Category Archives: Research

Pew Report on Wireless Internet Use

Here are some interesting findings on wireless Internet use, just published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (my emphasis added):

An April 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that 56% of adult Americans have accessed the internet by wireless means, such as using a laptop, mobile device, game console, or MP3 player. The most prevalent way people get online using a wireless network is with a laptop computer; 39% of adults have done this.

The report also finds rising levels of Americans using the internet on a mobile handset. One-third of Americans (32%) have used a cell phone or Smartphone to access the internet for emailing, instant-messaging, or information-seeking. This level of mobile internet is up by one-third since December 2007, when 24% of Americans had ever used the internet on a mobile device. On the typical day, nearly one-fifth (19%) of Americans use the internet on a mobile device, up substantially from the 11% level recorded in December 2007. That’s a growth of 73% in the 16 month interval between surveys.

The report summary highlights the following:

  • 56% of all Americans have accessed the internet by wireless means.
  • Use of the internet on mobile devices has grown sharply from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2009.
  • African Americans are the most active users of the mobile internet – and their use of it is also growing the fastest. This means the digital divide between African Americans and white Americans diminishes when mobile use is taken into account.
  • Broader measures of use of mobile digital resources also show fast growth from the end of 2007 to the beginning of 2009.
  • Other access devices – iPods, game consoles, or e-books – for now play a small role in people’s wireless online habits.
  • When mobile users are away from home or the office, they like mobile access to stay in touch with others, but also to access information on the go.

So what should we make of this?? Given the current trends in mobile, these outcomes are not that surprising; the third one is an interesting one.  With regards to device use, Pew mentions laptops but not netbooks, unless that’s what they mean by e-books. It is also strange to still see them using the word “handheld” which seems very out of place and obsolete in the report. The last finding shows that technology users tend to work across a variety of devices, which reminds me of some of the work we’ve done in ubiquitous computing. And of course it goes to show the power of mobile when we’re, well, mobile.

If only education would take heed just a little more……

Handheld Learning, Day 3, Research Strand

 An overview of the research strand I moderated this morning. We saw and heard about a lot of interesting and innovative projects related to mobile learning.

Mobile Matters

Mark Kramer, Vienna, Austria
Mobile learning foresight: Examining learning now and in the near future.

This presentation mostly focused on the idea that when we look at technology and education, we need to look at broad impacts, and look for example at health and/or social impacts. With regards to learning, technologies allow us to be discursive, flexible, ubiquitous, convenient, everywhere, and adaptive.

Adele Botha, Meraka Institute, South Africa,
Digital literacy for 21st century digital learners

Adele talked about the diversity of her country (including education), and how unrestricted access to technology and information are creating new opportunities but also responsibilities. She sees students who are proficient with technology but tend to be naive. In addition, adults are buying into rules that teenagers make with regards to new technology use. Now more than before, the more virtual you get, the more teens are interacting with and through technology.

The message of this presentation really is that we need to teach kids how to survive in the virtual world [I think this is true anywhere]. Adele compared being in the virtual world to traveling to a different country, and teaching to a guide, not a police officer or immigration official. In both, there are places to go, things to see and do, local customs (think netiquette), what can you take, exchange rates and money, and things to look out for.

Sometimes the two worlds overlap and you get cultural developments, which she dubbed the Silent Revolution, with examples such as the “please call me” culture, the umbrella lady, the mobile tree, and the use of multiple phones and sim cards.

David Cameron, Charles Sturt University, Australia,
Handheld media in the classroom: Transforming practice through drama

A session devoted to the use of drama as a vehicle to engage students in discussions about mobile use (e.g. mobiquette and cyber bullying). David showed a couple of examples, including Mantle of the Expert (simulations, scenarios, what-if situations, with a comparison of drama to video games); an archaeology training unit; and a set-up on Bebo that can be used as a scenario to talk about appropriate use of phones and SMS

The focus here was on engaging students in discussions about technology using technology.


Designing Learning Experiences

Yishay Mor, London Knowledge Lab,
Planet: bringing learning design knowledge to the forefront

Three observations:

1. Acceleration of change
2. Design divide: in design knowledge (need to find ways to share)
3. The void between prophet (too high) and explorer (too low) presentations

Yishay argued for the need to return to design science (Simon, 1969). A detailed description of what design science is and how the Planet project uses stories to create design patterns for problem solving can be found in the presentation slides.

Cathy Lewin, Research Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University
Transforming pedagogical practices with digital learning companions

Cathy Lewin discussed a mobile project at Holywell High School (Wales), an example of a project that puts more technology in schools to enable teachers to do more. The positives here are the headteacher’s vision that the desktop model is not the right one and that there is a need to design effective learning environments, and the involvement of students in choosing the device to be used (Asus eee PC). The project has just started so there were no real results to report, other than the usual list of challenges.

Rhodri Thomas & Keren Mills, Mobile Learner Support, Open University
Mobile Digiquest: Developing rich media reflective practitioners

A presentation that described the digital initiatives at the Open University’s Digilab with rich media on mobile devices and associated professional development, both f2f and online (blended). The presenters stressed the impotance of mobile collaboration tools.

Carl Smith, Developer, Reusable Learning Objects CETL at London Metropolitan University,
Engineering suitable content for context sensitive education and vocational training (CONTSENS)

An overview of projects that allow users to do real research with mobile technology and control data (scroll, zoom, decompose), to let users do stuff, not just look at data on a device. Carl showed lots of cool examples of what is possible today given the increases in scanning, mapping, and capturing our world; reconstructing the world; pattern recognition; and object embedding.

Teaching and Learning

Megan Smith, Leeds Metropolitan University
Our City, Our Music: using mScapes to map new narratives

mScapes is the use of audio/video/text combined with GPS to create and consume content. Our City, Our Music is an initiative that will yield a location-based music album by June 2009. Other successful examples include adventure games, historical guides, and walking tours. Current technology has its limitations; content needs to be preloaded, and the platform is not designed for interactions between multiple devices. Future technology to be added includes RFID, bluetooth, and infra-red.

Suzaan Le Roux, Cape Peninsula University, South Africa,
Implications of utilising mobile handheld devices in teaching undergraduate programming learners in a developing country

According to the abstract:

This research chronicles the results of the investigation into the integration and use of mobile handheld devices as teaching tools in an undergraduate computer programming subject at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa.  This research also explores the wide reaching implications of utilising mobile handheld devices and the possible advantageous alternatives it can provide to traditional classroom-based instruction in teaching predominantly previously disadvantaged computer programming learners in a developing country.  The relevance of mobile handheld devices in teaching programming, its perceived benefits and the potential barriers to its use are discussed.

In this study the experimental group consisted of 55 programming learners who have been provided with personal digital assistants (PDAs) preloaded with the Basic4PPC application for use at university and home.  This enabled and encouraged learners to design and develop mobile applications in the Visual Basic programming language anytime, anywhere without the necessity of a computer.  Learners reported their experiences through interviews and a survey.

The study found that students want access, and that mobile devices enable access, mobility, and the opportunity to learn at your own pace. Issues included screen size, fragility of devices, stylus input, and the perception that the mobile was not a phone. There was some novelty effect, and long-term research is needed to validate current findings.

Jane Lunsford, Researcher and Lead Instructional Designer, Open University
Mobile media and devices to support students at the UKOU

Didn’t get any notes here. From the abstract:

The talk will consider two research projects designed to investigate how the support provided to around 200,000 students at The Open University (UKOU) might be improved and extended with the use of mobile media and devices, to suit a diversity of study needs.  It will then show how these research projects have led to enhancements in the support offered by Student Services.

Susan Jacobson, PhD, Temple University, USA,
Exploring the expressive qualities of the mobile phone in journalism education

Interesting talk about changes in journalism in the US, a class in experimental journalism at Temple, and how mobiles can play a part in news coverage. The examples provided here included the coverage of elections using an election day moblog, combining the use of utterli and a livejournal blog.

Mobiles are being used by journalism students for traditional news stories, live interviews, prerecorded sound bites, and personal reflections (esp. the latter tends to happen more).

Tools experimented with include a standard blog, google maps, a custom db; and now Ning, which seems to work.  

Sign Language over Cell Phones in the U.S.

