Thursday, October 27, 2005

Starting on eTXT but still looking out for alternatives

Well, I now have access to eTXT. My research proposal for trialing mlearning formative questions should be approved by the beginning of November. Meanwhile, I am having a play with eTXT. Its easy to use although I have to use the eTXT web as the Novell based Groupwise email platform is not supported by eTXT.

Cost are NZ$99 to set up the system. After that, it’s a NZ$10 a month charge and a charge for each SMS posted.

So far, I have transferred various contacts etc into my address book. I have also drafted formative questions on food safety and the evaluation questions for the trial on Word. Copy and paste works well so when the time comes, there is very little time required to mass txt all the research trial participants.

I am happy with how easy eTXT is to use. However, the limitation on 160 characters and the use of text only have placed constrains to my plans to use mlearning in a more creative way. I am following with interest Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) Studytxt initiative. Peter Mellow, a 2004 flexible learning leader, has set up revision questions on anatomy for his students. Students need to pay between 30 to 50 NZ cents to download the questions. Questions are text based as with eTXT.
The University of Applied Sciences in Austria, in association with Nokia, have been working on an interesting mobile learning engine (MLE). The MLE allows multimedia images to be downloaded to student mobile phones. MLE itself can be downloaded from the site. There is also a copy of the paper in English presented at the 2004 Multimedia Applications in Education Conference. Learning objects for MLE are written in XML. This allows for the creation of interactive questions. Questions written for dissemination on mobile phones can also be viewed on a computer. I plan to have a more in depth look into MLE as it provides greater synchrony with my visions of mlearning.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Writing content for mLearning 2

Following on from my last blog, I have been working on constructing formative questions to be trialled on etxt. There are distinct limitations to the size (160 characters) and overall format (text only). However, working within these, it is still possible to provide a range of question types. These include multiple choice, short answer, “cloze test” / fill in the blanks, sorting and matching question types.

During the trial, I will probably send out 2 questions a day over a working week. A total of 10 questions. After that, it will be a case of asking participants

  • which question type they preferred.
  • how many questions they would be able to respond to during their working day.
  • would having all the questions sent out on the same day be manageable?
  • how each question type displayed on their mobile phone.
  • which question type was the most difficult or cumbersome to read.
  • which question type was the most difficult or time consuming to put in an answer to.

I also did some further exploration into the methods for disseminating comic strips to mobile phones. Only 3G capable phones receive the comic strips due to the amount of data that has to be transmitted. Specialised software is required to convert conventional pictures into the comic strip form suitable for transfer via cell phones. There are some good examples on uclickmobile of what is possible with current technology. Clicking on the examples at the bottom of the uclick mobile website brings up good examples of their daily comic mobile cast. Short snippets of content for learning are ideal resources for conversion into a graphical / comics presentation style. Who wants to read dense screens of text on food safety when a simple comic could convey they same message? The comic strip format would be suitable for short, discreet learning outcomes or be used as adjuncts to larger learning units.

A start may be made by using a slide show concept which is contains a small amount of text and a simple diagram to extend on the short text description that is provided. The slide show could also be supported by an audio file as most G3 phones now have the ability to also be used as MP3 players. The slide show could then be supported by a short 2 to 3 minute podcast.