When we start talking about digital transformation, I often see people focusing on the digital aspect and expecting the transformation to follow on. Where we see true transformation, the focus is on the change and digital is enabling that change.
In a previous blog post I wrote about the changes digital had on the music industry, well a specific focus on the retail aspect. In this similar post I want to think about the impact digital has had on television and probably more importantly the ways in which we watch television.
Television has been around for a while now. The early 1950s saw an explosion of television ownership in the UK. These were analogue devices that enabled broadcast television in the home. Originally all television was live, it was the development of video tape that allowed television to be recorded in advance and broadcast later.
1998 saw the launch of digital terrestrial television in the UK with Ondigital. However digital terrestrial television really took off in the UK when Freeview was launched in October 2002. In order to view the digital signal you either needed a set top box or a television with an integrated digital tuner. This was very much a digitisation of the television.
Over the next few years we saw televisions become smarter (and flatter and larger).
Well what really transformed television wasn’t the digitisation or digitalisation of the hardware.
If we separate the physical television hardware from the experience of watching television then we are now seeing the digital transformation of television watching experience.
When we look at digital transformation, it becomes obvious that focusing on the hardware or technology is actually quite limiting.
If we go through the story of television again, but rather than look at the hardware to watch television, we focus on the experience of watching television, we can start to see how digital enhanced, enabled and transformed the experience of watching television.
When television was broadcast, you had no choice but to watch what was on when it was on. Yes you had a choice of channels, but not a huge choice.
The VCR (video cassette recorder) did transform the way in which we could watch television, we could now time shift when we watched stuff, and video rental shops allowed us to watch things which weren’t on television. I do remember travelling by train on the 4th July 1990 and there was someone in our carriage watching the World Cup semi-final between Germany and England on a small portable television. It was a tiny screen, it was back and white, and every time we went through a tunnel they lost the signal. The poor bloke was also surrounded by people who also wanted to watch the game. I remember the running commentary when the match ended in penalties. The portable telebision and the VCR were both technologies that led to the transformation of the television watching experience, but this was not digital transformation of that watching experience. However this change would influence how we wanted to watch television and as there were technological changes enabled by digital, this would result eventually in a digital transformation of that television watching experience.
The launch of digital terrestrial television of course changed the watching experience now we had access to lots of channels and the EPG (electronic programme guide) would enhance that experience. Though for some it meant more time scrolling through those channels.
What really transformed the watching experience was when digital technologies detached that experience from the physical television.
Back in the early 2000s I had a Compaq iPAQ handheld PDA with a jacket that could be used with a CompactFlash memory card. I do remember, as an experiment, ripping a DVD, compressing the resulting video file, copying it over to a 1GB IBM MicroDrive CF memory card and watching video on the move. It was challenging to do and not something the average consumer would do. However the concept was there of watching television on a small screen, regardless of my location.
There followed the development of small handheld devices, be they phones or tablets, which now have sufficient processing power to deliver high quality video. Also video content is now much more easily available. Connectivity has changed as well, with 4G (and now 5G) allowed high quality video to be streamed over the internet regardless of location.
Suddenly we could watch television when we wanted, where we wanted and how we wanted. Services exploited this transformation of the television watching experience, we saw subscription services such as Netflix, on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer, downloaded content from services such as Google Play or iTunes really enabled and allowed people to have a very different television watching experience. In many ways the digital transformation of watching television has resulted in box sets being available (as opposed to releasing an episode weekly, though that still happens) . We’ve also seen a huge explosion in short videos, through services such as YouTube and TikTok.
One example of the impact of this transformation of the watching experience is how television episodes are no longer constrained by the artificial construct of broadcast television. Most US series, until recently, episodes were 45 minutes long, so with adverts they would fit into the one hour slot allocated to them. With services such as Netflix and on demand services, the removal of the constraint has enabled television production to produce episodes of different lengths to suit the story for that episode, some will be longer and some will be shorter. The fourth season of Stranger Things is a case in point, only one episode is an hour, five are between 74 and 78 minutes and the finale is one hour 38 minutes. Okay these are all longer…
So to remind us, when we look at digital transformation, it becomes obvious that focusing on the hardware or technology is actually quite limiting. So when looking at the digital transformation of education, we really want to focus on the transformation of education and how digital can enable and enhance that transformation.
