Archive for M-learning

Spreading mobile learning in Asia (II)

Saturday, October 5th, 2013

MobiLearn Asia 2013
2nd-3rd October, 2013
Singapore

[Continued from Day 1 blog post]

Sin1B

‘Planet’ by Marc Quinn, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Photo by Mark Pegrum, 2013. May be reused under CC BY 3.0 licence.

In his keynote on the second day, Mobile Learning in South Asia: Perceptions of Progress, Possibil-ities and Potential, John Traxler suggested that mobile learning has shifted from being the concern of the e-learning research community to being a universal given because of the wide ownership of mobile devices. The early, short-term mobile projects run by enthusiasts in the past don’t necessarily tell us much about the future, where there will be large-scale, widespread usage. However, there are lessons to be learned if we look critically at the past.

Traxler suggested we have achieved at least four things with mobile learning:

  • We have managed to extend the reach of education to underserved communities. A lot can be achieved with older, simpler technologies. However, we can’t make assumptions about how young people, or any other group of constituents, want to use mobile tools. We have also extended the reach of education to those with small chunks of downtime in everyday life, who can spend that dead time learning; to non-traditional learners, who don’t have experience of formal education; to nomadic learners, such as gypsies and travellers; and to those with disabilities and special needs. Inserting ‘our’ education into these other communities is however problematic in some ways.
  • We have managed to promote different kinds of learning, involving collecting data in the real world, or augmenting our learning with AR and similar technologies. When people use their own devices, the latter can learn about their owners’ histories and past educational experiences.
  • We have created far more opportunity for a wide range of people to produce educational materials outside conventional learning institutions. However, this may require users to differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources and triangulate offerings, which may be challenging without a solid academic background.
  • We have moved on from seeing m-learning as a kind of e-learning on small computers. We should be careful of seeing learning as being about content, and treating mobile phones as USBs into which we stuff as much content as possible. We also need to be aware of the danger of scaling up projects by simply replicating the same content across multiple contexts. Access to particular content, and particular languages, comes at the expense of access to other content and other languages.

In her talk, A Future-Back Look at the Use of Mobile Devices for Enhancing Learning, Katrina Reynen from Optus argued that the integration of ICTs into the curriculum is one of the most challenging tasks facing schools. We need to figure out what content should be in the curriculum, what pedagogy is appropriate, and how students can best learn with technology. It’s important, she suggested, that we don’t start with aims like getting students to make Prezis or write blogs, but rather with aims like raising awareness or helping students to ask critical questions. Exemplary learning environments have technology available for learning, rather than being technology-focused.

In the second panel discussion, Disruptive Learning and Open Education Resources (OERs) – Promises and Challenges, Geoff Stead (Qualcomm), Grainne Connole, John Traxler and Gerald Cai (Samsung) discussed the role of disruption and openness in contemporary education. John Traxler asked whether the disruption is just minor and can be incorporated into education, or whether we are talking about something much larger, such as a paradigm shift. If we say that mobility is central to our society, that potentially puts institutional learning at the edge, where it may become partly irrelevant and unable to keep up. Geoff Stead suggested that because mobile devices are small, they are typically seen as just one component of education, rather than people assuming that they can replace the whole of education as was sometimes assumed with computers and e-learning.

Grainne Connole suggested that openness itself is disruptive, as in providing open access to educational resources. This may lead to a pedagogy of abundance, which is a major shift, and it may be associated with some disaggregation of education. Gerald Cai commented that mobility which unchains the student from the classroom is very disruptive. John Traxler suggested that anything that changes existing power relations in society is disruptive; open access to educational resources could be one example. Geoff Stead pointed out that there is a danger that the resources being shared emanate primarily from North America and Europe; while this has the advantage of providing resources to underserved communities, the resources may not be best suited to the needs of those communities. Grainne Connole observed that most MOOCs aren’t really accessed by the masses, but by those who already have qualifications and the skillset to make use of MOOCs.

In my own talk, Mobile Pedagogy: Between Affordability and Affordances, I focused on both the affordability and affordances of mobile technologies for teaching and learning, and looked at three main kinds of learning scenarios where mobile devices can play a role: where the devices are mobile but the learners and the learning are not; where the devices and the learners are mobile but the learning is not; and where the devices, the learners and the learning are all mobile. Building on this tripartite division, I briefly discussed three main agendas for incorporating mobile technologies into education: the transformation of teaching and learning; the development of 21st century skills; and social justice. I wrapped up by examining a number of mini-case studies of mobile language and literacy interventions from around Asia and the rest of the world, looking at how each one balances affordability and affordances to serve its own target audience.

