Friday, December 15, 2006

2006 reflections

How has the year gone? Or should I say, where has the year gone? I have just re-read my blog from the beginning of the year to see if I have made any progress on making use of mobile phones and Web 2.0 applications to set up eportfolios. I think that I have made some progress, enough to make a bid with our ITO to set up a pilot for using mobile phones to complete theory of baking units and to collect workplace based evidence with mobile phones. However, the bid has been unsuccessful. My school is now not prepared to support work on mlearning until a review is undertaken to see if there are other avenues we can use to deliver learning & workplace assessment completion to apprentices in the workplace.

I am disappointed at the outcome. Also frustrated at the lack of support for what I can see is an initiative that can have wide reaching application for trades based training. One of the arguments put in place is that the numbers in baking are too small to warrant investing in expensive development time. Point taken but the numbers involved are also ideal for running a pilot plus with a group of young people representative of workplace based training.

The registration of new National Qualifications in Baking has proceeded at a snail’s pace. The new qualifications are now just about to be registered, a year to get them through the ITO & NZQA hurdles! We need to put in place some way of assessing apprentices in the workplace that does not cost us or the apprentice too much.

I now realise the limitations of mobile phones & Web 2.0 applications and am focused on working around these challenges. I am optimistic that most of the limitations will disappear or become obsolete as mobile phone & Web 2.0 applications improve, innovate further and become even more user friendly. However, with no funding support for the interim, it will be a case of chug along on whatever time becomes available.

It also still leaves the question of whether mlearning is the path to take. From the start, we have understood that travelling out to apprentices to complete their workplace based assessments would not be financially viable. A really easy option would be to just have a ‘tick & flick’ logbook type option. Apprentices come to us with a list of products ticked off (by their employer) & they undertake a practical assessment at block course. If they do not make the grade, then they have not met competency. We could insist on photos being added to the ‘logbook’ but the question of authenticity arises when the evidence is being moderated. With mlearning, the date / time the photo was archived would be recorded, our plans were to contact the apprentice at some of these occasions to set up a ‘situated learning’ opportunity. We would know that the apprentice is working with a certain product based on the photos they were posting on to flickr or similar. At our next fortnightly check on them, we could go through the underlying knowledge questions linked to the product to see how well they are actually understood how to put things together.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the summer. A few good tramps will help me recollect my thoughts & reflect on alternative delivery methods to mlearning. I will still continue blogging as many of the tools I have discovered (like personal portals) are useful in my teaching context. I plan to use vox to set up scenarios on competency judgement for hospitality students and pageflakes to help novice bakers build scaffolds that will help them keep up with their learning during their full time programme. Plus, I will still maintain investigation into mlearning as I am ever the optimist!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Moving mLearning forward

I have been thinking about how to move on with mlearning over the last couple of months. This has come about as my mlearning trials have started to pay off and I now have firmer ideas of how to go about delivering mlearning supported distance learning courses & mlearning based eportfolio compilation. Next year, we will pilot what we have been trialling. I will be evaluating and re-evaluating the various ways in which we will go about delivering the courses & compiling eportfolios.

I have been dipping in & out of several books on eportfolios, globalising and ubiquitous computing over the year. They are all providing me with food for thought so that I can work at sorting out how we can move mlearning further along.

Thomas L. Friedman “”The world is flat” is a good read about the way in which technology is changing society and the pace at which globalisation is moving. From an educator’s point of view, it opens up many challenges and possibilities.

Adam Greenfield’s “Everyware: the dawn of ubiquitious computing “is another interesting read. His concept of ubiquitous computing predicts that we will be surrounded by ‘smart buildings, smart furniture, smart clothing’. We will be wireless, networked and tagged whether we want to or not. I am not sure if I will want to be as connected as the image he portrays. However, parts of the future he envisions are already with us. We can either ignore it, allow it to creep into our lives or keep up with the play & contribute to the concept in a more educated way.

Elizabeth Hebert’s “Power of Portfolios” & Deborah Meire & others “multiple intelligences & portfolios” are both books that provide examples of how portfolios are used to build up rapport with students and to allow the narrative of the student’s learning to come through in the form of the portfolios that they have put together.
This is also supported by work by many in early childhood & primary education, an example from Buckland’s Beach School in Auckland being Ian Fox’s learning to learn model.

These are three different but intertwined areas. John Seeley Brown’s work provides some direction for educators. He brings together ideas learnt from many organisations on now to ‘manage knowledge’ and increase innovation to counter some of the disadvantages wrought by globalisation on developed countries. Some of solutions involve the use of socially networked software (much of Web 2.0) and the ability to harness the power of many. Eportfolio’s are one way for individuals to collate their strengths (especially innovation and creativity) into an accessible form that can be readily showcased.

The Press (local Christchurch paper) had a front page article on how schooling would change in the next 20 years. (oct. 12th 2006) They were summarising a report made to the Ministry of Education about the future of education in NZ. There was a distinct move to student centred learning and a move away from the current ‘factory’ model of schooling. mLearning mashed with Web 2.0 applications are one way to provide ready made / relatively low cost tools for progressing the vision of schooling without walls.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Promise fo Web 2.0 for mLearning

A light teaching load this week but I am catching up on all the usual paperwork that has piled up. Interspersed with wrestling with spreadsheets & trying to work out where the $$ have been spent on our various research projects, I have been browsing the net in an effort to update myself on what is happening out there in Web 2.0 development land.

What I have found so far has been heartening. In particular, I see a real move towards ubiquity in the way information is accessed. Mobile seems to be the way in which many Web 2.0 applications are focused and all of this only means good news for the pilot I will be working on next year.

Stephen Downes article on eLearning 2.0 summarises many of the developments on the WWW that have and will impact on how we learning takes place in both formal and informal learning environments. It’s a good article to read for background. Recent blogs by both Will Richardson & Derek Wenmouth lament the slow movement of the use of IT into the formal education area. Both of these bloggers also show the many ways in which the WWW could be used to held enhance learning. Will blogging recently on the uses of blogs in research, pageflakes as student portal and wikis & Derek with his thoughts on personal learning environments & ePortfolios.
Unfortunately, as I have learnt time & time again with staff presentations, the majority of teaching staff are still unaware about what Wikis or personal portals are, let alone how to use them in helping their students engage with learning at a more personal level.

I caught up with Ajit Joakar’s article, summarising how mobile devices and Web 2.0 could work together to change the world as we now know it. It provides for an optimistic picture for the future of mLearning using Web 2.0 applications. I also found & read the blog on whether mobile 2.0 will rival Web 2.0 which provides some reality in the form of the usual questions about the closed nature of mobile due to the constrains put on the phones by telecommunications providers. There is a way still to go but VoIP, WIFI & sheer consumer pressure to have these services will coax manufactures and telecoms providers towards cheaper and more use friendly mobile phone browsing of the WWW.

It’s surely interesting times ahead for all educators who are pushing the envelope with regards to using Web 2.0 type applications via mobile phones.

mLearn2006 presentations now available

The presentations from mLearn2006 are now available online.

My presentation can also be downloaded via the above site or via this direct link.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Evangelising ePortfolios

I presented a session on ePortfolios @CPIT to the PASM forum yesterday evening. This is a group of principal academic staff members (PASMs) who are promoted to the position through proven academic leadership at a national / international level. This year, staff development at CPIT convened several forums (there are others for Heads of Schools, programme leaders, administrative managers etc. ) to try to move the institution towards a more horizontal way of communicating as many vertical silos of subject and administrative expertise had become entrenched throughout the institution.

My presentation centred on what ePortfolios were about and how they could be useful in capturing the reflective part of learning (both formal & informal). I set up a ePortfolio using Blackboard (took about half an hour). The scenario was to use staff promotion as an example. On the Blackboard site, I included sections for a CV, areas for archiving evidence of expert standing in one’s discipline or subject area and teaching practice. In each of these areas, I put in links to Word documents reflecting on why I had used the various pieces of evidence and included evidence in the form of papers / powerpoint presentations at conferences, links to other blogs / web pages that mention my presentations, photos of white board work and a video taken at FLNW by Stephen Parker.

Apart from the above, I also provided examples of how personal portals could be used to bring together an ePortfolio and discussed examples of how these could be used for other teaching and learning uses. These include:

-using something like Pageflakes to set up RSS feeds pertinent to an evolving area for study
-using Vox to set up a teaching resource to build up scenarios for students to access for critique of analysis. I plan to use this methodology to build up a ‘collection’ of ePortfolios to use with students I teach for a unit on ‘assessing a candidate performance using standards’. I am never sure whether students understand how they get to the stage of making a judgement on whether a performance is competent or not yet competent. I plan to have students view several ePortfolios, make a judgement and then reflect on how they came about their decision. In the past, I have been using role plays but the role plays are ephemeral, subjective one-off arrangements and students unused to observing others working do not have time to make a studied judgement, let alone be able to reflect on their judgement.
-Using Vox and Multiply as ePortfolio collators
I received good feedback. It was especially good to articulate my options for personal portals as I have only started looking into them in greater depth. I will have more time to play with the personal portal sites over the summer and will record other uses I find for using them in my teaching.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Portal 2.0 for setting up ePortfolios

Over the last week, I have been evaluating several ‘personal portal’ / portal 2.0 type sites and comparing them with Windows live, the original site I have been looking at using. All of the the sites look very promising, with each site providing opportunities for setting up a good collection of photos, links to blogs, RSS feeds etc.
So here is a ‘first impression’ viewpoint of them.

Pageflakes - Had a nice email from Ole Brandenburg from Pageflakes, encouraging me to set up an account and have a look. Pageflakes is similar to Windows Live, in that is is an aggregation page. It allows you to set up links to a host of other Web 2.0 applications including del.ico.us, flickr and metacafe & youtube video. You can also link up with Google search, Google maps and add feeds from various popular news and techie journals or put I your own feeds.

There are also ‘flakes’ for address book, a dictionary, to do list, chat, sending SMS and email. There are 110 flakes to choose from. Setting up a page with the flakes you need takes a few minutes and the process is very intuitive. Will Richardson describes an interesting way of using pageflakes RSS feed to set up a site that provides students up to date / regularly updated information about topical world issues.

Vox – a personal blogging tool from Movable type. It provides an easy to use interface to blog, store your photos, videos, music, book lists etc. For photos, you can upload from your computer or link to flickr, photobucket & iStockphoto. Videos can be linked to your computer or Amazon, youtube & ifilms. There is also an interesting tool to set up ‘collections’ which could be photos, videos, music etc based around certain topics. This makes Vox quite usable as a eportfolio site as each collection could be an eportfolio with the evidence collated from the photos, videos or blogging area.

Multiply – like Windows Live but allows imports from Flickr, Yahoo, Shutterfly, Kodak live gallery & Windows live. Photos can be emailed directly to multiply so it is possible to email photos from a mobile phone. There is a good interface but not as easy or as fast to use as the others.

Netvibes – provides many RSS feed type links plus links to your email, flickr, writely account etc. This has a more crowded look. It looks very much like my personalised Google page with a similar range of feeds.

All the above sites, are accessible on my Treo 650 using Opera Mini – a java enabled browser. However, not of them display well. I will therefore do some further work on evaluating theses and pick out 2 to 3 to use in our pilots for next year.

Friday, November 10, 2006

mlearn2006 - another perspective

Checking through my sitemeter this morning and came across Bob Harrison's report on mlearn2006 on the UK handheld learning site. He has detailed many presentations that I did not manage to get to & provides a good review of keynotes & panel discussions as well.

efest 2006 presentation now online

My presentation at efest titled 'mlearning with work place based apprentices:- trials, tribulations and triumphs now available via the conference presenter's bio page in .pdf & powerpoint formats.

It summarises the reasons I am focusing on using mobile phones and some educational applications that are currently viable on mobile phones. Findings from the various trials undertaken so far are also detailed. These include question types suitable for dissemination using SMS, evaluation of Web 2.0 applications and the things we have thus far been able to incorporate into Moodle.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More on mlearn2006

I am still catching up on paperwork etc. along with teaching various classes since getting back to work at the beginning of this week. However, I have had some time to digest many of the things that took place during mlearn 2006. So here is a summary of the ones I need to keep in mind.

Multiple uses for hand held devices. I was very taken by Tony Tin’s display of handheld devices each day at morning / afternoon tea breaks. He had tweaked the devices to display pdf files, videos etc. when the original devices were not actually configured to display these files. Hacking the devices does void one’s warranty but if the hacks are not difficult to perform, they provide students with option of using one device (their gameboy, ipod or PDA) to display content that does not normally display on their device. His current favourite is the Sony MyLo (my life online) which allows WiFi access to the net, has built in Skype and is also a MP3 music & video player. However, the Sony MyLo seems to be only available in the US of A.

Mediaboard. I had a good lunch time conversation with Jo Colley from Tribal. The main purpose of mediaboard is to act as a mlearning LMS or CMS, but the possibilities for using it as a eportfolio repository needs to be explored. There are also other mlearning tools showcased, many of them for PDAs but mobile phones are starting to make an impact with developers as well.

Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). Connie Missimer from Microsoft presented an ethnographical study of students using a Tablet PC. She was interested in my use of Windows Live for forming eportfolios & will be emailing me some contacts to see how Windows Live could be made more user friendly for mobile phone users. At the moment, I am also looking at various collaboration / collation sites suggested by Derek Wenmouth PLEs. These include vox, multiply & pageflakes. All look very promising but do not have mobile options as yet. It is heartening to see more of these sites coming up as it means that sooner rather than later, a mobile option will come up.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

mlearn day 3

The gala dinner last night was well attended despite the weather changing to rain. We were treated to a good meal & a wonderful display of first nation dancing including the spectacular hoop dance (picture of hoop dancer at bottom of page). Day 3 dawned fine with a cold Northerly wind.

I have had to choose one presentation out of six at each session. There were several papers I would have liked to also have attended but will need to catch up with them once the conference proceedings have been published. I find attending presentations bring life to papers which are often couched in academese. The personalities of the presenters does not shine through in many academic papers, so I find that attending the presentations brings better focus to my later reading of the actual papers.

The day starts with a 2 hour panel discussion on cultural perspectives from around the world convened by Jill Attewell.
Elizabeth Hartnell-Young (now based in at Nottingham, UK) provided the Australian perspective on mlearning.
Herman van der Merwe gave a South African overview & in particular the need of low cost, easily accessible, low threshold applications.
Mike Sharples presented the UK view, starting with the historical background that in the UK, learning taking place in the community & lifelong learning would have be active in the UK from 300 years ago. Mlearning provides greater opportunities for people learning in their communities to share knowledge with a wider audience than before. Check out http://www.infed.org/ on the informal learning network.
Tak-Wai Chan’s 10 minute powerpoint on the Asian perspective provided a great deal of information . Asian countries are producing most of the hardware for mlearning & many Asian governments (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore) have put in policies to introduce mlearning into schools. Many interesting examples were provided on the application of mlearning.
Rory McGreal talked about the North American viewpoint. He posited that due to less discrepancy between the cost of voice & text communications in North America, that the North Americans would bypass the SMS stage & move more fully into the development of 3G based mlearning applications. An example is the elibrary that has been developed at Athabasca University which provides free content not only in the form of text but also in all other forms of digital media.
During the questioning session, the following were brought up:-
the cost of using mobile phones came out. The cost of both voice and text messaging is actually very low, it is the price that is high! So it is important for educational organizations in individual countries to lobby their telecommunications providers for cheaper prices.

What would be the next killer application for mobile learning. Mike thought that language learning using games on mobile devises would push the use of mobile learning in the far east. A member of the audience suggested that it would be using browsers on mobile devices. Another suggested the importance of ensuring that there was interoperability between various devices, applications and systems.

There was agreement that the device that would support future mlearning would be the current 3G phone & the future 4G phone. However, there was a need for phones to have better battery life, more memory, better screen displays and the ability to Bluetooth data to peripherals like data projectors & printers easily.

Last presentation was from James Wen from Positive Motion on user-interface techniques for using flash-cards on small mobile devices. He took on the view that the limitations provided by small screen size, limited keyboard etc. actually made the production of customised user interfaces easier.

The conference was officially closed with a keynote from Dr. Mohamed Ally on mobile learning bridging the learning divide. The digital divide is disappearing but the learning divide has now appeared. Who is going to help provide learning material for mobile learning to take place?

Mlearn2006 was then handed over to mlearn2007 to be held in Melbourne from 16th to 19th October. Caryl Oliver & Elizabeth Hartnell-Young invited delegates to meet next year at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

After lunch, the first annual general meeting of the International Association for Mobile Learning (AML) was held.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

mlearn2006 day 2

Well, day 2 dawned fine and clear, 3 fine days in a row. I have started to look at the mountains surrounding Banff with some longing. However, day 2 brought with it another batch of interesting presentations. Writing this for blog is a good way for me to reflect on the presentations before the next batch arrives tomorrow! I am writing each section of this blog as each presentation takes place. WIFI access to the web is patchy but sufficient for me to search for and insert hyperlinks.

We began the day with a keynote from Dr. Tom Brown from South Africa. He presented the conference with the challenge of whether we are developing mlearning for the present generation or for the generation that is just now coming into the education system. In particular, we should be working at anticipating what future generation’s learning needs will be. He provided a good overview of Netgen learning needs along with developments in mobile devices, new learning paradigms & new challenges for educators.

I attended the following sessions
Designing a digital internet & mobile phone e-learning environment (DIMPLE) is a concept designed by Diana Andone & presented by Dr. Jon Dron from the University of Brighton in the UK. The design of DIMPLE was based on interviews of young people in the UK, Romania, Finland & Hungary. DIMPLE allows transfer of data between mobile phone (including SMS), PC, Ipod on to a learning environment that includes WIKIs, blogs, forums, IMS, VOIP etc. (integrating many Web 2.0 applications) along with usual learning platforms (email, calendar, diary etc). Its a start at developing a personal learning environment (PLE).

Using mobile to improve the quality of clinical nursing education was presented by Richard Kenny & Caroline Park from Athabasca University & Jocelyne Van Neste-Kenny & Pam Burton, nursing tutorial staff from North Island College, Vancouver Island. They described the pre-study that they have taken to support a pilot mlearning project in 2007. They included a review of the literature of the use of mlearning in health care & nursing that found that PDA use has “exploded” – mainly in the use of pharmacology. This was followed by a study of the needs for nursing education to see if mlearning could meet some of the needs that changes in nursing practice caused by a greater need for community care have brought about. A mobile solution was seen to be feasible due to students being scattered across a wide part of the Vancouver area, with many practicing in isolated communities that can only be reached by boat.

After lunch, I attended another health related technical showcase presentation with Maria Parks & Mark Dransfield (York St. John College) on the topic of using moblogging to support health studies students in the UK. They are using moblogging to assist with the assessment of work placed practice in a clinical setting. The project was to see how well mobile phones would work for the task & to see if their anticipated outcomes (reduction of paperwork, electronic record, enhanced relations between tutor & workplace based educators & targeted support for workplace base educators from the college). A video demonstrating how moblogging worked was used to introduce students on how to use a Imate SP5 phone to blog on blogger.com and flickr. Students had to set up Email, blogger & flickr accounts on the phones. To resolve problems with inputting text using a mobile phone, Bluetooth portable QWERTY keyboards were also offered as an option. students using the Bluetooth keyboards produced fuller sentences (11 pages compared to 3 pages for mobile keyboard) & reflections were in greater depth.

Ilias Lazardis & Matthias Meisenberger from Austria presented eLibera, a mobile learning engine (MLE). This allows multi-media learning to be distributed to almost every Java-enabled (J2ME) mobile phone. It works in place of the browser on the mobile phone. The MLE allows content to be uploaded on to the phone. Then while off line, content can be viewed and formative assessments can be completed. Links to mobile WIKIs, blogs or forums and also mobile wikispedia, news, ebooks etc. are also accessible. A very promising application which we will need to try out. It is supposed to work with a Treo 650, so I will need to test this out when I get back to NZ.

Next a session on knowledge transfer in mobile learning presented by Allan Knight from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Looked at mlearning as not just a subset of d or elearning but a form of learning that uses tools that provide mobility, ubiquity & accessibility. Therefore, mlearning can be used to extend interaction, build learning communities & for the transfer of knowledge. However, performance feedback (are they engaged, are they using the content etc) might be missing for the students & the teacher.
Developed a Moodle module called Moodog (a performance based feedback system (PBFS) that tracks student access / participation to various parts of the course. Students are encouraged to look at the graphs on Moodog so that can find out what other students on the course are engaging with.

Last session of the day was on using a SMS based querying system for mlearning. Presented by Dr. Dunwei Wen from Althabasca University. Their premise was to extend the uses of SMS as it was a popular medium in some countries for mobile phone use. The querying system would provide the possibility to allow SMS to be used for searching content or to set up glossaries. Searches can be made from an existing knowledge base or via the internet. This extends the use of SMS beyond its traditional usage & provides a way for students to ask FAQ type questions.

A very enriching day from my point of view. Several ways in which I could use the ideas from several presentations already percolating in my brain. All of them are generally easy to put into place and cost effective.

mlearn2006 day1

Had a very busy & productive first day. Several enlightening presentations led to a few ‘light bulb on’ moments for me. Also met several interesting people during the wine & cheese on Sunday evening, so one of my objectives to network is a short way towards being met.

First impressions are that there are more papers on mobile phones this year. There was also more work on the use of location based mobile learning being presented with variants on geo-caching / treasure hunting / links to google maps (but no one has mentioned frappr as yet), tagging plus locational social linking (ie you tag that you are interested in mlearning and when someone with the same tag is near you, both of you will be texted) and barcode recognition cum location specific technical information (ie if looking for specific article in store/warehouse, the barcode will generate not only the items name but any important precautions for handling the article etc.).

The day opened with a key note from Mary Lou Jepsen, one of the directors for the $100 laptop / a laptop for every child project. I enjoyed the talk as it again showed how much can be done when there is a concerted effort combined with support from suppliers and various funding bodies. Their timeline is to release 5 million laptops to 5 countries by mid – 2007 and then 50 to 100 million laptops in the following year! The laptop features many innovations that including an improved screen that is cheaper to produce but is still viewable under sunlight conditions.

I attended the following sessions:-
Marguerite Koole from Athabasca University session was on the comparison of various mobile learning devises. It gave me some good evaluative points for choosing mobile learning devices for distance learning. Also an interesting Venn diagram bringing together the aspects of flexibility, portability, usability and student learning needs to encompass the social, physical and cognitive dimensions of mlearning.
Dr. David Metcalf from Walden University and Nova Southeastern University gave an interesting overview of renaissance mlearning – making the best use of existing mobile applications in new ways. These included using bar code readers for workplace learning (walking into a specific area or scanning a certain product produces formative assessment activity), CMA codes and their uses in treasure hunt type scenarios and access to technical information that includes the use of blogs to keep technical information up to date.
Then a session by Glenda Nalder & Alexis Dallas from Griffith University on personalizing mlearning to individual learner needs.
Followed by a lively session from Adele Botha, on the Mobiled project. Using a mobile phone to create a Wiki textbook on science principles by South African secondary school students. As there were 54 different models of cell phones, the textbook was constructed using SMS and then later brought together by the students on to a wiki set up on wikispaces.
The session by David Whyley & Terry Russell reported on a large scale implementation of PDAs in primary schools in Wolverhampton, UK. David made a very interesting remark about the first cohort of students born into the 21st century starting school this year (it would have been 2005 for many young Kiwis). We need to think about whether education in the 21st will now prepare young people for their working lives in the 21st century. Their project – Learning2go seems to have been successful in engaging young people in to doing much of their own learning with good examples shown of student work that exhibited good understanding of basic principles using the tools provided with each student’s PDA.

My presentation was one of 6 slotted into the last session for the day. All went well and good questions were generated with several people staying back to have a chat. I think the use of Web 2.0 applications will change the way they will approach mlearning and lead to more interesting work on eportfolios.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Looking forward to mlearn2006

I leave NZ in a couple of days & am looking forward with excitement and some trepidation to my trip across to North America for the mLearn2006 conference. I need to put down some goals that I would like to achieve so that my trip is more focused and I come back with concrete objectives completed.

I do not enjoy long air flights. Being confined me to a small space for a long a time is not something I enjoy. Hence my travels thus far have been limited to frequent short trips across the ditch to Oz & obligatory trips back to Singapore to catch up with family. As with other trips, I have set up several items that I plan to catch up while on the plane. I have downloaded several ebooks on to my Treo plus photocopied readings etc. pertinent to the three research projects I am working on so that I can do a bit of a catch up. Keeping my brain busy will help while away the time.

My itinerary includes:-

  • A few days in Los Angeles with my aunty and uncle. They immigrated to the U S or A 27 years ago. Apart from catching up with them, I will be visiting several artisan bread bakeries and farmers’ markets.
  • Next will be a couple of days in Calgary with friends. R. is an academic researching road safety who has lived in 6 countries in the last twenty years. Always interesting to catch up with R. & his wife S. as they represent the ‘travelling academic family’. Their views on life in various countries is always refreshing as they can take on an observers viewpoint while being part of the country that they live in.
  • A week at Banff for mlearn 2006 follows
  • Then three days in Vancouver, staying with my mother’s cousin plus visit to Vancouver Community College and other foodie places.

I see that Gary Sewell from Hunter Institute of TAFE & Caryl Oliver from William Angliss TAFE will be presenting as well. It will be good to catch up with them on their mlearning projects.

Things I would like to achieve for my mlearning project include:-

  • Find best practice examples of converting content to mlearning on mobile phones
  • Look out for anyone else doing any work with integrating Web 2.0 applications to mlearning
  • Find out if there is anyone else thinking of using mobile phones to coordinate eportfolios
  • Brush up on mlearning operating systems and mobile phone programming software
  • See the latest offered on PDA platforms & work out if relevant to mobile phones
  • Source LMS or CMS that others have used for mlearning and information on assess, compatability, usability, costs etc.
  • Make contact with hardware suppliers to see if there are possibilities for collaboration with piloting out eportfolio trials next year
  • Allow serendipity to do its thing
  • Network, network, network

Monday, October 02, 2006

Thoughts from efest 2006

Had a busy and enriching time in Wellington for efest 2006 last week. There was a thought provoking keynote by Steven Downes on the difference between groups and networks. The next day, we had Diane Obinger’s live streaming video keynote from the US of A. A good demonstration of technology working to lower the boundary of distance. Her quick fire presentation provided a great overview of how we should be asking our students about how they would like to see their learning structured and the role of learning spaces in helping to bring about a change in the teaching styles of teachers.

Also managed to catch up with the open space conf. for networked learning, On Thurssday they had set up an open space in one of the rooms for a couple of hours and people could come in and engage with the participants of the networked learning road show. I met up with Alex Hayes and we had a very fruitful conversation with regards to his work with rural aboriginal communities in Australia and my work on mlearning.

Efest has certainly grown each year I have attended. The number of presentations has increased and generally, all the speakers were well prepared and the topics were well thought through. There was also plenty of opportunity for networking starting with a breakfast session at 7.30am, lunch time forums and a drinks cum nibbles session at the Loaded Hog (sponsored by Catalyst) on Thursday evening. Along the way, there was morning & afternoon tea plus many of the sponsors had set up booths with their wares for conference participants to have a look at.

During this conference, I saw much more information and awareness of social net working and Web 2.0 type applications as compared to last year. At a panel discussion on Friday afternoon (moving technology), I raised the question about where the panel thought web 2.0 applications would be going. The range of replies was very interesting. Some institutions were unable to readily access Web 2.0 tools due to the nature of their network’s firewalls. There was also agreement that many Web 2.0 tools were put on line to gauge the market for the product. Once there was an established pool of users, there would often be a charge for an upgraded form of the tool. The tools that did not attract the requisite number of users were likely to suddenly disappear, leaving the students who had been using the tool (& the tutor who was relying on the material to assess it) stranded.

A couple of invited speakers inspired me. Meegan Hall from Cultureflow gave a down to earth description of how their business filled a market niche for learning Maori and then went on to adapt their product to help learners of other languages. Her can-do attitude epitomised the Kiwi ‘have a go’ capacity. Hazel Gamec and Lin Yew Cheang from Wanganui School of Design presented Lin Yew’s work on interactive audio – visualisation. His work on the manipulation of icons on a computer screen along the lines of the movie Minority Report was visually beautiful. His concept of using icons as a form of language was also very interesting. They provided a glimpse into the possibilities for the future when interaction with a computer would become much more intuitive and pictograms / icons may be used as a form of communication.

Friday, September 22, 2006

FLNZ future of a networked world

I had a great time at the Christchurch meeting of the FLNZ future of a networked world open space conference held at the Christchurch College of Education yesterday morning. Apart from the prospect of catching up with other elearning practitioners in Christchurch, there was the opportunity to meet up with and have in-depth discussions with the group of experts who are travelling around to each of the meetings.
Reflecting on the experience yesterday evening as I biked home, I realised that the title chosen for the meeting was extremely appropriate. We were not only networking f2f during the meeting, but also:-
  • seeing examples of how to network with others via Web 2.0 tools,
  • learning how to set up networks ourselves for our colleagues and students and
  • actually tapping into the power of many people learning together.

I saw how Barbara Dieu was working with blogs to help her Brazilian students learn English. She was building a sound community of student learners as they blogged their way through the various projects she set up for them to do. We had a good discussion about the merits of blogger vs wordpress. We also looked at how she used 43 places and 43 things to enhance the way in which her students could build network swith other students in the United States to help them improve their English.

Leigh Blackall then pointed me to a discussion he had with Tony Hepinstall , a chef tutor at Otago Polytechnic. An interesting concept of using a mobile phone to access a Wiki and then for the student to listen (or read and then perhaps comment or add to) the Wiki entry.

The above idea coming via Tomi Leinonen MobilED project for using a mobile phone as a form of audio encyclopaedia that could be accessed by anyone with phone capable of sending a SMS. Tomi was also helpful with regards to my mportfolio project, pointing me to several other possible areas to explore. More of these once I have had time to look into them further!

Stephen Parker introduced me to the network learning space set up for TAFE teachers and in particular, the one set up for tourism and hospitality. All of these are set up on Wikispaces so that everyone who signs up for each ‘learning space’ is able to contribute to the network. This will be an area I will be exploring further over the weekend and will introduce to the tutors in the School of Food & Hospitality.

All in a very productive morning, a big thank you to Otago Polytechnic & especially to Leigh for making it all happen. I will keep in touch with the group’s journey as they make their way down the North Island and look forward to catching up with everyone again at efest.


Monday, September 04, 2006

moving mportfolios forward

I am still working through the basic setup of our eportfolios. I am working on principles provided by Love, McKean & Gathercool (2004). In particular, I am not keen to see the eportfolios being put together by apprentices as being only level 1 portfolios – just a repository of products they make, along with a few recipes and comments. I would like to move the eportfolios that our apprentices will be producing up to at least a level 3. This means that the portfolio is open to both the tutor and the student. The tutor will then take steps to help the student reflect more on their evidence to work out which images, recipes or descriptions are most relevant to particular competencies that the student is working through. Basically making use of cognitive apprenticeship principles to help apprentices work how how to go about constructing evidence of their journey from apprentice to baker.

If we take one product line as an example, I would not want to just see a photo of the final product, but some photos, videos or aural descriptions of some of the steps taken to produce the product. The recipe should not just be a list of ingredients, but also a detailed description of the method along with the nuances the apprentice has picked up as to how the product will be produced. So the instruction – mix the dough until it is clear and well-developed – might be accompanied by a photo of a well developed dough plus a description (text or aural) as to why the dough in the picture is actually well – developed. Something along the lines of, “the dough is smooth & silky. It is easy to stretch it out to form a thin sheet of dough. The consistency and the temperature of the dough is suitable for making “xyz product” because ……”

I suppose that I am trying to capture the essence of what it is that differentiates a good baker from a competent baker. A good baker uses all their senses to produce high quality products (often in large volume) to a consistently high standard each time. When I talk to third year apprentices, I am often trying to work out if they are good or just competent. My decision is often based on an a build up of my observations of the apprentice’s work methods, the products they make and the way in which they respond to questions I ask them. My decision is then based on my intuitive judgement. The difference between good & competent is often difficult to pin down but I believe that eportfolios, assembled with guidance and care, will help showcase skills, knowledge, attitudes and the convergence of these characteristics.

Therefore, my long term goal is to move the eportfolios into a level 5 scenario. So that the eportfolio becomes “an authentic / authoritative evidence that links the contents of the folio to standards, programmes and other descriptors, including higher order taxonomies.”

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Web 2.0 & eportfolios

Over the last month or so, Helen Barrett has been exploring and evaluating some newer eportfolio tools. She has started to assess the use of Web 2.0 type applications as generic platforms for the collection and collation of eportfolios. On her last two blogs this month, she has been looking at WIKIs and the concept of elearning 2.0. Her blog for August the 5th looks specifically at the use of Web 2.0 tools for eportfolios.

It will be interesting to keep an eye on her work as she starts using Web. 2.0 applications to build eportfolios. The number of tools available for aggregating various digital items has been growing. At the moment, I am trialing Windows Live Spaces which is in beta at the moment. I am able to transfer photos from my PC on to my own customised Windows Live page quite easily. It is also possible to sent photos in using a mobile phone. The Window’s live page also allows you to build up a blog, store contact details for your friends, archive your music, online games and book list.

At the moment, the page does not download well on to my Treo, I am hoping that it might not be too long before a mobile accessible version is available. The interface is relatively easy to use & there is space for the collection of visual evidence. The blog area provides an area to enter text, so overall, a good example of what is possible for a eportfolio user interface.

The European Institute of eLearning site provides good resources about eportfolios. A good link to eportfolios tools including commercial and open source tools is porvided. I have only had a brief look at the open source ones, some of them are dated but there are many that have ideas that we can work on at CPIT. Some of these ideas will need to be put together when we sort out a Moodle test site as a customised eportfolio site for our students to use.

I am therefore keen to move forward into the next step of our trials. Collecting evidence on a mobile phone & archiving the evidence on various mobile accessible applications like flickr & filemobile seems to be straight forward. We have also experimented with audio & video files from Springdoo. The next step of the trial is to see how we can now collate the evidence collected into a eportfolio. Then apprentices can access their own eportfolio, using their mobile phones to check on the amount of evidence they have collected.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Organising myself for conferences

July has been a busy month. At the beginning of July, I attended (& presented) at the Australian annual National Centre for Vocational Education Research ‘no frills’ conference. The conference was held on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland at Mooloolaba TAFE. It’s my yearly opportunity to catch up with several other TAFE tutors who have embarked on a similar journey that I have taken. They are often trades based tutors who have worked their way gradually through formal academic qualifications in education and who currently research in the adult learning / vocational education field. My paper was a distillation of the main threads from my interviews of first year apprentices titled – Falling into a trade: Apprentices’ perceptions of becoming a baker.

On returning from the conference, I had a block course with third year apprentices. Two weeks of wonderful teaching & learning. It was good to see how well these young people have become acculturated into the baking trade. The third year apprentices were a mature, conscientious, inquiring and demanding group. Almost all of them have come to the realisation that their apprenticeship is only the beginning of their careers as bakers. A couple wanted to have a break from the long hours and heavy labour. The majority had a career path to work with and 2 were moving into bakery management already.

Added to this all, papers I submitted for two conferences were approved late last week & early this week. So I have been busy submitting conference grant approvals to see if I can get to them. So far, CPIT has been generous, so I should be off to both of them.

In September, there is efest. This is the NZ polytechnic elearning conference. Steven Downes is a keynote & ‘moving learning’ is this year’s theme. It will be a good opportunity to network, keep up with the play with regards to NZ government policy and to learn more from everyone. My paper is on mLearning and the workplace learner:- trials, tribulations and triumphs and based on a report of our trials to deliver mlearning to apprentices.

In October, the international mlearn2006 conference will be held in Banff, Canada. A long way to go but I am really excited about the opportunity to be part of the international mlearning community. I am presenting a short paper on mLearning for workplace based apprentices: a report on trials undertaken to establish mobile portfolios. It will have to be a very quick overview. I have started writing the paper for this and I plan to concentrate more on the eportfolio bit as it is an area that mlearning has not got into very much.

At present, I am also running trials with apprentices over the next month or so to obtain data for the above conference presentations. So a busy few months coming up but things are starting to make more sense, the links are starting to be form and bits of the puzzle are coming together.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Working with Springdoo - audio content & assessment

I have made contact with the folks at Springdoo., who are actually a company called Telemessenger Solutions Limited. As they are a Christchurch based company, I was able to organise a f2f meeting with them. Their overall platform provides the conduit for delivering voice and data by integrating the use of the telephone (both land line and mobile) with the internet. Like many other innovative companies I have had the privilege to meet up with, Telemessenger is represented by enthusiastic, helpful and go-getting people.

Besides Springdoo, they also offer another solution that is pertinent to e or mlearning. The Aristotle platform allows the telephone to be used as a medium of interaction. At the moment, Aristotle is used to provide motivational / business training to corporate customers. It is also available via the web for individuals who are keen to have a ‘virtual mentor’ help them meet personal goals. The application of Aristotle to a mlearning environment means that audio delivery of content, assessment activities and student support becomes feasible. Student preferences for time and day to be contacted on their phones can also be automated. This means that a tutor does not have to work at odd hours to call students who are working shifts that start late at night or early in the morning. Voice recording of student responses can be directed to the tutor’s email for downloading and commenting on or for follow up.

Using audio makes use of the prime function of a phone. However, there has been discussion recently on several blogs I follow about how young people use their phones. For example, 80% of young people in Ireland use the phone for everything else but talk on it! Recent posts on the Oxford University moodle discussion site by Tomi Ahonen reveals several changes in behaviour by young people that can be attributed to mobile phone or game console use. One was the slow pace of young people when they are walking on the footpath while they are checking their txt messages. The other was how his young nephews preferred the use of the standard play station console to play car racing / grand prix type games to using an actual car steering wheel configured to allow car driving games to be played.

We therefore need to be circumspect about how we make use of a phone like interface. We need to find out if the use of voice would be something that a typical young apprentice would relate to. So it looks now that we have another possibility to investigate. We need to see if the audio content / assessment push via a mobile phone will be suitable for the context I am hoping to use mlearning in.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Evaluating moblogging, plogging and vloggin applications

Our ongoing evaluation of moblogging tools continues! I have been trawling the list of Web 2.0 applications by Bob Stumpel et.al which is found on Sacred Cow Dung blog.

There are thousands of sites on the list, so I concentrated on looking at sites that mentioned ‘mobile’ and found these in various categories like blogging 2.0, communication 2.0, community 2.0, images 2.0, multimedia 2.0, test2speech 2.0, voice2mail and voicemail 2.0. I checked out sites that allowed plogging, vlogging and audio messages to be posted to email.

Even though some of the sites had a ‘mobile’ description next to them, they tended to be more desk bound PC capable. Examples of good PC based applications include sharpcast (a plogging site), Waxmail (voice emails can be send as MP3 files using Outlook), Orb (allows voice emails to be posted via email or skype, also supposed to work mobile phone to skype but I did not try this out). I also found Photobucket, a PC based application but there were excellent online tutorials on how to use it.

I then googled “mobile to voicemail”, “mobile picture sharing” and “mobile phone picture sharing” to see try to uncover as many sites as possible.

Many of the mobile sites uncovered by checking the sacred cow dung site and googling had constraints that made them unsuitable for use in our mportfolio trial. Constraints included:-
  • only being able to use the site with certain telecommunications providers,
    rabble (sharing photos on mobile phones) & spinvox (converts voicemail to text) were examples of this.
  • the service being available only in certain countries, for instance, spikemobile mblogging is any available in Australia.
  • the software only supported certain types of phones Nokia’s excellent lifeblog facility and webshots falls into this category
  • some of the sites also required the use of macromedia flash or similar to run the application, springdoo is a good example.
  • A few sites had costs attached to their use, splashdata supports many phone configurations but costs US$29.95 to access.

Anyway, after a couple of weeks of searching for and testing moblogging sites, one promising site was left.This one is presently usable from New Zealand using my Treo 650 for access.

xanco provides a mobile photo archiving and sharing service. This is a European site. Set up was very straight forward and the site displays well on my Treo. It is also easy to use and photos are emailed directly to the site from your phone.

The search continue. Using a mobile phone to collect evidence will be a project that will take some time to sort throug. Along the way, I am collecting good data on the factors that make mobile phone based moblogging and plogging sites easy to interface and work with.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Voice & Video emails for mlearning

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been looking at options for bringing eportfolio evidence that have been gathered using mobile phones into the CPIT network. Evidence would include photos of products, videos of job tasks with audio descriptions, text or audio explanations / recipes or acknowledgements.

Nick Ford, our CPIT elearning designer & staff developer suggested that we try to use Moodle as the test LMS that we could link to. The CPIT Moodle test site is accessible using my Treo, so we have made a good start. Some of the pages are quite text heavy and take a while to download, so when we construct the actual Moodle page for apprentices to use, we will have to organise it to be mobile display friendly.

Next, we looked at various websites we could use to gather the evidence.

For photos, we will be using flickr as it is easy to use, photos appear almost instantly after you have emailed it to the site and we are able to link my flickr page to the Moodle test course page.

For audio input, we looked at Wimba voice mail , Yackpack and Springdoo.

We could not get Yackpack working on a PC so did not attempt with a phone. The interface is very well laid out and has good visual appeal. However, it is not very intuitive to use.

Wimba mail was promising, loading and working on a PC well. However, the site is housed on a WebCT site and not very friendly to use. Wimba also needs Java to be available in order for the various voice email, voice bulleting board etc to work. I could not get pass the introduction page with my phone. I then downloaded the Palm OS version of Java called the Websphere everyplace micro environment from palm support. However, Wimba only runs on the PC based Java & not on the mobile Java.

Sprindoo got us really excited as it worked really well on a PC and linked to Moodle without any hassles. It was also very user friendly to use and very visually pleasing to look at. The interface for recording voice and video emails is very good, intuitive and responsive. Your audio or video input shows up as a graphical display so there was good feedback as well. If we were working with a PC based course requiring audio or video input, this would be the site to use. However it requires Macromedia Flash to run and my Treo does not run on Flash lite. We will have to hunt up a compatible phone to try it out.

For video input, we went to videopxt but found this to be quite clunky on a PC and the page was too big to download on to my Treo.

Springdoo also had an excellent interface for video emails. As the Springdoo office is based in Christchurch, I rang them to find out more about the product. Their video email function has become very popular but they are not supporting their audio mobile phone email function as their latest market research showed that this was not a function that mobile phone users wanted to use.

It’s been good to work with someone else who is as committed as I am to getting mobile phone evidence gathering to work within a tight institutional framework. We will continue exploring various applications over the next week or so, we will need to settle on several that will work so that we can evaluate our Moodle hosted mobile course site more fully with apprentice users.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Limitations of Web 2.0 applications in setting up eportfolios

I have had several weeks to explore various web 2.0 applications. So far, the ones I have looked at have severe limitations with regards to moving beyond a ‘scrap book’ level for the compilation of eportfolios.

All of the sites assist with the storage of photos / videos and a limited amount of text. However, they are more suited for use as archives from which the photos can be drawn from to form a bigger more complex product. Blogs, webpages, WIKIs and eportfolios are all likely candidates to use the Web 2.0 sites like flickr to store photos and other multimedia materia. When you need to use the photos in your blog etc. you tap in to your store of photos.

Although some of the sites are actually build to be accessed and worked on using mobiles, none of them are particularly user friendly. Most of the sites do not work very intuitively either so that a novice using a site has to fumble around for quite a while before working out what to do. Some of the sites that are not specifically set up for use via mobile phone have too much information on their front page. This then leads to problems with downloading the page and then scrolling through lots of text and hyperlinks to try to find how to log on into your own storage area.

So Web 2.0 applications that are simple photo / video storage sites are not suitable as standalone applications for setting out eportfolios. So it looks like I will have to adapt my plans. I will probably still use one of the web 2.0 applications as a repository to archive photos. It is relatively easy to post a photo on to a site like flickr from a mobile phone. Once it is there, I will need to work out how to ‘add value’ to the image so that the collection of images ‘tell a story’ of how competency is acquired.

As text is cumbersome to input using a phone, I will need to look into how we could collect audio files (say of methods for making products) and use predictive text or menus to enter recipes.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Evaluating some moblogging sites

I have started using my Treo 650 to evaluate various moblogging platforms. These include boltfolio, busythumbs, kaywa, lifeblog (Nokia phones only)and winksite. There is quite a comprehensive list of photoblogs and moblogs along with a good introduction on what they are capable of on livingroom.org

I am unable to test the lifeblog site as I do not have a Nokia phone. However, I will keep this site on the list so that an apprentice with a Nokia phone could try it out.

So far I have found that boltfolio & other PC based photo / video archiving applications like fotolog and phlog take a long time to download on to a mobile phone. The pages also do not display very well & there is some difficulty with accessing important buttons / links.

Kaywa has a charge of 99 Swiss francs annual fee to use. Beyond an average apprentice’s budget. So I am down to, busythumbs, buzznet and winksite. I have also decided to see if I can find an apprentice with a mobile phone that is supported by Shozu to make use of flickr.

winksite stands out with its fast page downloads and clarity of navigation. It is a site built for mobile phone access. However, I am finding it tricky to post on to the page I have set up but am working on it. The other three are more straight-forward as the photo I need to post on the site just needs to be MMS / emailed to the site’s email address.

Next week, I intend to assit apprentices sign in to a page that they will be assigned. I am setting aside an hour for the task. During the week, I hope that we will have time to have a play with the sites using each apprentice’s mobile phone. At the end of the exercise, they should have access to the site and have set up a page that they will be able to post their photos to.

Just being able to upload photos into an archive is very much a basic level eportfolio. I need to find out how much text we can embed within each photo and see how feasible it is to put in the text using a mobile phone. I am also keen to explore the concept of attaching an audio file with the photo. This is a better way to input descriptors into an eportfolio using a mobile phone. So I will need to work on finding out how to do this & find some sites that will allow this to be done.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Getting to know my Treo 650

Part of the research funding for the mportfolio trials has been used to purchase a Treo 650 & to pay for the monthly Telecom fees to make use of the phone. So some thoughts on how the conversion from Treo 180 to Treo 650 has gone, along with my learning experiences as I familiarise myself with the new Treo.

The Treo 650 arrived two weeks ago & I have been busy setting it up. So far so good but I haven’t been able to get the Palm desktop to start up on my PC. Apart from that, everything transferred well from my Treo 180 into the Treo 650. I emailed the Palm support centre & they emailed back promptly with some suggestions. I went through the very long list of instructions (quite clearly set out) & things improved, I could now hotsync. The Palm desktop however still refused to open, so I emailed Palm support and they very promptly emailed back another list of instructions. I am impressed with Palm support, mainly for their prompt replies and their clear instructions.