The Office for Students (OfS) is today launching its strategy for 2022 to 2025.
The strategy confirms two main areas of focus for the OfS’s work: quality and standards, and equality of opportunity.
The OfS’s work on quality and standards aims to ensure that students receive a high quality academic experience which improves their knowledge and skills. Much provision in the English higher education sector is excellent – the focus of the OfS will be on challenging provision that falls short, and taking action as needed.
On access and participation work, the OfS will encourage higher education providers to work in partnership with schools to raise attainment.
These two areas of focus are mutually reinforcing, with effective regulation of quality helping to ensure that students from all backgrounds have the support they need to succeed in and beyond higher education.
Speaking ahead of the launch of the strategy at a Parliamentary event later today [Wednesday], Lord Wharton, Chair of the OfS, said:
‘Our new strategy sets out a clear plan of action to achieve our goal of ensuring all students, regardless of their background, have a quality education and achieve successful outcomes.
‘Over the next three years we will take action to challenge universities and colleges offering students poor academic experiences. Courses that fall below our minimum requirements damage the quality of English higher education and harm the prospects of students from all backgrounds.
‘This new strategy will guide how the OfS will regulate in students’ interests over the next three years. Our focus on quality and equality of opportunity reflects the issues that are important to students, and which have the greatest impact on their experience. The strategy also sets out how we will support providers in their actions to address student mental health and prevent harassment and sexual misconduct.
‘We are committed to engaging with students as we deliver the strategy and will shortly be publishing refreshed student engagement priorities.’
Dr Stephanie Coen, assistant professor in health geography at Nottingham University, is eager to get back to teaching in person. But she fears that with students not required to wear masks when classes start in a few weeks, squeezing them like “sardines” into her tiny room for seminars will be unsafe.
I don’t think anyone will be surprised if we see a repeat of what we saw last September when students returned to university. Though the numbers initially back then weren’t high they did start to rise as term continued. What will happen now, we don’t really know.
This tweet from Alejandro Armellini resonated with me.
I invite colleagues to be very pedagogically critical of apparently sexy environments or approaches, e.g. #hyflex or hybrid (which are anything but new). Review the research into and practice with such approaches. Not everything is rosy. #practicalpedagogy1#Highered
It was a thread of tweets about the importance of being pedagogically critical of new ways of delivery such as hybrid. Ale has actually done hybrid and brings that experience and perspective to his views.
The pandemic has also shown us that we do not have to do anything special for the people for whom institutions and systems have been built. Our white male able students are going to be fine, they are the default category of person higher education is already built for.. It is ok–I would argue it is necessary– to start saying to ourselves “my starting point for designing this curriculum, this system, this process, will be to serve those students who are disadvantaged, who are disabled by our institutions.
The University of York is offering students housing an hour’s drive away in Hull due to a shortage of accommodation. The crisis has been sparked by an over-subscription on the university’s courses which has created a surge in demand for student housing.
This kind of situation is one reason why universities might want to consider a more flexible curriculum which takes advantages of the affordances of online and digital so that students don’t have to spent two to three hours commuting to campus five days a week. Though I imagine that students might actually want to go to campus (and the city) as they applied to York not Hull. I went to York as much for the city as for the course.
Thinking that this mobile telephony would never catch on….
Michael Rodd makes a call with an experimental cordless mobile phone. It’s 1979 and time for the telephone to go mobile. In this report from a longer programme, Michael Rodd examines a British prototype for a cordless telephone that allows the user to make calls from anywhere. Also included at the end of this item is a rather nice out-take as Rodd also experiences the first mobile wrong number.
I do recall watching this when it was broadcast.
Of course we don’t really use our phones as phones these days, the mini computer we have in our pockets is now used for way more than just making calls.
Thursday I was off to Birmingham for our all staff conference.
This was my second in-person event in a week. I drove to Birmingham, parked my car. I parked at Five Ways. In the past when I parked there I would generally have to park on the roof, this time I could have parked on level 1, though as there was more room I parked on level 2. I walked to the ICC and showed my covid pass and I was into the event. There were nearly 500 Jisc staff in the event.
This was the final day for Paul Feldman as CEO and the first day for Heidi Fraser-Krauss our new CEO.
