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.

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Mobile Boot Camp Reflection

July 7, 2010

On Tuesday we ran a Mobile Learning Boot Camp as part of our Open Day for the Technology Exemplar Network. Combining our skills and experience in mobile learning, we as part of our commitment to sharing through our TEN, running an informal boot camp was our way of doing this.

The plan for the day was quite simple, a semi-formal introduction, a short one hour session on possibilities, whilst the rest of the day was about letting delegates getting on sharing, networking and importantly building mobile learning content and activities.

I covered a fair few technologies and ideas during the event and feedback from delegates was very positive.

We looked at the PSP with GO!Cam camera, Sanyo MP4 video camera, Kodak Zi8 video/still camera, iPod, iPad, iPhone, Audioboo, Posterous, iPadio, iTunes, iMovie, Garageband, Turbo.264HD, Screenr, podcasting, Edirol R-09HR and many other bits and pieces.

I think though if I was going to run it again, I would ask people to show and share at the end of the event.


Mobile Learning Boot Camp

June 29, 2010

Gloucestershire College Open Day Tuesday 6th July 2010

Mobile Learning Boot Camp

With the wealth of learning technologies mobile technologies and web 2.0 tools and services available to Further Education, this open day, will provide an opportunity to see how Gloucestershire College are using learning technologies to enhance and enrich learning.

The open day will also give you an opportunity to plan, develop and build learning resources for mobile learning in Further Education. This is a change to the original advertised programme.

Gloucestershire College is running the open day as part of the Becta Technology Exemplar Network (TEN),

This event is free to all FE Colleges and learning providers in the learning and skills sector; you do not need to be part of the TEN to visit.

We are running the Open Day on Tuesday 6th July at our Gloucester Campus. The day will focus on the creation of mobile learning resources and how they can be used to enhance teaching and learning. The day will also give you an opportunity to tour the college to see how we use ILT and how we have embedded learning technologies across the curriculum.

The day will consist of a formal introduction followed by semi-structured unconference format in which delegates will be able to build and create resources that can be used on mobile devices such as the PSP, the iPhone and mobile phones.

Delegates will be expected to bring some content for repurposing or ideas for content.

The day starts at 10.00am and will finish at 4.00pm, lunch will be provided.

Travel

Gloucester is well served by rail networks from across the UK and the college is a 15 minute walk from the railway station.

Gloucester is on the M5 and can be accessed from Junction 12 from the South and 11 from the North. Please note that there is no parking available at the college, though pay car parks are close by.

Booking

Please book online by Friday 2nd July here.


PAT Testing…

June 21, 2010

The future of mobile learning has to be in user owned technology.

From a sustainability perspective, no educational institutions (especially in the current economic climate) would be able to provide all learners with a mobile device or a laptop – even if they are getting cheaper!

However… sometimes the question of PAT testing student equipment arises from someone within the organisation. It is then decided that students can only bring in their laptops if they have been properly PAT tested or they can bring their devices in, but can not plug them in or in extreme examples students will be banned from bringing in their own devices.

I have read and checked the relevant legislation and I have phoned the HSE to confirm this.

There is NO legal requirement to PAT test student equipment, a formal visual inspection is sufficient under the current legislation.

See more details in this HSE leaflet.

The HSE were quite clear that they would not expect colleges to PAT test student devices.

Think about hotels for example, who NEVER PAT test guests personal laptops. Read this leaflet which has more information.

However… having said all that there may be good reasons to ensure that student equipment is PAT tested.

If you have an old building with rubbish wiring, it might make sense (from a risk assessment perspective) to PAT test.

Some insurance companies REQUIRE PAT testing, but check with your insurance company.

The answer to your H&S Officer is provide them with a proper risk assessment and the documentation from the HSE. Ask them to then explain why PAT testing is required beyond what is required under the legislation?

Or…

Ask H&S to set up PAT testing sessions for students, they want to do it, let them do it. Give them an indication of the session frequency required.

Or…

It actually doesn’t take that long or too much effort to train people to PAT test equipment, even the testing equipment isn’t that expensive. Train all relevant staff, Learning Resources, IT Technicians, other Technicians, teaching staff!!!! and get them to do the PAT testing.

Finally ignore all the “smart” people who tell you that PAT testing is an example of redundant acronym syndrome syndrome.

Disclaimer: ALL information containing in my post is for informational purposes only and should never be construed as legal advice. For proper legal advice you should consult a lawyer.


Mobile: The State of Play (featuring MoLeNET)

June 15, 2010

My presentation on Mobile: The State of Play (featuring MoLeNET) at the JISC Cetis Mobile Tech Event at The University of Bolton on the 15th June 2010.


So what of the future?

March 1, 2010

Can you predict the future?

Do you know what life will be like next year, in five years, in ten years?

Over the last year or so I have been doing a few keynotes and presentations entitled the future of learning. I do start with a caveat that I don’t know the future for sure and that no one can really predict the future…

Though as a reflective person I do look back at the work I have been doing on mobile learning and I think there are lessons to be learned about the journey I have travelled.

This is me in 2006 based on work I was doing in 2004 and 2005.

This work came from mobile stuff I was doing back in the late 1990s. Back then I worked for an organisation called at-Bristol, a hands-on science centre in the middle of Bristol.

One of the projects we started working on was with HP looking at how we could use an HP Jornada on our then fledgingly wireless network to allow visitors additional and enhanced information on webpages about the exhibits. One of the key questions at the time was how we got the URLs into the devices at the right place. Then we decided to use HP’s Jetsend IR technology to “squirt” the URL to the Jornada. Of course since then the technologies have moved on and importantly so have the public. Today you would probably let the visitors use their own devices and smartphones. You would use QR codes, Bluetooth or more probably in the future RFID to find out where the visitor was before sending them the information (or letting them access the information via QR codes). If the attraction was outside then GPS could be used. The key though was not the technology but the concept of enhancing a visitor’s experience with additional content through a mobile device.

After leaving at-Bristol and joining the Western Colleges Consortium, I continued to work on mobile learning; at that time there was no funding available.

When I was working on mobile learning all those years ago, the reason was that mobile phones and mobile devices were becoming more sophisticated and more useful to consumers and business. I knew then it would only be a matter of time before they become useful to education and importantly a focus for policy and funding.

And in 2007 along came MoLeNET, millions of pounds of capital funding with a focus on mobile learning in FE.

There is no way that I would call myself a futureologist, but from an FE perspective I am looking at how new technologies can enhance and enrich everyday life, as before long these technologies will enter education.

So the big question is what am I working on now? What do I think will have a real impact in education, not just for learners, but also for funding and projects.

Well I am not working on Second Life or MUVEs. These do have some great application to learning, however until consumers start to use these technologies a lot more, than we won’t see a big change in their use in education.

Social networking and Web 2.0 are very big in the consumer field at the moment, Facebook is everywhere and corporate and entertainment use of these tools is now much more widespread than it was just a year or two ago.

As a result policymakers will start to think about how these tools and services can be used in education. And where thinking starts, funding usually follows…

So what about next year or the year after?

Well for me the “next big thing” is e-Books and e-Book Readers. These will hit the consumer market big time over the next three years. We will see many more people reading books, magazines and newspapers via devices such as the Apple iPad, Microsoft Courier and other devices not yet on the market. More publishers and broadcasters will start to think about how they are going to use these devices and start offering content on them, think of BBC iPlayer and its availability on the iPhone.

As a result policymakers will start to think about how these new technologies can be used in education. And where thinking starts, funding usually follows…

You see at the end of the day, it will be how these products are used by educators, it’s how they are taken up and used by consumers and business. Whether that is right or wrong, is not really the case, as more often this is how it happens and has happened over the last twenty to thirty years with most technologies.


MoLeNET Conference 2009

December 1, 2009

Today is the MoLeNET Conference, the second conference MoLeNET has had. Last year the conference was at the Emirates Stadium, this year at the Grange Hotel near St Pauls.

Gloucestershire College will be there in force today. Last year I did a ten minute slot on the Glossy Project. This year, Alan Graham will be presenting in the research strand on what we did in the Shiny project in terms of research. Whilst Rob Whitehouse will be doing the ten minute slot on the use of video assessment and the impact on learning. Rob Allen, who has done some fantastic work on mobile learning in plumbing and heating will be on our stand. And…. myself and Greg Smith, the college Principal, will be delivering one of the keynotes.

Glossy and Shiny have had a real cultural impact in the college and I hope to share how we achieved this in the college.

In case you were wondering, our third MoLeNET project is called Sparkly and is about sharing what we do with two partners, Stroud College and Royal Forest of Dead College Royal Forest of Dean College.

Update: Oops that should be Royal Forest of Dean College, must have dead on the brain!