What's in a name?

I’ve recently been involved with an email based discussion with other colleagues about aspects of “mobile” learning. There are various things we’ll be looking at, such as capabilities devices that students actually have, technical developments etc., and, the aspect I personally feel is crucial

…the pedagogical issues involved when delivering learning material on small form-factor devices

At the same time as answering the various messages that were flying around I read the 2010 Horizon report(pdf) – which has as “One year or less”, Mobile Computing. I then read a little further and noted that part of mobile computing is the area we’re interested in (small form factor), but it also encompasses wireless access in general.

The available choices for staying connected while on the go are many Β— smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and a wide range of other devices access the Internet using cellular-based portable hotspots and mobile broadband cards, in addition to wi-fi that is increasingly available wherever people congregate.

I therefore wondered if “Mobile” was the correct word for the group, and asked around. One suggestion was that “personalised” would be better, though my own view on that is that a student could have a “personalised” learning experience on the latest gaming machine with 2 24″ monitors – or her new android powered phone (clearly a rich student!); so it’s even more generic (though something, alongside aspects such as encouraging staff / students to make best use of OERs that should be being done anyway. )

My preference had been for “handheld”, so I asked on Twitter. Initially the answers had pointed towards “handheld” – possibly due to the leading nature of my posts! Simon Brookes included the point I’d forgotten – though would have known had I thought about it – about the frequent lack of keyboard. However, later in the evening, Jon Trinder and James Clay joined in, and the discussion swung back towards “mobile” (or learning mobility – which was Andy Black’s suggestion) – with the additional point that in that case a “mobile device” could be the coffee shop!.

In the case of UoP, I feel that we’ve already addressed many aspects of “mobile learning”. The wireless network is pretty ubiquitous (from talking to people at other Universities, it’s one of the most extensive), all our coffee shops (and, whether by accident or design, several local non-University ones) have it; we have both an encrypted and (more recently) non-encrypted option (I can now get the OLPC on it :)). We also have it in most teaching areas. So far, I’ve not heard that any academic staff have prevented students using laptops in lectures. There’s also a pool of loan laptops in the library. So, we’ve got good support and understanding, I think, for wifi access from laptops that are running reasonably recent versions of Windows (2000/XP/Vista/7), Mac OSx+. There are probably a few linux users – but the chances are they’re relatively geeky and installed it themselves. (The main drawback that I see to this is the lack of powersockets where you happen want them!)

The new group, however, is looking at netbook & smaller devices so:

  • huge range of OSes (and is more likely to include novice computer users with linux based netbooks);
  • small screen
  • limited input options
  • access via wifi or 3G

That’s why I feel that the word “handheld” is, in this case more appropriate – and could guide us when considering “the pedagogical issues involved when delivering learning material on small form-factor devices.” (by default, I’m assuming we’re thinking about using them to get students involved via discussion etc., as on paper, “delivering” could be seen as one way). There’s also raising staff awareness; most are, as I’ve already said, tolerant of laptops on desks. Most assume that phones on desks = (non-academic related) texting!
Any other comments?

Jane's E-Learning Pick of the Day: Slideshow of the Day

Jane Hart’s “25 Tools” is today’s Slideshow of the Day

Of those she lists:

  • Firefox – yes (and Flock)
  • Delicious – got an account, but never use it.
  • Google Reader – yes, embedded into my iGoogle page (& now into Vista’s Sidebar)
  • Gmail – yes – again into iGoogle (though not the Vista sidebar … but I have added it to my OLPC as an application)
  • Skype – yes, but not often, as we’re not meant to use it at work; so tend to use FlashMeeting instead for work.
  • Google calendar – to an extent – but it doens’t integrate with either the Groupwise or the WebCT Vista calendars (and they don’t with each other, either)
  • Google Docs – yes (yet another gadget on the iGoogle page)
  • iGoogle – see above!
  • Slideshare – yes (though I have looked at others)
  • Flickr – yes (even got a pro account!)
  • Voicethread – that’s a new one – but it sounds good πŸ™‚
  • WordPress – need I say more? (Though I do like Elgg)
  • Audacity – yes.
  • YouTube – yes
  • Jing – I’ve recommended it in the past, though tend to use Captivate, just because we have it on the machines.
  • PBWiki – got an account, though I’ve used Wikispaces more with students (and hope to have a local install of MediaWiki for next academic year)
  • PollDaddy – I’ve heard of this, but not really investigated, as though I’ve read about quite a few online survey tools – I’ve not had to use one in anger … yet (and as I do a lot of work with our Perception server, I know that tool really quite well!)
  • Nvu – I’ve got this installed; however, it’s not been updated since 2005, and I’ve also read that Kompozer is where they are now doing the updates, so that’s what I’m using more now as an alternative to Dreamweaver etc.,
  • Yugama – another one that’s new to me. Seems to be an alternative to Flashmeeting etc., I may have to investigate (and you can have up to 10 people for free, which is more than Elluminate’s Vroom)
  • Ustream – heard of, watched, but not tried broadcasting. Yet!
  • Ning – guess it had to come up. I really don’t like Ning. Though I know many others do. Oh well.
  • Freemind – I’ve used it, and quite like it – though tend to use Inspiration more. (Just wish either made as good use of the stylus input on a tablet as Mind Manager can.)
  • eXe – really must re-test this, now that we have a version of WebCT that it works with. Looked a really useful tool when I looked before (until I couldn’t import anything!)
  • Moodle – I wish …
  • Twitter – using it, but hardly what you’d call a devotee.

This seems to be a generally comprehensive list; of course, there are things I’d have put in instead, but there again, she did create it from others’ recommendations.