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.