10 Reasons Why Mobile Learning Matters

16 01 2007

Recently, I have been thinking about what it is about flexible, online, and mobile learning that makes it an increasingly essential aspect of today’s teaching and learning practice. What is it about mobile learning that helps educators to teach better, or learners to learn more effectively?

To kick of a new year of teaching – and to perhaps inspire some of you to try out mobile learning this year – these are some of the best reasons I can think of for investigating and supporting the use of mobile learning approaches in both workplace professional development and education and training:

1. Mobile learning approaches can enable teaching and learning to occur at the most appropriate time and/or place. Just as an audio tour at a gallery or museum enables learning to happen right in front of a significant artefact or artwork in a way that cannot be replicated by the best textbook or online resource, so mobile learning approaches can enable students to learn about horticulture at a nursery, or medical students to have ready access to learning materials while at a hospital. In these cases, mobile learning could enable the best learning.

2. Mobile learning approaches allow learners to access learning conveniently and flexibly. For example, students can absorb audio resources on an iPod while jogging, feeding a baby, or doing the ironing, rather than putting aside time or leaving work to attend a lecture or class. Because they can be easily carried about, mobile learning resources can be even more convenient than computer-based resources. While computer-based resources provide access to learning *anytime*, they are often dependant upon a computer, plugged to a wall for power or internet access. Mobile devices enable “anytime, anywhere” access to resources designed for mobile learning use.

3. Mobile literacy is becoming a vital basic work skill. Just as computer and information technology literacy is now considered an essential basic skill, mobile information technology literacy will be considered a vital skill in less than ten years time. It is becoming increasingly important to train and maintain a workforce skilled in using mobile information technology to enhance their work performance and mobility. In a growing number of industries, customers expect workers and professionals to have a mobile phone and be contactable during business hours, even if they are “out in the field”.

4. Many industries and professions use digital mobile devices as
industry standard equipment.
To ensure its relevance in such
industries and professions, training must include the use of the same
technologies commonly used in the industry or profession. In the medical profession, PDAs are becoming common as references for the latest pharmaceutical information; many Australian plumbers now send picture messages of problems back to the workplace for advice or quotes, and restaurant orders are recorded by floor staff on PDAs and wirelessly transmitted to the kitchen for faster, better service. If we are training the doctors, nurses, plumbers and waiters of the future, we must equip them the the knowledge and experience they will need to stand shoulder to shoulder with those already in their respective industries.

5. Digital mobile devices can do more, better, and faster than ever before. Tried and proven methods of decades past, (for example, recording , sharing, and playback of audio books and lectures, formerly achieved with cassette tapes), can be achieved with far greater efficiency and power than in the past (e.g. keeping a whole semester’s worth of lecture audio or video recordings on a single iPod for instant revision, anywhere, anytime). The power of state-of-the-art desktop computer less than ten years old can now be held in the palm of your hand, enabling true interactivity and connectivity, and advanced learning techniques and materials.

6. Mobile learning can be the least expensive alternative. Many of the tools that can be used for mobile learning are already in the hands of learners: for example, statistics show that almost everyone in the first world, and a high proportion of people in developing countries, own and use mobile phones. Mobile phones have inherant utility as a means of communicating and sharing information, and often also include functions for recording audio, video, or photographs, viewing documents, playing back sound files and accessing the Internet. Other mobile learning devices such as a recording mp3 player that also doubles as a memory stick for saving work, for example, can be bought cheaply (for less than the price of a textbook). This means that it can be cheaper to provide materials on mobile devices than to produce the same materials in printed form – thousands of pages of electronic text and images can be contained on a USB memory stick, if required.

7. Mobile learning can enable better communications and service. Last year, several teachers at my institute began using an SMS-based service to notify students of cancelled classes and remind them of equipment required for field trips. Students have been incredibly positive about this kind of communication – which could be further extended to allow results to be sent out as they are for the HSC, or to enable students to SMS in for information or learning content in future.

8. Mobile learning can be intrinsically engaging. Mobile phones, media players, GPS devices, and PDAs can make learning fun, interesting and powerful. Learning approaches can be devised to encourage students to discover information about a location, to create their own resources using photographs, audio and video, to share, to collaborate, and to interact.

9. Count on students to push the boundaries of mobile learning. Younger students in particular thrive using digital devices, and they will quickly exceed the technical capabilities of their teachers. Paying attention to the new ways students use mobile devices can help to inform and improve future teaching and learning practices, activities, and resources.

10. Mobile devices support and encourage pedagogically sound teaching and learning practices, such as sharing, collaboration, and “building” of knowledge. For example, mobile phones allow students to not just call each other for help, but to also share learning resources, ideas, images, and documents, and to collaborate on or develop web-based projects such as moblogs. This mobile interaction, sharing, and collaboration can facilitate learning aligned with the principles of socially constructivist pedagogies.

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DIY Streaming Mobile Video

15 01 2007

Australian IT and security company Swann has just released an innovative new product that merges their specialisations in security and IT – enabling users to create their own streaming video channels for mobile phones, direct from a webcam.

The SW241-MVK Mobile Video Kit (which I bought on the weekend to try out) is able to stream video that can be viewed in a web browser or on a mobile phone – all 3G, and many 2G, phones are supported.  The software can even alert you using sms, mms, email, or voice alerts on your handset if the camera detects motion or movement, and commands can be sent to the camera from the mobile phone to stop or start recording, for example.

In terms of mobile learning, I can see a number of applications, both present and future.  For example, this product would make it simple to become a participant in any real-life situation, using a mobile phone, including a lecture, a demonstration, or a meeting.  Alternatively, short, recorded “chunks” of learning content could be archived and indexed for remote, mobile, anytime/anywhere access, enabling just-in-time, situated and contextualised learning experienced facilitated by remote digital mobility.

A very cool product from a true Aussie innovator!

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Apple iPhone released

10 01 2007

It’s the big news all over the world – Steve Jobs announced Apple’s new iPhone a few hours ago, and it’s beautiful, functional and sexy as anything ever created by Apple to date. They’ve removed all of the external input keys used by most phones, leaving a very smart, large (3.5 inch high resolution) touch screen, which interprets gestures on the screen with multiple fingers, orients itself to landscape or portrait depending on how you hold the phone, and switches off touch-sensitivity when you hold it hear your face. Despite the large, high-res LCD screen (the “most gorgeous ever“), Jobs has assured 5 hours of talk/internet time on the device, which includes GPRS/EDGE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.


What’s also interesting to me is that the device runs Mac OS X – which enables the phone to run miniature applications or “widgets” that can talk to the phone, and to each other. From my own R&D, this is a perfect architecture for enabling the building of Mobile Learning environments – imagine a learner building their own mobile learning platform using small, smart, internet-connected tools as building blocks, where the blocks talk to each other to create a more seamless and powerful user experience.

Despite the potential of the new platform, I’ve already heard a few complaints about the touch-screen nature of the phone, and I understand those views – for example, that without the tactile feedback of hard keys, it’s very difficult to access the phone while driving; but for those times when we’re not controlling a vehicle or operating heavy machinery, it’s likely that the touch screen interface won’t be such a problem.

The only premium features not incoporated into the handset seem to be 3G connectivity (which would be handy for internet browsing, particularly) and GPS, which I could see working beautifully in the iPhone, which, by all accounts, provides the most wonderful Google Maps experience on a mobile device – basically, just like the desktop version:


You can even switch from map to photo mode, just like the desktop version:


Here’s the full specs:

Screen size: 3.5 inches

Screen resolution: 320 by 480 at 160 ppi

Input method: Multi-touch

Operating system: OS X

Storage: 4GB or 8GB

GSM: Quad-band (MHz: 850, 900, 1800, 1900)

Wireless data: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) + EDGE + Bluetooth 2.0

Camera: 2.0 megapixels

Battery: Up to 5 hours Talk / Video / Browsing, Up to 16 hours Audio playback

Dimensions: 4.5 x 2.4 x 0.46 inches

Weight: 4.8 ounces / 135 grams

It’s slightly longer than an iPod, but not as wide, and about the same thickness, hence Apple calling it a “Widescreen iPod” in their official press release. When it’s released in June, initially in the USA, pricing will be US$499 for an iPhone with 4GB of Flash memory, or US$599 for an iPhone with 8GB. I’m definitely looking forward to this hitting Australian shelves, hopefully later this year… :)

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Latest Opera Mini Browser for Mobiles released

9 01 2007

So exciting!  According to the Pocket Picks blog, Opera Mini, which I think is the best mobile internet browser around, just got better. Its latest release includes features such as RSS feed bookmarking/reading, photo blogging, email, and support for secure sites (e.g. internet banking and online stores).

Not only is Opera Mini the best browser for mobiles that I’m aware of, but it’s available for nix. You can download it for free via SMS, direct to your phone, from the product home page: http://www.operamini.com/, or via WAP or PC download here.

Opera on your phone

Fans of Samsung phones will also be delighted to know that Samsung and Opera recently signed a deal that will see Opera providing the web browser for Samsung phones. With Samsung already making groundbreaking innovations in mobile phone design and component development, Samsung are certainly attracting my attention – if they keep up the pace, Nokia will have to pick up the pace to stay ahead in the game.

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Mogopop: publish interactive iPod content for free

9 01 2007


Mogopop is a free Web 2.0 site that allows you to create interactive movies, “sites” and books for iPods. It incorporates an easy-to-use drag-and-drop editing system, and a built-in iPod preview window so you can see how your content will look on your iPod, as you create it.

