2007 Horizon Report: Impacts on M-Learning

The 2007 Horizon Report has just been published, detailing the latest trends in educational technology, and how far they are to mainstream adoption.  This year, technologies have been classified under the following headings:

  • User-created content
  • Social Networking
  • Mobile Phones
  • Virtual Worlds
  • The News Scholarship and Emerging Forms of Publication
  • Massively Multiplayer Educational Gaming

The first three items (closest on the horizon, according to the report, with a “horizon” of three years or less) have strong links into mobile learning: 

  • Mobile devices are often used to create content.  Cellphones, PDAs, and audio recorders are convenient, portable, and often quality devices for capturing photographs, video, or audio recordings, which can be used for learning and assessment.  Content can be stored and edited on mobile devices, or, increasingly uploaded to the web – to (mo)blogs, image-sharing services like Flickr, email accounts or discussion boards.
  • Mobile devices are also becoming increasingly social, with considerable integration with “web 2.0” tools such as blogs or image-sharing sites, and the ability to read RSS feeds, instant-message peers, and interact with maps.
  • Mobile phones provide a personal device on which educational resources including video, podcasts, lecture recordings, and photographs can be both created and stored for later review.  The Horizon report provides a number of examples of the use of mobile phones in educational contexts.

All of this points to the increasing relevance of mobile learning, as mobile devices become increasingly integrated into the very fabric of our everyday educational technologies.

(via Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day)

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iPoint – a flexible solution for situated learning

I’ve come across this product called iPoint, which provides a fantastic way to create your own, customised maps, with your own “points of interest” on Windows Mobile devices, which can contain active web links, images, and descriptive text. I’m still playing around with it, but it just might be the most flexible, customisable situated learning software I’ve yet encountered.

Unlike other map services like Google Maps for Mobiles or Smart2Go, iPoint allows you to upload your own maps – which means it can not only be used for outdoor, public settings, but could also be used to mark up the interior plan of a museum or gallery, or even a fictitious or hard-to-reach location (e.g. the surface of the Moon, or the Starship Enterprise).

The maps are loaded onto your Pocket PC and don’t require an internet connection to explore, unless you want to take advantage of the ability of the software to embed clickable web links into your point-of-interest information for each location.

The editing tool for PCs is easy-to-use, and the maps run quickly and seamlessly on my Windows Mobile Smartphone.

Unfortunately, this is not a free product, but for just US$10, it could provide a (relatively) low-cost solution for situated mobile learning approaches, with a very easy-to-use interface for both both editing and accessing information.

I’ll update this post if the vendor, iTravel, is able to provide any information on educational pricing or bulk discounts for schools, and if I’m able to provide a fuller review.

(via SolSie.com)

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Exemplary Educational Podcasts

Grazr LogoTony Vincent at the Learning in Hand blog has incorporated a great new feature into his edublog, called Grazr:

I’ve added a new tool to Learning in Hand. The new Grazr widget appears on some pages. Grazr is a free service for websites that allows visitors to “graze” selected RSS feeds without the hassle of subscribing. This means you can browse and listen to selected podcasts without leaving Learning in Hand. In the event you’d like to subscribe to a podcast you find in Learning in Hand’s Educational podcasts Grazr, you can follow these directions for subscribing with iTunes.

Grazr is a really cool little tool, which allows you to “embed” your blogroll within your blog for browsing (“grazing”).  If you’ve got a blog or website, you could use this tool to provide your students with links to podcasts and feeds to supplement or complement their learning.

Selected Educational Podcasts

Great work Tony! If you know of exemplary podcasts which should be added to Tony’s Grazr, be sure to contact him to let him know.

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AirWizard – Making m-learning software easier to install

If you’re a developer of M-learning resources for Pocket PC/Windows Mobile, and you’d like learners to be able to access your resources over-the-air (without a computer connection), then here’s a useful -and free- product that can help you achieve your goals.

AirWizard allows you to package your mobile learning software or resource(s) and deploy it/them over the air.  Examples of use in learning situations could include

  • at a museum or art gallery, where visitors could download and install your location guide or exhibition catalogue to their smart phone, or
  • to enable a whole classroom of students to download and install a resource or a set of software.

(via Mobility Site)

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Cringeworthy Reporting eclipses Decent Product: Aussie Invented iPods in Education? iPod holds State Library?

