University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science going Mobile

13 09 2010

From next year, the University of Adelaide’s Faculty of Science will be moving towards mobile delivery, with all first-year students provided with iPads, and textbooks replaced by digital materials.  They will be the first Australian University to begin delivering in this way, and this is the first step towards an overhaul of their teaching strategies, including moving to fully online delivery of first-year Science courses from 2012, according to Professor Bob Hill, Executive Dean of the Faculty. To help ensure that teaching materials and activities are compatible with the iPads, teaching staff will also be receiving the devices.

iPad in use

I have a modicum of skepticism about some aspects of this planned course of action, however.  Firstly, the focus on iPads might force thinking around mobile learning into a iPad-shaped box, rather than encouraging the development of mobile learning activities and resources to suit a wider range of devices.  This is already apparent in the kinds of materials they describe as being prepared for their iPads:

“The aim is to transfer all learning content to an electronic version which includes many currently printed textbooks for first-year students sometime in 2012.”

Aaargh.  Transferring learning content to computers, including textbooks, does not equate to e-learning.  Transferring learning content to mobile devices is unlikely to result in quality mobile learning.  The REAL task here should be to develop new learning activities and resources that target the required learning outcomes and utilise the affordances of mobile devices, rather than thinking that an electronic textbook on an iPad is somehow better that a paper-based textbook.  Instead, the focus appears to be on the *delivery* of content, rather than ways in which students can interact with, and create on, iPads:

“The online material will take a variety of forms with students being able to access lecture notes, audio, background documents and textbooks through tailored web-based apps. This is in addition to all the student services currently available through the MyUni website such as timetabling, video downloads, slides and email.”

THERE IS NOTHING NEW or innovative about ANY of those content sources or activities.  All that’s happening is that they’re being displayed on a shiny new device, instead of a laptop or a desktop computer, and they’re accessed through “app” buttons.  Contrast that philosophy with a learner-centric pedagogical model in which learning activities are developed that use key affordances of the iPad: for example, designing activities where students annotate or complete worksheets or experiments using an app like Noterize; or focusing on using mobile devices equipped with cameras to document science experiments or field trips using blogs, images, and video.

I hope the University of Adelaide will take time to consider how learning with technology is much more than learning ON technology.  A successful mobile learning strategy requires working with the inherant strengths and limitations of mobile devices to enhance learning and engagement – not just trying to do the same thing as before with the new tool!

iPad Apps for Visual Creativity

12 08 2010

There’s a pretty decent post over at the AppStorm blog, which has posted its reviews for the “30 Essential iPad Apps for Designers and Creatives“.

Adobe Ideas 1.0 for iPad

Adobe Ideas 1.0 for iPad (a free app on the iTunes Store)

While I’m not a massive Apple fanboy, as a graphic designer who has extensively used Wacom graphics tablets for digital sketching and drawing, I can certainly see the advantages of doing freehand creative sketching and drawing using a device like the iPad.  As an educator, I’m also a big fan of “student-created content” for learning – the idea that when students create things, they learn from that experience.  The apps described in this article are great for designing charts, diagrams, graphics, illustrations, images… and more.  All of these creative affordances of the iPad (combined with these apps) could be used to support a myriad of learning activities.

The iPad and its impact on m-learning.

23 02 2010

I’ve been engrossed in an article on the tech blog Gizmodo this morning, which reveals that Dr. Alan Kay made the following quote about the iPhone when it was launched:

Make it 5 inches by 8 inches and youll rule the world.

"Make the screen 5 inches by 8 inches and you'll rule the world".

I’ve written several posts about Dr Alan Kay in the past, but to summarise, Dr Kay is one of the greatest minds in the history of computer science. He predicted (and invented) mobile computing, the windowed GUI, and was a pioneer of object oriented programming and social constructivist learning.  And a large proportion of his work was in pursuit of a computing device to support learning – he is indisputably the first person to research and develop digital m-learning, and was involved with much of the design of the OLPC.

Dr Alan Kay’s prediction that a large, multitouch tablet will be an incredibly popular device must therefore, I think, be read in the context of his life’s work.  I believe that he sees significant potential for a device like this to make a powerful impact on the way students learn both formally and outside the classroom (Dr Kay was also an early proponent of “informal learning” – since the 1970s).

Kay’s prediction for the iPad’s success is further supported by the work of another luminary in the computing world, Jef Raskin, whose work pointed to a simple, easy-to-use “information appliance” as having the most chance of success: a computer as easy to use as a toaster.  The iPhone was a significant milestone towards that goal – and some believe the iPad will advance it even further.

When a pioneer of computing and mobile learning makes a prediction like this about the iPad, it is worthwhile taking note.