University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science going Mobile

13 09 2010

From next year, the University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science will be moving towards mobile delivery, with all first-year students provided with iPads, and textbooks replaced by digital materials.  They will be the first Australian University to begin delivering in this way, and this is the first step towards an overhaul of their teaching strategies, including moving to fully online delivery of first-year Science courses from 2012, according to Professor Bob Hill, Executive Dean of the Faculty. To help ensure that teaching materials and activities are compatible with the iPads, teaching staff will also be receiving the devices.

iPad in use

I have a modicum of skepticism about some aspects of this planned course of action, however.  Firstly, the focus on iPads might force thinking around mobile learning into a iPad-shaped box, rather than encouraging the development of mobile learning activities and resources to suit a wider range of devices.  This is already apparent in the kinds of materials they describe as being prepared for their iPads:

“The aim is to transfer all learning content to an electronic version which includes many currently printed textbooks for first-year students sometime in 2012.”

Aaargh.  Transferring learning content to computers, including textbooks, does not equate to e-learning.  Transferring learning content to mobile devices is unlikely to result in quality mobile learning.  The REAL task here should be to develop new learning activities and resources that target the required learning outcomes and utilise the affordances of mobile devices, rather than thinking that an electronic textbook on an iPad is somehow better that a paper-based textbook.  Instead, the focus appears to be on the *delivery* of content, rather than ways in which students can interact with, and create on, iPads:

“The online material will take a variety of forms with students being able to access lecture notes, audio, background documents and textbooks through tailored web-based apps. This is in addition to all the student services currently available through the MyUni website such as timetabling, video downloads, slides and email.”

THERE IS NOTHING NEW or innovative about ANY of those content sources or activities.  All that’s happening is that they’re being displayed on a shiny new device, instead of a laptop or a desktop computer, and they’re accessed through “app” buttons.  Contrast that philosophy with a learner-centric pedagogical model in which learning activities are developed that use key affordances of the iPad: for example, designing activities where students annotate or complete worksheets or experiments using an app like Noterize; or focusing on using mobile devices equipped with cameras to document science experiments or field trips using blogs, images, and video.

I hope the University of Adelaide will take time to consider how learning with technology is much more than learning ON technology.  A successful mobile learning strategy requires working with the inherant strengths and limitations of mobile devices to enhance learning and engagement – not just trying to do the same thing as before with the new tool!





iPad Apps for Visual Creativity

12 08 2010

There’s a pretty decent post over at the AppStorm blog, which has posted its reviews for the “30 Essential iPad Apps for Designers and Creatives“.

Adobe Ideas 1.0 for iPad

Adobe Ideas 1.0 for iPad (a free app on the iTunes Store)

While I’m not a massive Apple fanboy, as a graphic designer who has extensively used Wacom graphics tablets for digital sketching and drawing, I can certainly see the advantages of doing freehand creative sketching and drawing using a device like the iPad.  As an educator, I’m also a big fan of “student-created content” for learning – the idea that when students create things, they learn from that experience.  The apps described in this article are great for designing charts, diagrams, graphics, illustrations, images… and more.  All of these creative affordances of the iPad (combined with these apps) could be used to support a myriad of learning activities.





The iPad and its impact on m-learning.

23 02 2010

I’ve been engrossed in an article on the tech blog Gizmodo this morning, which reveals that Dr. Alan Kay made the following quote about the iPhone when it was launched:

Make it 5 inches by 8 inches and youll rule the world.

"Make the screen 5 inches by 8 inches and you'll rule the world".

I’ve written several posts about Dr Alan Kay in the past, but to summarise, Dr Kay is one of the greatest minds in the history of computer science. He predicted (and invented) mobile computing, the windowed GUI, and was a pioneer of object oriented programming and social constructivist learning.  And a large proportion of his work was in pursuit of a computing device to support learning – he is indisputably the first person to research and develop digital m-learning, and was involved with much of the design of the OLPC.

Dr Alan Kay’s prediction that a large, multitouch tablet will be an incredibly popular device must therefore, I think, be read in the context of his life’s work.  I believe that he sees significant potential for a device like this to make a powerful impact on the way students learn both formally and outside the classroom (Dr Kay was also an early proponent of “informal learning” – since the 1970s).

Kay’s prediction for the iPad’s success is further supported by the work of another luminary in the computing world, Jef Raskin, whose work pointed to a simple, easy-to-use “information appliance” as having the most chance of success: a computer as easy to use as a toaster.  The iPhone was a significant milestone towards that goal – and some believe the iPad will advance it even further.

When a pioneer of computing and mobile learning makes a prediction like this about the iPad, it is worthwhile taking note.





