Principals Trying out Cell Phones

22 01 2008

Dean Shareski passes on an email from a local principal:

I’m sure we are not going insane, but some would probably disagree. Carla and I tried something new and, well a little bit rebellious today. We invited the grade 8/9 ELA class/students to bring their cell phones into class (if they didn’t have one we used mysask for text). Our goal, using cell phones for learning. Our objectives, appropriate use of cell phones (manners and ethics), using the calendar/scheduling, using text to discuss literature (lit circles), tracking progress and assignments/projects, and engaging the new learner. Guess what, it worked like a charm and the kids are peeing themselves with enthusiasm. Welcome to Web 2.0!!!! I needed to share.

Awesome stuff. Damien‘s remarks in the comments are also worth reading:

I like that this principal is looking into educational applications, but I think the most important takeaway here is that s/he’s having a discussion about mobile phone manners and ethics. Although I think it’s very rude when students text during class, I honestly don’t think many of them think much of it, and probably think we teachers blow the issue out of proportion (to be fair, some do). I applaud this principal for having this dialogue outside of a punitive context and for at least considering the educational and organizational possibilities.

Wow. Educators having a dialogue with students and discussing mobile phone manners and ethics? Might those students might get insights into the acceptable use of mobile technologies (useful for the rest of their lives, no less) that they wouldn’t otherwise get from a blanket ban on mobiles at school? Great work… 🙂

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ZXing Open Source Barcode Library

18 01 2008

Most regular readers of this blog will be familiar with my interest in the use of 2D barcodes as a means of providing a link from a physical object or location to an online resource using an ordinary camera phone.

I’ve just found an open-source Google Code project called ZXing, which is an open-source project to build a cross-platform barcode reader library.  If it succeeds in its aims, it looks like it could become one of the best, most flexible readers available, and because it’s open source, it should be possible to incorporate it into related educational projects such as integration with augmented reality learning resources.

ZXing’s successful implementation to power the Facebook QR Codes application demonstrates its early potential. 

This is one project I’ll be following closely!

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Recording first-person videos with "spy" glasses

15 01 2008

Early last year, Sue Waters of the Mobile Technology in TAFE podcast posted her video about the use of “spy glasses” (glasses or sunglasses with a built-in video camera), and how these can be used for recording first-person video footage for gathering assessment evidence or creating demonstration video clips.

While the cost of one of the units featured in Sue’s demo runs into the hundreds of dollars (and wireless units cost thousands), I’ve just come across a video tutorial on how to make a set of video-recording glasses for just A$50 or so – and they’ll do this kind of work just as well as Sue’s gear. 🙂

Looking at the components available on eBay, it would also appear to be possible to make a wireless version for a little extra, for situations where unsecured wires could pose a workplace hazard. If you have a particular need for capturing portable, mobile, first-person video for an educational activity or resource, this tutorial could save you thousands of dollars and/or allow many more of your students to participate than would otherwise be possible.

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Create a free SMS auto-reply learning tool

10 01 2008

I’ve previously blogged about StudyTXT, a system deployed at a number of New Zealand educational institutions (to whom it is available for free), which allows students to send an SMS and receive on-demand learning and support information on their mobile phones.

It’s a terrific innovation which has plenty of potential in academic settings. Some educators have used StudyTXT to provide brief revision “flash cards” or notes for their students on-demand; but I can also see the possibility for this kind of system to be used to play educational games or mobile quizzes.

But what about the rest of us outside of New Zealand? It’s possible for us to set up customised SMS-response systems by working with a telecommunications services provider, but this can be a pricey or time-consuming exercise.

Which is why I’m delighted to be able to share this tool with you: BaselsReply (v2.0). It’s a small application that runs on an ordinary Windows Mobile smartphone and basically turns it into a message server, with the advantage of being, itself, mobile – you can just take your message server with you and modify it whenever (or wherever) you want to!

You configure your messages by running it in “server” mode, and specifying “commands” and corresponding “replies” in the software. An incoming message prefixed with “br command” (where command is a recognised command will automatically be replied to with the appropriate response.

Use Case Studies

  1. Jane’s teacher uses an SMS reply system to provide a weekly summary of ten key terms or concepts learned during that week. Each week, Jane sends an SMS with the message “br vocab” to her teacher’s mobile. She immediately gets her weekly list of terms and concepts to aid her revision and vocabulary uptake.

    Because Jane is able to get this important information on her mobile, she can take it with her anywhere and can even reference it when she meets her classmates around the campus or if she meets her class friends off-campus for study or social time. Although each message is quite short, the cumulative effect over time is to build up a much longer list of vocabulary and concepts that Jane can both revise and reference, anywhere and any time, and she can even forward the messages to any classmates who missed a previous summary.

    Jane’s teacher Mary doesn’t need to send each individual request for the weekly list. Once she sets up the automated message on her smartphone, she can forget about it for the rest of the week while the 80 students taking her subject request the summary or forward it to each other – which ever they prefer. Mary also enjoys the convenience of being able to update the weekly summary anywhere and any time that’s convenient to her – all she has to do is pull out her smartphone and she has all the tools she needs.

  2. Ethan is an science teacher who has set up an SMS game for his students. He begins the game by asking them a question, for example: “In scientific classification, to what Family does the cat belong?” The answer is one word, “Felidae”.

    Dylan is studying Ethan’s science course. He doesn’t know the answer right away, but looks it up online and finds the correct answer. He SMSes “br Felidae” to Ethan’s mobile phone, and gets the message “Correct! Where on a cat are the carpal whiskers located?” Dylan wants to find out right away, because his teacher Ethan has offered a cool prize to the first student to complete all of the quiz questions – an autographed copy of Ethan’s memoirs! (Or, y’know, maybe something cooler)…Ethan can set up a series of questions such that each correct answer provides the next question in the quiz. The same idea could be used to generate treasure hunts or physical and mobile learning games.

Download your very own free copy of BaselsReply v2.0 and try out your own SMS auto-reply learning activities with your students! Here are the details:

basels replyBaselsReply v2.0 (152kB, Freeware)
Size: 152 KB
Date: January 7, 2008 (Updated)
Type: Freeware
• Windows Mobile 5.0
.NET CF v2.0 (install this first!)
Author: baselsw
Directions: First install the .NET CF v.2.0 on your Windows Mobile 5 (or better) device; then download and install the BaselsReply .CAB file, available here.

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