Thursday, September 29, 2005

Writing content for mlearning

I have been exploring guidelines for putting content on to mobile phones. It’s all part of my last course towards completing the Graduate Cert. in Applied Elearning. This last course requires a project to be completed that is relevant to each student which uses some form of elearning technology. I am working on a mlearning project using mobile phones to deliver formative assessments to students. Therefore, one of the important parts of the course is to work out how best to display multiple choice and short answer questions to students.

As a start, I intend to use short txt messages. There are limitations here on the number of characters (not more than 120) and small screen size of mobile phones that only have a txt messaging function. I am keen to push the envelope to see how this technology can be improved. Using flashcard type displays will be an option.

Moving beyond just using SMS txting, I am attracted to the concept of using more visual displays. These do not necessarily have to be colourful displays done in flashlite but simple scrolled comic strips. The Japanese have a lucrative market in manga comics distributed on cell phones as reported by all about mobile life. There is also a link from mobile life to test if manga is displayable on your mobile...

I have also found several good articles on how to set up content on to mobile phones
This web page has an especially succinct guide on developing content for mobile phones. Another good resource has been one on how to make small devices look good with other articles via the main page of an opera group on development of mobile content.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Displaying content on mobile phones

Blendededu com recommended this juicystudio site for it’s clear guidelines on how to set up a web page / web site. I would highly recommend the site to all educators preparing sites that require on screen reading. The original objective of the juicystudio site was to prepare a site that would be suitable for viewing by the cognitively impaired. However, the guidelines provided are very sound and relevant to many other users.

Only some of the guidelines set out in the article above are pertinent to displaying text on to cell phone screens. I think that the guidelines on structure are especially important as navigating through text or websites displayed on a cell phone screen needs some practice. Having clear cut navigational guidelines helps to keep the scrolling on a cell phone screen down to a minimum.

After mulling through the above article, I did a google search to find out if there would be any similar guidelines written about how text or webpages should be laid out for easy access and small screen readability. Several PDA / book reader type software came up. I have been using palmreader on my Treo180 for sometime now. Before that, I used cspotrun. Both are serviceable, straight forward to download and use readers for ebooks. I found that they both provided clear displays, it was easy to navigate from one page to the next. They both had usable functions for moving between pages / chapters etc.

eBooks will be a challenge to replicate on the smaller screens of most cell phones. Looking at screen after screen full of text on a small screen does not appeal to most users. I then found this site from that explains how using ‘rapid serial visual presentation’ – RSVP, could help display text on a small screen much more efficiently. RSVP allows each word to be ‘flash carded’ on to a cell phone screen one after the other. Software that allows RSVP to be used is downloadable on to a cell phone from Buddybuzz is the work of B. J. Fogg from Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab. The buddybuzz website is also a really fine example of a clearly set out and visually attractive website.

I will need to try this out to see how applicable this is to mlearning. I can see that it will make a big difference with regards to display and readability. However, will the reader be able to retain a long sentence, or the stem and distractors of a multiple choice question to actually make a response at the end of the reading? We will need to test it out on our students to find out. We might still have to display the whole paragraph / multiple choice question after the same content has been displayed using RSVP. The students can then read the content / question first using RSVP and still have a reference to look at when a response is required to the content / question.

I will be interested in finding out if anyone has used RSVP for mlearning applications as at the moment, RSVP provided by buddybuzz is linked to several newsfeeds and blogs. I am not sure if all content for RSVP has to be set out in a specific way. I have emailed the folk at buddybuzz to find out and look forward to their reply.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Possibilities with mlearning tools

I have been keeping an eye on the Mlearnopedia site. The site is well worth visiting as a good introduction to mlearning. The site for developers is a particularly good place to find out about the technicalities of putting material together that is suitable for mlearning. There are good links to various companies like Go-test-go, Macromedia , Hotlava and Devdirect that provide platforms for the development or delivery of mlearning material.

I registered and had a play with winksite’s free mobile website development. The process of setting up a site that is accessible via a web enabled phone, PDA or PC is very straight forward. Most of the sites that have been set up are text based. The sites come up on a pop up window on my PC in a mobile phone / PDA window display. Clicking on some of the ‘full article’ links tends to bring up a standard website. I have not (as yet) tested this on a web enabled mobile phone to see how these sites actually load up onto the phone.

A pretty nifty tool that is user friendly and has loads of potential for use. Winksite also offers single click access via mobile devises to mobile chats, blogging, syndicated feeds, a simple process to share field notes, meeting agendas, etc. However, for use with mobile phones, web browsing capabilities need to be available. I can see that sites like Winksite will increase as more people start using their mobile phones and PDAs for simple text communications like email and blogging. Many of the articles I now read on PalmAddicts and Treonauts have been composed on WAP capable PDAs or smartphones and posted directly on to the websites or blogs.

The use of this form of communication opens up many opportunities for educators. In particular, the ability for groups to work together to gather, collate, reflect on and present their learning in a form that is readily accessible and synchronous. At the moment, I have a group of second year apprentices on their block course. These students come from a variety of cities in New Zealand More than half the class of 14 have WAP capable cellphones and almost all have pix capable phones. They take photos of their products and then show these photos to each other on their phones. Maintaining this sharing of pictures and information is now possible when the students return to their home towns. Portfolio collection and collation can now become a peer supported exercise. Our goal is to provide the platform for it to take place and then to provide the forum for the portfolio to be show cased (and assessed).