On the second day there were also more talks on the Singaporean interactive learning trails developed using LDR’s LOTM tool. In his presentation, Implementing a Mobile Freshman Orientation Program @ Nanyang Polytechnic, Adrian Chua talked about developing an orientation trail. Students received different information at different locations and were set tasks involving a variety of actions, interactions and media. It was a bonding exercise for the students. In 4 hours, the freshman cohort produced 397 pictures and 144 videos; thus, the orientation was not only enjoyable but extremely well-documented.

In his talk, Transforming Outdoors Learning for Schools Using Location-Based Technologies, Png Bee Hin (CEO of LDR) talked about the shift in global learning trends from e-learning to m-learning. For young people, mobile phones are not just communications devices but entertainment devices and also mini-computers. He showed how the LOTM tool works, making it easy for teachers with no programming knowledge to create GPS-enabled learning trails. As students move along the trails, information in multiple media can be pushed to them; students can be asked to do activities and play games; and they can be asked open-ended questions. When students are on the trails, teachers can track their locations; their video inputs; their submissions in the form of pictures or audio interviews; and their activity scores. This allows the teacher to intervene as appropriate. The trails allow learning which is inquiry-based, collaborative and creative, and can encourage leadership development (for example, if the trails are run in Amazing Race form). To date, 92 interactive mobile trails have been created; many focus on the history of Singapore, and some emphasise the multicultural nature of the country. Tourists can even do a trail at Changi Airport. Thirty-nine trails have been created specifically for education, backed by the MOE. Of particular interest is the growing number of school-created trails.

All in all, the second MobiLearn Asia Conference showcased the wide variety of promising mobile teaching, learning and research taking place around the region and around the world. This is a conference that is likely to grow in size and stature in years to come.

Spreading mobile learning in Asia (I)

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

MobiLearn Asia 2013
2nd-3rd October, 2013
Singapore

[See also Day 2 blog post]

Sin4B

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. Photo by Mark Pegrum, 2013. May be reused under CC BY 3.0 licence.

The second MobiLearn Asia conference has built on the success of the first, increasing the number of speakers and attendees gathering to discuss the rapidly growing field of mobile learning.

In their Day 1 keynote, Future of Learning: Dreaming and Preparing for 2020, Geoff Stead and Tamar Elkeles from Qualcomm suggested that the time has come to use everyday devices to transform lives, creating a mobile life cycle. Phones are no longer as much for voice; they’re more for data. People communicate nowadays via data and social media. User-generated content has become critically important.

BYOD, they suggested, is already here. In 2012, 50% of workers brought their own personal devices to work. It is anticipated that by 2015, more than 300 million pre-K-12 students will be carrying mobile devices, opening up huge educational potential.

In the workplace, it may not be about learning in the sense of classes or courses. In its internal Employee Apps Store, Qualcomm works with the concept of an app store as a less structured way to provide necessary information and learning to employees. There’s a whole mixture of web, Android and iOS apps, constituting an open ecosystem.

The combination of mobile and web provides a truly global platform. Whether we’re taking about html or native apps may not really matter because they all interconnect. Unlike what happened with PCs, the hardware is if anything diversifying. There is a hugely vibrant ecosystem of technologies. Beyond mobile devices, we’re now seeing wearable and wave-able (gesture-based) devices emerging. These devices are all connected and all talk to each other. In the next few years, augmented reality technology will be an important way of linking together the real, the digital and the virtual.

In his keynote by web conference, The Online Revolution: Education for Everyone, Andrew Ng from Stanford University, a Coursera co-founder, spoke about the way that MOOC platforms like Coursera change the economics of higher education and make it possible to offer courses for free online. With 87 partners and 4.9 million students to date, Coursera is the largest MOOC platform in the world.

Coursera is currently putting a lot of work into captioning and subtitling, to make video lectures available to a wide range of people of different language backgrounds. Lecturers are encouraged to break lectures down into bite-sized chunks, with optional as well as core material. Interactive videos contain in-video quizzes on which every student gets immediate feedback on their responses; in this way, a website can be more interactive than a face-to-face class. There are also more demanding homework exercises attached to courses, which may take many hours to complete. Students may make multiple attempts at pieces of work, giving them multiple chances to succeed before moving on to the next set of material.

