Why Every E-Learning Program Needs M-Learning

31 08 2006

An interesting discourse on how “well-designed and incorporated mobile learning (m-learning) maximises effectiveness of delivery, enhances access, and accomodates multiple learning styles,” has been blogged by by Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

Her broader perspective of mobile learning tools, attention to situated learning approaches, and thoughts on how mobile learning can be used in various learning contexts is interesting and refreshing, and she provides practical tips on making mobile learning engaging and accessible.

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The Future of M-Learning

30 08 2006

Mobile learning has existed as long as learning itself: a book is a mobile learning resource, and so is a cassette walkman. Both of these tools enable a learner to take information resources with them to learn mobile-ly. And a cassette walkman is just as valid a source of audio learning as an iPod. Sure, it’s not as sexy, maybe; but by the time the sound reaches my ears from either device, it’s essentially the same thing.

What differentiates the current crop of mobile tools (such as mobile phones, PDAs, and iPods) is that they support a digital, connected learning environment, providing a compactness and convenience of information, a remote and instant access to a range of people and resources, and an ability to process data, that was never previously possible.

This translates to education opportunities that have previously never been possible – rather than pre-made resources, which must be collected and carried by a learner prior to “going mobile,” mobile learners can now get information remotely on demand; record information from wherever they are in a number of formats; communicate with other people such as other learners or teachers; and use the processing power in their pockets to achieve tasks they could not otherwise accomplish unassisted.

These new opportunities provide the basis of my learner-centric “Four R’s model” of mobile learning activities. When viewed through this activity model, it’s clear that these learner interactions will always be useful adjuncts to teaching and learning practices; indeed, Stephen Downes has previously commented on how simply “teaching and learning” these activity classifications seem. It’s because of the inherent usefulness of these activities that I don’t see them as a fad; rather, as standards become further established, and DIY content tools are made available, I believe mobile digital devices will become increasingly affordable, accessible, and predictable platforms for facilitating learning.

My ultimate vision for m-learning is a personal, connected mobile device that provides a full range of connected information and communications services, providing a learner with contextualised, situated learning opportunities through a real-world interface (whether this is achieved through a symbology such as 2D Barcodes, or through image recognition as hypothesised by Stephen Downes).

The Age reported in 2005 that 8 million phones were sold in Australia in 2004, and that the vast majority of mobile phones sold are equipped with built-in cameras. That’s close to one new mobile phone sold in 2004 for every two people in Australia. It adds that 13.7 million MMS messages were sent in the 12 months leading up to July 2004 – the figure two years later would be considerably higher, as analysis of the Net Gen demographic points to instant messaging (such as SMS and MMS) becoming their preferred option for communication, validating IDC Market research cited in this paper on mobile learning in higher education (citing Chaisatien, W. (2004). Australian cellular 2004–2008 forecast and analysis: Upwardly mobile. IDC Market Analysis, #AU202116L, Vol. 1.).

All of these indicators point to camera phones, and MMS, being readily available for the majority of adult learners within a relatively short period of time – particularly among younger attendees. I believe that there is far better penetration of mobile technologies amongst students than among teachers – if educators want to capitalise on the tools available to students, we’ll need to savvy up quickly!

In a world where sources of information are as plentiful as versions of “the truth”, I envisage the ability to communicate with trusted peers and mentors as vital. In a world where the amount of new technical information currently doubles every two years, and by 2010 will double every 72 hours, I see a future where imagination will be the new intelligence: where the ability to quickly adapt to change, and to connect with the most up-to-date information will be more important than what we can memorise and repeat, and the ability to do this anywhere will be essential. Even now, resisting change is like holding your breath: if you succeed, you die.

I see a future of learning that is mobile, personal and connected; and in which the real world and real people provide the context and validation of new learning experiences and rapidly evolving opportunities.

(Abridged repost of this post in EdNa forums).

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Mobile Web Best Practices Checker

30 08 2006

W3C have been actively pursuing standards to enable mobile browsing fromt he web a reality, through their Mobile Web Initiative.  Following the release of their Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 earlier this year, they have now provided an alpha version of an automated guidelines checker, to help check mobile websites for conformance with their new recommended standard.

