Category Archives: mobile

The decline of SMS


In a recent Ofcom report, the decline of SMS was noted.

SMS use fell for the second consecutive year, from 129 billion messages in 2013 to 110 billion messages in 2014, largely due to increasing smartphone take-up and use of internet-based communications.

This move from SMS to other forms of internet based communication is partly the result of the increase in the number of people owning internet capable smartphones, also the increase in the use of 4G (making it faster to do so).

…during 2014, 4G subscriptions have leapt from 2.7 million to 23.6 million

In addition we are seeing an increase in the availability of wifi both on campus and in urban areas.

The decline may be happening, but SMS usage is still much higher than it was a few years ago, back in 2007 we sent 52 billion texts.

So what does this all tell us?

Well there are three things we should take away from this.

Firstly if you are already using SMS to support teaching and learning (or learner support) then keep doing so, the decline is there, but the use of SMS is very much embedded into the daily lives of many people and will continue for the next few years.

Secondly, note that the increasing smartphone take-up and use of internet-based communications, means that in addition to SMS you should be using internet-based communications as well.

Finally if you’re not using either SMS or internet-based communications, then planning for the future, the focus should be on internet-based communications and not that means to ignore SMS, but note that it is in decline and resources may be better placed elsewhere, as the growth in internet based comms will continue to replace SMS.

What this report demonstrates is how challenging it can be to keep pace with changes in technology, that some technologies come and go, and that sometimes you need to move fast to take advantage of technological advances before they become obsolete.

Image source.

Emerged Technologies


Four years is a long time in technology, but how much has happened since 2011?

Back in November 2011 I was asked by the AoC to present at a conference with Donald Taylor on emerging technologies and how FE Colleges should be preparing for them.

My slides and Donald’s are in this slidedeck.

My notes from that presentation are here, but how much has changed since then and had education really embraced and started to embed these emerging technologies.

Continue reading Emerged Technologies

We are all of these…

Avon Gorge

Over on “Don’t Waste Your Time” David Hopkins posts a nice cartoon of how to support staff in using emerging technologies and his interpretation of the roles within the cartoon.

Supporting emerging technologies

‘Laggards’. Those who follow on once a technology has proven itself.

Late majority. Those who will join the implementation of something new once the initial buzz has quietened down and the research is starting to support its use.

Early majority. Like those in the ‘late’ majority, they will wait for the back to be broken on the testing and development before adopting and implementing, but will have been keen observers from the start.

Early adopters. Being involved and helping developing new uses for existing technologies (as well as driving developments) the early adopters will often be closely tied with the ‘innovators’ through professional connections.

Innovators. The first to know, the first to try, and sometimes the first to fail. These ‘technology enthusiasts’ will not stop when something doesn’t work, they’ll often try again, alter their approach or expectations, and keep looking around to see if there’s anything else they could use to improve work or learning efficiencies.

This is a nice model and people who are responsible for embedding the use of learning technologies will very likely recognise these stereotypes.

David asks with whom you identify with?

My observation is that we are all of them. Which one we are depends on which technology we are using.

For a long time I was a laggard (sceptic) with regard to Second Life and virtual worlds, really couldn’t see the value and how it could be used in an effective (and efficient) manner to enhance teaching, learning and assessment. It took a while and I remember seeing a fantastic presentation from Bex Ferriday on how Second Life was been used to create art displays that couldn’t exist in the real world. However despite that really nice exemplar, I still remained very much a conservative sceptic with regard to Second Life.

On the other hand, having used mobile technologies for years before the iPhone and the iPad (going back to the 1990s), I would describe myself as an innovator with regard to mobile learning. Very much the enthusiast and early adopter.

I would describe the model above more of an continuum than discrete roles that we fit into, and that where we sit on that continuum depends on where we are and how we use the technology. When you start to talk like that you suddenly realise that the Visitor and Residents model from David White and the work undertaken by him and Donna Lanclos resonates much more.

You could describe the enthusiast and early adopters as resident’esque behaviour and the behaviour of sceptics and the conservator majority as that of visitors.

One of the aspects of the V & R model I like is that as well as the horizontal continuum you also have a vertical continuum where technology is used between a professional and personal capacity.

Many years ago I was delivering training to a group of sixth form staff, one practitioner was quite proud of the fact that she was a technophobe, however when questioned further she not only used the internet, but used IM and Skype on a regular basis to talk to her daughter in Australia! What is apparent talking to many practitioners who don’t see the need or feel they can use technology to support teaching, learning and assessment, in their day to day life use technology all the time for their own needs and in their non-work life. These individuals can be sceptics in a professional capacity, but early adopters in their personal use of technology.

Models like the one above which shows learning technologists as bridging the chasm assume that there is a chasm that needs to be bridged and that people aren’t willing to cross it. It assumes that people’s view of technology is consistent across all technologies. It can be a starting point, but if you then move to the mapping exercise of the V & R model then it helps practitioners (and managers) realise that they are early adopters and sceptics and everything in between and that all of them can help each other to cross the many different technological chasms out there.

Of course one of the real challenges is to do this is from an holistic organisational perspective and get everyone to start to embed and increase their use of learning technologies where appropriate to enhance and enrich teaching, learning and assessment.

It’s not Napster

It’s not Napster

Interesting Examples of Technology Enhanced Learning – ocTEL

Probably the most interesting example of TEL for me at the moment is the MOOC, but probably not in the way you would expect.