Here’s a video introduction to Mogopop:


Given that iPods are probably second only to mobile phones in terms of ownership, and provide rich media features and storage capacities not yet available in mobile phones, I’d say using iPods as a publishing platform might be very useful for a number of educators out there.

(via e-Clippings (learning as art)

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Mobile and Wireless Technologies: Security and Risk

8 01 2007

A report funded by the Australian High Tech Crime Centre details the security issues and risk factors associated with mobile and wireless technologies. The report provides a background of mobile technologies, including the behavioural aspects of digital mobile devices and their inherent benefits, and goes on to discuss the major forms of attack that may be employed by undesirable outsiders. Here’s an extract from the abstract:

Today, many of us use mobile access to the internet to communicate in real time across the globe, to access business and government services online, to shop, view, read, search, explore and even simulate physical activities. Internet access no longer depends on a wired system such as a modem connected to a telephone landline – rather, it can be achieved using a mobile enabled device whenever and wherever a mobile access point is available. Such access points or hot spots are now widely available in airports, hotels, educational institutions and other public buildings. Increasing numbers of wireless networks are being installed in commercial buildings and private homes. With increasing mobile access to wireless networks, the demarcation between public and private space is being redefined. This has important implications in terms of security for those who make a mobile access point available and for those who use it.

There’s no surprises in the report for those of us who’ve been “on the scene” for a number of years; but this report would be helpful to educators and support professionals who are required to write up risk management plans in order to implement mobile learning approaches in their institutions, or who need to think about these issues when implementing supporting systems.

Australian High Tech Crime Centre logoAustralian Federal Police (AFP) badge

(via the Consumers’ Telecommunications Network Webnews Edition #135 [email])

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Learning with Handheld Technologies Handbook

5 01 2007

Futurelab, a non-profit U.K. based organisation, who previously published one of the best literature reviews of mobile learning, have now published a handbook of recommendations for mobile learning approaches – including implementation ideas and case studies.

Tony Vincent of the Learning in Hand blog cited the key reccomendations of the report, based on two years of research from the University of Bristol:

  • There should be an authentic purpose with clear learning goals.
  • It is harder and takes more time to manage a small set of devices than it is to manage models of use where each learner “owns” the device.
  • Professional development is very important. A collaborative community of practice that involves the whole school will help embed handheld technologies in the curriculum.
  • Wireless internet connectivity is preferred because it makes the devices much more useful.
  • Schools need to figure out long term storage of students’ data as they will produce so much work it won’t all fit on the devices.
  • Spare devices should be on-hand for quick replacement of broken units.
  • Teaching styles must accommodate personal ownership of learning.
  • Successful projects used handhelds for accessing content and for producing projects.
  • Adoption of handhelds goes smoothly when integrated with with existing technologies like interactive whiteboards, software, and data projectors.

Handheld Handbook

The findings and recommendations of the report are well researched and though out, and align with the latest thinking in mobile learning.

This is essential reading for educators considering implementing mobile learning approaches in schools, as well as those already involved with mobile learning Europe has done more research into mobile learning than the rest of the world combined, through projects such as MobiLearn, worth about 15 million Euro (AU$40 million) over the last few years, and Futurelab has done a great deal to help share expertise throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

An HTML version of the guide can be viewed here; a PDF can be downloaded here; or you can even request a free hard copy of the 35 page report.

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USB Rechargable AA Batteries

5 01 2007

Many mobile digital devices for mobile learning, such as digital cameras or recorders, require battery power, and to date there haven’t been too many options aside from carrying a supply of replacement batteries or else a recharger cable or cradle – all of which make for extra bulk and weight.

Here’s a great new innovation in cell technology: AA batteries that can be recharged without a seperate recharging cradle.  Just plug them into a USB port to renew their charge, and keep on working.  I reckon I’ll get a couple of these for my wireless computer mice and keyboards, which are always around a USB port anyway. :)


(via Gizmodo)

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Prototype Miniature Digital Projector for Mobile Devices

5 01 2007

I’ve told many people about industry moves towards developing minature LED projectors that will enable mobile phones and PDAs to project large(r) screens to assist viewability and interaction. At CES next week, Microvision will be unveiling their prototype of such a device (pictured below).


Such a device will help to break the limitations of small screens by enabling larger, higher resolution images to be projected from mobile phones onto any flat surface. Initially, I anticipate that the biggest application for this will be mobile gaming, just as games have pushed the limits of desktop computing; but the benefits will spread to other applications as well.

(via Gizmodo

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Gallery of Old Mobile Phones

4 01 2007

Here’s a great gallery of vintage er… mobile… phones. Very interesting to see how far, how fast, we’ve come with mobile technology, and to imagine where we’ll be in another twenty years of such progress…

 0701 Mobile Phones Old Mobile Phones 002

(via Boing Boing)

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