Tag Archives: handheld

Handheld Learning 2008, Day 2, danah boyd

Presentation streamed to qik

Learning in a networked world: we see

1. new technology as the devil incarnate
2. new technology as a panacea

Reality is much more nuanced. Why should we use technology in the classroom and run the risk of failure? Education is about teaching young children to think, but sometimes we get lazy because of standards and testing [true?? Not sure I completely agree here. I think sometimes teachers’ hands are tied].

New technologies are not good or bad on their own, but how they are being used [but technology is not neutral!!]. We need to figure out how to incorporate it effectively into the educational system.

Technology is fundamentally rupturing many aspects of everyday life: networking. It is part of everyday life (a la Wade Roush)

Educators have two immediate responsibilities:

1. know what technologies are out there, who uses them, how they are being used, esp. unexpected uses.
2. teach  how to use technology to understand the world around us. Need to understand how technology is rupturing our lives as we know them.

Learn from young people about the technology.

Social network sites: place where people go online to participate in their social network online (v. social networking = f2f).
1. profile (i.e. a decorated IP address, a digital being online. Putting forth your best foot, and thinking about your audience. Writing profile for yourself and your friends. Originates in bedroom culture: decorate your room to show off who you are).
2. Friends: three clusters: 30-40 friends; couple 100 people (broader peer group); collectors (as many as possible -> mostly adults). Friends are a person’s audience. Friending is socially awkward.
3. Comments/wall/testimonials: space of conversation in complement to other communication tools. Need to look at it as a form of public social rooming, not as just text. It’s social upkeep.

Vast majority of time spent is completely social, keeping up relationships, having fun. Place to hang out online, esp. when considering kids are often constrained to home (parent restrictions, overscheduling kids, a la USA Today article).

Properties and dynamics of sites need to be understood to see if they are appropriate for use, as well as work with kids as to whether they should be using these sites:

1. Persistence: digital trace. What you put online stays there. You have to deal with this.
2. Replicability: making something private public; can lead to cyber bullying (are you dealing with an original or an altered copy? What are complications, repercussions)
3. Scalability: potential for … Avg. blog is read by 6 people. Unexpected scalability and visibility.
4. Searchability: young people are searchable by the people who hold power over them.

Dynamics of four properties:

  • Invisible audiences and how you deal with this.
  • Collapsed contexts of time and space online
  • Convergence of public and private (public is what parents control, private is what youth controls).
  • How are public and private being decoupled from space and time

Importance to teach kids this stuff. Kids learn the coping strategies and social techniques. Adults should help guide this learning process.

Need to understand the properties of the technologies, what they do, and what the implications are of putting them in a classroom situation. You could rupture all sorts of social structures.

Some tools are easier to implement than others (e.g. Ning).

All the social networking stuff is starting to go mobile. Within two years they should all be mobile (like search went mobile): result: more social technology.

What are the mobile properties we care about. They have all of the social media properties with an added notion of (de)locatability. You can be anywhere and be connected (as opposed to having to be in front of a computer). So how do you educate for that?

Learning outside of the classroom (access to info anywhere).

E.g. Wikipedia: most transparent information available (discussion and history). Good teaching tool because you can’t take information for granted. Wikipedia can be used as a tool to show how information is created, what the biases are.

Need to teach a literacy of the world, teach about the structures around us and how to think critically. Goes beyond traditional and media literacy.



Image Credit: My camera

Handheld Learning, Day 2, Early Stuff and Andrew Pinder

Day two of Handheld Learning started with a breakfast meeting in which I saw presentations about three handheld implementations in the UK:
Mobile Learning – Trends & Vision
Dave Whyley, Headteacher & E-Learning Consultant, Wolverhampton Local Authority
Plans and Aspirations for Handheld Learning
Alissa Ozouf, Teaching and Learning Consultant – Primary ICT, Luton Local Authority
Handheld Learning at Thomlinson School
Jari Mielonen, CEO, SANAKO Corporation

The main points I took away from this session were:

  • the importance of reliable, wireless connectivity;
  • the importance of getting administrators and teachers to think differently about using technology, to get from the computer lab model to a more flexible, mobile model.