MobileASL visualization techniques


Following my recent find of “seeing with your ears“, today I ran across some research being done at the University of Washington  that will allow “hearing-impaired users might soon be able to use sign language over a mobile phone, like in Japan or Sweden”. The technology is based on the American Sign Language (ASL):

“The goal of the MobileASL project is to increase accessibility by making the mobile telecommunications network available to the signing Deaf community. Video cell phones enable Deaf users to communicate in their native language, American Sign Language (ASL).”

According to the article, a big obstacle in the U.S. is, not surprisingly, the ability to do two-way video using mobiles. Anyway, another interesting way in which mobile phones will be used in the near future.

Via Golden Swamp and SmartMobs

Image Credit: UW (see the ZDNet article)

PEW/Internet Report on Mobile Access to Data and Information


I ran across the latest two reports by the Pew/Internet and American Life Project today, entitled: Mobile Access to Data and Information. It’s more of a brief than a full-blown report, but interesting nonetheless.  

According to the Pew website, this report describes that:

62% of all Americans are part of a wireless, mobile population that participates in digital activities away from home or work. Not only are young people attuned to this kind of access, African Americans and English-speaking Latinos are more likely than white Americans to use non-voice data applications on their cell phones.

Another insteresting finding in the report is that with the changes in access, there are also changes in how people value their media access tools, with the cell phone now being the most valued one. Nothing really surprising here. However, the report also found that “for the most part, untethered access is not a substitute for online access at home”. For more detailed information about usage patterns by age and ethnicity, take a look at the full report.

While the numbers quoted in the Pew report on mobile data are not really surprising, it was put into a little bit different perspective when reading a non-US response to this report, in this case by Andy Black. He states that 

I have rightly or wrongly always had the opinion that North America and specifically the US was a bit behind us due to variety of factors.

  • complex networks
  • role of free local calls etc etc

This report seems I think to support that view.

Based on what I know about the mobile phone world in the US as compared to the rest of the world (especially Europe and Southeast Asia), I would probably agree with him. However, I would also add that one of the problems with mobile phone use in the US is the fragmentation of networks, i.e. every provider has its own proprietary stuff. Not very conducive to large scale developments in mobile phone technology if you ask me (aside from the contractual hell many companies put you through).

The second Pew piece is a two-page memo entitled Seeding The Cloud: What Mobile Access Means for Usage Patterns and Online ContentIt accompanies the mobile access report. It makes the case that Internet access and usage on mobile phones tends to be less ‘elitist’ (i.e. more affordable for more and a greater variety of people). Consequently,

it is important to recognize that the users in this emerging environment look different than those of the late 1990s desktop era. Groups that have in the past trailed in “traditional” internet access are in a better position to shape cyberspace as the internet becomes more accessible using wireless devices.

This last comment is an important one when we put it within a context of digital technology use in education. An increasing number of students is accessing the Internet from mobile devices, whether it is to access information or upload content to share with a wider audience. Therefore, we need to take a closer look at their usage patterns, and how we can take advantage of those for educational purposes. More importantly, we need to consider what we as educators need to do to make sure that students understand the importance of using this ubiquitous access to information in ways that are constructive, responsible, and safe.

Image Credit: “First land based wireless mobile: 1901”, from abaporu’s photostream: 

Handheld Learning 2007, Day 1, Reflections on Pedagogy, Pat Triggs and Marie Gibbs

Last presentation: LA and CLC projects (Becta funded):

  • 1:1, 24/7 ownership, mobility (home and school).
  • Three primary, two secondary schools

What happened to teachers and students when handhelds entered the classroom?

Making sense of a complex story, and looking for pedagogic shift by looking at very small pieces of learning through analyzing video. The following examples were used:

  • Minibeasts clip (using Wildkey software): were there issues of novelty that increased motivation? Everything in one place, instant availability
  • St Stephen clip (retelling a well-known story), using Sketchy to tell a story in a different way
  • Sketching graphs video (HS science), the teacher let the student struggle with making the graph, never succeeded (autonomy v. success, and the dilemma of where to draw the line)
  • Video about videos on PDAs: there was a clear purpose for using the device, and this worked well


  • Obstacles included contextual constraints, teacher priorities, perceptions, and attitudes
  • Shoehorning the learning into the technology? (i.e. going about it backwards)
  • Potential of devices for learning under-exploited
  • Challenge of linking formal and informal learning (this is a key challenge)
  • What is the technology adding?
  • Implications for professional development (a well-known issue)