In this video clip (30 October 2006), Geoff Elwood of a company called E-Tech appears to accept the credit for inventing the use of iPods as a learning tool. It seems that his company has been working with a group of year 8 students at Heathmont College since late last year, but has also previously beein involved with this kind of technology overseas.


At 3mins 20secs of this footage, Elwood says “thank you” for being called the “inventor” of this “Australian technology”. It almost sounds like he’s taking credit for inventing the use of iPods in schools – though perhaps he really means to take credit for the Studywiz software created by E-Tech that is behind the Victorian implementation. It’s unlikely that anyone (except perhaps Blackboard) would have the audacity to claim “inventing” iPods in education when there are considerably more mature iPod supported programs at a number of educational institutions around the world. For example, several earlier projects of a similar nature are mentioned on Apple’s own iPods in Education page, such as Duke University, since 2004 – not to mention several years of commentary and use of iPods by other educators.

In another clip reporting the Studywiz project in Victoria, there are some unfortunately misguided thoughts on how iPods will “replace” books, as well as an alarming statement that an iPod could store every book in the Victorian State Library. What… er… including diagrams and illustrations? In 80GB? LOL… technology’s come a long way, but we’re not quite there yet, I’m afraid. 🙂

[youtube]UplZVyPS-bo[/youtube]Hmmm, now that I’ve experienced the misconceptions possible in media reporting first hand, I’m going to be taking those sensational reports about cures for cancer with a bit more salt in future…

Anyway, as much as I’m sceptical of the quality of the reporting done on Studywiz, I did a bit of digging, and the product itself does appear to be gaining considerable uptake throughout Australian schools and internationally – including some national and internationally big names such as Cheltenham College in the UK and Presbyterian Ladies College in Victoria – not to mention my own school, Canberra Grammar.

Now at Version 9, Studywiz is an integrated e-learning and m-learning product, featuring web-accessible “lockers” for each learner’s resources, 3D gallery, team folders, RSS feeds, IMS compatibility, edu-gaming, and communication tools among other things. Sounds like it could be a pretty good platform for collaborative online learning, that integrates with students’ ubiquitous mobile digital devices. While both Online Learning Systems and iPods as educational tools are certainly not ideas originated by E-Tech, it’s good to see an Australian educational software company experiencing local and international success.

(via TerenceOnline

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(Open) Standards for Mobile Learning

I’ve already submitted my research recommendations for Australian Mobile Learning Standards (for which I was selected as Lead Researcher last year), so it’s unfortunate that this article on Mobile 2.0, wasn’t written earlier, as it summarises beautifully some of the considerations that were foremost in my mind when I was writing my recommendations and would have provided some excellent quotes:

Open Applications Leverage Open Standards

…it is important to note that mobile 2.0 applications need to leverage open standards. Applications that sit on top of closed and proprietary protocols and formats are antithetical to the kind of innovation that will be key to the growth of the mobile Web. Establishing open standards around html, CSS and XML has greatly contributed to the growth and success of the medium and to its continued innovation. We are already seeing standards pay off big-time on the mobile platform as well in both the Java/JCP space (where we are finally realizing write-once-run-anywhere) and in the mobile Web.

(via All about Mobile Life)

I’m happy to be able to say that the Australian Standards for Mobile Learning I’ve recommended favour open standards whenever possible. This should (hopefully) encourage and facilitate the development of open and interoperable m-learning applications in years to come.

My recommendations for M-Learning Standards (as well as non-technical “user guides”, co-authored by my colleagues Marg O’Connell and John Smith) are currently being reviewed by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework’s E-Standards Experts Group, the Project Reference Group, and the Vetadata Working Group. It’s a lot of people to please, but I am hopeful that this extensive review process will result in an end product subjected to considerable expert scrutiny, and thereby, of suitable quality.

When the Standards are finally approved, they will be made available via the E-Standards Experts Group website and the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. I’ll also be sure to announce publication on this site.

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Bandwagon: Online backup service for your iTunes audio library

BandwagonIt can happen to even the most tech-savvy of computer users, and be a cause of frustration and expense. Having a computer hard drive fail can mean the loss of all of your music, podcasts, and audio e-books downloaded from iTunes. And once it’s been downloaded, there’s no (legal or non-technical) way to get your purchased music and audio books back – even if you happen to suffer such misfortune.

