The age of mobile is now

July 21, 2010

I have been talking about using mobile devices for a long time now, well before I started working at Gloucestershire College (and all that MoLeNET stuff), well before my time at the Western Colleges Consortium (and that Mobile on a VLE presentation).

Despite protestations about screen sizes, lack of power, inferior operating systems, we are now seeing the rise of the mobile device as the next big step in computing.

The first computers were BIG and clunky and you didn’t just use them, you booked time slots to use them.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers!”
Attributed to Thomas Watson of IBM, but in fact no evidence to say he ever said it.

Computers then became the mainstay of business, something to do business on.

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
Ken Olson, president/founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.

With the rise of the personal computer and importantly the explosion of the internet in the late 1990s, not only did we see computers in the home, we also saw a lot more personal computers in education.

Laptops at this time were expensive, but small portable ones were available, I really liked the Toshiba Libretto that I bought at that time.

In 2000 I was working at @Bristol in the centre of the Bristol Harbourside, one project we worked on was using the HP Jornada  and using JetSend technology to “squirt” URLs to the device that would then access the webpage over (what was then) a spiffy wireless network.

It was at this point that I could really see some real benefits of using mobile devices for learning, and using devices that weren’t laptops.

Over that decade we did see the emergence of the laptop over the desktop, more and more people would buy a laptop rather than a desktop for their main computer.

During that time I did a lot more work on using mobile devices for learning, focusing on multimedia content on devices such as PDAs, Media Players and mobile phones.

I remember in about 2001 driving up the M5 and getting stuck in one of those traffic jams in the early evening. My wife was watching the Matrix on my iPAQ PDA. I had converted a ripped DVD (uh oh I know) that I had converted into a MPEG1 video file, placed on an IBM Compact Flash Microdrive and played it back on the iPAQ using PocketTV. As she watched the film people in the cars looked into ours in awe and curiosity about what was that glowing light in our car. Of course today everyone can do this, but at the time it was both clever and geeky!

“I’m not convinced people want to watch movies on a tiny little screen.”
Steve Jobs of Apple in 2003.

The seminal presentation of mine, Mobile Learning on a VLE, at the JISC 2006 Online Conference really got a lot of people thinking about using mobile devices and put my name out there as a leader in mobile learning.

There were many others at that time who were also following the same journey as myself, people like Mick Mullane, Lilian Soon, David Sugden and others. We were all very passionate about using mobile devices for learning.

Despite our passion, we still heard the resistance from practitioners (and sometimes from learners, but usually practitioners) that the screens were too small, they weren’t powerful enough, battery life was too short.

We, with others, were very much involved in the MoLeNET programme and that has had a huge impact in FE in kick starting the use of mobile devices for learning.

Mobile devices in the last few years have also dramatically changed too. Mobile phones have moved on from phones that just made calls and SMS, to mobile computers. Apple have also changed the landscape, first with the iPhone, then the iPod touch and now the iPad.

“There are no plans to make a tablet, it turns out people want keyboards…. We look at the tablet, and we think it is going to fail.”
Steve Jobs of Apple in 2003.

Innovation now is in the mobile sector of the market, these are the devices that our learners are buying and using.

The age of mobile is now.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #054: I haz iPad too

July 18, 2010

David and James talk about the iPad, iPad Apps and the uses of it for learning.

This is the fifty fourth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, I haz iPad too

Download the podcast in mp3 format: I haz iPad too

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes


  • iPhone App of the Week : This is a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone and iPad Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will work on the iPod touch or the iPad, some will be iPad only apps.
  • AudioNote
  • DocumentsToGo
  • David Sugden’s blog post on his iPad
  • Pages for iPad
  • Keynote for iPad
  • Numbers for iPad
  • Star Trek Tricorder
  • Google Earth for iPad
  • Leather Case for iPad

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #051: Engaging with the VLE

June 20, 2010

How can you more effectively use the VLE to enhance and enrich learning? How do you engage staff to ensure that they use the full functionality of the VLE? What models can you use to demonstrate to staff how they can progress their use of the VLE? James, David, Mick and Ron discuss how the VLE can be used, how to use it more effectively and provide tips and guidance on engaging staff to use it.

With James Clay, Mick Mullane, David Sugden and Ron Mitchell.

This is the fifty first e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Engaging with the VLE

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Engaging with the VLE

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #047: Is the netbook finished and now the iPad is the future?

May 16, 2010

What do you use your computer for?

Photo source.

Is the  netbook as a concept finished? Is the iPad the future? James, David and John discuss the rise and fall of the netbook and the potential of Apple’s iPad.

With James Clay, David Sugden and John Whalley.

This is the forty-seventh e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Is the netbook finished and now the iPad is the future?

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Is the netbook finished and now the iPad is the future?

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #045: Brighton Rock

May 2, 2010

Personal responsibility, self-censorship, safeguarding, digital identity and Brighton!

James Clay, David Sugden and Col Hawksworth discuss many issues relating to digital identity and literacy in relation to the use of Web 2.0 tools and services.

With James Clay, David Sugden and Col Hawksworth.

This is the forty-fifth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Brighton Rock

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Brighton Rock

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #044: It’s not James Clay

April 25, 2010

This podcast does not discuss James Clay, nor does it look at his Twitter feed, nor is he mentioned at all…possibly…

With Lilian Soon, David Sugden, Ron Mitchell and without James Clay.

This is the forty-fourth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, It’s not James Clay

Download the podcast in mp3 format: It’s not James Clay

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes


#036 e-Learning Stuff Podcast: Cultural Change

February 28, 2010

With James Clay, Mick Mullane and David Sugden.

It’s not just about the technology, it’s also about the culture of the organisation when it comes to embedding learning technologies and e-learning. Cultural change often needs to happen if there is to be transformation within an educational institutiuon.

This is the thirty sixth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Cultural Change

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Cultural Change

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #031: Store it, Tag it, Share it

January 24, 2010

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

This is the thirty first e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Store it, Tag it, Share it.

James, David, Ron and Lilian discuss various web tools that can be used to store your stuff; like documents, notes, files. Tools that allow you to tag your stuff and share your stuff. They talk about the tools they use with their stuff and they talk about how these tools can be used for learning. 

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Store it, Tag it, Share it

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.


  • Use Evernote to save your ideas, things you see, and things you like. Then find them all on any computer or device you use.
  • Dropbox is a way to store, sync, and, share files online.
  • Etherpad – When multiple people edit the same document simultaneously, any changes are instantly reflected on everyone’s screen. The result is a new and productive way to collaborate on text documents, useful for meeting notes, drafting sessions, education, team programming, and more.
  • Now that Etherpad is open source, other versions of the service are now available such as iEtherpad
  • Our snow podcast from last week.
  • TinyGrab is a simple yet extremely powerful utility for Mac OS X and Windows. Harnessing the power of pre-existing and new OS screenshot taking capabilities, TinyGrab instantly uploads and allows you to share with a small URL— all in under thirty-seconds.
  • Skitch is a Mac application for  making screen grabs and then annotating them, before uploading them to a web service.
  • Screenr – Instant screencasts for Twitter. Now you can create screencasts for your followers as easily as you tweet. Just click the record button and you’ll have your ready-to-tweet screencast in seconds.
  • Jing
  • Screencast-O-Matic
  • Format Factory
  • iPadio takes any phone call and streams it live on the web, makes phonecasts and phlogs simple and immediate.
  • Veho USB Microscope
  • Delicious

Photo source.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #030: Snow Joke Two

January 17, 2010

With David Sugden, Lilian Soon and James Clay.

This is the thirtieth e-Learning Stuff Podcast, Snow Joke Two. After a bit of break, well we’ve not had an episode since October, this is hopefully the first of a more regular podcast.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: Snow Joke Two

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.



January 10, 2010

From BBC News

The coldest snap for 20 years shows no sign of letting up, with the freezing weather expected to last all weekend and into next week.

Then we read this

Thousands of children are affected by school closures in England, Wales and Scotland after more heavy snowfalls.

Oh these stories are not from last week, but from last February!

Last February we had some of the worst winter weather for twenty years, unprecedented and somewhat unexpected. As a result many schools, colleges and universities closed their doors to learners and students and staff got a “free” holiday.

Sound familiar, well last week we had even worse weather, something not seen since 1963 in some places. Lots of snow, freezing temperatures and once more many more schools, colleges and universities closing due to the snow.

John Popham in his blog does ask the question

Why, in 2010, we are not making more use of the Internet to cope with these conditions. As in many areas of British life, you will probably tell me that the UK has such extreme weather conditions so infrequently that it is not worth the cost of preparing for them, but, as this is now the second consecutive winter where we have had significant snow fall, and it appears likely that climate change may well make this a regular event, surely we should seriously think about how we prepare for such occasions. And, in this context, as we are supposed to be moving increasingly towards both delivering more education online, and adopting more flexible working practices, surely these should come into their own at these times, shouldn’t they?

I agree with him.

Part of the issue in my view is the culture of snow closures.

Look at this tweet from the University of Bath.

Part of a co-ordnated effort as described on Brian Kelly’s blog how the University of Bath used a range of communication channels and technologies to inform their staff and students that they were closed.

Just to note it’s interesting to see that the University is closed, isn’t it just that the physical site is closed? Can’t at least some of the University continue virtually? However by using the language “closed” it implies that no activity will take place, well no formal activity will take place.

Culturally is it because those not involved online can’t see that closing a physical location need not have a significant impact on the business of the University, if that business can be carried out at home or online?

Using the word “closed” also sends the message to staff that the University is closed and that they do not need to go to work, or even do any work – even if they could.

The University of Bath is not alone, many other educational institutions followed a similar line and message to their learners and staff.

The statement from my college initially to all staff was that the college was closed. Obviously the site was closed, but the VLE was still operational. It wasn’t until a few days later that a message about the VLE was put on the website. However I wonder how many staff are “using” the VLE and how many are taking advantage of the closure to have a bit of a break from work.

David Sugden also brings in another institution in his blog post on the snow, he wrote

With no contingency in place, my wife sent texts to her learners and told them that ideas for work would be posted on the Moodle and that she would be there – on chat – during the class time. But no one came. There is no culture amongst the learners (in Sharon’s case full time nursery workers/managers who were probably too busy with extra children anyway) to visit online learning activities at times like these.

He also asks the question

So, how do we change that culture? How do we prepare our colleagues AND our learners for ‘snow time’?

A good question. At the moment staff and learners see snow as an excuse for a break and won’t even think about let alone consider the possibilities that technology allows them to continue despite the snow and site closures.

David also says

I believe that we have to get them all thinking about the use of audio and video for instruction and assessment as a matter of course and to use online collaboration tools as part of their day-to-day college, school (whatever) life.

Last February we recorded a podcast on this topic and it is still relevant this winter.

David continues

We need to wear the technologies and associated techniques like comfortable coats!

This view is also echoed in an Audioboo by Graham Attwell who brings in David White’s excellent Digital Residents and Digital Visitors model. Those of us who are digital residents didn’t see the snow as an issue, those of us who are digital visitors probably didn’t even think about the possibility!

If all staff and learners were familiar with the technologies then snow closures wouldn’t be such an issue. However if the snow in February 2009 and again in January 2010 has shown anything, it has shown that there is there still a long way to go before educational institutions really are making best use of the internet and digital technologies to enhance and enrich learning.

What about those staff who did work from home? Will they get any benefit or overtime for the day that they worked, but others made snowmen and went sledging? Why should I work from home (because I know how and can) when everyone else is not?

Yes snow makes it dangerous to travel, but with the internet and mobile technologies, does it mean that learners need to stop learning just because the decision is taken to close the physical location?

So what if this snow is unprecedented? What if we are now not going to have bad snow for another twenty years? Well even if you ignore the possible impact that climate change can have on our winters, making them colder and with more snow, institutions can still close for other reasons. My own college was closed in 2007 because of the floods in Gloucestershire. Schools in 2009 were closed because of swine flu. Closures happen a lot, time to start thinking about how an educational institution can make best use of the fantastic tools that are available to it for learning. Though the first thing to do will be to change the culture. It’s not just about contingency planning, it’s about changing the way people work when there isn’t snow and changing the way people think when there is.

Last year we had the “worst snow” for twenty years, here we are less than twelve months later and the snow is not only back it’s even worse! Culturally we have some way to go I think before snow only closes the physical location and doesn’t close the institution.