At the conference itself, Andrew Pinder opened the keynotes. He stated that Becta is about bringing about change, because we know it works (with regards to technology and educational outcomes). If you use technology appropriately and effectively and it’s in the hands of the right people you can improve student achievement both in k-12 and higher ed (increases retention at the latter level). Therefore, he called for technology to be used more widely.

Today’s learners are demanding more technology be used in education. Schools are often the only place where they don’t use technology effectively. Many students have better technology at home. 95% of new jobs require the use of technology, and the number of unschooled jobs is dwindling fast. Need to use technology to teach kids! (this situation is very similar to that in the U.S.).

He also said it’s importance to convince teachers that tech works, that they shouldn’t be afraid of it, and convince learners and parents to demand it from schools: Next Generation Learning Campaign. Home access is part of that. So no more: “no homework with tech because kids don’t have access.” About 1 million learners have no access to the Internet in the UK. Spend 350 mil pounds to deal with this problem.

Home access to internet through some kind of voucher system, access does not have to be through a PC, a screen is all that is needed, e.g. maybe a mobile phone. Becta is asking for help and ideas for packages that will work. The focus should be on proper education outcomes.

The plan is to go from 15-20% of schools using tech effectively to 80% over the next couple of years. There is a place for mobile technology as a component of that.

Question: What about collaboration with other countries?

Pinder: we’re trying to gather knowledge from around the world, and we want to work with people around the world. Worldwide conference before BETT, 70 countries so far.

Question: what outcomes will you measure? Also, aren’t you talking about last generation teaching v. next generation learning?

Yes, it’s a teacher problem. It’s an issue of not always having reliable technology and of teachers giving up control to students. There is also a need to improve the infrastructure, as teachers get nervous about this stuff because they won’t know if the technology is going to work. Most young people use some technology very effectively [for what?] but they don’t know how to use it in an educational context. They need help to separate the wheat from the chaff. Parents: 10-15% support kids in their technology needs, but there is a big learning gap. What should parents expect from the education system in order to be able to support kids effectively at home?

Image Credit: My camera

Handheld Learning, Day 1 (Next Generation Learning Session)

I’m currently at Handheld Learning 2008 in the Brewery in London. So far it’s been good, waiting for the first session to start here shortly); I’ve already talked to a lot of people, some I know well and some I hadn’t (this just goes to show that there is more to a conference than sessions alone. The networking is very important as well).

Presented by Andy Black from Becta and Next Generation Learning, this session is a collection of presentations about “how to use technology well to make learning a more exciting, rewarding, and successful experience for people of all ages and abilities. I’m live blogging this session, so apologies in advance for any typos etc….

Andy: Seven presentations to make you think about learning. It’s not about mobile learning, it’s about the learning that’s mobile.

Andrew Davis from Clunbury CE (Aided) School Shropshire

Started off by showing a brief video made by students about learning with technology. It’s a rural school, so ICT is very important to connect to the rest to the world. Discussed the use of Nintendo DS’s in school and how he asked the kids how they could the DS’s:

  • to develop math skills
  • cooking skills
  • communication
  • memory skills
  • link the DS’s together

Or, in Davis’s words: engagement, fun, collaborative learning, competition, instant feedback, assessment. This was followed by some examples of use in math, used when appropriate.

Blogging to communicate with the outside world, literacy practice and feedback for writing (other students, parents; three stars and a wish).

Nicholas Hughes: Robots in KS2 (Nightingale Primary School)

Talked about the use of robots in education, and programming them. Started by experimenting and recording what they found out. Students worked together to talk and question (overcame language barriers for one student). After three weeks students started using GoRobo to control the robot and make it do things (“can you make him wave? Can you make him dance”). Showed a video to sum up the overall project.