So from a consumer as well as a mobile learner viewpoint, it can make a lot of sense to have a backup. A new service, Bandwagon, is launching tomorrow, and is hoping to make backing up your iTunes library simple and reliable, by allowing you to back up your library to its online service… as long as you have a Mac running OS 10.4, that is.

As Ewan McIntosh at edu.blogs points out, “it’ll provide that online backup of iTunes that Flickr provides for photos”.

I don’t have the requisite Macintosh computer to be able to use this service, but for anyone out there who does and would like to try this out, Bandwagon are offering free one-year unlimited accounts in return for a trackback to their pre-launch post, and a logo and link to their site. 

If you take up their offer – let me know if it’s any good jumping on the Bandwagon!

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Flash M-Learning Developers… Our Time Has Come!

Judy Breck at the Golden Swamp blog has drawn my attention to this page on the Adobe website, enabling developers of mobile content to make it available through various mobile phone network and service providers. For m-learning content developers, this is an opportunity to unleash your content for public consumption. As Judy states most insightfully:

Here is a call that should be answered by education if we expect to improve learning in our digital age. There is money to be made as well as ignorance to be diminished by selling mobile content for sciences, history, geography, technologies, literature and the 3 Rs.

Mobile phones imageI have one m-learning product concept I’ve been working on that I’m particularly keen to release, an immersive and engaging edu-game that has already proven successful on desktop PCs that could easily be adapted to a mobile environment. Now if I can just find some time to build it…

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UK Vet Students using Mobile Learning

From the textually.org blog:

Students at UK’s Royal Veterinary College are using smartphones to take video, view diagnostic images and access research while in the field as part of a new project called MyPad. IT Pro reports.

“The pilot project, sponsored by Orange, which began in November 2006, has 30 students trialling M3100 SPV and 15 M500 SPV smartphones and a bespoke database platform, designed to help record and process information from their hands-on training.

…The internet-enabled phones also allow students to cross-reference their notes and check research right away while working with animals.”


The way these vet students are using these mobile devices sounds very similar to the manner in which many medical students and practitioners (doctors and hospitals) are currently utilising mobile technology – to improve the accuracy of diagnosis, and the quality and speed of treatment.

While applying these methods to vet science from medical science may not seem like such a leap of the imagination, I’m aware of teachers here in Australia who are applying these same techniques to other disciplines, such as plumbing, marketing/advertising, and landscaping. In many professions and trades, capturing visual information about a work problem, or retrieving decision-support data in the field, are as valuable as they are to doctors or vets.

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Viral Experiments (not in a Biology sense)

I’ve always loved science. All through my education, “Mad Scientist” was up there in my preferred 10 occupations after leaving school. I was a Gold Member of the Double Helix Science Club at the age of 12, and had numerous letters, photos, and competition entries published in the club’s magazine, The Helix. I was lucky – for me, science was made a lot of fun.

The E-Learning Queen blog points out this potential to make learning fun and engaging through video, and in particular, looks at pop-science serials such as Numb3rs and Bones, in which maths and anthropology (respectively) feature extensively in the deeds of derring do. The spate of “Diet Coke and Mentos” videos on YouTube was also highlighted as a potential learning tool; the videos of Bellagio-like fountains and rockets of soft drink were virally shared by tens of millions around the world.


Who would have thought that this kind of viral media could actually be used as a means of teaching science? For, as stated on the E-Learning Queen blog,

And yet, if one watches the videos alone, it’s somehow unsatisfying.What’s missing? It’s the explanation. They never say HOW or WHY the reactions happen.

The answers came one night in an unexpected way. The boxed set of DVDs I had ordered had arrived. I was watching Season Two of Numb3rs when the characters in the series re-enacted the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment for an Applied Math course, and accompanied the explosions with an explanation. The answer involves surface tension. It’s about surface tension. There is extreme change upon the sudden introduction of a gum Arabic and gelatin disc into a liquid under pressure (due tothe carbonation), where the only way for gas to escape is through a narrow neck creates a rapid phase change. The way the surface tension changes is explained here.

This experiment, a catalyst for a physical reaction, provides a model for learning content, too. Sites like YouTube become repositories of viral video content that could be used by educators as catalysts for learning. Introducing a topic (such as “Surface Tension”) with a Mentos fountain is one way to engage students in online and mobile learning, and make them keen to understand the why and how.

These little chunks of sweetness can bring about big reactions – from our students. 🙂

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