What interests me about MOOCs is the hype surrounding them and a belief that they will have a significant impact on the HE sector. Some have been saying that MOOCs are to HE, in the same way that Napster was to the music industry. I am less confident in that view, but I do wonder (as someone who works in formal education) if I am thinking as a record company rather than an innovator.

The thing is that over the last few years there have been a fair few ideas and technologies that people have talked about as revolutionising education.

Go back to the 1990s and lots of people back then were talking about how online learning and VLEs were going to revolutionise education. Fast forward to today and VLEs are embedded in a fair few educational organisations (and used intermittently in others) however the VLE is in the main used to enhance and enrich an existing educational experience. You still have traditional classroom and lecture theatre delivery, but there is support, communication tools, extra resources and activities on the VLE that allow for a more personalised and individual learning experience. Rarely will you see a course delivered wholly on the VLE and where you do, it’s usually by an organisation that was doing that kind of remote learning before with paper.

In 2006 many people were talking about mobile learning (oh and still are) and how mobile devices were going to break apart traditional education delivery allowing learning to happen at a time and place to suit the learner. Fast forward again and what we find is that mobile devices are again in the main used to enhance and enrich an existing educational experience. Learners use mobile devices to access additional information and resources, as well as communicate. Services such as Twitter which work well on mobile devices allows back channel communication and sharing of resources and links. You aren’t seeing in the mainstream whole courses designed to be delivered on a mobile device. Some subject areas have made good use of mobile learning, but as with the VLE, the real strength of mobile has been to add value to a traditional learning experience.

Go back just a few years and everyone was talking about the PLE (Personal Learning Environment), how every learner could create their own learning environment, how Web 2.0 tools could take learning outside not just the institutional VLE, but also allow learning in communities and add an element of social learning. At a simple level, in a PLE, a learner would use a range of web based tools and services to create their own learning environment, engaging with learning communities across a range of institutions. Though that is happening today, it certainly isn’t mainstream.

I don’t see mainstream education using the PLE concept, yes individuals are pushing it and encouraging their learners to engage with web tools and services, but the PLE revolution that was talked about, just hasn’t happened and the term is rarely referred to or mentioned today in discussions about learning technologies. Certainly I don’t think I have seen the term PLE in any of the discussions in this MOOC.

In many ways I do think that MOOC is similar to what we have seen before. A lot of people evangelise how this “concept” will revolutionise education and cause traditional institutions to change. Personally I don’t see that happening.

In many ways MOOCs for me are an evolution of the PLE. By adding content and structure to the PLE you get a MOOC.

So will MOOCs revolutionise education in the same way that Napster changed the music industry?

What needs to be remembered is that there were lots of other services at that time, as well as other technologies, it wasn’t just Napster that had an impact on the music industry. Well maybe we should look whether it was just Napster, in many ways I think mp3 and the iPod (and iTunes) had a bigger impact. Also where is Napster now, the original Napster concept that is? It’s gone.

MOOCs will change education, the fact we are talking and discussing them implies that this will feed into how we work and support learning. But is it Napster? I don’t think it is.

Forty years later…

Mobile Phone

The first handheld mobile phone call was made forty years ago, on the 3rd of April 1973. There had been mobile phone before, in cars and lorries, but forty years ago saw the first phone call from a handheld cellular mobile phone. Well you also needed to carry a bag too (for the battery).

I suspect most (it not all) the people reading this blog post have a mobile phone, or if they don’t they did at one time.

It’s interesting that a technology, which has reached such a milestone, is still seen by many teachers and practitioners as disruptive and should be banned in classrooms.

The reality is that learners don’t use mobile phones in classrooms in the way they were envisaged, for making phone calls! The problem many practitioners have with mobile phones is not with the phones themselves, neither with learners making phone calls in lessons, the problem is a very different issue.

The mobile phone today is a very different device and in many ways a different concept to the one we saw back in 1973. The mobile phone today is much more than just a voice communication device, it can do so much more. I have done this exercise at many mobile learning workshops, I ask the participants to list all the different things they do on their phones. Interestingly, making phone calls is either not mentioned or very low on the list. The sorts of things that people today do on their phone includes (and is certainly not limited to) texting, social networking, photography, film making, audio recording, playing games, reading books, looking at magazines, listening to music and other recordings, watching video, streaming video, doing quizzes, creating content, and so much more…

It is this functionality that makes the mobile phone so much more than what was first seen back in 1973, and it is this functionality that teachers see as disruptive and challenging to manage.

Banning mobile phones or asking students to turn them off, is not a real solution, at most conferences and events when delegates are asked to turn off their phones, most will turn them to silent mode. So much so that conference organisers seem to ask people now to turn them to silent mode rather than turn them off. I am sure many learners in a classroom situation will do something similar.

The question you have to ask is why are learners switching off in lessons and using their mobile phones? Yes there will be the odd learner who is addicted to their phones and can’t help themselves using it. However these learners are in a very small minority. Think about if this was the case for all learners, then in all lessons, all learners would be disengaged and using their mobile phones; now that doesn’t happen.

Rather than blame the learners, the key is to think about why they are disengaging in your lessons. Why are they switching off from learning and switching on their phones?

Another possible solution is to embrace the use of the mobile phone and make it part of the learning process, as well as making the learning engaging and interesting. The very functionality that can be so disruptive or attractive to learners, can also be effective in supporting learning and assessment.

Engaging doesn’t always mean interactive and doesn’t mean that it can’t be hard or difficult. Thinking about challenging problems is an effective learning process.

The mobile phone is forty years old, in many ways the disruptive nature of mobile phones is new, but only because the mobile phone has evolved into something very different from a device used to make mobile phone calls.