Thursday, December 13, 2007

2007 review

This year has been a year of consolidation. Running the mlearning pilot has brought together many of the ideas and systems that we have been trialling. I have also started to network better within the mLearning community and am more familiar with the literature associated with mLearning research.

Highlights for the year include:-

  • The opportunity to meet with other NZ mlearning practitioners and to interact with them face to face at MOLTA
  • Witnessing the buzz during my keynote on mlearning at the ITF Research Conference.
  • Winning the Prime Ministers Supreme Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award
  • Catching up with family in Perth & the Karri trees on the South West coast of Oz
  • Viewing sunset at Uluru near Alice Springs plus touching base with vocational education researchers at the NCVER Research Conference.
  • The academic collegially at the annual ASTE conference in Wellington.
  • Mlearn2007 in Melbourne
  • Final assessments of our full time students and the ongoing development in confidence over the year of most of the students.
  • Obtaining funding from the CPIT foundation to get the mlearning pilot going.
  • Working with NZ Diploma in Business tutors to put courses online presented some challenges but we got there in the end.
  • Starting an apprenticeship as a staff mentor / facilitator with the CPIT staff development unit.
  • Teaching staff education courses and observing how adults become more reflective teachers.
  • Completing third year interviews for my research project on how young people become bakers. Now that I have started serious data analysis, I am learning so much from the interview and observations I have gathered.

Things to look forward to next year:-

  • Writing up my thesis
  • Taking on a one day a week role with staff education which includes teaching adults how to become workplace assessors (an area I currently teach) and adults learning about teaching (a new area to get into).
  • Continuing my apprenticeship with staff development and playing a role in supporting staff in their teaching and professional development.
  • Extending the research into mlearning, in particular, how to make better use of Web 2.0 tools using mobile phones.
  • Continued reflection on teaching and learning (my students and my own).
  • Mlearn2008 plus other conferences including Molta2008, efest2008 and Herdsa2008.

Its off for some serious re-creation over the next few weeks. Several good tramping trips should help revive me sufficiently to make a start into thesis writing. I also hope to have time to do some reflection on plans for mlearning and my role in staff education / staff development.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Learning from mlearning pilot 2

Derek Wenmoth has summarised in his blog on the future of reading the discussions triggered by the release of Amazon of Kindle, their handheld reader. Many commentators lament the gradual decline of reading. Along with the decline in reading print based media, comes an alleged decline in the way in which people have a wider perspective on various viewpoints and critical thinking skills.

Then a blog by Will Richardson on yound people’s skills in texting and using the net to complete their homework. A young persons skill level with texting (without the need to look at the keys) and their use of technology to have someone else complete a difficult homework assignment for them, are examples of how technology is being made use of by young people. Whether these skills are ethical or not, is perhaps not the point. What is important is that young people have different skill sets and perceptions of what is relevant to them at different times in their lives.

During our sessions with apprentices, I found the way in which they viewed the use of their mobile phones and their social networks, diverging from our views of how mobile phones could be used. In my blog comparing mobile to computer literacy, the way in which young people view information is not better or worse, just different.

For instance, I would find it intrusive to have my mobile phone track where I go so that I can receive information about the nearest shopping centre, bank, movie theatre I am walking pass. However, if I was travelling around in a strange city, I might appreciate this facility more. Young people tend to take for granted that being tracked on via their mobile phone is ‘normal’. They see the information that comes through their mobile phone as a ‘service’. They are surrounded by marketers who use text messaging to send them updates on the latest competition and TV advertisements for a myriad of material goods. However, from my experience, they are still savvy consumers. Witness the rise and rise of Trademe, young people know when they have a choice and they make use of technology to make that choice.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Learning from mlearning pilot participants

Nick Ford & I had an invigorating session with a group of apprentices who are part of our mlearning pilot. The session is an introduction to the apprentices who are keen to take part in the pilot on how to archive their evidence so that we can have access to their work.

All of the apprentices own a camera capable phone. Three are very conversant with phone capabilities and especially up to date with how to ‘work the system’. If you know how and when to do it, there are ways to access the web via your phone for very little payment!

Our advantage with our mlearning project, is that we are using a form of personal expression that is natural to our students. They find photo and video blogging to be a normal way for them to share their leisure activities with their friends. Half the students had their own webpage. Their perception of webpage layout & navigation is different from ours. They are not phased by a page with is cluttered with video clips, photos, advertisements, text snippets, multiply search boxes etc.

The introduction was also to familiarise the students with how to transfer their evidence or link to their evidence on to a Moodle page set up for each student. All the students are provided with ‘teacher’ access to their page. Almost all the students understood how to work Moodle very quickly and were linking to flickr, youtube and other websites (like their own Bebo page) within a few minutes of being shown how to work the editing icons. In fact, they picked up on the possibilities much faster than groups of tutors who would be given a similar introductory session to Moodle.

We also showed the students the possibilities in using Vox and Comic life to lay out their portfolios. Students familiar with Bebo appreciated the cleaner Vox interface and most thought that laying out their evidence in the form of a comic book would be something they would give a go.

It will be interesting at the beginning of next year to see what has eventuated with evidence collection and to see how the collation of the eportfolio will take place when the time comes for the evidence to be presented.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Activity theory and mlearning research

I have had several goes at trying to unravel activity theory and how I might be able to use it as a base for my ongoing research projects.

Activity theory is based on the work of Leontiev, much of his work has been overshadowed by the work of Vygotsky. The seminal works on activity theory are the English translation of Leontiev’s book, Activity, Consciousness and Personality (1978) and a book edited by Wertsch. Engestrom is perhaps the most well known exponent of activity theory.

A book by Kaptelinin and Nardi, (Acting with Technology:- Activity Theory and Interaction Design) provides a more accessible route to understanding how to make us of activity theory in better understanding human interactions with technology. Chapter 3, Activity theory in a nutshell, is an especially succinct and clear summary of the origins of activity theory and how it relates to the human mind’s inter-relationships with people and artifacts in the context of everyday activity.

I learn by doing, so over the summer, I will work at structuring our mlearning pilot project around the activity theory research framework. It will provide me with the opportunity to apply the theory to a real situation that has people, tools (mobile phones, research questionnaires, surveys) and artifacts (multimedia evidence, assessment criteria, learning outcomes). It will be important to have a look at my planned research tools to see how they might presently reflect activity theory assumptions and see if there needs to be any tweaking of these to bring about a proper analysis of the data generated from interviews with apprentices, evaluations of their use of web 2.0 sites and their mlearning experience.

Why activity theory and not something else? There is a fit with the type of research I am undertaking with mlearning with the overall structure of activity theory. Using activity theory provides an opportunity for me to learn how to use another ‘research method’. It will also provide another perspective on how I view the data when it starts to come through plus the opportunity to evaluate how activity theory works and how to best make use of it’s framework in an actual research project.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Passion and Creativity

One of the books I took across with me to Melbourne a month or so ago was Howard Gardner’s new book, Five Minds for the Future. I started reading it on the plane and by the time I got to the second page , I found that it mirrored the same thoughts I had put together for the CPIT Spring graduation keynote held at the end of September.

In my speech, I spoke about the importance of passion. Passion has been a defining factor in my research with young apprentices who have fallen into the trade and are now all working hard to become bakers. I advised all the graduates to work at:-

  • gaining and maintaining passion for their content area,
  • maintaining a passion for life-long learning,
  • staying passionate about people,
  • fostering a passion for their profession and
  • most importantly, work on sustaining a passion for goodness.

The five minds Gardner required to enhance creativity are

  • the ability to be expert in a discipline,
  • to have a wide spectrum of knowledge in order to synthesise other fields of knowledge with ones own discipline,
  • to be able to create new forms of knowledge, innovate new ways to do things,
  • be respectful of others and
  • to behave ethically.

The above has triggered some thoughts on whether the students I teach are actually being prepared for the future.

  • Are we igniting passion sufficiently for them to move on to gain enough motivation to work at becoming expert in their discipline (Gardner reckons it takes ten years for an individual to work up to true expert hood)?
  • Do we model that we, as teachers and tradespersons, have an abiding love for life long learning?
  • Do we show students how our expert knowledge, spiced with extra learning from our hobbies, leisure, research activities etc. allows us to synthesise and create new products, concepts, ways to do things?
  • Do we treat students with respect regardless of their innate abilities, attitudes or social, cultural or religious values?
  • Do we work within our societies ethical codes?

All of us can perhaps reply YES to all the above, but to what degree does the above permeate our teaching practice? Can we say that we are able to ignite passion in every student that we have the pleasure to teach? Have we the time to be all things to everyone? How does technology help?

So many questions, and any answers? In my context, it’s the ability to reflect, to have the things that we should be passionate about, always at the forefront of how we teach, develop learning resources and live our lives.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Swopping across to a Treo 700wx

I returned to work to find that my trusty Treo 650 has been upgraded by the powers that be to a Treo 700wx.

It then took most of Sunday afternoon to work out how to convert as much of what was on my Treo 650 (Palm OS) on to the Treo 700wx (Windows mobile OS).

I followed the steps set out in a how to guide although there is an easier but have to pay option in the form of Chapura’s PocketCopy 2.0. The how to guide worked well and there was a smooth transition with contacts, calendar, tasks and notes from Palm to Microsoft Outlook and then on to the Treo 700wx.

Photos and music stored on the 2gig SD card transferred across without any hassles. Lost access to all my ebooks - drats - plus use of Lampwords (dictionary and anagramer for scrabble) – double drats. So have resorted to resurrecting my old Treo 180 (which I gave to my son but he never used as it was monochrome) so that I can access these well used items. I will use the Treo180 as my Palm PDA until I have worked out alternatives for the Treo 700wx.

I am now getting used to the Windows Mobile environment. It is not as direct as the Palm OS to get to items but it works well enough. Also, Pocket Excel, Powerpoint and Word work better than Documents to Go. The camera resolution is noticeably better from 0.3 to 1.3 megapixels and sound quality seems to be clearer too. The phone works similar but not the SMS.

The changeover has provided a good opportunity to compare the two platforms. I will need to use the Treo 700wx a bit longer before I can say which I prefer as I am presently biased towards the Palm OS – having used it in several PDAs and two Treos.
It will take me some time to find Windows mobile / pocket PC versions of the utilities I use most often on my Treo650 and then download them to try them out.

Monday, October 29, 2007

mlearn2007 reflections

Enjoyed mLearn 2007 thoroughly and am looking forward to mlearn2008.
Had some time last week to reflect on my learnings from mLearn2007. I was in the North Island, completing third year interviews with apprentices, the last lot of interviews towards my PhD. I did a fair bit of driving pass the beautiful spring green paddocks around Wellington, Wairarapa, Masterton and Hawkes Bay. Traffic was light so there was time for some serious introspection.

Some items pertinent to my own teaching context and mlearning projects were:-
Ascendance of mobile phones as the tool used for the delivery of mlearning.
However, majority of phones still only capable of voice and SMS L
Interest from developing countries on the potential of mobile phones to improve access to learning for people who would not otherwise be able to access information we now take for granted in the developed world.
Severe disadvantage of mobile phones (as compared to PDAs) is their ‘locked’ or ‘walled garden’ telecommunication company’s imposed structure.
More papers on the perceptions of students to the concept of mlearning including primary school, ‘international’ and disabled students.
Maturity of mlearning projects using PDAs – especially in the UK.
The need to relate our learning about mobile learning to actual pedagogy in schools and tertiary education. How can mobile learning change things – for the better – in particular to engage students in taking more control of their learning via access to a wider range of resources than available in ‘traditional’ classrooms.
Educators still need to ‘show the way’ as students are focused on using their phone (a very personal item) for their own social needs.
Not as many papers on location based mlearning as last year.
Still limited use of web based sites for mlearning, so our mlearning project is still pushing the envelope.
iPhones are will challenge the way in which other mobile phones are designed.

Sue Waters has archived a collation of various perspectives on mlearn2007 on a wiki, made up of various links to elluminate sessions, blogs and twitter notes. The elluminate sessions were ‘attended’ by several keen practitioners who could not physically be at the conference. The way in which technology allows us to ‘revisit’ a conference or participate without actually being physically present shows possibilities for distance education. However, face to face interaction is still not replicable as it brings up all sorts of opportunities for serendipitous discoveries.

Friday, October 19, 2007

mLearn2008 launched

Hand over from mlearn 2007 to mlearn2008. Organised by the University of Wolverhampton to be held at Ironbridge Gorge from 7th to 10th October. Followed with Handheld2008 in London from 13th to 15th October.

mLearn2007 day 3

Day three started with 15 minute sessions! First presentation on portable devices in innovative classrooms from Megan Iemma (Heathdale Christian School, Victoria) and Paul Rodney (Christ’s College, Christchurch, NZ), using ipods in music, languages and literacy. Provided good examples, mainly using ipods (mogopod, Iwriter quiz programme, Iquiz, text2go, ghostwriter, tubesock) but also the use of ComicLife to develop comic based video material for languages and Garageband and Audacity to record pronounciation (via Bluetooth) and musical podcasts.

Then Roger Carroll from Victoria University, Australia on how mobile technology could be the catalyst between the workplace, learner and the educational institute. Generational differences, workplace practices, workforce demographics & technology changes need to come together in order enhance learning. Examples in using a moblog (photos mainly plus also videos which must be narrated) to engage carpentry students in learning. Mobile support, assessments, content and formal assessments costing AUS$1.50 for each download. Using constructivist, collaborative and collective learning to provide individual students the ability to create their own content and assessment.

Next, Julie Turnell from University of Teesside, UK on an investigation into students’ use of mobile devices and why they use for social activities but not for learning. Has a high proportion of ‘non-traditional’ students & text messaging has been used to support and retain students. Out of 469 students, only 3 did not own phone, 335 owned mp3 players as well. 84% used phones to share photos and videos, 60% used calendar etc. for personal use but only 30% used it for their study schedules. Therefore differences between how students use their phones in social community compared to their learning community. Might creation of a Virtual Community of Practice (Kimble, Penrod & Perry) help turn social interaction into activities that support learning.

Last item for the conference was a panel session on “how did we get here?” with Charlie Schick, Mike Sharples, Peter Le Cornu, Marc Niemes & Robyn Archer. Introduced by Jo Pearson, the scenario was that we were now at mlearn2017 where wireless is ubiquitous, batteries are self charging, nanotechnology is well established and the web has imploded on itself and has been replaced by smaller, more intimate virtual worlds. Virtual schools and virtual workplaces are the norm.

Mike Sharples, (University of Nottingham) quoted William Gibson with “the future is already here, not just evenly distributed”. Entertainment has changed, even banking has changed, so why not schools?

Mark Niemes, ( schools willing to spend on mortar & bricks but not on more ‘ephemeral’ items like web sites, intranets and mobile learning. Devices become ‘disposable’, the easier to use will win. Content – too much around but not all useful, how do we sieve through all the knowledge to find out what we need? Context, personal, private or public depending on role.

Peter Cornu (St. Johns Ambulance), organizations have fewer buildings, most learning flexible & web available. People learn the skills & then come in to institutions to have recognition of their skills when they are ready. Teachers still practicing good pedagogy. IT working with their organizations to bring about learning effectively.

Charlie Schick (Nokia), not a techno-optimist but if we look back 10 years, education has not been changed fundamentally & in 10 years time, there will not be significant changes. But changes will take place gradually, especially if led by consumers, learners, parents, industry etc.

Robyn Archer (Connex, Melbourne) changes in how we travel. Travel to train stations not by car but via bus or bicycle & rush hour not as crowded. Achieved by using technology to improve how transport systems can be more efficient. Aging population has now retired. New workforce more in tune with use of technology, training is just in time with need for constant retraining. Customers also need to be trained by providing them with updates on how the transport network is working based on tracking systems.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

mlearn2007 day 2

Keynote from Charlie Schick from Nokia who talked about the mobile lifestyle. Mobile phone seen as an essential part of individual lifestyles. Most people use 5 functions on the phone and main contact with 5 people. Majority of 3 billion mobile phones still basic and 1 billion of mobile phone owners do not have access to the internet. So important to develop learning that will work with basic phones. The phenomenon of social networking is pushing the ‘phone on web’ concept, whereby then phone becomes an access tool to networks like twitter, facebook, dopplr etc.

Awards as part of a ‘digital mini fest of youth’(a
Turning Point project coordinated by Sally Drummond) were then presented. Short films (1min and 5mins) were produced by shooting the images using mobile phones and editing the films on iMacs. These films could then be viewed and downloaded via iHub’s situated around Melbourne, Some students who took part from William Angliss College spoke of their experiences about mlearning, These included an appreciation that students could take responsibility for their learning, engagement in situated learning opportunities, increased skills in technical skill as and a realization of the potential of the use of technology in their wider lives.

Paper presentations attended started with a look at the path to the school of the future, by
Pasi Mattila & Jukka Miettunen from the City of Oulu, Education Office in Finland. They argued that as the student profile(& the needs of the workplace) have changed, schools also need to change. They described how a new school, School of Ritaharju, would include the infrastructure, pedagogy and technology to provide fro 21st skills. Oulu has a history of working with the community and also corporations, so Nokia, Microsoft will play a role in assisting with technology set up. The school will be part of the community, open 24/7 to the wider community.

Next, Dr.
Agnes Kukulska-Hulme’s representation of the results of a staff development project to introduce teaching staff to the use of smart phones. Qtek phones were provided to staff for 5 months for their use to support their own learning. Uses the concept of ‘self-service’ learning to allow staff to take charge of their own learning goals. Starts off with 3 compulsory workshops, then support structures in the form of Qtek lunchtime clubs, online support (wikis, email list, photo sharing), optional buddy plus some technical support. In general, there was improved awareness of emerging technology but less evidence that personal professional development was increased.

John Traxler, University of Wolverhampton, presented a thought provoking session on Flux within Change. Taking on that society is changing and that mlearning needs to take this into account. Examples include flash mobbing, the provision of banking services by a telecommunication provider in Kenya, the democratizing of journalism by general members of the public and new forms of criminality (bluejacking).
Changes in society also include changes to the way individuals communicate, changes to the way we treat, think about and use knowledge.

After lunch, attended two showcases. First one from
Leena Vainio, from the Hame University of Applied Science in Finland presenting ‘Just in time reBlending – learning tools on mobile for learning German. Started with an overview of design of learning objects (example) in order to produce a mobile supported learning environment. mLearning allows the traditional style of classroom to be replaced by learning in authentic and natural mobile supported learning.

The second showcase presented by Martin Brown,
Omni Asia Pacific CAN, Australia detailing lessons learnt deploying mlearning solutions in global cooperate environments.
Corporate learners tend to see mLearning fit into a just-time, reference, reinforcement of other learning, data base type tool. Overview of authoring tools like
flash lite, DW, sumtotal, with recommended cellcast (works on all cell phones), hot java software & zirada. mLearning content model includes ‘notifications’, SMS, audio casts (content, tests), resources (pdfs!, moblogs, JIT), courseware (WAP, J2M, OTA) & Rich Media (vodcasts / streaming / 3G). Important to match devices used (90% of phones still low end) to authoring tools, content authors and LMS integration. Used in corporates mainly in risk compliance (OSH, induction, Policies & procedures), improve sales and service, improve operations and marketing & production management.

Last couple of papers after afternoon tea. The
Learning2go project presented by Gavin Hawkins, Sarah Corey & Lynn Ball on behalf of David Whyley from Wolverhampton was on the learner voice adding an important dimension to mobile learning. Covered brief overview of Learning2go & why mobile devices chosen (like a 21st century pencil case full of my digital tools.) Learners consulted in design of the PDA and as the project proceeded. A software program dotpocket was discovered by a 10year old that allowed screen shots to be shared via a laptop and smartboard. Groups of students also helped develop a game (on life skills) and criteria for awards for the use of PDAs in learning.
Students also able input their feedback on a

Last paper attended today. Practical technologies & realities of cell phone learning from Peter Westphal & Mike Palmer (based in NZ) representing
Onpoint Digital, USA. Provided demonstrations of learning objects authored using cellcast along with the architecture and flow charts of how it works. Mlearning tools like CTAD, Impatica (for Blackberry), Hot lava, Evoca introduced. Also audio content creations gabcast, liquidtalk, gcast, evoca & skype and Flash cards via studycell as SMS.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

mlearn2007 day 1

Conference opens well with opening address from Prof. Glyn Davis, vice chancellor of the University of Melbourne. A video of a student using a mobile phone in 2011 to orientate themselves on their first day at uni. Provided a good start tempered with further discussions on the ethical & privacy issues plus the challenges presented by student access to appropriate hardware and broadband,

First keynote from
Prof. Angela McFarlane, University of Bristol, UK. She reported aon several BECTA projects and the learning from this, in particular to not assume that ALL young people are able to cope with technology just because they were born into it. Students also often do not have the metacognitive schools to be able to contextualize which technology to use and how to best use them. Mlearning best at providing opportunities to reiterate, reinforce or reflect on leanring.

Second keynote from
Mark Niemes from the elearning Industry Association of Victoria. He made good use of clicker technology to bring across the message of devices, content and context & how these were interrelated and that each needed to be taken into account in any form of learning.

Paper presentations started after lunch. First paper I attended from
Dr. Elizabeth Hartnell-Young, providing a need to have some philosophies of learning to underpin mlearning practice. Good examples from the use of mlearning (1 mobile phone, 2 PDAs) in English schools. Teachers with a good grounding in classroom teaching and interested in utilizing technology to enhance student learning were the most effective.

Leonard Low’s good overview of the Australian standards on mlearning. Mostly work on the areas of content creation, content support, content delivery and platforms.
Report recommends to develop for capability with ‘minimum requirements’, exploit capabilities of more advanced devices either adaptivity or by providing alternatives, minimize demands on processor, memory and display and use open formats. A easy guide by John Smith & Mary O’Connell also available.

Simon So’s study of the preception of mobile phones for teaching and learning with pre-service teachers (in their early 20s) at Hong Kong Teachers College. These teachers were studying to become IT teachers & it was important to find out if they were comfortable with the concept of using mobile phones in their future roles as teachers. Usage rates of mobile phones was high (over 1000 minutes talk time a month) and their curiosity on using mobile phones for teaching and learning was high. The future for mobile learning in usage in Hong Kong schools looks bright!

A more efficient way of transmitting videos over the mobile network was presented by
Dr. Ankush Mittal from Mentor Graphics. A challenge is the many mobile phones on the market and videos have to be customised to the different screen sizes, OS and the size of the video file to be downloaded. A solution is to select objects on the video and to classify them by importance for learning. Import objects are encoded to be viewed as video but less important objects can be viewed as stills plus audio. Learnt lots about the technical aspects of video compression, transmission codes and how mobiles handle video files.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

mlearn doctoral consortium

A good start today. Five interesting presentations from doctoral students researching in the area of mLearning.

quick summaries:-

Christian Hoff from the University of Luxembourgh presented work on a common electronic annotation platform for all documents so that can be easily shared - making mobile collatboration seamless.

From the University of Nottingham, Peggy Shao provided information on a moblogging project to help international students integrate into the university and the city they are studying in. The advantages of using moblogging individually & in groups was presented. Good learning for me on a way forward with my personal learning environment / scaffolding project.

Next, a good application of GPS and visual terrain mapping to the problem of visualisation of navigation and time sensitive decision making from Brian Quinn, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). Using a phone to linked via bluetooth to a GPS which can also be further synched with a PDA or PC and using mobile google map to track a group.

Calvin Taylor, who has just started data gathering based on two classes of 15 - 16 year olds in a rural school in Oz. He is investigating mobile literacy practice of youth, basing his work on Bourdieu - habitus, capital, symbolic and field.

Followed on well by Song Yanjie from University of Hong Kong. A good study on how young undergrads make use of a PDA over the course of a year. Finding that is is very context driven, gender & subject content also play a part in how the students used a PDA to support their learning activities.

Should be another busy day tomorrow!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Evangelising etechnology to the NZ polytechnic community

I presented a couple of papers to the union of staff in tertiary institutions (ASTE) conference last week. A well attended conference with participants from throughout the ITP sector. It was great to be able to meet committed educators, all passionate about teaching and learning. It made for a very friendly and convivial conference.

I presented keynote on using cognitive apprenticeship principles to teach baking – really to encourage tutors to be more reflective about their practice plus to explore what sort of teaching philosophy underpins their teaching. Also to delve more deeply into how good teaching is about constant refining and commitment towards meeting the needs of learners and the context the subject has to be applied to. Plus links with my teaching practice and my Phd research on how apprentices are learning via belonging, becoming and being bakers.

The other paper was to encourage the use of e-technology into tertiary teaching. I took the approach of using e-technology for tutor professional development as a starting point. If people become comfortable with writing on their own blog, using an mp3 player to store their favourite music and use RSS feeds for their own research, then these skills and knowledge percolate eventually into their teaching practice. I have found that it is important for digital immigrants to be comfortable with the technology before they start to use it in their teaching. I think that this stems from the role of teachers and their need to be ‘in control’. It is a big step for many teachers to take a sideward step and allow their students to lead the way. Personally, I learn a lot from young people about the way in which they use technology to enrich their lives. I also have learnt that it is up to us teachers to take the lead into guiding students in to how to also use technology to enhance their learning experiences.

I used several clips from youtube as part of the presentation. These include the one on the rise of Web2.0, the use of technology in teaching and a mlearn2007 promotional clip. Also links to the various blogging, wiki, personal portal and aggregator sites that I continually use as part of my day to day work (teaching, research, learning) and the mlearning project. Including these links & working through the presentation was a way of modelling how to use etechnology not only in teaching but in one’s professional development.

I was conscious that many teachers resist the use of technology in their teaching. The concept of ‘bridging the chasm’ by Moore is something that I relate to. I am not sure whether the chasm is continually deepening, or if more user friendly hardware & software creates a ford across the chasm. The ubiquitous use of mobile phones must help bring more digital immigrants into greater contact with technology. The mobile phone is already helping to bridge the digital divide between the developed and developing nations. Maybe the mobile phone is also helping in a small way to bridge the early adopter to early / late majority to laggard (Alan Atkisson calls them renunciate curmudgeons!) chasm.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Test from Treo

Sending this to test possiblity of blogging without having to bring laptop to Melbourne.

Looking forward to mlearn2007

Just about counting down the sleeps before mlearn 2007 in Melbourne. I will be in Melbourne for just 6 days, where besides the conference, I will do a catch up with one of our corporate clients and also have some time with my sister-in-law & family.

Downloaded the programme this morning and there looks like lots to keep me occupied and many papers that will be relevant to my mlearning project. There are papers on mobile phones, mobile blogging plus a few on student perceptions of mobile learning as well. Looks like a busy few days!

I am not sure if the organisers intend to set up a conference blog, like the one set up by Brandon Hall Innovations in Learning conference. It has a couple of slideshare shows embedded which are very interesting and provide a bit of a feel of what the speaker presented. Of note are the slideshare on an open-source approach to rapid authoring of e-learning by Rueben Tozman and the development of elearning 2.0 by Stephen Downes. Stephen had 77 slides (not sure now long presentation time), so being able to look at the slides on the blog, must help bring much needed ‘reflection’ space to his presentation. The blogger who put the items on the blog also commented on how she ‘zoned out’ part way through the presentation and was also distracted by the ability to input comments which were presented synchronisely on another screen. A bit like my experiences thus far with video conferencing / elluminate type presentations. Too much happening all at once – powerpoint, questions, audio output plus the video images of the presentation. I will need to find out how many others (who are usually efficient multi-taskers) find their experiences with this method of interaction.

I hope that there will be wireless access at the conference as it will allow me to blog about the papers as they are being presented at mlearn2007. They form a valuable memory jogger for when I find time to reflect on the individual papers and their contribution to the way in which our mlearning project develops.

Monday, September 24, 2007

digital storytelling: Will it catch on?

A wet weekend provided me with the time catch up on organising my photos from the tramps over the last couple of summers! Sorting through the photos got me reflecting on how technology is changing the way we do things in so many small but life changing ways. One of the quaint customs members of my tramping group indulge in, is to have a reunion a few weeks after we have completed a long tramp together. It’s a way to share, as a group, the good & bad times of our tramp.

The usual ritual is to have a shared tea (evening meal), chat about the highlights of the tramp & share photos that some of us have taken of the trip. In the past, we will have slides and hard copy to view. Orders would be taken of various photos, so that the owners would be able to reprint the chosen photos and post them to the people who have selected them. The most organised of us would arrive at the reunion with stamped / addressed envelopes and enough small change to pay the various photographers for a copy of the photos selected.

In the reunion for my January Stewart Island trip, all the photographers had used digital cameras. We were a group of tail-end baby boomers, with most of us working in non-techy jobs. However, when it came time to viewing the photos, out came a couple of laptops & the photos were viewed on laptop screens. Sharing of the photos involved transferring the photos on to CD or in my case, on to my memory stick. I could also have used my mp3 player for storage. So, the more organised of us now come with post-it notes with our email addresses on them, blank writable CDs or memory sticks.

One of our group archives all her photos on to scrap book based photo albums. She is working on album number 40 plus. She printed out digital photos that she thought worthy of inclusion & organised them as usual, into her photo album. As for the rest of us, most of us transferred the photos on to our computer’s hard disk where they formed the basis of our screen saver display.

Like it or not, we are witnessing the change over from hard copy into a digital environment. The above is but one example of many small but important changes in the way we do things that lead on to a ‘tipping point’.

The next stage is to move on to a digital story telling format. I am awaiting this development to see how long becomes this becomes mainstream within our tramping group. As such, no one in the group blogs on their myriad tramping trips. Time is usually the excuse. We all have busy lives revolving around work, studies and family. However, as more of our tramping memories are collected in digital form, then more of us will eventually be recording our trips for posterity in digital format.

Monday, September 17, 2007

youth hostels and learning about the use of technology by young travellers

Since receiving the nice amount of money as part of my award for tertiary excellence, I have had some light hearted ribbing from my colleagues about my predilection for staying at backpacker type accommodation when I travel out of town for work related conferences (in NZ & overseas). So this is a good place to explain my fondness for youth hostels.

The major reason I enjoy staying in youth hostels, is the opportunity to indulge in some serious people watching. It is too good an opportunity not to make use of as a mLearning researcher! The majority of people who turn up at backpackers are young travellers, usually in their twenties. Over the last five years, I have noted the increase in and a change in the types of technology that young travellers carry with them. Digital cameras used to be standard, but now, not everyone carries a digital camera, instead mobile phones and an mp3 players seem to be the de riguer. There is also an increase in young travellers who travel with a laptop.

Asking questions about a young person’s mobile phone, or mp3 player is a good conversational starter. From my travels, I have found that NZ is not mobile phone friendly for the foreign visitor. However, most young Asian travellers now use their mobile phone as a camera, so loosing the use of the mobile phone as a communicator is not too much of an inconvenience. I have also seen the mobile phone used as a calculator, currency converter, translator / dictionary, memo pad, map, torch etc.

Internet linked computers at most youth hostels are in use 24/7. Many young travellers make use of computers to organise all of their travel, completing their bookings for transport, accommodation and activities via online bookings. Savvy backpacker entrepreneurs have websites not only in English but in Spanish & Japanese. YHA’s that I have used in NZ, Australia & Canada all have computers that run off a standard cash card so that travellers can use these cards to pay for the time used on youth hostel computers within each country.

Travellers keep in touch with friends (& family) via email but many I have met recently (especially North Americans & Europeans) maintain their own blogs or social websites. One page on my memo pad in my Treo is filled with hotmail / gmail , blogger / facebook & myspace addresses (plus their Japanese / Korean versions) of people I have struck up conversations with at backpackers. Social site addresses have increased over the last couple of years. The use of moblogging is rare (due to mobile phones being linked to the travellers' home telecommunications provider).

I suppose I might be able to observe similar things if I stayed in a hotel as business ‘road warriors’ are now a common sight in hotel lobbies with their wireless laptops and mobile phones. However, the culture, architecture and organisation of the average backpacker’s, encourages the solo traveller to interact with their fellow travellers. A nosy middle aged woman who asks questions about what sort of mobile phone one uses does not seem too out of place :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pageflakes – more thoughts on using as PLE and ePortfolio portal

Last year, I recieved a nice email from Ole Brandenburg from Pageflakes, encouraging me to set up an account and have a look.

Since then, I have been keeping an eye on Pageflakes. The site has been upgraded with the options for adding many more ‘flakes’. There are now thousands of flakes and they include many more options for RSS type feeds and various utilities like clocks, language translators, calendars, games etc.

Of importance in using the Pageflakes portal as an eportfolio type repository is the ability to add an ‘Anything flake’. This provides a WYSIWYG editor to add text, photos, audio or video to the page. There is also an improved ‘page casting’ facility that allows better sharing of your page contents with others.

This means that a Pageflakes page could work in a dual role as a personal learning environment area plus also be used as an archive for documenting your own learning.
I have added it to the list of tools we will evaluate for the mlearning pilot.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Convergence culture & the rise of visual intelligence

Finally finished this post! Over the mid-year break, I caught up with a couple of interesting books. I travelled across the ditch, first to Perth to catch up with family and then to Alice Springs for the annual NCVER conference on vocational education research.

Serendipitously, both the books I took along had a common thread. This being that technology is changing our society in the way people, organisations, governments etc. behave, relate to each other, go about with their lives etc.

The first book was Convergence culture :- where old and new media collide by Henry Jenkins. A good read too. The first chapter is quite hilarious in places. It covers how hard core fans of the TV programme Survivor, go to extreme lengths to try to find out who is left as the final survivor in each series. The fans, known as ‘spoilers’ post their detective work (which is often very sophisticated) on a web site / discussion forum. This forms the collective knowledge that all the fans registered on the website are able to access and build on. The goal of the intelligence gathering is to be able to work out who the last survivor is, before the end of the series. What caught me was the engagement the fans had with this process. If only we are able to replicate this with online learning!

Chapter five on media literacy and the Harry Potter Wars was also another chapter full of insightful findings for the educationalist. This chapter centres on a homeschooled13 year old who started up a web based ‘school newsletter’ for the fictional Hogwarts called the Daily Prophet. This publication has a staff of 102 children from all over the world! The website became an ‘affinity space’ whereby children could immerse themselves wholeheartedly into the Harry Potter universe.

The other book, is In a Mind’s Eye: Visual thinkers, gifted people with dyslexia and other difficulties, computer images and the ironies of creativity by Thomas G. West. A bit heavier reading, but worth the effort. The book looks at why gifted people like Einstein, Rodin, Lewis Carroll, Edison, Patton etc. had learning difficulties. The author argues that even though these people have made major contributions to science, art etc. they usually struggled at school and yet they blossomed in their careers, going on to become leaders in their field. For instance, Einstein struggled with arithmetic but excelled at the higher levels of maths.

The book then goes on to explore the ‘new’ literacy, that of ‘visual literacy’ that the information age has brought about. This ‘visual literacy’ advantages the lateral thinkers who do not fit into the factory schooling model. This is especially important now that we are on the cusp of the ‘knowledge revolution’, we need people who are able to find out, intuit about and learn things that were never known before.

From a tertiary teaching point of view, we need to provide advantages for all potential students into our programmes. When re-documenting our one year full time programme, we were asked to look at raising our entry requirements. I resisted this because from experience, school results bore little correlation to future success in baking. What mattered most was aptitude for the trade and an interest in learning about baking. I have learnt from many experiences, NEVER to write off a student at the start of the programme (or at the end of it!). Making a change during the programme is something I continually work at but sometimes, that change in an individual comes later in life. We therefore need to continue sowing the seeds so that when the time is right those seeds will germinate.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Renaissance elearning

Have been dipping in & out of the book by Samantha Chapnick & Jimm Meloy called Renaissance eLearning for a couple of weeks. Then put a weekend into reading it more intensively as it contained many interesting ideas that would make eLearning more energised, personalised and effective.

This book has a good overview of Csikzentmihalyi’s psychology of creativity from his book Flow and the Psychology of Discovery & Invention and then goes on to provide examples of how eLearning can be used to encourage more creativity in learners.

In particular, the use of ‘emotional eLearning’ via the use of narratives and drama in eLearning is a new concept for me. I am especially taken by Freytag’s triangle which plots the classical dramatic structure of rising action, climax and crisis and then falling action and unwinding. They then form the basis of plot and story to the structure of a whole course or part of a course which involves the setting up of the genre, setting and characters to the overall storyline. I suppose similar to how we set up a learning session with the introduction, learning in increments using scaffolding teachniques that leads on to reflection and application, but all done with much more soul and feeling.

The other thing that is promoted, the concept of heutagogy which is self-directed learning in it’s purest sense. Learners are owners of their own learning process and learn by “organic or informal” learning.

I enjoyed reading the book as it had arrived at a juncture in my learning about eLearning. I had been looking for some way to add more pizzazz into my eLearning courses as I was working through converting them from being hosted on Blackboard across to Moodle. I suppose the title ‘renaissance’ stuck out as I browsed the book shelves in the library.

At the moment, I am percolating all the new ideas in my head to try to find a good fit between the ideas of using story telling within the context of my content area plus make it engaging to the learner profile I have. I have always been interested in the use of games to encourage learning but finding the correct scenario / game type and the development dollars required to built a good interface have always been the challenge. I will use the structure of a ‘solving a bakery problem type scenario’ in some of the courses but will have to think through scenarios that will be engaging enough. Not sure if the students themselves will be able to find their own ‘problem’ to solve but might also give that a go. Will have to do more thinking on this!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Top Ten Tools

Jane Knight maintains a very good resource that brings together, on one site, resources that are useful to users of technology in education. I look forward to all of her daily postings on my bloglines.

Over the last few weeks, Jane canvassed various technology uses to name their top ten resources. Now, there is a comprehensive list of the top 100 resources voted by 100 educational technology users, with the majority of the resources being FREE. It’s a good one stop shop introduction for new comers to using technology in teaching.

I have not had the time to browse through all the individual top ten choices yet but will do so in due course. I plan to use the recommendations at a workshop that I have been invited to present at the ASTE conference in early October. ASTE is the union that represents tutors teaching at polytechnics, universities, wananga and private providers.

I expect a wide spectrum of tutors to attend the workshop, so will need to provide a broad range of tools that can be useful in helping tutors use technology not only in teaching but in administration, research and their own personal development. I am also keen to evangelise the use of technology with face to face classes. Blended learning, done in a studied manner often reaps many benefits for both students and tutors.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Starting on mLearning pilot

Nick Ford & I put in a joint application to the CPIT Foundation for funds to run the mLearning pilot. Our bid has been successful, so it is now time to put our pilot plans in place.

As a forerunner, the local paper did a write up about the project. The main goals of the pilot are to test out the various parts of our mlearning project with a cohort of first year apprentice bakers. It will be a bringing together of all the things we have learnt thus far with the various trials reported on this blog.

A couple of interesting items which I will explore in the next couple of weeks before adding into the pilot as possible eportfolio repository alternatives are:-

It will be exciting times ahead!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

NCVER conference - preparing teachers for elearning and elearning mentors

A couple of stimulating days at the NCVER conference in Alice Springs this week. There was a good collection of papers on various vocational education issues. Of note for this blog were a paper on web based conferencing (which also covered the need to prepare teachers for using the technology) and a paper on setting up a elearning culture within an institution (using elearning mentors).

Both of these papers remind me of the need to continually do the ground work before exposing tutors to the razzmatazz of Web 2.0 and elearning tools that I now take for granted. Food for thought as per usual.

Will extend more on the above when I get back to home.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Excellence in online teaching - what is it?

What actually makes an excellent teacher? The past couple of weeks have been filled with celebrations of my winning the supreme excellence in teaching award and caused me to think again about what excellence in teaching is about. In particular, the role of technology in learning. If technology is a tool, how do we use it in a manner that enhances excellent teaching?

One of the fears tutors have when they put their material online, is that they might loose that element of having their personality shine through. The lack of immediate feedback on whether the students understand the concepts being delivered makes it difficult for online tutors to gauge the progress of their students. Some beginning online tutors also find that they loose that ‘buzz’ that they get from teaching f2f students. I have been through all of these scenarios as an online tutor and see if again and again when I support tutors putting their courses online.

I must admit that teaching online is less satisfying in some ways. However, I am lucky to have only a small number of students and I have been able to build up a good rapport with them via email and phone conversations. Excellence in online teaching requires a different focus from f2f teaching. In particular, the way in which online content is structured and presented is important. This is the main interface the student has with a topic whereas with f2f, it is often the tutor that is the main interface. Therefore, the content has to be well thought through and the strategies that need to be used to help students engage with the content and relate to the material is paramount.

There are many ways to structure online content. My belief and learning from experience is that each subject tends to have ‘set’ ways of introducing novices to concepts important in the practice or application of that subject. However, it pays to have a good look at the content and see if it is actually the best way to approach the subject. Having a non-subject expert who understands good pedagogy is one way to take a fresh view of the subject to be converted from f2f to online delivery. I have had the privilege of being able to contribute in this way as elearning facilitator. However, the subject tutor needs to also be amenable to trying new approaches, otherwise, there is no commitment to carrying the process through. I have found that small changes need to be made over a period of time. It is less intimidating to the tutor who is converting from f2f to online teaching. As far as the students are concerned, they become accustomed to the course as it stands. As most have little experience with online learning, student evaluations tend to concentrate on the amount of content rather than the online learning experience.

I plan to transfer my existing online courses from the Blackboard platform to Moodle over the next 6 months. I have also completed a conversion of online content from elearning to mlearning delivery. Both of these present opportunities to improve on the way the current content is structured and presented. With the move to Moodle, I plan to restructure each course so that each ‘learning module’ is a ‘concept capture area’. Several of these ‘concept captures’ can then be linked together for a learning module on ‘application’. In my case, it will be to apply the theory of baking to what happens in the bakery. An example would be to have concepts like ‘ingredient functions’, ‘recipe balance’, ‘processing methods’ etc. all linked to an application ‘to produce a ‘new’ or healthier or firmer / softer / crispier etc. product.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Excellence in Tertiary Teaching Award 2007

I attended the annual NZ Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards dinner on Tuesday.
I had been awarded one of 10 tertiary teaching excellence awards for this year. The national award follows my award for teaching excellence at the CPIT autumn graduation. CPIT’s internal nominee then puts in a portfolio towards consideration for the National award. Criteria for the portfolio includes evidence of sustained excellence in teaching practice, assessment and evaluation. I was tempted to put together an eportfolio but was advised against it, in case some of the panel were not used to working with digital media.

It was with some excitement and trepidation that I arrived at the Beehive in Wellington as one of the 10 award winners would also find out that they would be the winner of the Prime Minister’s Supreme Teaching excellence award. Each awardee receives $20,000 towards their professional development fund (or towards whatever would enhance their future learning). The winner of the supreme award receives an extra $10,000.

I then found out that I was this year’s Prime Ministers Supreme excellence in teaching award winner. Yippee! All the other awardees were very supportive and collegial. The dinner was very well organised and attended by various vice chancellors / CEOs of polytechs plus the members of the selection panel were also present. All in a good celebration of teaching excellence in Aotearoa.

The award means that I will be able to use the money from the award towards further enhancing my personal professional development. First off would be a studied look at what is available in the form of conferences on mlearning and then a plan to work out how to fit them around my teaching commitments. The money is a great help as I will not have to go through all the usual form filling related to having conferences etc. funded by my school, a big saving in time and energy for me which I can re-focus on to more productive things (like maintaining this blog!)

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Technology & young adults

I have just come off a couple of energising weeks of teaching apprentices plus several good teaching sessions with my full time students this week. At the end of each teaching day, I catalogued my informal findings about the use of technology amongst apprentices (these ones were in their third & last block course) and full time students.
An example is that all the apprentices had heard of Skype and several have used it but none have it available at home (only 30% had ready access to computers at home).

A couple of days ago, George Siemens posted his thoughts on using Facebook for enhancing student learning, who writes:-
"As educators, we are often drawn to tools and spaces that have a high level of activity. If everyone has a mobile phone, we explore ways to teach with the phone. Or a large percentage of our student population has a Facebook account, we start looking for ways to use Facebook for teaching. I'm not sure our learners always agree with our urge to use their tools of communication for our goals of teaching and learning. It's a challenging line to walk - to what degree do we try and educate in the spaces in which our learners exist...or to what degree do we want our learners to come to our space (school, LMS)? Libraries and Facebook: "More librarians, however, felt that Facebook should serve as a space exclusively for students and that librarians, professors, administrators, police, and other uninvited folks should keep out." "

Plus I also attended a lunch time seminar given by one of our CPIT staff, Dr Micheal Edmonds, on why students choose to study chemistry. He surveyed year 13 school students and year 1 University of Canterbury students. Over 300 students returned the survey. One of the things he looked into was how students ‘studied’ chemistry. The use of the internet & DVDs was one category. Less than 50% of the first year university students used these digital resources to study chemistry.

All of which concurs with my informal surveys. Student / apprentices use technology (especially mobile phones) a great deal. However, technology use is focused on their leisure and social activities. Students with mp3 players use it to listen to music, NOT to podcasts of their lectures. They will use their PCs to play games, download music etc. but NOT to surf the internet for the latest trends in chocolate design.

So how can we change things? Educators need to first become familiar with the technology in order to see the possibilities. Then, they need to model the use of the technology. For instance, I had a laptop with internet access in the bakery on the day the apprentices were working on their chocolate ‘show pieces’. I showed them several sites with good photos & articles on chocolate work & examples of chocolate showpieces. The showpieces produced varied (as usual) in standards but the apprentices did get the message about layout & the need to be very clean in their displays. Also, several confirmed that they would look at the resources again in their leisure time. If I had provided the links & asked the apprentices to look at them the day before the class, the number who would actually do it would be small. The ones who would make the effort would be the ones with a passion, a burning desire to learn / improve / be better then the other.

I see that the key for me is to inculcate passion so that students become self-directed. Then everything, including the use if technology to further enhance one’s own professional development becomes easy. As a tutor, I then just need to provide the ideas and resources, the rest is done by the individual. The hard work is in igniting the passion!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Issues in mLearning & Zooming in on learning in the digital age

Another bit of ‘Easter holiday reading’ from the University of Nottingham. It’s a report of a workshop by the Kaleidoscope Network of Excellence Mobile Learning Initiative. The report collates ideas thoughts and discussions and is a good resource cum update of the current developments in the mlearning area.

I found reading through the report a good refresher plus a good anchor for reflection on the pros and cons of mlearning. I especially found the statement that ‘mobile learning applications are best viewed as mediating tools in the learning process’ to be very much where I had based my mlearning project.

Also good to see so many practitioners involved in feeding back their thoughts and perceptions. In the long run, educators still have to be the ones to lead the use of mobile technologies in learning. Our students are extremely competent users of technology for their own, usually leisure and social objectives. Some of them may baulk at educators capturing their social networking tool to use for class based exercises. However, feedback from my own students indicates that they are often curious to try out new things as well. Also anything that helps them learn more effectively in a more efficient and convenient way appeals to their way of living. I think that our role is to use their phones as a conduit for helping students to learn but that we also need to be careful how we use the phone.

I also had a read through a NZ Council of Educational Research report that studied the young NZ ‘digital age’ learner. The report is the first one of a series that will be looking into learning in the digital age. One of the findings that I have found to ring through is that digital literacy in young people spans a wide range. Some of us early ‘digital immigrants’ may actually be more digitally literate that the generation Y digital native. Just because a young person is born into a world surrounded by digital technology, does not mean that they are conversant with the whole spectrum of digital technology use. However, on the whole, young people are more comfortable with digital technology, they are not afraid to fiddle and experiment with a new piece of equipment. Therefore, before beginning on sorting out a ‘learning scafffolding’ / personal homepage / portal / dashboard project for the school, I will need to do a survey of the students to find out their depth and breathe of interaction with current digital technology.

Friday, April 27, 2007

wikinomics & becta's latest report

A book by Don Tapscot & Anthony D. Williams called Wikinomics (available via Amazon & ereader) provides a look at how business practices are being changed by the way in which commercial enterprises have started to use Web 2.0. In education, we are on the cusp of tapping into the capabilities for collaboration that are a hallmark of Web 2.0. Business enterprises have started to use the capabilities of Web 2.0 to make use of the social networking to enhance their bottom line. The story provided in the first couple of pages of the book is an illuminating example of what can happen when you share information and ask for help. It describes how, in 2000, a gold mining company used the open source idea of developing the Linux operation system to provide access via their website to all the geological information that they had available. A large prize was offered to the participant who could find the most likely place to mine for gold that would yield good returns. The data was then taken on by other geologist as well as a whole raft of students, consultants, mathematicians, experts in physics, intelligent systems, computer graphics etc. who all came up with many targets for exploration, 50% of which the company itself had not previously identified. 80% of the new targets yielded substantial quantities of gold!

The above is brought into focus by the release by Becta of volume two of their Emerging Technologies in Learning series. There are articles on emerging trends in social software in education by Lee Bryant, learning networks in practice by Stephen Downes, the challenge of new digital literacies by Jo Twist with Kay Withers, how to teach technology by Marc Prensky, computer games in education (two articles, one by Keri Facer, Mary Ulicsak & Richard Sandford & the other by Tim Dumbleton) and ubiquitious computing by David Ley. In the first volume, mobile learning, the ambient web, human computer interaction, social networking and the broadband home were covered. There is therefore a definite move towards mobility, ubiquity, social networking and Web 2.0. Aligned with the aspects of social connectivity and networking are the underlying currents for personalisation. People want to choose who they connect with and how they socialise and learning within networks.

I need to think the various concepts through so that I can better align the mlearning project I am working on towards encouraging more learning amongst my apprentice groups. How can we connect, using mobile phones as the main tool, so that individuals in the group can have access to each other’s ePortfolios. At present, downloading of the personal portals we are trialling is very difficult and expensive on mobile phones. Perhaps we need to build portfolio show and tell sessions into year 2 and 3 block courses using the facilities we have available at CPIT. Will access to viewing the ePortfolios of other apprentice lead to better portfolios, more reflection of one’s own portfolio? I think it will but the mechanism to allow this to happen needs to be easy to use, cost effective and still provide privacy for apprentices who prefer to keep their portfolio to themselves.

Also need to think through how to package the above information into an accessible form for tutors here at CPIT. Tutors with limited awareness of how the web has changed are totally overwhelmed by the new concepts. This is proving to be a barrier to their uptake of Web 2.0 type technologies to enhance their teaching as they cannot see the applications until they become familiar with at least one aspect of web 2.0 (ie blogging or using flickr or an RSS feed).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

ePortfolio seminar at University of Canterbury

Yesterday, I attended a short seminar organised by the University of Canterbury. The University was piggy backing on CORE Education bringing to Christchurch, two of the speakers from the e-Portfolio conference in Wellington. They are presenting at CORE in the morning and then at UC to speak specifically on e-Portfolios in tertiary education.

The two speakers were Dr. Helen Barrett & Dr. Evangeline Harris Stefanakis. We also had chance to have a play with the New Zealand ePortfolio project, Mahara.

Evangeline’s presentation covered a good foundation of how portfolios could be constructed to allow the multiple intelligences in people to flourish. Her book on multiple intelligences and portfolios is one of the best resources on eportfolios. She provided a good number of guidelines of how to set up portfolios, underpinned by good rubrics to ensure that the learning outcomes were met and the portfolio creator’s voice came through. She pointed us to a good resource set up by LaGuardia Community College that provides staff and students with information about eportfolios and examples of eportfolios compiled by students.

Helen’s presentation in Melbourne covered why ePortfolios are the way to go due to chances in which society has been impacted on by globalisation and increasing competition from developing countries. I see that I have been thinking along similar lines but Helen puts a slightly different, more generic slant on the impact of a ‘flattening world’, the development of Web 2.0 and the need for education to keep up with these changes. Her presentation at this seminar focused on the nuts and bolts of eportfolios. A good update for me.

I was heartened with the number of CPIT staff who attended the seminar. Almost half of the audience of just over 30 people, were from CPIT with the rest from the University of Canterbury & Lincoln University. Also, most of the CPIT staff developers and staff educators were at the seminar, another good sign that the use of technology is becoming less threatening and more of a mainstream item. The two years of presenting workshops and seminars in CPIT on mlearning, use of Web 2.0 and eportfolios is starting to pay some dividends. The more people in the institution we can get on board, the faster the uptake will be. CPIT will then become an institution that is open to ideas that students pick up from their leisure activities (using social software & games) and using these to enhance learning for both students and staff.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Keynote presentation at Industry Training Federation forum

Yesterday, I presented a keynote on the Impact of technology on future skill needs: Mobile phones and workplace assessment by the Industry Training Federation (ITF).
I have presented at most of the ITF’s vocational education research forums and it is a good yearly catch up with the NZ industry training area.

The ITF is a collaborative organisation that all the Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) in NZ belong to and support. It is staffed by a small number of staff who have the brief to bring the ITOs together in a synergistic way. The ITF has completed several research projects on industry training in NZ and represents the ITOs as a collective body to lobby the NZ government for ongoing support of industry based training.

This year, there was a range of interesting papers on encouraging young people into trades based careers, workplace literacy & numeracy issues, building capacity in industry training research, forecasting skill demand and labour market information and skills development. On the research front, the ITF have connections to the National Centre of Vocational Research (NCVER) in Australia.

My keynote was the first presentation & because my project was a mashup of mLearning, ePortfolios and Web 2.0, I spent some time introducing the audience to these concepts before presenting the findings of the various trials undertaken thus far with my mLearning project. The audience was very receptive to the use of mlearning in workplace learning. There were many questions from the floor at the end of my presentation & many people caught up with me between sessions to ask more questions & to learn more about the CPIT project.

The knowledge level in the audience on technology was mixed, with some having a good handle but the majority only using technology via email and PC based applications. There was a smattering of knowledge about web 2.0 but many were not users of or contributors to Web 2.0 applications. For instance, many people recognised the name wikipedia, but did not know how it was put in place & that they could also contribute to wikipedia or set up their own wikis.

There really seems to be a niche for good ‘technology stewards’ to help bring relevant technology into areas like industry training. Many industries are users of technology in a workplace setting but not for staff training. There are also many industries where mlearning and even just msupport would be a good way to connect with and engage workplace learners. It’s an area I will bring up with the ITF in the near future.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Book Chapter on Mlearning and the workplace learner

I have been invited by Dr. Mohamed Ally to contribute a book chapter to a book on ‘mobile learning in education and training’ to be printed by Althabasca University Press. The book chapter will essentially be an expansion of my paper submitted to the mLearn 2006 conference. It will centre on the use of mLearning with workplace learners and in the use of web based resources to compile ePortfolios with mobile phones.

Re-working the original paper has caused me to realise how quickly things move in mLearning. When I wrote the paper about 6 months ago, I was still working on Windows Live as a possible ePortfolio consolidation site. We have now moved on to evaluating personal portal 2.0 sites, with Vox & Multiply being the main contenders.
I intend to test out the use of Vox & Multiply with my full time students later this month to see how rigorous they are for the purposes of setting up ePortfolios.

We have also moved on with the integration of all the collection and collation into Moodle. This process has been interesting for the eLearning team as it provided them with an opportunity / excuse to tweak Moodle and to learn more about how Moodle is put together.

I have also had a chance to look into various other sources of information on ePortfolios, Web 2.0 and personal learning systems. On the ePortfolio front, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), as part of their eCDF initiative, are putting in place a ePortfolio portal called Mahara. At the moment, Mahara is PC based and if the launched version is available in the next few months, I will be keen to trial it as a possible ePortfolio tool for our project as well. There is a good literature review that underpins the project which provides good background information on portfolios in general and case studies of ePortfolio use in education.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mobile vs computer literacy

This blog on computer vs mobile literacy turned up on keitai got me thinking. I had a discussion with my year one apprentice block and my full time Certificate in Baking course to see if I could work out which one they were most literate in.

In the apprentice class, there were 12 apprentices ranging in age from 17 to mid 20s. On the computer literacy front, all except one would be pretty literate. They used computers mainly for downloading songs and videos. So they are familiar with how to download programs that would allow them to store songs, videos and then to transfer these to their phones, DVDs or CDs. Only 2 had mp3 players and none owned ipods.

Over half of them had web enabled phones but did not use them to access the www due to the cost of web surfing on the phone. Several owned two phones (a telecom one and a vodaphone one) & used which ever was the cheapest at the relevant time. Cost of access is therefore definitely an issue. It is also the reason why SMS is so popular with young people in NZ and why they do not use the phone to make voice calls. All the apprentices were on prepaid, none were on telecommunications plans. I will need to see if we are able to work out a cheap alternative / plan for educational mobile phone use so that mlearning can work more cost effectively for students in NZ.

The Certificate in Baking group were a more diverse. Ages ranged from 17 into the mid 50s. There were 10 international students in the group of 28. All the young ones under the age of 25 had a similar profile to the apprentices. They were comfortable with a computer and use them mainly for playing games and downloading songs and videos. All the students have a phone. The international students were the most technically adept and owned the widest variety of gadgets – ranging from hand held translation devices to the latest model phone to high end mp3 players and access to DVD players and computers at home. All the older students (above 25) owned a mobile phone and were more likely to use the voice functions of the phone that just SMS.

About 2/3 of the full time students were on vodaphone and the rest on telecom. 1/3 were on a plan with all the younger ones on prepaid. Just over ½ has a camera on their phone with 1/3 of these having video capability. Only 1/5 thought that they are web access via their phone. Web access is not too commonly used in NZ due to the costs involved and many mobile phone user seem to be unclear as to whether their phone had web access or not.

So I think that we are still heading down the right path with our mlearning project. SMS is still the lingua fraca so using SMS for completing formative assessments will work well. Collecting evidence using phones is achievable. We will need to check out PC familiarity by trialling the use of vox or multiply as an eportfolio collation tool with a group of students.

Friday, February 23, 2007

MoLTA 2007

I attended and presented a paper with Nick Ford at the Mobile learning technology and applications conference at the Albany Campus of Massey University on Monday 19th Jan.

It was the first NZ mLearning conference and therefore attended by a select group of just under 30 people. There was a good mix of papers beginning with Kay Fielden from Unitec presenting an interesting paper on ‘cell phones in NZ secondary schools’. She wanted to find out why IT & in particular cell phone usage was not made more use of in a school setting. Many schools in NZ ban the use of cell phones within the school grounds. She used an interesting adaptation of Prensky’s digital natives / immigrants analogy to categorise principals & teachers. Her main finding was that there was the need for a person in power within the school hierarchy to support the use of cellphones within the school & that this person did not have to be very digitally savvy but would have a good educational background to understand the issues involved.

Kathryn MacCallum from Massey has been looking into the feasibility of mobile access to discussion boards. She covered a good range of design issues related to the use of mobile technology and provided a good list of the things that need to be taken into account when customising content to mobile delivery.

Hokyoung Ryu (one of the organisers of the conference) from Massey, Albany looked at answering the question “does mlearning lead to learning?” He described the Massey project that could lead to using mobile technology as a bridge between formal and informal learning. The project used mobile technology to help new students familiarise themselves to the campus and university life. A survey of students who had made use of the technology found the students found that the provision of the technology showed that the institution provided them with support and pastoral care.

Thomas Cochrane made used of multimedia to promote the use of Web 2.0 applications via mobile to be used in the delivery and assessment of learning. He introduced the concept of the use of a ‘technology stewart’ to help put an educational slant on to the use of technology for students as well as for teachers.

David Parsons (an other organiser of the conference) delved into the software architecture issues for mlearning. He presented four generic software architecture that could be applied to mlearning including non-adaptive, adaptive (for more than one type of browser), client side & smart client with server connectivity. A bit over my head but Nick saw great possibilities with non-adaptive architecture, Moodle and our mlearning project.

Nick & I then presented our session on integrating our eportfolio work using Web 2.0 applications on to Moodle. I did the introduction of the background to our work and the Web 2.0 tools we were using. Nick then followed on from how he had customised our Moodle course site to make it clean and lean for display on a mobile phone. He also provided the tip of using Firefox and Firebug to allow the Moodle code to be displayed so that the modifications could be made to the Moodle course site display.

Anna Wingkist from Vaxjo University in Sweden presented a research study conducted at Canterbury university. The research looked into the effectiveness of using podcasting to improve learning for year one computer science students. In general, podcasting was found to be an effective, low cost & low effort supplement to lectures.

Bev Mackay form Northtec then presented her work on supporting nursing students using SMS. Again, the technique was low cost, effective and time efficient. Students also appreciated the contact. M-support will be an important part of my mlearning programme, so it is good to see the students point of view on m-support.

Mustafa Man from Trengannu in Malaysia presented his work on using a system called Smartchecker to monitor student attendance and performance. It is a PDA based system that replaces a manual system used in Malaysian schools.

Eusebio Scronavacca from Victoria University then presented his mobile phone feedback system called text-2-lrn. He uses this to enhance student interaction with lectures that have over 300 students in them. With the system, students are able to text comments and questions to the lecturer during the lecture. Students are also able to feedback answers to questions posed to them by the lecturer while the lecture is in progress. An interesting concept that goes beyond the ‘clicker’ type of feedback system that is used overseas.