EDUCAUSE Report on Undergraduate Student use of Technology

29 10 2009

The latest edition of “The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009” has just been released by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research. This report provides insights into the ways in which students use, and would like to use, various technologies in their own lives and in their learning.

Some of the “m-learning” findings across 39 institutions include:

  • students are switching from desktop PCs (71% in 2006, down to 44% in 2009) to laptops (65.4% in 2006 to 88.3% in 2009).
  • one-third of students own and use Internet services from a handheld device, with another third of students owning or planning to acquire a handheld, internet-capable device in the next 12 months.
  • “Asked to select the three institutional IT services they are most likely to use, if available, from an Internet-capable handheld device, responents who currently own a handheld device and use the INternet from it selected as their top three e-mail system (63.4%), student administrative services (official grades, registration, etc.) (46.8%), and course or learning management system (45.7%).” (pg 11).

via Tony Bates’ e-learning & distance education resources


Australian uni goes mobile!

23 10 2009

An article in the respected Australian newspaper has showcased the new mobile student support website recently implemented by Curtin University of Technology. Dubbed “CurtinMobile,” the service was developed in response to the growing use of, and demand for, supported mobile platforms and services:

Chief information officer Peter Nikelotatos said 99 per cent of Curtin’s students had mobile phones and 75 per cent of those phones were web-enabled.

“What we wanted was an application layer that recognised that our students were using netbooks and smartphone devices more and more and they wanted to be able to access a lot more information through these devices rather than desktop PCs,” he said.

In addition to the current provision of mobile student information and services, Curtin is looking into the future use of mobile devices for learning:

“Areas that we want to explore a lot more are integration opportunities with our learning management system and a lot more around emergency and critical incident management and integration from an international perspective,” [Mr Nikelotatos] said.

What is *your* institution or organisation doing to cater for the growing use of mobile, web-connected, devices? The mobile device industry is the fastest-growing sector in the IT and web markets, and making good use of mobile platforms will soon be as important for universities asmaking good use of the internet.

On-Campus Wireless Internet

15 06 2009

The topic of easy-to-use, reliable wireless access to the internet came to the fore today, so I thought I should write about it.  I heard from a number of people on our Yammer social network that they believed that our institution’s wireless service was difficult to connect to and only available in scattered areas around the campus.  That this appeared to be the opinion of the majority (with some exceptions) caused me considerable concern, as in my opinion, student wireless access should be considered priority infrastructure for any self-respecting further/higher education organisation.

From a teaching and learning point of view, campus-wide internet access – or even access that targets social and learning spaces such as refectories, libraries, lecture rooms and labs – is what truly blends together online and face-to-face learning.  It means that while they’re on campus, a student can access their online learning just by turning on their netbook or iPhone.  They can contribute to class online discussions while eating lunch or access their readings before class, using the technology they already have with them: their laptop, netbook, or other wi-fi capable mobile device.

Some of you may be thinking “can’t students just go use a computer lab?”  To some extent, they can.  However, most students don’t choose a library or computer lab as their preferred environment for group projects or study groups unless they’re forced to.  In most of those locations, there are restrictions on noise levels, food, drink, physical access, and software installation/configuration.  If students can get together at a campus cafe or in a refectory to work together, they will.  By way of example: every day the refectory at my university is full of students working together, because that is their preferred space to do so.

But they can’t get internet access there – not without an apparent struggle.  I work in an office just above the refectory, and one of my colleagues (in the same office) reports that there’s no signal.  Even if they can get a signal, the process of actually logging in and getting network access is difficult or impossible for the apparent majority.

Then, of course, there are all the affordances of the internet that could be brought into learning situations.  Students can look up definitions or supporting materials in lectures, using a wiki to collaboratively create lecture notes, or blogging an experiment or other learning experience, live from a student lab.

For mobile learning – and even for flexible learning – at any educational institution, equipping formal and informal learning spaces (such as social spaces) with fundamental enabling technologies like wireless internet access has to be at the top of the priority list.  It even makes sense from a budget point of view, as every laptop a student brings in and uses takes pressure off the student labs.  This, in turn, reduces the amount that has to be spent on standard-image, admin-locked, physical lab computers… and frees students to use their own computers which can be configured to best support their particular program of study.  That’s what I call win-win!

Reflections: Are You an "iJustine" or an "eJustine"?

19 05 2008

One of my favourite tech bloggers, iJustine (Justine Ezarik) posted a YouTube vid of her having a conversation with her alter-ego, “eJustine” (

For those of you unable (or unwilling) to view the video, the scene is of iJustine coming across eJustine, who’s busily updating her Facebook, sending e-cards, and “maintaining her social network”. iJustine uses her iPhone to hook up with some friends who are going to eat out together and then head to a concert, while eJustine declines the invite as she has to keep up with her online “friends”.

Which Justine are you? eJustine, who’s digitally immersed and values her online and virtual relationships and channels as much – or perhaps even more – than her real-life ones? Or iJustine, who uses technology as an enabler – a tool to enrich her real life with authentic experiences and in-person relationships?

It’s particularly revealing that iJustine utilises her cellphone as her preferred technology platform: a digital tool that makes her mobile, and enables her to connect, communicate, reflect and share while she goes about her (real) life, rather than chaining her down away from the world.

And all of this goes to the heart of why I’m so interested in mobile learning.

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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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Edublog$ Magazine: A Matter of Common Cents

1 02 2008

James Farmer launched the Edublogs Magazine earlier this week, featuring “news, information, interviews, highlights, and techniques from around the Edublogs Network and the world of education” – to a mixed reception. Several edubloggers thought this was a useful venture, but there were other commentators who saw this as “an obvious commercial move at the expense of egalitarianism in blogging“.

Frankly, like Graham Wegner, I don’t see what the fuss is about. The “magazine” has an unintrusive banner for James’ “Edublogs Campus” service for institutions, but I don’t see any other advertisements anywhere else. There’s no AdSense, there are no external banner ads, there are no flashing Flash advertisements exhorting us all to “Click here for a free iPod”. What in the world are you whinging about? And, frankly, SO WHAT if James wants to make some money from offering related edublogging services? He does it full time – don’t you think he might, perhaps, need money (like you and I)?

It seems like common sense to me. If James wants to make money from his area of expertise offering a related service to institutions, what’s wrong with that? Teachers make money from teaching, for goodness sake – are educators so egalitarian that they provide their professional services for free? I don’t think so… how many DOZENS of blog posts and media articles have I read now where teachers or union officials have sighed how undervalued and underpaid teachers are? And I’ve consistently agreed – I think teachers do incredible, valuable work that deserves far more recognition.

So I don’t see a difference between teachers deserving that recognition for the education services they provide their local communities, and James providing an education service for the global community. He deserves better treatment than demands he become more “transparent” or “egalitarian”.
cash300330.jpgbethany price
Edublogs is a free, world-class, supported blogging platform with tens of thousands of users. Despite the large user base, every request for blog support, maintenance, and improvement that I’ve sent to James over the last two years of edublogging has been attended to with a level of dedication I’ve NEVER experienced from the providers of my essential utilities – electricity, water, gas, or telephone connection. It doesn’t get much more “egalitarian” than that, folks, and surely a measure of gratitude and recognition is in order.

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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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