to make decisions, predict the future, etc. ….


  • Jellybean experiment: group guess of beans in the jar. Average of group as a whole will be close, and most likely better than any individual guess, no matter how large the group. No one person is smarter than the group. Idea of collective intelligence.
  • Who wants to be a millionaire: poll the audience (get the answer right 91 percent of the time). Phone a friend, only 2/3 of the time.
  • Racetrack as prediction machine (odds on horses). Crowd prediction of future that has lots of unpredictable variables.

If you get a smart enough crowd under the right conditions you can do amazing things.

You can use the same principles to make groups in organizations/schools stronger.

The trick: it only works under certain conditions. (groups are volatile and tend to fall to the level of the lowest common denominator).

  1. need a way to aggregate group wisdom (technology can really help here), a tool that allows many different opinions to become one opinion (Google, Wikipedia)
  2. diversity, diverse groups do better, i.e. cognitive diversity (people who look at problems from different perspectives, people who rely on different kinds of tools). Also helps groups get around peer pressure (imitation works a lot of the time).
  3. individuality is good, esp. independent thinking; let people speak up in reverse order of seniority, position, etc. Talkative people tend to influence groups, because people tend to talk back to very talkative people.

Technology allows us to cast our net more widely more quickly and effectively, and allows us to collect more varied opinions.

Surowiecki finished with the story of USS Scorpion which vanished in 1968, and how collective intelligence was used to find the wreckage.

Image Credits:

NECC logo, NECC 2008 website:

NECC 2008

I’ll be off to San Antonio for NECC in a little more than two weeks. The venue sort of makes things come full circle, as my I attended my first NECC there in 2002. Here are the events that I will be involved in this year:

SIGHC Forum: Mobile Devices Are Reshaping the Way We Learn 
Mark van’t Hooft, Kent State University with Cathie Norris, Elliot Soloway, Tony Vincent, David Whyley, and Jill Purcell 
Monday, 6/30/2008, 10:00am–12:00pm; HGCC 217 D
(We’re increasingly mobile and so is our learning. What is learning while mobile? How does technology support it? Hear from the experts).

SIGHC Annual Meeting
Mark van’t Hooft, Kent State University
Monday, 6/30/2008, 4:45pm–6:15pm; HGCC 101 B
(Learn more about SIG activities, network with colleagues, and engage with SIG leadership).

Using Technology to Think with Data across the Curriculum
Karen Swan, Kent State University with Evren Koptur, Annette Kratcoski and Mark van’t Hooft
Tuesday, 7/1/2008, 2:00pm–3:00pm; Grand Hyatt Seguin A/B
(Data literacy is often taught in isolation. Technology can be used to teach it across the curriculum, using digital tools to represent/manipulate data sensibly).

If you’re at NECC, stop by and say hi!