Walled Gardens and Mobile Learning

17 01 2007

In educational technology circles, there’s been much debate in recent times over the relative merits and drawbacks of controlled, predictable, but limiting teaching and learning environments (e.g. Learning Management Systems), coined “walled gardens” – versus open, creative environments with rather less individual or proprietary control (e.g. social software), coined “open gardens”.

The issue of walled vs open gardens has also been hotly discussed by the mobile device industry, which even features some excellent blogs dedicated to open gardens. In the mobile phone industry the walls around developing and accessing content seemed to be lowering, but, it seems, there are other barriers to surmount in the pursuit of more open access to content and functionality. Doug T writes:

“The new walled garden is not the content you can view on your phone, but rather the applications that you can install on your phone.”

For example, as Sam pointed out in his comments on my iPhone article, the new Apple iPhone will limit the applications (“widgets”) that users can install on it, possibly incurring the wrath of users who seek the freedom to customise their mobile phones however they wish:

“This is a quote from Jobs in the NYTimes:

‘We define everything that is on the phone,” he said. “You don’t want
your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded
three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t
work anymore. These are more like iPods than they are like computers.’ “

This definitely dampens my enthusiasm for the iPhone as a potential educational tool; if the latest innovations such as QR Code readers or 3rd party mobile applications can’t be integrated with this new portable digital environment, it makes it considerably less useful for facilitating new, innovative learning experiences. The problem with walled gardens on mobile phones, like this, is that it makes it very difficult to establish new boundaries for a device – to “shape” it to meet our needs. The iPhone currently only has two widgets, for weather and stock prices, both pretty useless for the needs of the average educator or learner (unless, perhaps, you’re studying meteorology or economics!). An open architecture would enable the device to be customised to meet more diverse and relevant needs.

Apple’s products are always innovative, ground breaking, and trend-setting. but I certainly hope that this “walled gardens” approach is one of Apple’s trends that won’t be followed by other handset manufacturers.

(via C. Enrique Ortiz Mobility Weblog)

UPDATE: Darla Mack refers to a great article on “10 ways the Nokia N800 [handheld internet device] is better than Apple’s iPhone“.  Leigh Blackall loved the Nokia N770; I reckon he’ll be rapt when he checks out the Nokia 800, which has a few extra goodies, including a built-in Skype video camera. Sweeet. 🙂

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One response

18 01 2007
eduFutureBlog» Blog Archive » iPhone setzt modernem Lernen Grenzen

[…] Leonard Low weist in seinem Artikel Walled Gardens and Mobile Learning auf einen wichtigen Aspekt bei der Diskussion über iPhone als mobile Lernumgebung hin. […]

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