Category Archives: mobile

Forty Four Years Ago

using a mobile phone and a laptop

The first handheld mobile phone call was made forty four 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.

Six years after this first experiment, we saw on Tomorrow’s World how they were being introduced to the UK, with some barriers and problems coming from the Post Office (of which the telephony was eventually spun off and sold off as British Telecom).

Even then, you could see the usefulness of the device as a way of making phone calls on the move, and whilst mobile. What was less apparent was the potential of the device as a mobile portable computer, even in 1979, personal computing was very much in its infancy. Even the first few pocket and portable computers didn’t have connectivity.

It is the smartphone’s connection to the internet and the web, which makes it a very different device to those early handheld mobile phones. The mobile phone today is a transformative and enabling 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.

using a mobile phone

The reality is that learners don’t use mobile phones in classrooms in the way they were envisaged, for making actual 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.

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.

using a mobile phone

The mobile phone is forty four 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.

version of this article was first published in 2013 when the handheld mobile phone call was forty years old.

Just checking the e-mail…

iOS e-mail

What’s the first thing you do in the morning? What’s the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk at work? I suspect you are probably checking your e-mail? It wouldn’t surprise me that you leave your e-mail client (like Outlook) open all the time and respond as those little pop-ups appear on your screen. So how often do you check your e-mail?

Actually I would think that if you are reading this blog, having seen the link on social media, that your answers to those questions would differ from the norms of the behaviour of most people in the workplace.

For many people e-mail is their work. Usually the first activity when arriving at work (after making a coffee of course) is checking the e-mail. Then throughout the working day the e-mail is checked and checked again. Productive activity is interrupted by those lovely notifications popping up. Mobile devices like the iPhone suddenly make e-mail even more accessibly, those red numbers going up and up and make it essential the e-mail is checked again, even when travelling, at home and at weekends. Work is e-mail and e-mail is work.

I find it interesting how often we default to e-mail as the main communication tool, to the point where it replaces other forms of communication or discussion. People also often use e-mail for various activities that really e-mail wasn’t designed for.

Continue reading Just checking the e-mail…

On the tech side…

Birmingham

As some will now as well as talking about e-learning stuff, I also like to talk about the tech side of things too. Over the last few months I have been talking about things I have written about on this blog before.

In my blog post Mobile WordPress Theme I have covered the update to WP-Touch, which adds a dedicated mobile theme to WordPress blogs really easily and looks great. If you have your own WordPress installation, then this plug-in is really easy to install.

Mobile WordPress

In another article I talk about how we melted the wifi at the recent UCISA event on digital capabilities. The conference centre struggled to cope with 120 delegates as the wifi, that in theory could cope with 250 wireless clients, failed to deliver a stable consistent wifi connection.

On this blog I wrote about the fickle nature of the web based on the original article which appeared on the Tech Stuff blog. This was in response to the original decision by the BBC to remove the recipes from their BBC Food site.

Weston Village

In addition to the individual post mentioned above, I have also written about my continued issues with getting FTTC at home. As well as my new Three 4G connection, where I am getting nearly 50Mb download speeds.

So if you fancy a more technical read, then head over to the blog.

The decline of SMS

mobiletrains

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

oldtools

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