“When I’m drivin’ free, the world’s my home” …more on going mobile.

Photo by drp

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The Who – Going mobile
Found at skreemr.com

Dec 2, 2008 UPDATE: Added link to João Fernandes’ blog.

Ever since I acquired a certain much-hyped fetish object, I’ve accepted on some sort of instinctive level that mobile is indeed the future of personal computing. Along those lines, I’ve been struggling with how I should conceptualize this in terms of my work.

Since Europeans seem to be further along the curve in this respect, I’ve made quite a pest of myself on this trip by asking them their opinions whenever I can. I met Teemu Leinonen when he was speaking at the UOC UNESCO Seminar on the Digital Divide, it was a pleasure to interrogate him since MobilED is just one of the cool projects in this area that he is involved with. So a picture had slowly been coming together for me…

Then, as he does in so many other ways in his recent Future of Online Learning paper, Stephen Downes succinctly and I think accurately nails the significance of mobile learning (my own emphases added):

As the capacity – and functionality – of mobile devices increases, the activities they support also become highly mobile (and much more widely distributed across society). People now listen to music or audio recordings wherever they are. They take photographs more than ever, so much so that ‘no camera’ bans in museums and rock concerts are unenforceable. Video recording is now commonplace, and video cameras, it seems, are everywhere, recording everything from baths in restaurant sinks to a teacher mooning the judges at a debate.

There is, of course, no reason why learning cannot be one of the many mobile activities now possible, but this transition will occur more slowly, as designers realize that, instead of delivering content to the student, they can require the student to go out and get it – or even better, to go out and create it. Once we understand that learning can and should occur outside the classroom, it will become commonplace to see students engaged in learning activities throughout the community. Instead of being rare events – such as the way student create newsletters at teacher conferences in Saskatchewan – these will be commonplace events.

And it is important to understand that place independence means that real learning will occur in real environments, with the contributions of the students not being some artifice designed strictly for practice, but an actual contribution to the business or enterprise in question. We sometimes think of people today ‘learning on the job’. In the future we should also think of students ‘working at school’. We are already seeing cases of this, from the business Teemu Arina built in Finland to the Chaos Pilots in Denmark to the Collaborative Open Environment for Project Centered Learning (COOPER) project in Holland.

It is worth mentioning at this juncture a different sort of place-independence: cyber place-independence. Current online learning efforts are based on the idea that learning will occur in a certain online place – a learning management system, say – or will be conducted using certain software tools. This is a trend that will erode as students’ capacities increase and web resources and services are available inside other website or applications. Independence of online place will be as important to the future of online learning as will be independence of physical place.

As an aside, I read Stephen’s paper for the first time on my handheld device while taking the train out to the UOC’s IN3 offices in Castelldefels. Though having skimmed it in that medium, I ended up printing it out on paper for closer perusal and inky mark-up.

I am also indebted to João Fernandes (my quick search does not turn up a link, sorry), another fellow I pestered at the Digital Divide Seminar. He followed up with an extensive and very useful email that I will quote at length after the jump:
I told you I would send you some stuff on mobile learning so here it goes:

exploring publishing from mobile devices to several web tools in one go

exploring location based information displaying

using sms with Moodle and other systems

not for profit in the UK that works with technologies in edu, some work with mobile, handhelds etc. good stuff

some work made at the Graduate school of edu in Harvard

great doc from the Kaleidoscope network

conference near the Barbican center in London. Was there, have a look at the presentations, some examples of uses

has something on this too, especially http://partners.becta.org.uk/upload-dir/downloads/page_documents/research/mobile_learning_july07.pdf

You could have a look at a HTC + google android with wireless+gps+photo/video solution (no need for contract with mobile company in this case), as a hardware/software possibility – a more open one?

Some ideas for uses of the above:
1. Voting system

2. Online short quizzes

3. LMS and web 2.0 tools publishing on the move, 1 click (for example photos/videos of students work, e-portfolios, study trips, etc)

4. Broadcast video of class/event –hm, tripods for mobiles should be fun!

5. VoIP (with camera or not)

6. GPS activities, geotagging

7. Museums stuff (user generated content, with tagging, commenting of pieces of work)

8. Calculator

9. Audio notes, publishing with one click for podcasting for example

10. Data collection device (with sensors or direct input of data)

11. Teacher notebook (write summary, register absences, fill assessment grids, comments about students to add to their file)

12. Wireless connection to projector, device to control which students computers should be shown in the projector (a synchroneyes like thing), as visualize also

13. With web access you can do millions of things of course, use online software, moodle, connect to devices – for example energy monitoring devices with sensors that broadcast data to server – see http://www.greenenergyoptions.co.uk

14. Just a music/video player eheh

Don’t need in this case much storage/processing power as we can use the web to extend the device.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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4 Responses to “When I’m drivin’ free, the world’s my home” …more on going mobile.

  1. Alan Levine says:

    It’s hard to pass a well written post, chock full of links, but better opens with one of my all time favorite songs 😉

    It still seems a seismic shift for people, especially here in North America where mobile has not been such a pervasive personal device until more recently, to move from thinking if as a content holder, or worse, a replication of what is already stilted in a CMS.

    Stephen has nailed it in terms of the device being perhaps one among many that we move through to and from, not as a sole platform. The new apps we are seeing and will continue to see in the next months are going to continue to be eye opening.

    And things are changing from technology that formats web content for mobile through either having a true browser on the mobile, or better, apps that connect to/from the web but with a mobile interface.

    Barca Barca Barca!

  2. And it’s about time. Fine post, Brian.

    Agreeing with the point about mobile devices being part of our environment. I like the “device ecology” phrase.

  3. Teemu says:

    Hola Brian. It was good to meet you in Barcelona.

    I hope the real “revolution” of using mobile phones in education will take place in the most troublesome places. The basic features – the phone/ SMS-messaging – are just so powerful communication features that people simply want to have one. The need to talk to other people is pretty deep in us.

    Then when the mobile devices starts to carry (usable) browsers they will end-up to be the first (personal) Internet device for billions of people. This has happen already with calculator, FM radio, cameras etc. For hundreds of millions of people their first calculator or radio have actually been a feature in their mobile phone.

  4. Brian says:

    Hey Alan, I think the point about the device connecting with the web is absolutely key. I feel a bit bereft here in Barca, afraid to connect lest I incur ruinous data roaming charges.

    @Bryan – “device ecology” is a new phrase to me, rattling around my head now… worth Googling it some more.

    @Teemu – Thank you again for sharing your thoughts. As you suggest, opening up the web to a whole new set of users may end up being the most profound shift of all.

Comments are closed.