The day mainly consisted of talks with Q&A. There was some group work, but overall probably about 30 minutes worth, a missed opportunity I think, but it’s always challenging to design a programme such as this for 500 people. What was nice was the time to connect with people, though we obviously talk a lot through Teams and Zoom, there is something different about meeting in-person.
Friday I had a chat with some consultants about some possible work, and we also discussed the Intelligent Campus concept as well.
My top tweet this week was this one.
Tell us your favourite edtech person without telling us your favourite edtech person.
School and college leaders have condemned the government’s plan to ban mobile phones from classrooms as outdated and out of touch, arguing that schools should be allowed to decide on appropriate rules.
My children’s secondary school have banned the use of mobile phones for some time now. Children are allowed to take phones to and from school, but at school they need to be turned off and put away. One of the challenges is that during the lockdown and forced periods of self-isolation, many young people used their phones to stay in touch and keep in contact with friends. There was a certain amount of reliance on them, so much so, that they became important for wellbeing as much as for communication, games, and distraction.
Back in 2008 when I was working on MoLeNET (Mobile Learning Network) projects the issue of mobile phone bans came up quite often. I was often an advocate about instead of banning phones, think about how they could be utilised for teaching and learning. Today mobile phones are actually much more than phones, they are computers and internet devices. You can do so much more on them then the kinds of phones people had in 2008 (the iPhone was only a year old back then). I personally think a ban misses the point, yes, they can be a distraction, but we need to think about behaviour and engagement as well and how the pandemic has changed how people use their mobile devices.
Wednesday, I headed to the office in Bristol. This was not my first visit to the office, but the first since further restrictions were lifted. The office is now fully open, so we can work on all floors and don’t need to worry about booking desks. It was nice to have a much busier workplace than on previous visits to the office (and compared to last week when I was the only person in the London office).
I also made the decision to catch the train to work, rather than use my car. The train (the first off-peak service) was quite crowded, but then it was only two carriages. There is quite a bit of engineering work happening at Bristol Temple Meads over the summer, so there have been cancellations, rail replacement buses and signalling problems. My train in the end, was only a few minutes late.
Headed up to the third floor of the office. I was joined by some old colleagues from what was Futures within Jisc and had a really good chat. It had been over eighteen months since we had met in-person and in one case I had only met the person online. It reminded me of both the advantages and disadvantages of going to the office. I like the in-person interaction but can be disruptive if you have stuff to do.
The air conditioning was getting to me, so I hid in a meeting room and turned the heating up.
I caught the train home from Bristol Temple Meads (half of which was closed off).
Had a few ad hoc conversations on Thursday.
Quite liked these tweets from people who had attended the digital leadership consultancy I had delivered for Leeds.
Me too! I’m crediting this partially to my participation in the Jisc Digital Leaders programme. @DigitalJisc
Always nice to see the positive impact that your training has had on the way that people work, they didn’t just attend the training, engage with the training, but are now acting on what they saw and learnt.
Well the week started later (as might be expected) with Easter Monday. Also with it being a school holiday and people taking leave, it was also a rather quiet week with very few meetings. This allowed me to crack on with a few things that were in my to do list.
University leaders said it was deeply unfair that students could get haircuts or work in pubs next week but still had no idea when their campuses would reopen, as the government announced that school pupils in England will be expected to wear masks until the middle of May.
The BBC News reported on Gavin Williamson wanting to ban mobile phones in schools.
Mobile phones should be banned from schools because lockdown has affected children’s “discipline and order,” the education secretary has warned. Gavin Williamson told The Telegraph phones should not be “used or seen during the school day”, though he said schools should make their own policies. Phones can act as a “breeding ground” for cyber-bullying and social media can damage mental health, he added. “It’s now time to put the screens away, especially mobile phones,” he wrote.
I was reminded of a blog post that I wrote back in 2008.
Does your institution ban mobile phones in the classroom? Does it just ban the use of mobile phones in the classroom? Or does it just ban the inappropriate use of mobile phones in the classroom?
The key with any great learning process is the relationship between teacher and student, get that right and you are onto a winner. Disruption happens with that relationship breaks down, not when a phone rings.
My experience of school policies today, is that they actually already ban mobile phones….
I also liked this response from @Simfin who is an expert in this space.