Meanwhile, I am accessing the various parts of the Palm desktop via clicking directly on the .exe files from my C:/ programs folder. Seems to work with installing ebooks and manual hotsync. The web browsing capability is working so I have started checking bloglines. The Versamail (email) is also up and running. I have also put in a 2G SD card & am storing photos & music on it. Realplayer came along with the Treo & this works well although some of the music on my CDs had to be converted before I could transfer the music onto the Treo (a time consuming process). I also bought a audio plug converter from Dick Smith for $2.50 so that I could fit my existing stereo ear plugs into the smaller audio plug on the Treo. Music quality is OK & I will be working on transferring a few podcasts from my MP3 player on to the Treo.

The backlit colour screen on the Treo 650 is just wonderful after the drab black & white screen on my faithful Treo 180. Navigation around the various applications, using the keyboard and installing applications are all familiar tasks. I am weaning myself away from using the stylus and trying to do as much as possible using the directional keys and the keyboard. One handed key entry is a bit difficult as I have small hands and I am more used to holding the Treo in my left hand & using my right hand to key in text. However, I am getting to grips with it & using my left hand to do most inputting.

I have also tried out the camera and video (eats up memory). Picture quality is quite good but I have not printed out any pictures yet, just displayed on my PC. Next week, I will be working out how to moblog with various Web 2.0 applications. It’s the foundation of my research evaluation so I am looking forward to putting in a couple of days of learning by doing.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Trialling eportfolio compilation using mobile phones

I have been putting together this year’s research proposal & it’s just been submitted to the faculty research committee for their approval. The objective of the research project is to look into using moblogs or ‘enhanced’ WIKIs that are accessible using mobile phones. Apprentices will be asked to connect with these web based applications to collect, collate and organise photos and text that will form the base of a portfolio for the purposes of completing work based skills.

The main focus will be to evaluate how user friendly the apprentices find each type of software. As the majority of apprentices will not have access to personal computers, it will be important to find out how much of the eportfolio compilation can take place using just the mobile phone to take photos, add text descriptors, send the photos and accompanying text to the website, collate and organise the photos and share these with their peers.

As a tutor, I would like to find out how much information can be gathered using the mobile phone and whether the evidential material will be sufficient for me to make a decision about an apprentice’s competency. I am also interested in the underlying process that will take place as apprentices work through the requirements of collecting evidence, archiving and collating their work. In my experience, a lot of thought often goes into compiling portfolios and it would be good to see if this thought process is reflected in the composition of the eportfolios that apprentices will be working on. I am also interested in finding out whether the process of using a particular application with a mobile phone would constrain or enhance the portfolio experience for apprentices.

From the CPIT point of view, I will need to find out the advantages and disadvantages of various web based software. Then, when we built a customised platform for student eportfolios, we will have a better idea of what works or does not work. Using mobile phones as the main interface between users & their portfolios will be an added challenge to setting up a customised eportfolio platform.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Future of mLearning (a mashup)

I have been trying to keep up with the onslaught of articles, blogs and podcasts about mLearning and eLearning. The more I read, the more I gravitate towards the view that mLearning will become mainstream. Mobile learning brings together many traits that make us human. We are social animals, we learn much from interacting with others and we learn best when our learning is situated (as when we are trying to solve a problem and need to work out how to go about it). Mobile phones with web access provide the references, contacts and networking for these processes to take place.

In an interview with Judy Breck reported on mtrends, the many possibilities for providing more equal access to educational opportunities for women in the under -developed world was discussed. The interview tracked some very good examples of how mobile phones have allowed people in underdeveloped countries to bridge the digital divide. Mobile phones have provided the opportunity to make contact with the wider world and to have access to knowledge bases via the web.

Web 2.0 applications open the door to mobile users who do not have access to computers, servers and networks. With a web browsing capable phone, anyone with a mobile phone is able to gain access to their own web space from almost anywhere in the world. People are therefore able to access information when they need it from wherever there is mobile access. They are no longer disadvantaged by lack of access to libraries, learning in a bricks and mortar based institution and computer networks.

As you can see at the comprehensive list of Web 2.0 applications by Bob Stumpel et.al via Sacred Cow Dung blog., there are hundreds of applications that are now accessible with an internet capable computer. Not all are accessible via mobile phones yet and some applications might not be suitable on a mobile phone. What I learn from this is that there is a lot of work being done out there and we are only at the beginning of development in this area. Due to the nature of how Web 2.0 has evolved, the development of new applications has been user led. Therefore the possibilities for education are going to be really significant!

Derek Wenmoth’s chart on online environments via Leigh Blackall’s blog, shows the progression into social learning & connectivism from the learning models of behaviourism and constructivism. The convenience, ubiquity and overall social application that a mobile phone allows, makes it a prime candidate for building some of the means by which social learning and connectivism can take place. mLearning becoming a platform through which learners, their mentors, the learning content and community of practice can interact, develop, network, synthesise, reflect and do the things that good learning should be about.

This article by Dion Hinchcliffe via Alexander Hayes’ blog provides us with a glimpse of what is taking place in Web 2.0 application development. Mash ups, composite web applications that are partially constructed from the services and content from other web sites are growing at a phenomenal rate. A fully online web based software environment is not too far from being available anytime, anywhere. The technology is already available, time is required for the capabilities to be realised and tapped into. All of these developments make for interesting times for those of us who are exploring the educational use of Web 2.0 applications.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

UMPCs and their contribution to mLearning

I followed with interest the hype around the launch of Origami on various websites & blogs including Endgadget & Palmaddict.

Two weeks ago, pictures of the actual Ultra mobile personal computers (UMPCs) became available along with more details about their capabilities. A good article on the models available can be found at I4U news
.
I have mixed thoughts about how useful UMPCs will be for mobile learning in my context. For business professionals, I think that UMPCs will open up a whole new area for exploring professional development using UMPCs. This is especially the case for business people who are on the go as part of their work and who tend not to be office based. The bigger screen size and multi-media playback capabilities supported by access to the web increases the content dissemination aspect of mLearning. However, there is more to mLearning than just access to content.
In my context, I think that the following will be the barriers to adoption of UMPCs for mLearning.

  • Cost of the device will be prohibitive to the average apprentice. Unless I can find a generous hardware distributor who is willing to part with a class set of UMPCs (around 20 will be a good number). Asus, Founders and Samsung, I hope you are reading this blog!
  • The UMPC will have to be especially robust to stand up to the conditions the average apprentice will put on the machine. A mobile phone would live in the user’s pocket, but the UMPC is too large to fit into a pocket & will have to lie on a flat surface somewhere while the apprentice is working. Opportunities for covering the device with flour or for liquids to be spilt on to it will be high. Dropping the devise on to a hard concrete floor will not do it any good either.
  • It will mean learning how to use a new device. I have always been taken by Helen Barrett’s catch phase of using familiar tools to learn unfamiliar tasks and using familiar task to learn how to use unfamiliar tools.

I can see the advantages that moving on to a UMPC would bring:-

  • Larger screen size than on post PDAs & mobile phones
  • A Windows based operating system
  • Mobility but need to check on the battery power
  • Multimedia content
  • Has WiFi & Bluetooth
  • PDA, digital still / video camera, iPod rolled into one machine

Current elearning packages will run & we can develop more interactive learning packages to run on UMPCs which are either web accessed or on CD ROMs or on memory cards. In the next few years, UMPCs will become more mainstream and they will provide a good platform for a whole host of mLearning applications. For the moment, they offer us a glimpse into the future when ubiquitous, converged devices will become the norm for the mass market.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Using sitemeter, tagging and culling bloglines

I installed sitemeter on to this blog at the end of October last year. It’s a free service and a weekly email is posted to my email to remind me to check up on this blog’s visitor traffic. Apart from the initial excitement of seeing the number of visitors increase steadily (now over 200!), I have learned the following from using site meter.

Sitemeter does a cool job of counting the visitors to your site. You can also:-
  • display your site visitors by location / country of origin (listed or as dots on a world map),
  • the page on your blog they enter by,
  • amount of time and number of pages the visitor reads and
  • how your visitor found out about your blog (referrals - search engines, aggregators).

I have found the last application a good learning exercise on the use of tagging. Although the bulk of the visitors to my blog enter via search engines, many enter via tags put up by blog readers on aggregators like del.ico.us and jot.com. Following the links back to the source often brings up interesting related sites, blogs etc. that I can then add on to my own aggregators.

This month, I have had to do a vicious selection exercise on bloglines to trim down the number of blogs I follow as some of them accumulate into the 100s of articles in just a couple of days. The large volume really means that I end up skim reading the majority of the articles. I am therefore not doing much justice to the writers of the blogs & also probably missing important bits that I should be taking note of.

I am now down to several really good reflective blogs, some of my favourites are blogs by archichoke (who are you?), Barbara Ganley, George Siemens, Stephen Downes, Leigh Blackall and Jeremy Heibert.. I have also kept semi commercial blogs like Palm Addicts (which does a good summary of many of the other commercial blogs like Endgadget and some of the Treo blogs like Treonauts), Techcrunch and texually.org. I have also taken to checking on other subscribers to the blogs I follow on bloglines to see what blogs others follow & this has helped me consolidate my own list of blogs to keep reading.

This all leads towards a distillation of information that is pertinent to what I need to find out now. However, I still trawl the web, googling or blog hunting whenever I have a few minutes to see what is out there. A surprising amount of information is being generated and I always find something interesting, relevant, thought provoking, new or applicable to my teaching context.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Video Ipods & ideas for Mlearning content dissemination

Last week, I travelled up to Wellington with my daughter to settle her into a university hostel. Young Joanna is embarking on a four year degree in design. I will miss her because we have a good mother / daughter relationship. But another reason I will miss her will be because she is the source of much of my learning as a digital immigrant. Both my children have been avid users of digital technology. Jonathan my son, is our in-house IT expert. One of the reasons may have been that they were both introduced to computers as toddlers. So, apart from a succession of computers from the Commodore VIC 20 onwards, we have lived with a procession of game consoles / game boys and then a progression of mobile phones and ipods.

As a going away present, we provided Jo with sufficient money to upgrade her 4G Ipod to a video Ipod. During the inter-islander ferry sailing from Picton to Wellington, I had the opportunity to have a play around with the video Ipod. She only had one sample video on as videos take up lots of memory. The rest of the Ipod was filled with hundreds of photos of friends, a few of home , several dozen photos of our dog, Arthur and thousands of songs.

What struck me was the clarity of the photos & the absorption of watching the video (with earphones attached for sound) on the small Ipod screen. Sound quality was also sufficient to block off the conversational noise of the other passengers sitting next to us. The 60G memory on the Ipod is currently unavailable on any current mobile / smart phone on the market, but smart phones like the Treo 650 have SD card add ons. So in the not too distant future, mlearning content could be disseminated not only as podcasts but also as vodcasts which are downloaded on to SD cards. Vodcasts could also be stored on mini disc, like the ones that play on portable play stations (PSPs). We can then post vodcast on SD cards or mini discs with content to be covered. Our students insert these into their mobile phones to play them when they need to access the information. Note that the prime function of PSPs is for playing games. However, they are now a good example of a convergent piece of hardware as they also have WIFI access to the internet, can be used to store and display photos and able to also store and play music.

My ideas for dealing with the dissemination of content to mobile phones is starting to firm up. There are many viable options, many of which are not quite possible on mobile phones as yet. However, I think that the vodcasting option should be attainable in the next 2 – 3 years. 25 years ago, I bought my first computer – the VIC 20 (5 kB RAM but only 3.5 available to user & 16 kB ROM). This year, I am about to purchase a Treo 650 (23MB non volatile memory & it comes with a standard 128 MB SD flash card – but I will probably upgrade to 1GB). What will the next 25 years bring?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Web 2.0 applications for educators on pbwiki

Over the summer break, I had a play with using pbwiki. Learning by doing is what I do best so I transferred a draft of a document I started putting together late last year. The document lists the many Web 2.0 applications that are turning up on Techcrunch and other blogs that I follow. I have sorted the applications into categories like blogging tools, collaboration & knowledge sharing, multimedia audio, visual and collation, mobile applications including MoSoSos, Wikis etc. Although the site is still ‘in the process of being constructed’ it now easier for me to follow what all these applications, tools, platforms are for and how they may be usefully applied by educators towards improving learning opportunities for their students. Another pbwiki site provides a good explanation of the applications & theories behind social software.

pbwiki has shown up on several blogs written by techie educators and it seems to the wiki that is especially recommended for use by primary school level students. So I applied for a password and started up a wiki on Web 2.0 applications for educators. The set up process took all of 2 minutes. Learning how to use the wiki took me a few tries but once I worked out how to get text to be underlined, bold, boxed and hyperlinks to display, I was away. This took about half an hour relying only on the instructions provided by pbwiki. Over the last couple of months or so, I have copied & pasted my original document on to the wiki. So if you would like to help maintain the wiki, just email me & I will email you the password providing you with editing rights.

At the moment, pbwiki does not have a mobile option but I can see a similar platform being build up for eportfolios to be delivered to a repository. We will need the following:-
  • a WYSIWYG text interface,
  • a simple way to upload pictures and
  • perhaps a set template for where things should go.
  • a mechanism for signalling that an update has been made by the student and then emailed to the tutor will also be helpful.
  • be mobile phone friendly to use
  • ability to not only archive but re-collate / organise content

Many of the content / knowledge sharing and WIKI tools that are listed in Web 2.0 applications for educators are possible candidates. I will need to work out a way to evaluate these tools with apprentices. Apprentices will need to upload photos & input text into their eportfolio using their phones. I can then evaluate the process with them to see how they easy or user friendly the software was to make use of. From my point of view, I will need to look at how reliable and valid the evidence collected in the eportfolio is towards completing the required unit standard.

I will need to think this through & then present a research proposal to the powers that be to see if CPIT will agree to the evaluations taking place. If anyone out there knows of a free application that will do what I have just described in the paragraph above and has worked with and evaluated it’s potential, please let me know.

Monday, January 23, 2006

New Year Resolutions - plans for 2006

Its back into the fray with classes to prepare for, new students to orientate and former students to be cajoled into taking on the next elearning course on their list. I have had a good summer break. There has been time to catch up on friends and family, sort through, read, catalogue and reflect on literature collected over the year and to get much of the methodology chapter for my thesis organised and drafted. I also fitted in several good tramps that have helped me re-create myself mentally, spiritually and physically.

Well, what will this year bring? The National Certificates for Baking should be registered at NZQA early this year. A re-write / total reorganisation of our full time Certificate in Baking course will need to be done to align the programme to the new National Certificates. Apprentice block courses will now become much more focused on consolidating workplace practice and theory of baking knowledge. Assessments that used to be carried out in the workplace will now have to be carried out during block courses. No extra time has been put aside to allow all of the extra assessments to be done. I have put together a checklist of how we could go about assessing workplace based learnt skills. Much of the evidence gathering for these workplace based skills will now be done via mobile phone contact. eTXT will be used to support apprentices between block courses to cover:-
Underlying knowledge unit standards
Formative assessments
Evidence gathering for workplace based units

I am keen to trial the above and to explore how Web 2.0 applications can be used to bring more razzmatazz into the process. Apprentices who are happy to chug along with mainly paper based evidence collection and collation can go ahead and do it that way. However, I will encourage the more technically inclined apprentices to experiment. How this will wash with the moderators will remain to be seen, but there needs to be some rewards for apprentice who are prepared to blaze the trail for others. I am keen to set up a space, either on our current Blackboard based LMS, or on any one of the more easy to use collaborative project / enhanced Wiki tools to help apprentices build their eportfolios. There also is a need to see how the technology can be accessed just using mobile phones.

In all, looks like another interesting and challenging year to look forward to. At the end of this year, I will track progress to see how many of the plans I have put into this blog eventuate. I am excited about the possibilities and the potential of mobile learning. This year, its time to find out how far I can push the envelope!