Report: Sydney AUC iPhone SDK Workshop

1 02 2010

There has been considerable activity at the University of Canberra with the implementation of Apple-based systems for supporting teaching and learning.  With the University installing a new lecture recording system, staff here in the Teaching & Learning Centre have been focused on ways to optimise the capture, editing, and delivery of videos from all sources (including learner-created, teacher-created, and lecture-recorded).

Amongst the many ideas for content delivery we have been investigating iTunesU and the use of iPod Touch and iPhone devices for accessing content on-campus (or at home) for later review and reflection.  With that in mind, I applied for one of the Apple University Consortium (AUC) scholarships to attend last week’s iPhone Software Developer’s Kit (SDK) Workshops in Sydney, and was delighted to be accepted.

The three-day event was hosted at Clifton’s Training on George Street, and the facilities were excellent.  There simply wasn’t a technical glitch the whole time we were there, which meant we could focus on learning instead of troubleshooting.  The facilities were adequately spacious, well-lit, quiet, clean and modern.  A shiny new Apple Powerbook was provided to each participant from the AUC’s own “Classroom(s) in a Box” – this was a simple and flawless way of ensuring all participants were up and running in mere minutes.

The main trainer trainer was Nicholas Circosta, a 21-year-old Honours student from Murdoch University and a founding partner in start-up software development company Codelity.  Nick’s interest in all things Apple has naturally led him to apply his studies in Software Engineering to developing all manner of cool, useful, and whacky iPhone apps.  It was a privilege to have someone so knowledgable and talented as our trainer, and he made learning iPhone development heaps of fun.  I’m no Apple fanboy, but talking with Nick I couldn’t help but be somewhat infected with his enthusiasm for all things Apple!  No surprise, then that he’s been headhunted by Apple themselves and will shortly be heading over to begin working for them in Cupertino.

Nick demos adding an image to an iPhone app.

Nick demos adding an image to an iPhone app.

Nick was assisted by Louis Cremen, a mobile developer and teaching member at the University of Wollongong’s Faculty of Informatics.  Louis provided excellent support during the “hands on” practical coding parts of the course, as well as great perspectives during teaching and discussion.  When Nick goes off to Cupertino, Louis will be taking on the main teaching role for future iPhone SDK Workshops run by AUC, and we were very lucky to have both experts supporting our class during this transitory handover period of the course.

The course was divided into 10 modules of varying size and increasing technical complexity.  The course content was designed to be approachable for those with little experience in coding Apple applications in Objective C; and was really ideal for the mixed experience levels in the class (which contained everything from post-doctoral through to minimally-experienced developers!)  The first day focused on fundamental concepts of iPhone development (I shall never forget the  Model/View/Controller Song from last year’s WWDC), the language (Objective C) and the development environment (XCode+Interface Builder+iPhone Simulator).

We finished the day with a look at the basic structure of an app in development and the concept of “Views” created through both code and Interface Builder.  On Day 2, we got into the guts of development and did plenty of coding based on Nick’s examples, achieving things like storing data between sessions, enabling multitouch, and having a look at the various ways to implement 2D, 2.5D, and 3D graphics.  By the third day our brains were pretty much bursting… but we were pushed harder conceptually, exploring the Core Animation and Core Location frameworks.  Nick allowed us some free programming time at the end of the session, even putting up a nice prize for the participant who could code the best app in the last 3 hours of the day. :)

This was only my second ever AUC event (the first being CreateWorld09), but if this is an indication of the quality of AUC events I will definitely be hoping to attend more in future.  First class training begins with first class trainers, and Nick’s ascendancy into the realms of Apple itself provides some indication of his energy, enthusiasm and talent in iPhone development.

This iPhone SDK workshop is being held again several times this year – in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.  While I don’t believe it’s possible to get into the Melbourne workshop any more, if you are able to attend the Brisbane or Perth workshops I would highly recommend them.  See the AUC website for more details.





Microsoft iPhail released

7 10 2009

Apparently, Microsoft released their “answer” to the iPhone today: a refreshed version of their Windows Mobile operating system, skinned with an iPhone-like icon-driven navigation system, dubbed “Windows Mobile 6.5″. And here it is:

I have no idea how a company can be involved in software development for so many years and still mess up the fundamental principles of interface design. Those offset icons have “fail” all over them. There is a reason that good interfaces arrange icons into grids – it’s so that the eye can quickly scan across them, left to right, up and down, to find the information or application required. While offsetting them like that might look trendy, it’s terribly bad for actual use.

The rest of the system looks pretty much like vanilla Windows Mobile. C’mon Microsoft, you’ll have to do better than that if you want to claw back market (and mind) share!








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