Category Archives: Student Voices

Regulating Content on/in Student Owned Tools: Where Do We Draw the Line?


Librarian completely disregarding his own "no mobiles" sign by hugovk.

Regulation of content on student-owned digital tools (whether hardware or online) by school authorities has been an ongoing debate for a while now (see for example this post  or this article I wrote about a year and a half ago). Where do we draw the line? The issue has become even stickier when it comes to student-created content outside of school that has nothing to do with learning, but could be considered immoral, illegal, or unethical. Often, this content will make its way to students, teachers, and/or administrators and have substantial consequences, such as in the case of a student in North Carolina who was suspended for 10 days for posting an altered picture of his school’s assistant principal on MySpace (Student Press Law Center); or a 2005 incident in which school officials of the Northside School District in San Antonio, TX considered holding MySpace responsible for unrest caused at a high school after several students posted threatening messages on the Web site.

Now this discussion has become even more heated with regards to the use of student-owned mobile phones for learning. According to a post by Tony Twiss on the Upwardly Mobile Blog:

Something that a number of students involved in focus groups I have conducted has been students questioning whether or not their phones would become regulated if they were to be used for school.  They are talking about the personal content on their phones – and while none have specifically mentioned pornography, an example of offensive content such as racist images was given.

So – debates about what is and isn’t acceptable on a person’s private property that is being used for school will really start to heat up as the walls come down and cellphones creep in to schools. However, I think this is healthy.

Obviously this debate will not be limited to mobile phones as more digital tools make their way into schools, especially web-based ones.

Image Credit: “Librarian completely disregarding his own “no mobiles” sign”, from hugovk’s photostream:

Doodle 4 Google

I’ve always been fascinated by the Google Doodles that’ll show up on the Google home page on a regular basis. Today, the winner of the Doodle 4 Google contest is being shown. I think it’s pretty cool that Google had this contest.

To learn more about Google’s Doodles, you can learn about Google’s doodler, Dennis Hwang, here (how cool a job is that!). And if you want to see more examples of Google’s popular images, a quick web search (yes, using Google) will bring up plenty of them.

And of course, congratulations to Grace Moon, the winner, as well as all of the other finalists and participants. There were lots and lots of creative and interesting entries.

Image Credit: Grace Moon, Canyon Middle School Castro Valley, CA, at

Mobile Roundup of Sorts

 As I’m trying to get caught up on my reading about mobiles and mobile learning, I run into all kinds of interesting odds and ends. Here is a brief roundup of some of the things I’ve been looking at lately:


WLE’s occasional papers #1 Mobile learning: Towards a research agenda“. Edited by Norbert Pachler, this is an interesting collection of six papers, all arguing for the need for more theoretical work in the field of m-learning (and I would concur). Some work is being done, as is illustrated, example, by Wali, Winters, Oliver (“Maintaining, changing and crossing contexts: an activity theoretic reinterpretation of mobile learning” in the March 2008 issue of Alt-J; abstract is here), and earlier by Uden (“Activity theory for designing mobile learning” in the International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation), and of course “A theory of learning for the mobile age“, written by Sharples, Taylor, and Vavoula for the The SAGE Handbook of E-learning Research

Research Methods in Informal and Mobile Learning is a book of proceedings from a December workshop, consisting of 15 papers that explore how me might go about doing better research in the area of mobile learning. I’m still reading this one, but so far it’s been an interesting and I think important piece. I’ve always believed that as learning (and learners) changes so should our ways of researching it. I’m proud to say that even though I wasn’t able to attend the conference myself, I did contribute a presentation and a paper.

This is not so much a publication as it is a good resource for many things having to do with mobile and learning: mLearnopedia. I’m surprised I haven’t run across this before, trawling the net for mobile learning resources. This is a worthwhile resource, with lots of links to current news and events in mobile learning.

Mobile phones for learning

A while ago, Dean Shareski wrote an intersting post about using cellphones as learning tools with an accompanying video, describing an experiment with mobile phones to see  “Can this powerful device help students learn?” The answer for now is a qualified yes, I would say.

Here is a more recent article from eSchoolNews that discusses how institutions of higher education are responding to the iPhone’s popularity. While it is great that different institutions are beginning to cater more to mobile users, I think there is a real danger in what some institutions like Abilene Christian University are doing by focusing on one particular device. It’s the connectivity that counts, not the device that’s used for it, and who knows, we may laugh at the site of an iPhone in 3 to 5 years… As I’ve said before, the focus should be on providing content.

A whole other take on learning with mobile phones is described by Ken Banks, founder of, in his article “Reaching out through mobile technology with the humble SMS” Looking at the bigger picture of things, Ken describes some of his work with mobile technology in Africa. He argues that the three keys constraints to advancing mLearning in developing countries (and I’d add elsewhere as well) are mobile ownership, mobile technology, and network access. These are probably more constraining in developing countries because of a lack of alternative technologies (as for example is described in Dean’s piece).

However, as Ken Banks concludes:

Mobile technology has revolutionised many aspects of life in the developing world. The number of mobile connections has almost universally overtaken the number of fixed-lines in most developing countries in the blink of an eye. If further evidence were needed, recent research by the London Business School found that mobile penetration has a strong impact on GDP. For many people, their first ever telephone call would have been on a mobile device. Perhaps, in the not-too-distant future, their first geography lesson will be on one, too.

Student voices

Via Andy’s Black Hole, I ran across this video on BBC News, called Children’s love of mobiles. It’s about a group of kids in the UK who filmed the making of their video report about mobile phone use. As Andy says, it’s well worth a watch.

Another interesting piece is Next generation learning, produced by Handheld Learning for Becta. The video is a nice mix of children and adults speaking about  the use of consumer electronic devices and entertainment software for learning. A few notable quotes out of this one:

  • “I don’t think there’s a big difference between learning and entertainment” (student) 
  • “We need good teachers to keep up with this generation” (Prof. Stephen Heppell)

And while you’re on Handheld Learning’s Blip TV site, check out some of the other videos that are there.

Padding to protect pedestrians ...

Finally, for the funny story of the week, head over to Fox News for its story “Padded Lampposts Tested in London to Prevent Cell Phone Texting Injuries” and PollyPrissyPants comments entitled “Why don’t we just walk around in protective bubble gear?” Even though this story is a couple of weeks old, it was too good to pass up.

So there you have it, as the title of this post states, a mobile roundup of sorts…

Image Credits:

“The Brawley Roundup”; from independentman’s photostream:

“Padding to protect pedestrians” from

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 …

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.

NECC, Day 4, Mobile Research Paper Session


Alexiou-Ray, Jennifer: ‘Handheld Use in a Elementary Classroom: Student and Parental Perceptions’. I’m live blogging my co-presenter’s paper here. An overview and link to the full paper can be found here: (my comments in ALL CAPS)

Wanted a 1-to-1 computing model that was cost effective. There is little evidence of effects of handhelds on learning (WHAT KINDS OF EFFECTS??). Also focused on parent reactions to handhelds (INTERESTING, NOT DONE MUCH IN RESEARCH).

Purpose: assessed student and parent perceptions toward the use of handhelds.

Research Questions:

  • Does daily access to handhelds affect student attitudes toward technology?

  • Does it affect student views toward the learning process?

  • How do parents perceive the impact of 1-to-1 computing on student learning?

Fourth and fifth grade students and parents in district in Southeast US with a convenience sample in a fairly affluent area (case study, no experimental grouping, mixed methods).


  • teacher integrated handhelds daily

  • surveys (Computer Attitude Questionnaire; Parental Perception Questionnaire (both adapted from existing), interviews, focus group.

Findings I:

  • High computer and www use at home already.

  • Reliability for the surveys pretty decent, 0.71 and up.

  • Focus group: differences from “traditional” technology; favorite (Sketchy) and least favorite activities; problems encountered (talked about this a lot)

  • No significant differences pre-post in computer importance or enjoyment.

  • Survey: paired comparisons: would rather use computers more than other things such as reading a book, writing, or watching TV.

Findings II:


  • Changes to student learning (MORE MOTIVATION TO LEARN)

  • No significant diffs in quantitative data

Findings III:

  • Didn’t see parent perception changes in student anxiety, computer enjoyment and importance, motivation, or study habits.

  • There was turnover in the school that might have influenced parent answers.

Implications for student learning: students like learning with handhelds, but it didn’t affect their views on computers (handhelds just an added bonus?). Changes to the classroom environment (more project-based). Traditional versus technology instruction. Disadvantages of handhelds.

Future research:

Multiple classes over a long period of time; schools with less access to other technology; qualitative and incremental data from parents; more teachers, larger sample. Handhelds to go home with students (WOW, THEY DIDN’T GO HOME!!! THAT’S A BIG ONE!!).

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and my paper and powerpoint
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Pay Attention!


Following Karl Fisch’s series of presentations that have fostered a lot of discussion (see e.g. Karl’s blog), Darren Draper ( Technology Curriculum Specialist in the Jordan School District in Utah) has come up with “Pay Attention” and an accompanying list of resources. Much has already been written about this video, as it has circulated on the web for about a month now (that tells you how far behind in my reading I am!).

Karl Fisch calls it a “conversation starter”, Vicki Davis calls it “powerful and amazing”, etc., etc.

The thing that really caught my eye were a couple of very small parts of the presentation, namely student comments:

We have learned to ‘play school’. We study the right facts the night before the test so we achieve a passing grade and thus become a successful student. 

I’m not attention deficit, I’m just not listening (and we wonder why!!)

When I go to school I have to power down.

I really like this last one as it speaks volumes about what kids are capable of and what we do with them in formal educational settings. Kids want to learn, kids love technology and it’s an essential part of their lives (another student quote from the video: “When you lose your mobile, you lose part of your brain”).  How hard is it to put the two together? Or to put it in Darren’s words, Since most of today’s students can appropriately be labeled as “Digital Learners”, why do so many teachers refuse to enter the digital age with their teaching practices?

I think a lot of it still has to do with issues of control and fear, as I’ve discussed in my recent Innovate article (open content, but free registration required), David Warlick talked about in his post “Fear & Death! Fear & Death!”, and is a focus of danah boyd’s research. I will be hosting a webcast on this very subject on May 8, 2007, 12 PM EST. If you’d like to talk about this some, please join me then.

Image Credit: “Warning! New Stop Sign Ahead”. laffy4k’s photostream: