Thursday, March 31, 2005

Reverse engineering - interim conclusions

Here are some thoughts on my learning over the last month or so while working with the reverse engineering scenario.

Not all the capabilities that have been visualised in the scenario are now possible, although many of them are in the pipeline and should be main stream in 5 to 6 years time.

The pragmatic option would be to start small. Pick up one of the capabilities possible now with G3 phones, pilot / trial this and evaluate and learn from the experience to further bring mlearning further on into the future scenario.

To make things less complicated, I am keen to pursue the following:-

  • Get more of the staff at CPIT involved in brainstorming how the pilot could proceed
  • Ensure that staff who will be involved in teaching the pilot receive training and education on elearning teaching techniques
  • Try to find support software that will allow mlearning to be mainstreamed into the current elearning capabilities at CPIT in a seamless manner
  • Try to have the pilot sponsored by either a telecommunications provider or a smart phone retailer or a software developer. This means that all the students will be on one platform, ensuring that all the students start with access to the same features on their phone.
  • Choose a learning outcome that will be quantifiable in order to test the efficacy of the mlearning delivery
  • Ensure that all the students receive training or information on how to get the most out of the phone and out of mlearning
  • Evaluate the pilot thoroughly to work out the glitches and improve on the strengths that percolate out of the project.

Be prepared to be flexible! The technology for mlearning delivery is still unfamiliar territory but the philosophies underlying the teaching and learning process are sound (or at least something we have more experience with). So the next step is to figure out a suitable topic for the pilot.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Reverse engineering: the project team

Who will we need to put everything together?

We will really need the expertise of someone who has the networking and telecommunications skills to advise us on the technical aspects of making mlearning a reality.

Apart from that, I think that the standard project team that is put together to manage a elearning project will work well. In my context, we generally have a project manager, a subject expert and a web developer for most small projects.

For the purposes of putting together a mlearning project the following will also need to take place:-

  • All the team members will need to undertake some learning with regards to mlearning so that everyone has similar familiarity of the concepts and possibilities specific to mlearning.
  • All members must have familiarity with, have used or already use the smart phone that is chosen to be used by the learners.
  • The web developer will need to be familiar with the OS chosen, WAP protocols along with the use of software tools to develop the learning content.

The content or learning objective for the first project needs to be selected carefully. The content or learning objective should also allow for the following:-

  • Provide opportunity to explore the ramifications of converting existing econtent into mcontent
  • Text content might need to be supplied by posting students hard copies of the material to be used
  • Have the opportunity for not only tutor and student interaction but also student to student group work or discussion

On the technical aspects of mlearning, CPIT has just begun discussion with the Hyperfactory, a NZ firm that produces txt based solutions for mobile phones. Their main approach has been to use txt for marketing / promotion / information but they also have experience with training using their Hyper’CRM package with Keratase. We will need to evaluate this against more established content and assessment authoring packages like Lectora.

Looks like an interesting couple of months coming up!

Monday, March 14, 2005

Reverse engineering -hard & software tools for mportfolios

Some of the aspects revolving around the selection of hardware and software tools were covered in the section on evaluating mlearning tools. So this blog is a continuation along a similar theme.

On the hardware front, the selection of a smart phone capable of the following will be important:-
  • Normal mobile phone capabilities
  • Ability to ‘tele-conference’, ie to allow several people to link up & talk to each other and the group as a whole, this is now available in NZ via push to talk technology
  • SMS via text with possible video functions if we move into G4 technology
  • Longer SMS messages which are now possible with G3 phones
  • Capability of receiving and sending emails (although SMS would be probably the preferred mode of non-aural communication)
  • A camera providing the ability to take images to at least 3.5 mega pixels
  • Colour screen large enough to view web pages and with a high enough resolution to view video clips.
  • Web browsing capability
  • Enough memory to hold downloads of text based documents for download on to a printer / fax to print out the documents along with sufficient memory to download their portfolio on to a computer / data show / TV.
  • Standard PDA functions (diary, address book, memo pad, calculator, dictionary / glossary, measurement converter)

From the institutional / training provider point of view, the following will need to be installed or adapted using existing platforms and supported.

  • LMS that will work seamlessly with mlearning which includes the ability to maintain a student management system that will allow SMS messages to be posted to students via the tutor’s computer through to the students’ phones.
  • Content development tools, some progress seems to be made in this area with mspecht
    (thanks for the welcome to the blogsphere Micheal) reporting that Micromedia has licenced Flash to be used on Nokia phones.
  • m-portfolio tools that could be part of an existing LMS or separate software that is linked to the LMS. This should allow students to maintain a collection of text, photos, videos using their phones. The ability to manipulate and reorganise their collection of evidence should also be possible using their phones. The download of their m-portfolio via their phone onto a device (computer or data show or TV) that will allow them to show off their m-portfolio will also need to be explored.

Most of the above can be achieved using existing technology. However, there still needs to be some thinking and lots of technical development to be done with regards to modifying existing LMSs etc. to fit in with the peculiarities of maintaining a portfolio using a phone as the primary collection, collation and dissemination tool.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Reverse engineering - one pathway towards evaluating elearning tools

The first project on the elearning course I am enrolled in this semester, is to ‘reverse engineer’ a provided piece of multimedia teaching resource. This got me thinking about using reverse engineering to help tease out the issues that will arise with regards to the set up of a mportfolio based learning and assessment mportfolio programme.

To start with, here is the scenario, the vision of how I see mlearning being applied to my context.

The year is 2010. J is in a group of 8 apprentices calling themselves the Bready bunch. He is 18 years old & into the second year of his apprenticeship in a small craft bakery situated in a small town in the middle of the North Island, New Zealand. J has met his group members face to face twice, the first time in the year one block course of two weeks and the second time in the second block course (also for two weeks). Block courses are held in Christchurch, in the South Island of New Zealand. The members of the group are spread across New Zealand. 5 of the group live and work in the North Island and 3 of the group in the South Island.

In order to complete his baking qualifications, J has to complete :-
  • a distance learning course that covers the theory of baking,
  • assessments that are held during block courses and
  • gather evidence to prove his competency on a collection of work based skills.
  • At his first block course, J was issued with a G4 phone. This phone is the size of a packet of cards and weighs 100g. It flips open to reveal a full colour screen and a qwerty key pad. All the calls he makes from the phone that are related to course work are paid for through his course fees. He has to pay for any personal calls or downloads he makes.

Using the G4 smart phone, J completes his distance learning through the following process:-

  • Course notes that contain information on the theory of baking, work sheets and assessment requirements are downloaded onto his phone monthly. J does not own a computer, so he prints out the hardcopy of all of these notes by docking his phone onto his employer’s phone/fax/photocopier machine.
  • J has to read the course notes and work through the activities that are described in the worksheets.
  • Some of the worksheets require him to take photos of his work and these are posted through his phone to his assessment portfolio site.
  • Some of the worksheets require him to work with his group on projects. At the moment, the group is working on building a 3D image of a gluten strand. This project needs to be completed next week.
  • The group is able to communicate synchronously via video linked conversation. However, due to the variability in the groups working hours, their main communication method has been via video SMS.
  • T, the technical whiz in the group has accessed a cool 3D drawing tool for their phones. D found several articles on the web & at the course site on gluten structure. These were then sent to all the members of the group or a hard copy could be requested from the CPIT library. Then T also found a university site in America that provided a template for building up protein structures. Using drag & drop techniques, each member of the group had a go at building up an image. The group was now evaluating which of the images was the most realistic / accurate and what else needed to be done to the image before SMSing the image in to their tutor.
  • Every week, revision questions in the form of mostly multiple choice and short answer questions is downloaded to J’s phone. These need to be completed to ensure that J understands the material that he has been provided each month.
  • J receives immediate feedback on his revision questions as he works through them. The feedback includes remedial work that J might need to also complete if his performance on the revision questions does not come up to expected standards. His results are also posted to his tutor.
  • J receives a phone call from his tutor every fortnight to remind him to complete projects, gather evidence of his practical work skills and generally provide him feedback on how he is going.
  • J’s assessment portfolio started out as a real mishmash of photos of the products he made at work, photos and short video clips of him completing practical tasks and SMS txt outlines. At the second block course, the tutor showed them examples of work from other students. The block course group also showed each other the progress they had made on their assessment portfolios. T as usual had all the latest whiz bang multimedia features on his & D had tagged her various items to the performance criteria in the various competency units that had to be achieved. J then did quite a bit of reediting of his work with T’s help so that it now had a much more ‘recipe book’ look about it.
  • In the third block course, the apprentices will complete their assessment portfolios. Before the third block course, the apprentices are encouraged to share their assessment portfolios with the rest of their group members, their employers and their families and friends. It is a record of their journey as they move from being novice bakers to journeyperson status in the industry.

So there’s the vision, how do we now get to it?