There is also peer grading of open-ended work. There is strong evidence that peer grading correlates well with teacher grading, and self-grading is even better. Peer grading allows marking at scale. Coursera students are given instructions on how to grade others’ work. Students have to demonstrate proficiency in grading by giving similar grades to those awarded by teachers on sample homework. Students might then be asked to grade five other students’ work. An instructor would not normally grade the work. Thus, auto-grading combined with peer grading allows large-scale courses to be offered.

It is also possible to have students answer each other’s questions in discussion forums. Often students can answer each other very quickly. This allows a community to build up around the material, with many students helping each other.

There is a programme called Signature Track which allows Coursera to verify students’ identities at scale. A combination of webcam photos and your typing rhythm allows verification of identity, meaning that certificates can be issued on completion of a course to a high level.

At the moment, about 15% of Coursera’s traffic comes from mobile devices, and Coursera is currently working on a mobile app, initially for iOS, to be followed by an Android app.

Having such large numbers of students allows lecturers to collect an enormous amount of data about courses, students and their learning. The volume and detail of student data is unprecedented in history. This gives a new window into human learning. For example, it is possible to see if large numbers of students are making the same kind of error, allowing the creation of customised feedback messages. Ironically, then, in order to achieve personalisation – e.g., a custom error message – what may be needed is to teach a class of 100,000.

Having content material available online also allows lecturers to work in a flipped mode in face-to-face contexts. Classroom time can be used for small-group problem solving, so it is much more lively and interactive. This gives a much better education to those students who do attend face-to-face. In other words, Coursera serves two different audiences: those who would never have access to a Stanford education; and those who attend Stanford and who can now benefit from a flipped approach. MOOCs can bring a great education to everyone.

In the plenary discussion, Emerging Technologies and New Paradigms and How They Will Shape Future Learning, Pascal van den Nieuwendijk (Microsoft), Geoff Stead (Qualcomm), Chris Ting (Singtel) and Andrew Ng (Coursera) discussed how new technologies might be better integrated into the education system. Andrew Ng suggested that MOOCs free teachers from the more routine aspects of their jobs and allow them to provide more personal attention to more students. Geoff Stead suggested that the app model, where users put together a personalised collection of apps from a huge selection, is in tension with the older publisher model based on the idea of one large system that incorporates multiple functions.

In his talk, Jailbreaking Education with Mobile Learning (slides available here), Ashley Tan spoke about 21st century learners being taught by 20th century teachers in 19th century classrooms. Jailbreaking education, he suggested, is the answer. Mobility challenges authority, he went on to say. Teachers need to be designers of unGoogleable questions. Teachers need to jailbreak their own teacher OS and become facilitators. Moreover, the classroom is not the only learning environment. In a traditional classroom, students typically have an audience of one – if they use social media, they have an audience of many. What schools call cheating, he added, the rest of the world calls collaborating. Today’s assessments are inadequate and do not measure the things that employers are looking for. In conclusion, he suggested that it is time for us to jailbreak education, especially schooling, and to bring it back to where it belongs – to the learners. Eventually the efforts of jailbreakers and troublemakers can make their way into mainstream education. Some institutions value their troublemakers, while others do not – you have to know how best to operate in your own context.

Social media and social learning formed a key theme of several presentations. In her presentation, Mobile and Social Media: The Power of the Learning Network and Digital Literacy, Terese Bird suggested that keeping social media out of learning would be like speaking only in Latin. Social media skills are an important part of academic digital literacy,  and are necessary to communicate widely, to establish a reputation online, and to recognise and use the benefits of social media for one’s own development.

In his talk, Exploring the World of Social Learning: A Practical Guide, Julian Stodd argued that in the social age, traditional models of power and authority are subverted by reputation and agility. In particular, reputation-based authority is starting to subvert authority based on positionality or longevity. A formal hierarchy is no longer enough to give a business an edge. There is a need for creativity and innovation, facilitated by agile and collaborative social technology. It used to be the case that companies could define their own story and their own brand, but now the story and brand are shared by individuals, and meaning is co-created by individuals and communities. He proposed a model of social leadership training known as the NET Model (see below).

NET (Stodd)

The NET Model of Social Leadership (Stodd, 2013).

Gaming and augmented reality were major themes at the conference. In her presentation, Getting Innovative with M-learning, Brenda Enders illustrated a range of games, from low-end text- and email-based games to high-end virtual world games, employed by companies around the world. Gaming can motivate learning, automate learning of basic content, and refresh learning, freeing up face-to-face training time for more complex training. Augmented reality apps have particular promise when it comes to applying learning in the real world.

In his talk, Making Sense of Virtual Worlds and Augmented Reality, Mark Childs argued that key aspects of the technology include immediacy and immersion (which depends amongst other things on suspension of disbelief, motivation to engage, experience, personalisation, design of content, and ability to feel embodied). In many ways the distinction between perceptual immersion (which is more about immediacy) and psychological immersion is very important. Adding labels and tags in augmented reality can sometimes decrease perceptual immersion (if there is too much content or information) but can increase the sense of psychological immersion. It is the psychological immersion which is more important and can underpin improved learning experiences.

In her presentation, Implementation of a Mobile Heritage Trail for Clementi Town Sec School, Phyllis Pham described GPS-/IR-enabled mobile learning trails created with the LOTM tool developed by LDR. In addition to receiving information preloaded by teachers as they visit different locations, students are required to answer quiz or test questions on which they receive immediate feedback, and to create their own multimedia materials. The pedagogical aim is to create authentic learning experiences where students collect data, interpret it, and make meaning and connections.

On the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve trail, students have to collect enough data to support their conclusion to maintain or level the reserve, presented in a small skit. On the Clementi Neighbourhood Mobile Trail students visit key places (e.g., food centre, fire station, Buddhist temple) which play a role in ‘social defence’, answering key questions about them. These questions cannot be answered by searching online; they involve the students in interacting with and interviewing people in the various locations. The overall aim is to get students thinking and questioning.

Same themes, different themes

Friday, September 27th, 2013

E-technology Seminar
25th – 27th September, 2013 
Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok by night

Bangkok by night. Photo by Mark Pegrum, 2013. May be reused under CC BY 3.0 licence.

I’ve just spent three productive and enjoyable days running an E-technology Seminar at KMUTT in Bangkok, including consul- tations with staff, a workshop on web 2.0, and a forum on digital literacies and emerging trends. What’s always so interesting about these visits is to identify the common themes that appear in educational technology initiatives and conversations around the world, as well as the differences which are particular to regions or countries.

Many common global themes surfaced in discussions with participants over the three days: the need to give concrete direction to the official push to use technology in the classroom; the need for leadership and management training; the need for more teacher training, focused on pedagogy as much as technology; and the need for teachers to find a way of working with students whose technological skills in some cases exceed their own. But then there were differences as well, for example the need to bear in mind local laws and customs on the one hand, and on the other the freedom to use tools that are sometimes rejected in Western education systems, notably Facebook, and for teachers and students to interact freely on such platforms.

It’s been a wonderfully informative three days, and as always, I’m sure I’ve learned as much as any of the participants.

E-learning outcomes

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

eLearning Forum Asia
29th – 31st May, 2013 
Hong Kong

photo

鸭子, Hong Kong. Photo by Mark Pegrum, 2013. May be reused under CC BY 3.0 licence.

The eLearning Forum Asia 2013 was held at Hong Kong Baptist University with a record-breaking number of attendees. It’s clear that digitally mediated learning is taking off in this part of the world. This conference will be one to watch as it grows in size over years to come.

Richard Armour, from the Hong Kong University Grants Committee (UGC), opened the conference with a discussion of Hong Kong’s “3+3+4” Curriculum and the opportunities for e-learning presented by the new 4-year undergraduate university curriculum. This change, he suggested, is contextualised by the shift towards a knowledge-based economy, enabling students to further develop their language abilities, knowledge base, critical thinking and independence. There is a core general curriculum, with more specialisation as students advance. The curriculum is designed to be more student-centric and allow for whole-person development. The UGC has acquired government funding to promote pedagogical change and innovation in areas such as blended learning, curriculum development, and learning environments. This funding will be project-based. Key questions are what e-learning can bring to the additional year, general education, the common core, sharing specialities across universities, or to achieve a paradigm shift.