I did like this article on Wonkhe – Where next for digital learning? by Julie Swain. She says that the key pillars of action to support staff and students need to focus on are:
Digital Learning Spaces
Mental Health Support
Digital Learning Skills
In the article Julie recognises that digital poverty isn’t just about connectivity and hardware, it’s also about space and time.
She says about space: Space has proven to be a major issue. There were assumptions that students and staff had “study spaces” at home where they could shut off and dedicate themselves to learning. Again that is just not the case for many and it is not uncommon to be “inside someone’s spare room or even bedroom “.
Though I also think we need to consider low bandwidth and asynchronous learning activities as well as space, connections and hardware.
No travelling for me this week, well that’s no different to any other week these days… Last year around this time on one week I was in London two days and went to Cheltenham as well. It doesn’t look like I will be travelling anywhere for work for months, even for the rest of the year!
Had a number of meetings about ideas for consultancy offers with various institutions, which were interesting.
Continued to work on the strategy, which is now looking good. It’s not a huge shift from what we had before, but it takes on board the lessons from Jisc’s Learning and Teaching Reimagined programme. It will also lead into some work we are doing on thought leadership. I have to say I am not a fan of the term thought leader, it’s up there with the term social media guru, as something you call yourself, but no one would ever describe you by that term. However the concept of future thinking is something that I think we should do, if people want to call that thought leadership, fine.
Reflecting and thinking about where you see higher education could go in the future, as well as thinking about where they are now can be useful. Sharing those thoughts with others, is more useful. I see these pieces are starting discussions, inspiring people or even making them reflect on their own thinking.
With all the media talk on digital poverty this week, I was reminded that fifteen years ago I wrote an abstract for a conference, the session was called: Mobile Learning on a VLE?
Wouldn’t it be nice if all learners in an educational environment had access to a wireless laptop and free wireless access to their digital resources at a time and place to suit their needs.
Back in 2006 I was looking at how learners could access learning content despite not having a fancy laptop (or desktop) or even internet connectivity.
I was intrigued about how consumer devices used for entertainment, information and gaming could be used to access learning. Could you format learning activities for the PSP, an iPod, even the humble DVD player?
I even found a video of the presentation, which I have uploaded to the YouTube.
Nothing new really, as the Open University had been sending out VHS cassettes for many years before this.
Wikipedia was twenty years old this week. The first time I wrote about Wikipedia on this blog was back in 2007, when they published their two millionth article. They now have fifty-six million articles. I met Jimmy Wales at Learning without Frontiers ten years ago this week.
I managed to have a few words with Jimmy and wished I could have had a few more, seemed like a really nice and genuine guy.
My colleague Lawrie had a post published on the Advance HE blog Leadership through a digital lens where he reflects on what we have learnt over the past year from having technology front and centre of HE, asking how we ensure that we do not adopt a techno-solutionist approach but look at our goals through a digital lens.
On the 2nd October 2009 I was at the ULCC Event, The Future of Technology in Education.
Little did I know the impact that this presentation would have on me, my future career and education in general.
I felt a little intimidated to be invited to talk at the event, we wouldn’t have called it imposter syndrome back then, but I did wonder if I was the right person to talk at such an interesting conference. It certainly had a TED talk feel to it. I must thank Frank Steiner and Tim Bush from ULCC for their support and help and inviting me to talk at this FOTE and future FOTE events.
2009 was quite a year for me, I had won the ALT Learning Technologist of the Year award that year. It was also the year of “The VLE is Dead” debate at the ALT Conference.
The event took place at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington, which I remember wasn’t the easiest place to get to via the underground. Knowing London better now I think I would probably have just walked across Hyde Park from Paddington to get there. From about 2001 I started going to London a lot for work, well a few times a year, which was considerably more than when I was a lecturer in Bristol. I use to go to London, arrive at Paddington, take the underground, pop up somewhere, go to a meeting or an event, before popping back down into the underground on my way home. These days I visit London a lot more and have spent a lot more time walking around London, so have a much better grasp of the geography of the place. I remember being quite impressed with the place, and that you could see the nearby Albert Hall.
I spent a fair bit of time putting my presentation together, in the end it comprised 82 slides… and I only had twenty minutes to deliver my talk. A challenge that took some doing.
My presentation was entitled The future of learning… The aim of my presentation was to discuss how learning would and could change with the affordances of technological change.
So what of my predictions?
Well we know predicting the future is hard and generally most people get it wrong.
You will no doubt not be surprised that I got a lot of things wrong…
One thing I feel I did get right was that mobile was going to be big and important. I said how I felt mobile was the future. The audience did have a range of mobile devices themselves, but most phones were nothing more than phones that could do SMS and the Snake game. There were a few smartphones out there, but if my experience was to go by, they were clunky and difficult to use. We had the iPhone, but it hadn’t quite had the impact that it has had by today.
We didn’t have the iPad, that would arrive the following year. So no surprise that in my talk at FOTE I didn’t mention tablets
My talk actually started off talking about the past, how we are still impacted and embedded by the past, which makes change challenging and difficult.
I then talked about the present and some of the issues and problems that technology was causing in classrooms and lecture theatres. PAT testing was a real concern for many back then, don’t hear much about it these days in relation to BYOD or learner devices.
One of the challenges I saw back then was how academics and educationalists wanted to categorise learning, so we had e-learning, m-learning, mobile learning, online learning, digital learning, etc….
I said that I thought categorising learning and putting it into different boxes was restricting and that really we should focus on learning and blur the boxes, blur the boundaries.
It was fine to talk about the “boxes” at conferences and in papers, but experience has shown that categorising learning into boxes caused confusion for teachers and academics, who rightly focussed on the word before the learning as a problem to be solved and then found it challenging.
However back then I said, and I still stand by this today, is that learners and academics need to understand the potential of technology and digital to better understand the affordances and opportunities that it can provide for learning. You don’t need to be ab le to do the technology, but you do need to know what it can do.
I also brought in scepticism about technological advances, something I would draw upon in future talks and presentations.
Video (and film) had been used for learning for years, but people were sceptical and convinced that video (ie lecture capture) would stop traditional learning activities. However we know that television didn’t destroy radio, we know that radio didn’t kill newspaper, books didn’t replace folk stories. When we have a new technological development, often the result is a negative impact on existing technologies, but often the result is affordances about the potential of the new technology, enabling access that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
I also talked about the potential of video on mobile devices. Video cameras were getting smaller and cheaper, the quality was getting better as well. You could buy video cameras which could record HD video, even if it was a challenge to capture and edit it on standard computers of the time. This was before the concept of streaming became mainstream. I showed a Sanyo Xacti camera which was waterproof and dropped it in a jug of water. These cameras could be used in dirty and dusty environments and the washed under the tap!
Mobile phone video has become so much better now. I am still impressed that my iPhone can record 4K video… If only we could get people to record video in landscape!
GPS was usually an option on devices back then, today it is more prevalent in the devices we buy. I saw this as an opportunity, the concept of geo-location based learning was something that felt quite magical at the time. Your device knows where you are, so personalises the learning based on your location. What I missed was how location tracking and would become a very big issue for people.
There was a bit of a backlash against e-Books back in 2009, as people felt that they weren’t as good as “real” books. For me they weren’t a replacement for books, they enabled different ways of reading. For many e-Books and e-book readers enabled a new way to access books and content, that otherwise would mean they wouldn’t have access. I presented on the future of reading at #FOTE10 the following year. I became a bit of an expert on e-books as as result. I presented on e-books at many different events and conferences, as well as writing a chapter in a book, and finally a book on Preparing for Effective Adoption and Use of Ebooks in Education in 2012.
Today e-books are part and parcel off education with easier access to books by students from academic libraries. As I did predict, we didn’t see the end of physical books, we still have bookstores and people still buy physical books.
Back then in 2009 connectivity was either slightly haphazard, or expensive, or both. We had 3G, but it wasn’t widespread, it would be another three years before we saw 4G.
WiFi was there, but it didn’t always work and network congestion would often cause the WiFi to fail. This happened with frequent regularity at events and conferences I attended back then, as delegates killed the WiFi with too many connections.
In the future I felt connectivity wouldn’t just be important, it would be critical for the future of learning.
Today we have really good (and cheap) mobile data, 4G is more available and 5G is starting to appear. Ubiquitous WiFi is certainly there compared to ten years ago, Eduroam has made it easier for people in education to connect when travelling, but WiFi is easily found in most places. This has allowed users to do so much more when travelling and moving about, or just when drinking coffee. I certainly notice how many people are streaming video, having video chat, doing so much more, because they had the connection and the bandwidth to do so.
Mobile often means battery power, and access to charging. Everyone remembers how their Nokia phone would last days on a single charge, today, most people seem to complain how their smartphone battery doesn’t last the day. Batteries may not seem to have got better, they have, just that we demand more power for our complex devices. We have seen significant improvements in battery technology, but we have seen a huge increase in our demand for power on our devices. Streaming video requires more power than reading an e-mail. One thing that has taken time to filter through was the importance of the ability to charge devices. Since 2009 we have seen trains and buses adding power sockets, and USB ports for charging as well. Hotels have added similar sockets. Some lecture theatres now have plug sockets as well.
In my 2009 presentation I talked about the technological penknife.
This is one thing I got very wrong, I thought that the idea that a device that did everything meant it did everything badly. A penknife has multiple tools, but most of them aren’t very good doing the stuff they are designed to do. People would prefer to have specialist devices for specific activities. Why would you have rubbish video from a phone, when you could have a decent HD video camera? Why would you use the rubbish microphone on a device, when a specialist recording device would do it so much better? Well that didn’t happen, in reality we have seen devices become so much better that we don’t need to have multiple devices. We have the penknife, but it’s a really good penknife, really good at everything.
I then went on to talk about change and the importance of managing change. I talked about how change can be a series of small steps, but noted the importance of missing steps, endless steps and steps that trip you up.
These slides were really where I started to understand strategy and writing strategies much more. This certainly helped me in future roles and influenced heavily the design of certain aspects of the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme in which I was part of the research and development team led by Lawrie Phipps.
I talked about activity, technology should never be about the technology, it needed to be about how it could enhance or improve activities. Or where the affordances created new opportunities for different activities. We still have a perception that we shouldn’t talk about technology first, though sometimes I think we should.
Technology allow for flexibility, flexible curriculum, flexible approaches to delivery, flexible learning. I think we have made a little progress here, but so much more is possible these days. The technology enables flexibility, but that doesn’t mean it will just happen, there is so much more that needs to happen to enable flexibility.
Back then I felt sharing was important, not just sharing content (as in open) but also sharing ideas, concepts and approaches. Not that this didn’t happen, but it was difficult to do so. Today it is much easier to share than it was back then, so much so, I think we have forgotten about the time when this didn’t happen.
I talked about the importance of working collaboratively. Since the talk online tools have made it so much easier to collaborate. Collaboration across institutions (and countries) is so much easier these days. Tools such as Slack enable groups to talk and work together.
I talked about innovation, celebrating ideas. Innovation doesn’t always mean better, it means different or new. Following on from that I talked about experimentation and encouraging it within our institutions.
If you want innovation, then it needs to be embedded into the strategy, rewarded and not penalised when things go wrong. It needs to be done in collaboration with learners not done to them. I think we are seeing much more innovation and collaboration these days, and the student voice is helping to inform developments and ideas.
I said we need to re-think assessment, technology was going to have an impact. I think it has, but not in the way we thought it would. We try and use technology to “fix’ assessment today, rather than re-imagine how we assess.
I talked about culture and how culture can enable change, but also frustrate it. Culture is about what and who we are, it’s the sum of the people within an organisation. This was something we covered years later in the Jisc Digital Leaders Programme.
I have always seen technology as a solution to a problem. Technology in itself is not the problem needing to be solved. This was something that I wrote about in 2018.
I finished the presentation about talking about the future and how the future was about the learner, the student. It was about how they wanted to learn, where they wanted to learn, what they wanted to learn and with whom they wanted to learn. Why did we need to think about the future, it was because we needed to think about the learners, then, now and in the future.
So did I predict the future?
It certainly though had a huge impact on my future, some of which I have outlined above. As a result of this talk I was invited to speak at a range of events and conferences on the future of learning and a range of mobile learning events. I spoke the following year at FOTE 10 about the future of reading, which resulted in me doing much more in the e-book space.
So there is also a video of me (looking much younger) presenting, if you want to watch what happened…
On this day nine years ago I was presenting and giving anoverview of the current state of play of mobile tech and MoLeNET for the JISC Cetis Mobile Tech Event on the 15th June 2010 in Bolton.
Here are the presentation slides I delivered.
I created the slides in Apple’s Keynote application before saving them as images which I then imported into Powerpoint.
I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what we thought then was the state of play then and what the current state of play is.
June 2010 was just two weeks after the iPad was available in the UK and people were still wondering what to do with it and what it’s potential was, I used the image of iPad boxes to show that this was going to be a “something” and I think we can say it certainly had impact.
Not just putting the tablet as a mobile device into the heads of consumers and educators, but also the influence it had on smartphones as well. I don’t think we would have the huge large screen smartphones we have today if it wasn’t for devices such as the iPad and notably the iPad mini.
In most of my presentations I usually put a slide like this in.
There was still a culture of presenters asking people to turn off devices, give me your full attention and all that. Today I think we have more idea of if we want to use our device or not at conferences and presentations. I certainly wanted people to think about what I was saying, but also join in the conversation using new tools such as the Twitter!
In the presentation I started to look at the news headlines of the day
Apple had released their iPhone in 2007, now three years later it was having a huge impact on the market for phones.
Today the figures are somewhat different, there is no more sign of Nokia, RIM, HTC or Motorola, but look how Samsung dominates that market along with Huawei and other Chinese manufacturers.
Another headline was the success of the iPad.
What was interesting was how much the iPhone (and the iPad) were used to browse the mobile internet back in 2010.
Today most smartphones are capable of web browsing, mainly as most websites are now mobile optimised, making it a much easier experience than trying to navigate a desktop enabled site on a mobile browser. The other big change has been the growth of smartphone apps.
Back then the data limits with mobile contracts was really limiting.
Though these limits are still here today, having an unlimited data contract is no longer the realm of business accounts, consumers and students can access contracts with unlimited data more easily and quite cheaply as well. The data landscape has changed as well with 4G speeds being widespread and we are on the edge of the 5G world as well. The other factor that has changed is the widespread availability of wifi.
I really find these data usage patterns for the O2 network for 2010 incredibly low compared to today.
This report describes the results of a series of discussion workshops where experts and experienced practitioners explored visions of how mobile technologies and devices will influence practice in Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) in the near future. The workshop series was funded by the UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) as part of the Emerge Community within JISC’s own Users and Innovation research programme. This exploration focused on identifying emerging issues for the sector arising from the increasingly likely large scale use of Smartphones, PDAs and camera phones by learners in HE and FE, both on campus and in the workplace.
One of the things that is apparent from the report is how different mobile learning was back then compared to now. The main difference is the increase in bandwidth and connectivity. Then there was quite a bit of reliance on offline mobile learning and SMS texting. Today we see the use of mobile optimised web sites and apps.
However some of the issues in the report, highlighted in my presentation are still relevant today.
Training is still an issue, and not just with the technical side of things, understanding the affordances of mobile devices and mobile learning as well isn’t something that just happens and people instinctively know.
As discussed above, the issue of connectivity. Luckily today we have much better and more reliable wifi and mobile connectivity. This allows for mobile learning without the learner having to worry about being connected. Faster speeds allow for real time video chat, as well as streaming high quality video whilst on the move.
Collaboration back then often meant asynchronous textual conversations, as poor or expensive connectivity meant that real-time chat and conversations were not a possibility. Today collaboration is so much easier and can be done with audio or even video chat.
I also mentioned the Twitter.
As well as issues I also in the presentation talked about the fears that practitioners often felt when it came to mobile learning.
The cultural shift towards the use of mobile devices and learning whilst mobile, was something that hasn’t really gone away.
There is still resistance to change despite advances and increases in the use of mobile technology. Often though people are happy to discover and use mobile devices for their own stuff, using mobile devices for learner is still a step too far for some.
One reference I think still stands is how as learning technologists we often think we come over as Luke Skywalker, here to “save you”.
We do need to remember that others mainly see us as…
Resistance is futile.
One important aspect that is equally important today was privacy.
With the increase in data gathering, location data gathering and increase in analytics, what was a real issue in 2010 is a much bigger issue today.
Having discussed the state of play back in 2010, I then went into discuss the MoLeNET project.
It’s interesting to see what has changed and what has remained the same.
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.
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.
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.
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.