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.

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