Karl Engkvist from Pearson gave a keynote presentation entitled Preparing for the coming avalanche, making reference to the recent publication by Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi. He mentioned that globalisation and technology are transforming education; there is greater competition for students and research funding; high-quality educational content is accessible online for free; and the functions of higher education are being supplied by non-academic providers. The 20th century university paradigm is under pressure: knowledge is ubiquitous and free, so it needs to be curated effectively; public funding is being replaced by private funding; students can shop globally for an education; the pace of workplace innovation is accelerating; and graduate unemployment is high, but employers can’t find qualified candidates. We need to more closely link education with future workplace needs. Students, as consumers, may come to expect more tangible outcomes from their education.

He listed a number of signs of change in the educational situation. MOOCs are disrupting education by giving huge numbers of students access to elite education. There are also non-university providers like StraighterLine 2U, alternatives like Thiel Fellowships, complementary options like General Assemb.ly, the Mozilla Foundation’s idea of badging, and the notion of third stage careers catered to, for example, by the Korean National Open University. He suggested that new models of education are improving quality, increasing market share and lowering cost – the way new competitors traditionally unseat complacent incumbents. Traditional universities, too, are being unbundled.  Cities are seeing higher education institutions as powerhouses of their economies. Faculty can teach from anywhere – and they don’t have to be academics. Students, too, can learn from anywhere. Curriculum has become a commodity. E-learning can offer much more flexibility in this space. Deep, radical, urgent transformation – not just incremental change – is necessary.

He went on to talk about The Learning Curve, a Pearson report and website that compare different educational systems around the world. Innovative systems have to value and fund stronger student outcomes; value accountability – setting clear goals and expectations; be future oriented – focusing on skills necessary for the future; and attract and continuously train good teachers. But there are big differences, too: the two most ‘successful’ educational systems, Korea and Finland, share almost nothing in common. In Korea, the top quartile outperforms everyone in the world, but the lowest quartile doesn’t do well at all; in Finland, the two middle quartiles outperform everyone in the world, but the top quartile doesn’t do as well comparatively. This raises philosophical questions about what you want to achieve through an educational system.

In her keynote presentation, Kathy Takayama spoke about Integrative paths in the social construction of understanding. She discussed the need to prepare students for total engagement, applying conceptual understanding, and diving into unfamiliar territory – which are difficult-to-measure outcomes. Metrics which show that teachers have been effective include students taking ownership of their own learning; applying themselves through incremental, experiential learning; being comfortable with uncertainty; integrating insights from across the disciplines to solve problems; and developing adaptive expertise. She went on to say that expert thinking, which involves chunking of information (a kind of pattern recognition based on long experience), sometimes gets in the way. This is one reason why there’s a pressing need for development of faculty, who are fixed on the ways that things have always worked. Interdisciplinary entry points are important.

Brown University is experimenting with blended courses and flipped classrooms. She described an economics course, where one third of the traditional 50-minute lectures have been replaced with 10-minute vodcasts; the rest were retained in order to maintain instructor presence, which is important for the student experience. Students then got together in a classroom where they worked on solving problems collaboratively, facilitated by teaching assistants. Students gave feedback on the microlectures to indicate whether they did or didn’t cover what they needed to know; their feedback also indicated that instructor presence is important. When thinking about e-learning, we have to bring students in as creative partners.

She went on to discuss what old brick-and-mortar institutions need to think about with respect to MOOCs. This requires thinking through the process of deconstruction and reconstruction. Compartmentalisation is an issue, because the material has to be broken up into 10-min chunks. It’s also important to consider how you make connections between all these materials. Students will in fact create their own learning environments through social media and other channels. So MOOCs must be a part of an overall shift in the direction of more social learning. We need to think about the pedagogies that support social learning, and how we might construct our courses differently.

In my own keynote presentation, which opened the second day of the conference, I spoke on Mobile outcomes: Improving language and literacy across Asia. I began by exploring both the affordability and affordances of mobile technologies for the teaching and learning of language and literacy, and looked at the kinds of learning contexts where mobile devices can play a role. I went on to consider the learning outcomes achieved with mobile devices. Assessment and feedback can both be enhanced by mobile devices. However, while there is considerable promise for the recording, monitoring and evaluation of learning in mobile projects, and especially for the deployment of learning analytics, this promise is often unrealised for a variety of practical and pedagogical reasons. On the one hand, we need to seek more hard data on improved learning outcomes in mobile projects; and on the other hand, we may need to consider the notion of outcomes more broadly, including soft outcomes like the acquisition of 21st century skills and digital literacies. I concluded by looking at three mini-case studies of mobile language and literacy interventions from Pakistan, China and Singapore, asking in each case what evidence we can see of improved hard and soft outcomes, and what we can learn for future projects.

