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.