Engagement and getting students to think and to question what they do and how they did it. Kids learned about control technology and had fun while doing it.

Gavin Hawkins (Wolverhampton LA): SynchronEyes at Stow Heath Junior School)

PDAs in schools since 2002. Involved in Learning2Go. Project grew to 200+, with 24/7 access to kids. The latter is important, and an underlying philosophy of the project. Providing content and applications, connectivity. Showed video of a day in the life of learners using mobiles in Wolverhampton (saw this video at NECC as well), with a range of examples, esp. for visual learning, including mindmapping, drawing concepts. Showed examples inside and outside of the classroom, including homework.

It’s the seamless use of the technology that really stands out here, as well as the integration into an existing school-tech infrastructure. Hooking up the handhelds to a whiteboard used as an example (using Dotpocket and My Mobiler). Then worked with Smart to develop software to show multiple handhelds, enable communication between device, laptop, and desktop, collaboration, distribute and collect files, and assessment: SynchronEyes. Number of handhelds you can use at once depends on the strength of your wifi.

Willington CE Primary School Co. Durham (Alison Richardson and Victoria Suddes)

Use of ICT and electronic assessment.

  • Electronic flying start assessment with linked evidence (children’s work, informal observations, formal observations, and photographs.
  • electronic portfolio
  • missed the third step here

Use of permanent laptops for student work, sent to network, assessed, sent back to child. Child then improves work based on comments. Works better electronically than on paper. Then showed examples of doing this, e.g. track changes in Word, Publisher, PowerPoint…

Use of stranded sheets for science, ICT, and narrative writing (they basically look like rubrics, linked to evidence, “literally just a click away”), i.e. combined into an electronic portfolio. Showed example of a claymation on the foodchain, used as evidence of learning. Are now working on making the assessment system avaible outside of school.

Matt Buxton, Djanogly City Academy, Nottingham

Plan for ICT in a “fit for purpose” curriculum with innovative ICT embedded into the planning. (anytime, anywhere, ubiquitous, independent, personalized (buzzwords, anyone?). Curriculum model is underpinned by embedded and innovative ICT. Design tasks that lend themselves to real world learning, based on a model from Queensland, New Basics: recognition of difference, supportive classroom environment, connectedness, and intellectual quality.

Connectedness: students engaging with real, practical, or hypothetical problems which connect to the world beyond the classroom (i.e. mobility too!!): learning gateway, computers for students (tablets, Q1s), wireless (wifi and wimax).

Examples of learning: oral histories, British national identity documentaries, International trade montages, etc.

Bristol – Hand e Learning  (Henbury Secondary School)

1:1 handhelds, 24/7 (both hw and www access), using Q1

Parents involved through e-Learning Foundation grants

Teacher training before students receive tech.

Video example of student interview: student talked about interactivity with teacher using the handheld, as well as using it when appropriate.

What did we do?

  • Connectivity (wireless, monitoring and filtering of connections)
  • Leadership
  • Pedagogical support
  • Parent financial contributions

Trying to minimize the things that can go wrong for a teacher, i.e. go simple.

Showed examples of activities: contextualizing literature – guided research; Image Blast, understanding poetry before reading; Video stars – building confidence and skills; Talk Wall – asynchronous tool to ask questions and get student answers that can be organized and turned into a text file.


Andy finished up by discussing how powerful all of the different tools presented can be. However, all of it should be supported by good teaching.

Image Credit: My camera

Handheld Learning 2008 Program Now Live


The program for the Handheld Learning 2008 Conference is now live, with an impressive line-up of speakers and events. I’ve only been able to skim it so far, but it looks great! Make sure to go back and visit from time to time as the program is still being updated.

I’m looking forward to participating again this year, and it’s less than two weeks away. I’ll be doing one presentation on a mobile phone project we’ve been working on and will chair the research strand on Wednesday, Oct. 15.

Image Credit: Handheld Learning,

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: