Tag Archives: education

Handheld Learning 2009, Day 2:Where Is the Handheld Learning? Part I


Day 2 of Handheld Learning 2009 and the first day of the conference part featured lots of speakers. Funny (or ironic) part, there wasn’t a whole lot of talk about mobile or handheld learning, as the session titles indicate (Reflections on Learning, Creativity and Innovation, Games for Learning, Social Media for Learning). Maybe a sign of things to come??

Reflections on Learning

In any event, judging from the lively twitter feed, especially in the morning, opinions related to this trend were divided. Some people wanted to see more mobile learning stuff, others thought that the keynotes were provocative and forced the audience to think outside of the box. I would tend to agree with the latter, although at least some references to mobile learning would have been helpful (if you want to see any of the morning keynotes, please go here).

The keynotes kicked of with Zenna Atkins, the chair person of Ofsted, who talked about the current status of schools and technology in the UK to some extent and argued that change is needed and needs to be consumer-driven. She mentioned that mobile technologies are becoming increasingly important in schools, but not necessarily in ways intended. She mentioned that in some cases, camera phones were used by students to capture bad teaching. In addition, Like doctors, teachers will soon have pupils knowing more about outcomes/paths of their education, as some are looking up curriculum online and calling on teachers on not covering certain objectives. This consumer revolution in education will be about content, context, and how to get access. I still have some questions about what her vision would look like in reality and how it would be funded, as current educational structures and funding schemes most likely would not work.

Atkins was followed by Malcom McLaren, who admitted that he was speaking at a conference that was definitely not in his comfort zone, and proceeded by telling the audience his schooling/educational experiences, in rather colorful language. He talked about how Britain is broken, and its culture is failing many, by saying how too much of it supports the notion that it is cool to be stupid (karaoke culture), at least in the Anglo-Saxon world. In addition, he argued that failure and struggle are important to succeed. As far as the role of technology is concerned in all of this, McLaren said it was just a tool; don’t become a slave to it. Don’t let it replace experiencing the world.

Next up was Yvonne Roberts from the Young Foundation, who also talked (well, sort of rambled) about failure and grit, but said she sees Britain not as broken but as bursting with potential. She emphasized the importance of stories, and expressed the hope that testing and standards don’t drive out inquiry and children’s inquisitive nature. With regards to technology use for learning, Rogers disagreed with McLaren, calling it an ingredient, not a tool. She noted that research says that the best ratio of kids to computers is 2:1. She did not cite any research, but Yvonne Rogers made the same argument in Mobile technology for children: Designing for interaction and learning. How substantial the evidence is for this argument I do not know, but to some extent there is something to say for children collaborating face-to-face using digital tools, although I can think of plenty of examples where 1:1 ratios work well also. It all depends on the teacher and the pedagogy, not on the technology. Many in the audience disagreed with her arguments for 2:1 ratios.

The morning keynotes ended with a good talk by James Paul Gee, who discussed that video games have qualities to enhance learning that are based on solid educational research, and that formal education does not. He made the case that we learn by using experiences within which we can develop thoughts and understanding about concepts and ideas (situated meaning). He used the analogy that learning in school is like reading the manual to a video game without having seen the game, i.e. learning in school is learning devoid of context. Outside of school, kids are learning much more complicated things because something is at stake, e.g. when playing or modding video games or games like Yu-gi-oh. Gee emphasized the importance of passion and persistence. You learn if you’re passionate about something, but you can only become good at it if you put in the time (10,000 hours).

In sum, themes of the morning key notes seemed to be the importance of struggle and failure, and how current educational systems are not providing students with learning that is relevant, authentic, and motivating. Students need to be passionate and persistent about their learning, but it will not be easy to get to that point. In this regard, the key notes left some big questions unanswered;

  • Technology can motivate students to learn, but how do you turn motivation into passion? (and 10,000 hours of persistence?)
  • What are viable alternatives to current educational systems, what would they look like, and how would they be funded?
  • How would we prepare pre-service and in-service teachers for such a system?
  • What roles can mobile technologies play? For example, nobody, except maybe for Gee, discussed the role/importance of learning outside of school.

All in all, the morning was interesting and thought-provoking, and while not really providing concrete solutions, it left much food for thought.


To Touch or Not to Touch….


Personally, I think the iPod Touch has great potential for teaching and learning, both inside of school and out, and I really like the interface quite a bit. There is something about the tactile manipulating content on the screen with your fingers as opposed to having to use a mouse, stylus, or other input device (Think manipulating the world in Google Earth on a Smartboard with your hands. If you haven’t tried that, you should, it’s pretty cool).

I started by looking up some information about pilot projects at other education sites, and came up with (among the 174,000 hits I got off of Google):

Shepparton High School in central Victoria in Australia : where students used the devices for a variety of things. The most interesting quote from the short article is this one by the project’s lead teacher: “We assume that 14-year-olds are really technologically savvy, but they’re often not.” I think we tend to forget that. Here is also a discusson about a small iPod Touch project at another school in Australia.

Abilene Christian’s ACU Connected Project:  I blogged about this one extensively last week, when I saw their stuff at the Mobile Learning 09 Conference in Washington DC. They’ve done quite a bit in a short period of time, and I’m waiting to see what material they will be posting online from their own conference. I like what they are doing with the iPhone and iPod Touch with regards to communication with students, but I think that what they are doing is much more difficult to achieve in a K-12 environment, especially given the current hesitancy in K-12 for using any technology that allows students to communicate with each other and others outside of school.

In, “An iPod Touch for each student?”, there is discussion of Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill, NC getting iPod Touches. The story is accompanied by  some cautionary commentary by E.D. Hirsch (“”Technique and how-to ideas have taken the place of deciding what it is, exactly, we want these children to learn”) and a few other schools where the device are being used already. This project did get off the ground. Interesting quote from the Business Week article was made by AVID coordinator Chuck Hennessee who said

one of the only negatives he has seen so far with the program is that students sometimes would rather use the iPods than work with each other. But he said that can be a plus, too, because it cultivates independence.”

Other than that, the project seems to be going well.

Some additional interesting sources include:

Tony Vincent has a section devoted to the iPod Touch on his Learning in Hand site.

Kathy Schrock wrote  a short series of posts on her experiments with an iPod Touch (lots of good info here, exactly the type of stuff I was looking for)

Chris Webb’s post,  “Why an iPod Touch in Education?”  with a list of apps and some additional pertinent information.

An iPod Touch in Every Classroom by Kelly Croy, from Wes Fryer’s blog. Lots of odds and ends here.

And of course Apple’s Mobile Learning page,  and iTouch pages.

And that’s just the beginning. It remains to be seen (just like with any other “new” and “disruptive” technology) how quickly the iPod Touches will be adopted in K-12 and on what kind of scale. As I’ve said many times before, schools really need to start a serious discussion about how to integrate the use of student owned devices in the classroom, as it provides opportunities for learning that we currently do not really have (e.g. students in most mobile projects only have access to a device for a limited period of time, e.g. one year, and often only in school). Of course this type of implementation brings about a host of other issues, but that’s for another post …

Image Credit: “Touched” from littledan77’s photostream:

One Laptop One Child: How About Having Kids Bring Their Own?


That’s the title of a recent article on Scholastic.com, and it’s an interesting one. According to the article,

Across the country, the same question is being considered. The idea of having 1:1 computing in schools has turned from if to when, and while the last great hurdles remain price and sustainability, more and more administrators are wondering if the answer isn’t already in their students’  backpacks and bedrooms.

Definitely a valid question to ask, and I agree with the article that this is more of an issue of when rather than if. Also,  when considering that many schools or districts cannot afford to start, let alone sustain, a 1 to 1 technology project, regardless of the device, it is good to see that some educators are actually beginning to consider the possibility that students could bring in their own devices, and not just laptops.  In fact, while most of the Scholastic article deals with the implementation of laptops brought in by students, the ending is the most telling:

Pennsylvania’s Murray already sees  students shying away from laptops because of the weight of carrying them around. “It’s much more likely in a few years all students will have their own smartphones,” he says.

The mini computers that are popping up with smaller form factors might become the next big player in the K–12 space, he says. Forsyth has even looked into using Sony Playstation handhelds in class, noting that they have a “decent Web browser.”
“We want to support whatever kids bring in,” he adds.

And I don’t think it’s just the weight and size of laptops that are causing this attitude in students. There are also the differences in cost, accessibility of the technology (as in, no need to wait minutes for my laptop to boot up), and tool-to-use fit (i.e. no overload of unnecessary bells and whistles).

As the article states, there are many hurdles to be overcome to make this all work, but the fact that it is being considered at all is a giant step forward (and as a final note, I commend the parents who went to their local school board and “asked the board why their son couldn’t connect to the network that they as taxpayers helped pay for,” with a laptop brought from home).

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts…

Image credit: “Nigeria wide banner”, from One Laptop Per Child’s photostream:

Mobile Learning 2009 in Barcelona

I won’t be able to go to this one, but I’ve heard it’s a good conference:
Barcelona, Spain, 26 to 28 February 2009
* Conference background and goals
User Created Content & Mobile Technologies: From Consumers to Creators bypassing the Learning opportunity?

Over the past three years Mobile and Social technologies have featured strongly in the Horizon Report series which examines emerging technologies likely to have an impact on teaching, learning. Mobile devices have progressed from an adoption projection of two to three years in 2006, to a much more imminent adoption prediction trajectory of a year or less in 2008. Whether earlier the educational value of mobile technologies was thought to be delivery of content to people’s devices, the emphasis now has clearing changed to focus on their capabilities that enable users creating and sharing content.    

The ‘former audience’ combines traditional activities such as searching, reading, watching and listening, with producing, commenting, sharing, and classifying its own content. New genres of filmmaking and photography where the message gains ground over the form are developing. The proliferation of user-created content is fuelled by the wide availability of at-hand mundane technology such as mobile telephones, and the wider broadcasting outlets. These are mainly web-based however increasingly user-created content such as videos of breaking news stories feature in traditional broadcasting channels as for instance television.
The increasing range of web 2.0 and mundane technology choices, facilitating the development of user-created content and providing opportunities to meet and collaborate, offers immense potential for teaching and learning. However, the danger remains that the transition from consumer to creator might miss the learning opportunity. Topics

The IADIS Mobile Learning 2009 International Conference seeks to provide a forum for the discussion and presentation of mobile learning research. In particular, but not exclusively, we aim to explore the transition from content consumer to content creator in experiences that take advantage of the learning opportunities this provides.


• Pedagogical approaches and theories for mLearning
• Collaborative, cooperative, and Contextual mLearning
• Creativity and mLearning
• Gaming and simulations in mLearning
• mLearning in educational institutions: primary, secondary and third level
• Informal and Lifelong mLearning  
• New tools, technologies, and platforms for mLearning
• User Studies in mLearning
• The social phenomenon of mobile devices and mLearning
• mLearning in developing countries
• Speculative ideas in mLearning: where next?

An iPod Touch for Each Student?

Stack of iPod Touches by The Pug Father.

About a week old, but still an interesting story about a roll-out of iPod Touch devices at a middle school in Chapel Hill, NC. While the article does not specifically state what the iPods will be used for, the principal has this to say:

“It’s a world we better figure out, because we can’t ask our students to come into a classroom, put those things aside and sit in a row and think we’re interesting,” she said.

“We’re just not that interesting.”

Of course there is the usual talk about technology being used as a tool to serve student learning, etc. etc. There is an interesting example at the end of the article about a school in Idaho that banned iPods because they were supposedly used for cheating. Is it just me or maybe we should be looking at new forms of assessment instead of falling back upon the usual ban and punish tactics?

And of course don’t forget to read the comments to the story, always enlightening…

Image Credit: “Stack of iPod Touches”, the Pug Father’s photostream,

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; http://schoolmessenger.com

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

Telephone part

http://jott.com: 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.

http://Gcast.com: 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, History.com, 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: