Standards and the E-Learning Guild Report on M-Learning

4 09 2007

It’s now been a few months since my report on the recommended Australian Standards for M-Learning, and their companion guide for teachers and developers, were released by the E-Standards for Training Experts Group (EEG), and they’ve both been well received – according to the EEG, the documents have become the most downloaded files on the website.

The aim of the M-Learning Standards was to develop a range of technical specifications that would support better interoperability of resources and systems between VET organisations. The latest report on M-Learning by the E-Learning Guild asserted that one of the largest barriers to the adoption of mobile learning expressed by e-learning pratitioners was a perceived “lack of standards”. The other major barrier to the adoption of m-learning that was expressed, that “content developed for other media does not transfer well to mobile devices” is also addressed by the Standards for M-Learning, and so hopefully, the Standards will help to address these perceived barrier to the adoption of mobile technologies in education into the future.

The majority of recommended standards value openness to facilitate development and sharing, with the remainder comprising of non-asserted proprietary formats which have become de-facto standards due to widespread use. (“Non-asserted” proprietary formats are “owned”, but are unimpeded for use in educational developments, as intellectual property rights are not asserted against those who use those formats).

As such, the Standards for M-Learning may help to lay a foundation for organisations contemplating the use of M-Learning, to advise formats for the best possible quality of resources and to promote  interoperability between both mobile and non-mobile platforms.

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Complete schematics for sub-$150 handheld (learning?) device

21 03 2007

In my last post, I picked up Dr. Paul Trafford’s idea for a $100 PDA, and he was gracious enough to add his comment:

Your thoughts on a $100 One-PDA-A-Learner are very welcome. Many thanks for picking this up. My musings on OxPDA are now more than 2 years old and since then connectivity has improved a lot, so my wishes should probably be revised.

An affordable Linux-based PDA sounds a good candidate, but brand new equipment always comes at a considerable premium. If it is to work I think it is important to bring in experiences from a broad range of initiatives, each of which can contribute at least some lessons. One project that offered much promise a few years ago was the Simputer, but it didn’t prove as cost-effective as hoped.

I’d be ecstatic to see Paul’s revised thoughts on what a $100 PDA might incorporate today, given advancements in technology in the last two years. I agree with Paul that brand new equipment generally carries abit of a price tag, but this is often the result of manufacturer, wholesale, and retail markups – a hurdle side-stepped by the creators of the OLPC by controlling their own manufacturing and distribution, rather than purchase a marked-up consumer model. Having control over design and manufacturing also meant the OLPC machines could be designed from the ground up to support pedagogical objectives – rather than the usual consumer entertainment or business objectives.

So… what if we could make this thing from scratch, and cut out the mark-ups? What if the project was run as an open-source platform, enabling its hardware and software to be continuously revised and improved by a community of developers? To inspire ideas about what might one day be, I refer to the Chumby project, (which I’ve previously blogged), an open-source handheld computing platform being developed as a from-scratch device with an expected retail cost of under US$150 – I reckon that would put the actual parts and manufacturing cost around $100.

Because it’s an open source project, all of the Chumby hardware schematics and component lists (indeed, even a blueprint of the PCB and assembly drawing) are freely available to their developer community, as well as the Linux-based OS that it runs. The documentation demonstrates that putting together a $100 handheld device from scratch is highly feasible. The Chumby concept certainly isn’t my idea of an ideal handheld learning device; but it does provide some inspiration for a working model of how such a device might be designed, refined, and implemented.

So… what would *you* like to see in an ideal handheld learning device? Ideally, such a question should be answered in pedagogical, rather than technological, terms, with every bit of incorporated technology in the design underpinned by a set of learning objectives or opportunities it facilitates, and justified on a (educational) return-on-investment basis.

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Taking better pictures with camera phones

15 03 2007

Flickr’s camera analysis pages (which uses embedded EXIF information from uploaded images to determine which devices users are taking photos with) have documented the surge in popularity of camera phones.  Camera phones are rapidly improving in quality and functionality, and their ubiquity and capability are making them a popular device for capturing images, even amongst dedicated media afficionados.

In m-learning, camera phones provide a ubiquitous tool for capturing, sharing, and reflecting on learning experiences, using web 2.0 tools such as moblogs.  They can be used to capture images or video for assessment purposes, or, beyond photography, camera phones can be used to access information and resources through 2D barcodes.

That’s why this article on taking better pictures with a camera phone, is useful for educators interested in utilising camera phones as a learning approach.  Passing these ideas on to learners could help them to maximise the quality of the photos they take using the cameras they’re already carrying around in their pockets.  In summary:

  • use well-lit subjects;
  • get in close;
  • keep the phone still;
  • take the best image first, and edit with special effects later;
  • don’t throw away “mistakes”;
  • avoid using digital zoom;
  • experiment with White balance;
  • take loads of shots and experiments;
  • follow rules of composition – and then break them;
  • keep your lens clean;
  • observe camera phone ettiquette;
  • rename your images; and
  • use the highest available resolution on your camera phone.

Read more at the main article here.


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AirWizard – Making m-learning software easier to install

27 02 2007

If you’re a developer of M-learning resources for Pocket PC/Windows Mobile, and you’d like learners to be able to access your resources over-the-air (without a computer connection), then here’s a useful -and free- product that can help you achieve your goals.

AirWizard allows you to package your mobile learning software or resource(s) and deploy it/them over the air.  Examples of use in learning situations could include

  • at a museum or art gallery, where visitors could download and install your location guide or exhibition catalogue to their smart phone, or
  • to enable a whole classroom of students to download and install a resource or a set of software.

(via Mobility Site)

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(Open) Standards for Mobile Learning

22 02 2007

I’ve already submitted my research recommendations for Australian Mobile Learning Standards (for which I was selected as Lead Researcher last year), so it’s unfortunate that this article on Mobile 2.0, wasn’t written earlier, as it summarises beautifully some of the considerations that were foremost in my mind when I was writing my recommendations and would have provided some excellent quotes:

Open Applications Leverage Open Standards

…it is important to note that mobile 2.0 applications need to leverage open standards. Applications that sit on top of closed and proprietary protocols and formats are antithetical to the kind of innovation that will be key to the growth of the mobile Web. Establishing open standards around html, CSS and XML has greatly contributed to the growth and success of the medium and to its continued innovation. We are already seeing standards pay off big-time on the mobile platform as well in both the Java/JCP space (where we are finally realizing write-once-run-anywhere) and in the mobile Web.

(via All about Mobile Life)

I’m happy to be able to say that the Australian Standards for Mobile Learning I’ve recommended favour open standards whenever possible. This should (hopefully) encourage and facilitate the development of open and interoperable m-learning applications in years to come.

My recommendations for M-Learning Standards (as well as non-technical “user guides”, co-authored by my colleagues Marg O’Connell and John Smith) are currently being reviewed by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework’s E-Standards Experts Group, the Project Reference Group, and the Vetadata Working Group. It’s a lot of people to please, but I am hopeful that this extensive review process will result in an end product subjected to considerable expert scrutiny, and thereby, of suitable quality.

When the Standards are finally approved, they will be made available via the E-Standards Experts Group website and the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. I’ll also be sure to announce publication on this site.

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Mobile and Wireless Technologies: Security and Risk

8 01 2007

A report funded by the Australian High Tech Crime Centre details the security issues and risk factors associated with mobile and wireless technologies. The report provides a background of mobile technologies, including the behavioural aspects of digital mobile devices and their inherent benefits, and goes on to discuss the major forms of attack that may be employed by undesirable outsiders. Here’s an extract from the abstract:

Today, many of us use mobile access to the internet to communicate in real time across the globe, to access business and government services online, to shop, view, read, search, explore and even simulate physical activities. Internet access no longer depends on a wired system such as a modem connected to a telephone landline – rather, it can be achieved using a mobile enabled device whenever and wherever a mobile access point is available. Such access points or hot spots are now widely available in airports, hotels, educational institutions and other public buildings. Increasing numbers of wireless networks are being installed in commercial buildings and private homes. With increasing mobile access to wireless networks, the demarcation between public and private space is being redefined. This has important implications in terms of security for those who make a mobile access point available and for those who use it.

There’s no surprises in the report for those of us who’ve been “on the scene” for a number of years; but this report would be helpful to educators and support professionals who are required to write up risk management plans in order to implement mobile learning approaches in their institutions, or who need to think about these issues when implementing supporting systems.

Australian High Tech Crime Centre logoAustralian Federal Police (AFP) badge

(via the Consumers’ Telecommunications Network Webnews Edition #135 [email])

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Prototype Miniature Digital Projector for Mobile Devices

5 01 2007

I’ve told many people about industry moves towards developing minature LED projectors that will enable mobile phones and PDAs to project large(r) screens to assist viewability and interaction. At CES next week, Microvision will be unveiling their prototype of such a device (pictured below).


Such a device will help to break the limitations of small screens by enabling larger, higher resolution images to be projected from mobile phones onto any flat surface. Initially, I anticipate that the biggest application for this will be mobile gaming, just as games have pushed the limits of desktop computing; but the benefits will spread to other applications as well.

(via Gizmodo

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