Category Archives: mobile

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.

hpE BDay tx

hpE BDay tx

Today the humble text message turns twenty. It was in 1992 that the first text message was sent an engineer from Vodafone, sent the message “Merry Christmas” from a PC to a mobile device using Vodafone’s UK network.

I don’t recall the first text message I sent, but it was one technology that I have never really taken advantage of. The average number of text messages sent per month is fifty, in November I sent twenty-five. I only really started sending text messages when I got my first iPhone. I think my problem was with predictive text or even understanding texting language. The advantage of the iPhone was a proper keyboard and not needing to try and use a numeric keypad. I could never get my head around the numeric keypad and did like and prefer the qwerty keyboard.

Still have that today when people send me texts, sometimes I have no idea what they are trying to say! I know, I know, I am getting old…

There are signs from Ofcom that the use of texting has peaked and is on a decline. However I suspect there are many colleges and universities out there which are not making the most of SMS and in many ways you could argue that they have missed the boat on this. Unless you are at the point of a mainstream rollout, I would say now is not the time to start researching or planning, or setting up a project on SMS texting. Still time to make the most of it with students perhaps in the classroom, but even then maybe using a different service would be a better idea.

Turn off that mobile

This is the presentation I gave in July at the event, CILIP’s Mobile Technology Executive Briefing.

Is there a role for mobile devices in the modern library? What are the issues, challenges and opportunities of using mobile devices to support learning and resource discovery in the library? From communication, collaboration, storage, notes, books, journals and more, mobile technologies are changing the way in which users can and are using libraries.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #084: The Legacy of MoLeNET

MoLeNET was a three year multi-million pound programme of mobile learning projects for Further Education, funded by the LSC and managed by the LSN. Two years on what is the legacy of MoLeNET and where are we with mobile learning now in FE. Have other sectors listened and learned from the lessons of MoLeNET. Listen to the legacy of MoLeNET.

With James Clay, Lilian Soon, David Sugden and Ron Mitchell.

This is the 84th e-Learning Stuff Podcast, The Legacy of MoLeNET.

Audio MP3

Download the podcast in mp3 format: The Legacy of MoLeNET.

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes