Free M-Learning Applications

30 04 2008

It’s fantastic for students to have access to powerful software tools that help them develop their skills; and it’s even better if the software is free. A prolific developer of mobile applications, Tea Vui Huang, provides the tools he develops for free via his website; and many of his applications are either very useful for education, or are made-for-education. Here is just one his tools, (which are generally authored for the Symbian mobile phone platform):

The TVH-72g Graphing Calculator

It’s brilliant. The developer “gets” so many of the reasons that mobile phones can be powerful learning tools. Quoting from his site:

“…the use of graphing calculators is being incorporated into the education syllabus of mathematic subjects such as algebra, trigonometry and calculus. Graphing calculators are more expensive than the already costly scientific calculators… (but) to paraphrase One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) association’s message – Students can do a lot of self-learning. A common handheld device found these days is the mobile phone, and most students have one – even if it’s an entry-level model.

Though it maybe unexpected, entry-level mobiles these days do have the processing power and display screen appropriate for emulating a graphing calculator. Take for example a HP 49g+ graphing calculator with a resolution of 131 x 80 pixels, and contrast it with an entry-level Sony Ericsson J300i with a resolution of 128 x 128 pixels. Mid-range cell phones offer even higher resolutions of 176 x 220 pixels (that’s over 3.5 times more pixels than the HP 49g+).

Cost-wise, the commonly recommended graphing calculator for educational purposes is the US$100+ TI-83 Plus, US$130+ TI-84 Plus and the US$150+ HP 49g+. In comparison, an entry-level Sony Ericsson J300i retails for US$75+, or free with a 2-year service agreement.

If anything, CNN reported in January 2006 that Microsoft founder and Chairman Bill Gates believes cell phones are a better way than laptops to bring computing to the masses in developing nations.”

The developer’s view of m-learning is spot on – mobile phones are cheaper and often more powerful than graphing calculators; and most students already own them. And the quality of the graphs created by this free tool are excellent. Here is a comparison of the output from this application on a low-cost handset, compared with graphing output from a real graphing calculator (the HP49g+):

Download this tool using your mobile web browser from, or from the project’s web page. Other applications available to use for educators and students include podcasting, photography, and document-creating tools – even a small application that allows a user to create the basic curves for generating 3D Maya models.

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Mobile Internet: the Tipping Point reaches Oz

18 04 2008

According to an annual study conducted by the University of Adelaide and mobile phone company m.Net as part of a larger international study, the number of Australians (aged between 18 and 50) using their mobile phone to access the internet has doubled in the last twelve months to 40%. In addition, 60% of respondents citing improved mobile services and lower mobile internet data costs as being a reason to change mobile carriers.

The researchers believe these figures indicate the tipping point has been reached for Mobile Data Services (MDS) in Australia, with the use of MDS to become commonplace in the next 6 to 12 months.

I imagine that with a critical mass of consumers willing to change mobile carriers for lower mobile data costs, mobile carriers will need to price mobile data more competitively in the near future; which would, of course, entice even more mobile phone owners to start using mobile data services.

This is great news for mobile learning in Australia, and the good news for educators in the United States is that the international study also found that while the US still lags behind Australia in the use of MDS, it’s closing the gap…

(reported in The Australian IT via Mobile Marketing Watch)

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Mobile Wikipedia

8 04 2008

Wikipedia is a terrific reference tool if you (or your students) happen to be at an internet-connected computer, but it’s a lot harder to use as a reference tool when you’re out and about. 

It’s possible to look up Wikipedia using a mobile internet connection, but for many people, the mobile data charges this incurs can make this expensive (even if you’re using a mobile version like Wapedia).  And there are certainly iPod-based, text-only versions of Wikipedia, but it would be far more useful and accessible to have Wikipedia on a mobile phone as it’s the one device most people never leave home without; and iPod books can’t display pictures.

Which is why I was ecstatic today when I found the best mobile version of Wikipedia yet – and it’s free.  The Series 60 Weblog has compiled over 2000 full-length Wikipedia articles – including over 8500 colour images – into a version of Wikipedia that can be read on Symbian s60 phones (i.e. most recent-model Nokia phones as well as many Sony-Ericsson and some other phones).  Here are a couple of screenshots:

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Head over to the Series 60 Weblog to download Wikipedia for your phone and get all the details.

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