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Posts Tagged ‘Mobile learning’

I was at the iPod 2010 conference at Oldham City Learning Centre yesterday.  This was a celebratory and collaborative event looking at the use of ipod touches in education.  The event started with a look at the educational context to using mobile technologies for teaching and learning, by Richard Millwood, Reader in distributed learning at the University of Bolton.   I would like to say more but the content of the presentation doesn’t seem to be available yet.  There were then a few short presentations on the use of ipods in schools.  I was particularly impressed with the presentation from the ESSA Academy in Bolton.  They had introduced iPod Touches for all pupils as part of a home/school contract.

The day was punctuated with workshops for discussion.  Unfortunately these were dominated with technical questions and while technical matters are vital to successful implementation of mobile technolgy for learning, they were not of particular interest to a non techie like me.  Perhaps future events could split the delegates according to their interest.   I was also disappointed that all the good work that has been done by the MoLeNet projects over the last 3 years was neither acknowledged nor even referred to.  It did seem to me that the delegates (and possibly the organisers) were unaware of their existence – a sad state of affairs considering the amount of work done on learning using handheld devices (not necessarily iPod touches).  As usual with these events the networking opportunties were excellent and they have set up a Ning to enable ongoing discussion and collaboration.

The afternoon session saw three year 3 and 4 pupils talking about how they used their iPods.  They were obviously keen and it was impressive to see them talk to a room of nearly 100 adults.  Finally there was a presentation from Sharon Tonner from the University of Dundee on how to enable teachers to take ownership of the tecnhologies and embed their use in their own practice.

A good event and it was useful for me to see what the school sector are doing  to embrace handheld devices.

You can catch up on tweets from the day with the hashtag #ipod2010 (I didn’t read the wifi instruction to the end so omited the proxy settings – situation normal – RTM!)  This will hopefully be the first of a number of events organised by the City Learning Centres network – I hope I’m invited to the next one.

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There is an interesting paper in the recently published International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET) on the use of mobile devices for learning for the Elderly.  Unlike most existing research it seeks to throw light on the use of mobile technologies for elderly learners rather than school or college students.  The study indicates that elderly people are interested in using mobile devices and services, but these services need to deliver real value for them.

They look at the barriers to older people using mobile technology such as lack of confidence, age related impairments like limited vision, motor skills or cognition.  They comment that ” Although there have been numerous efforts at making desktop computers accessible, there have been almost no efforts to improve mobile  device accessibility.”  A literature review was the first part of the research and they use some interesting quotations taken from various previous published papers.

The second stage was original empirical  research using qualitative expert interviews with older people on their experiences and expectations of using handheld devices.   The interviews were semi structured, face to face and greatly facilitated by the interviewer’s knowledge and extensive experience.   During the interview, the researcher was able to comprehend suggestions and concerns by participants, and to immediately speculate and table possible design solutions for discussion.

The results showed that nearly 100% of the resondents found the size of the small buttons on the devices hard to use and the text on the screens and interfaces difficult to read.  Key combinations need to be simple and to give immediate feedback to the user. Interfaces need to be simple, with a consistent appearence.  Generally, an overriding multi-functional interface is needed for all possible combinations of tasks and user populations.

they suggest the following point for addressing impairments in vision, speech and hearing, psychomotor skills, attention span, and memory:

  • Use layout simplicity, clarity, and consistency
  • Use lower frequency tones for sounds
  • Design speech recognition software to cope with slower speech
  • Allow double-click speeds to be slower
  • Avoid delays and distractions to minimize short term memory loss
  • Use only simple, relevant graphics
  • Prefer short text or lists to paragraphs of text
  • Don’t rely on colour alone
  • Provide larger graphics and click targets

“One of the main objectives  is social inclusion: especially the integration of older people and people with disabilities into the information society.  The means to achieve this is to design mainstream products and services to be accessible by as broad a range of users as possible operating within the widest possible range of situations. ”  Well I can’t argue with that.

I’ve highlighted only a few of the results of the research and would recommend anyone interested in either accessibility or mobile learning to read the full paper which is available here. Please note you will have to register with the iJET but it is a free to access journal.

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The LSC has announced that a further £2.5 million capital funding will be available for MoLeNET 3.  For those not familiar with MoLeNET it stands for ‘Mobile Learning Network‘ and is a scheme administered by the LSN (Learning and Skills Network) to encourage the use of mobile technology for teaching and learning in the FE sector.

As a team we held a collaborative event at Preston College last week.  We had 31 delegates from learning providers across the North West of England and were delighted to welcome Dr Geoff Foot, the MoLeNET project manager.  Among the delegates were some college who had already had successful phase 1 or 2 bids and they shared their experiences.  It was clear that there is a considerable amount of work involved in running a project and the actual cost is over and above the 20% paid in advance to LSN.

As the deadline approaches, we are aware that there are colleges who would still like more information before making any decisions, so we have organised a further online event on Tuesday 1 September at 12.30.  We’ll be using Adobe connect and again Geoff Foot has agreed to be online to answer questions from learning providers.

Details of the event can be found here with a booking form here.

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On Tuesday we held a mobile learning event at the Leyland Hotel, just off the M6 near Preston.  We’d had quite a few problems with the organisation, totally down to me being unprepared and not giving myself time to do things.  Fortunately, Kev stepped in and he and Helen our events organiser managed to put a programme together.  In the end it was a really great day.  Dave Sugden gave a brilliant introduction to mobile learning and the MoLeNet projects and then Paul Coulton from Lancaster University showed some fab stuff that he’s working on.  He’s part of a Nokia group of developers and a lot of their work can be found on the MobileRadicals wiki. He demonstrated locoblog in which photos and GPS can give an accurate representation of where you’ve been and various games which incorporated a heart monitor and involved jumping in order to ‘fire’  – who needs a Wii fit?  The list of applications that the group are working on is huge and it’s worth checking out the wiki – I’m sure someone will be able to use these for learning out in the FE community. one of the applications was the production of 3d photographs. This of course involved wearing the silly glasses – so attractive.

3D glasses

For the rest of the day we had presentations from 8 different colleges and all very different.  We saw and had a go at using Nintendo DS, iPods, PSPs and saw lots of evidence of  learning taking place in a less traditional way.  If the Nintendo DS have done nothing else they have made mental arithmatic cool!  Interestingly, 5 of the 8 presentations involved projects for learners with some sort of learning difficulty or disability.

Sheena from Trafford had the delegates lined up and ‘speed dating’ discussing steps to acheiving collaborative learning. As someone who bangs on about collaboarative learning  it was a bit of an  ‘Allelluia’ moment for me.

steps to m-maturity

The final presentation of the day was from Colin Hawksworth from Birkenhead Sixth form on encouraging learners to use their own devices – another Hallelluia from me!

We’d set up a hashtag for twitter and other feeds – #MNW09 and were delighted to get nearly 4 pages of posts!  – definitely a something we’ll use again.  By the end of the day, I was pretty exhausted and so probably didn’t do a very comprehensive feedback but it was a great day with lots of sharing of ideas and discussions.

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