If you’re developing web-based learning content for mobile devices, I’d recommend working with the new W3C standard and using their guidelines checker, as we move towards improved usability and standardisation on the mobile web.

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Nimbuzz: Connecting Mobile and Web users for free?

23 08 2006

Mobilecrunch, a blog on “Mobile 2.0” connective technologies, reports a new product that promises to connect the global community of 1.1 billion Internet users with 2.2 billion mobile communication device users, in real time (synchronously), for “free”:

I’ve had the good fortune to have been given access to Nimbuzz for
the last few weeks. My testing has convinced me that once widely
deployed, this application has the potential to shake mobile
communication service providers to their very core…

The application supports voice, presence and messaging and it does
so between mobile devices, PC’s, and mobile to PC or PC to mobile.
What’s more, these features are available to both individuals and to
groups and there’s multimedia support so that in addition to voice and
text, photographs can also be shared.

Using Nimbuzz you can participate in group and/or individual chats,
send SMS messages anywhere in the world for 10 cents, leave or retreive
a message, or call a friend anywhere in the world while only paying for
a local call (with INCREDIBLE SOUND QUALITY, I might add). The Nimbuzz
client supports access to many major instant messaging communities like
MSN and has the ability to let you send a “Buzz” which allows you to
alert offline buddies to go online.

Group messaging and conference calling are all supported and again, the cost is only that of a local call…

This is very exciting news indeed, and brings my vision for a connected web and mobile learning environment a step closer to reality. I’ve downloaded a copy of Nimbuzz to my mobile phone – installation was very easy – but at present I lack people to try it out with (though the automated helpbot account that comes with the installation is both helpful and witty).

I’ve tried connecting with my Google Talk account (above) and it works beautifully, so I’m very optimistic… but if you’d like to try out Nimbuzz with me, download the software (for Windows or most Mobiles) and contact me with your Nimbuzz account name! Or feel free to call or message me – my Nimbuzz account name is (very imaginatively, I know) “leonardlow”. 🙂

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A new home for Instructional Video

21 08 2006

YouTube and Google Video are all very well, but there’s an awful amount of lip-synching teenagers and viral advertisements to wade through to find videos that are licensed for and suitable for use as mobile learning video content.

While still in Beta, a new site being set up with a focus on instructional video content, called VideoJug. This CNet report highlights some of the potential uses of, and sources for, the site’s content – which is quite sophisticated and has lots of very interesting clips already available.

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denCity: location-specific QR-Code project

21 08 2006

denCIty is a student project originating in Germany, which is intended to create “virtual networks of real places”.

QR-Codes (2D barcodes) are used to physically tag buildings and urban sites. Using a mobile phone, users can take a picture of any QR-Code tag, which provides information on the location on the user’s mobile phone.

The example on the right shows the denCity system used to obtain information on a karaoke bar, which in turn links to information on other related locations (other karaoke bars) – with maps showing their bearing and distance from the current physical location.

In a learning context, denCity could be used to tag locations with interactive, location-specific information, to provide a contextualised, situated learning experience. It could also be used to link to other related locations in the area, providing learners with a real life “treasure hunt” of information. And the “guestbook” attached to each location makes for a more interactive and communicative learning experience…

Arrrr! A real-life Treasure Hunt, eh, with codes and all? Can anyone say “Polly want a QRacker”? 🙂

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M-Learning With Adobe Captivate and Flash Lite 2

21 08 2006

M-learning is starting to really take off, with more and more attention from developers, platform and application providers, and the mainstream press.

This article, written for developers, explores the possibilities of creating content with using Adobe Captivate (a program that provides animated screen capture, text/audio captioning, and authoring), and publishing resources as Flash Lite 2 “Learning Objects” for mobile delivery. Flash Lite 2 is a version of Adobe Flash for delivering animated and interactive applications to mobile devices.

A tutorial and some useful advice on development and deployment is provided.

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