The other LCD…

3 05 2006

Many mobile devices make use of LCDs, or “Liquid Crystal Displays” as the visual interface with information. But not all…

This is why it’s important to consider the other LCD: “Lowest Common Denominator,” a term that describes the basic level of a group – in this case, the lowest level at which a group of learners can access your learning materials. When designing a mobile learning experience, rather than souping it up with the latest bells and whistles, remember that not all learners have equal access to technology.

Rather than designing a database that will run on a PDA, it may be more appropriate to develop the same tool in a different way, or provide the same information, so that learners can access it using the technology that is available to them. One example, from a workshop by Marcus Ragus, was the use of Powerpoint presentations as a way to develop interactive, screen-based learning materials. These run and display well on PDAs, but could also be accessed by someone without a PDA using their desktop computer.

Another example is the use of mobile phones as a mobile learning tool. In one of our mobile learning workshops, we did not ask users to bring a mobile phone, but 14 out of 16 of the teachers present carried one with them. This demonstrated the significant penetration of mobile phones, even at the mature-age level. We then conducted a quick survey of what features were available on which mobile phones in the class and divided the class into groups. This ensured that all attendants had access to a mobile phone, and various other tools such as camera phones for the purpose of the learning activity, raising the class LCD to that of each group, rather than that of any individual, and allowing us to do some more interesting activities. Otherwise, we might have only been able to use basic phone features like SMS and voice calling, which are now present on pretty much all mobile phones these days.

Using strategies like this, it’s possible to change the LCD of a class; but to do it properly, we first had to consider the LCD of the individuals (using our initial survey). Finding out a learning group’s LCD is good practice for any educator considering or supporting a mobile learning approach.