In her plenary, Hart Wilson spoke about Moodle magic: Unleashing Moodle’s potential.  She outlined the many features of Moodle which, along with ease of integration with other software, can help support and organise teaching and learning. She suggested a number of useful activities, including getting students to send in questions ahead of class to shape a class (Online Text feature), or getting students to engage in peer review (Workshop feature). She suggested that Moodle’s tools allow us to think differently about teaching, and it serves as a platform to connect students to content, students to students, and students to instructors.  This paper was followed up by a half-day workshop the next day, where the uses of Moodle were explored in much more detail.

Jie Lu and Tianchong Wang, two graduate students working with Daniel Churchill, gave a paper called Exploring the educational affordances of the current mobile technologies: Case studies in university teachers’ and students’ perspectives. They spoke about two case studies. The first took as its starting point Daniel Churchill’s (2005) work on teachers’ private theories, six of which impact on their design and technology integration decisions. Key factors which positively influenced teachers’ use of technology were revealed to be: size (a smartphone screen may be too small; a laptop may be too heavy; but an iPad balances these points); mobile ergonomics; instant boot up; battery life; ease of use; touch sensitivity; apps; access to resources; and sharing and interaction to support a more student-centred teaching paradigm. Issues for teachers included: document format compatibility; connecting to a classroom projector; file management & syncing; inputting text on a touch screen; students’ ownership of tablets; and the idea of a “technology dance” (is the technology supporting teaching or a goal in itself?).

The second case study focused on students’ use and perceptions of mobile technologies as learning tools. Their use of mobile devices to support their learning was generally quite limited: tracking what was going on in online learning environments; keeping in contact with other group members; and reviewing learning materials uploaded by the teacher anywhere and anytime. Issues for students included: limited wifi coverage; inconvenient input options; lack of learning materials tailored for smartphones or tablets, and inability to play Flash materials.

Pao Ta Yu gave a plenary paper entitled How to design massive qualified digital contents both for online and classroom learnings. He spoke about MOOCs, indicating that they combine multimedia and cloud technology with lectures to create more energy around e-learning.  They may be combined with social networking and social media sites, using the latter as a content delivery area. Most students who enrol in MOOCs are currently professionals rather than college students, though this may shift as models are developed for integrating MOOCs into students’ educational pathways. The biggest short-term impact of MOOCs may in fact be legitimisation of online and hybrid learning.

He went on to speak about flipped classrooms, whose advantage, he suggested, is to “take the snooze out of the classroom”. They can individualise classroom learning time for students, allow students to review lessons at their own pace, and break the regular classroom rhythm. Flipped materials should be simple, interesting, and meaningful, he suggested. He suggested that microvideos will be created by teachers to produce a lot of cloud digital content.  This process can integrate with the flipped classroom model.  Rapid design, high quality recordings, and easy uploading and downloading, will be important for future mobile learning.

Diana Laurillard wrapped up the conference with her closing keynote Teaching as a design science: Designing and assessing the effectiveness of the pedagogy in learning technologies. She spoke about government policies from around the world which stress that teachers need to design and deliver ICT-enhanced education, and to undertake professional development.  UNESCO is developing new post-2015 goals for education, including a full 9 years of basic education. Higher education demand is expected to double over coming years.  This will have major implications for teacher training. How can higher education nurture individual teachers while reducing the 25:1 student: staff ratio, i.e., beginning  to operate on a mass scale?

She explored MOOCs as one possible answer, using a Duke credit-bearing MOOC as an example. Many students already had educational qualifications and study experience. There was a very large attrition rate, and often in MOOCs there are only a couple of hundred people who complete a course – much like regular online teaching. While many MOOCs offer only peer support, the Duke MOOC included tutored discussions and assessment, which is time-consuming for support, and worked out at a student: staff ratio of around 20:1. If this kind of support is provided, the demands on staff time will increase as the number of students increases. Only a basic MOOC, without tutor support, can scale at no extra cost.

We need to understand the pedagogical benefits and teacher time costs for online HE. What are the new digital pedagogies that will address the 25:1 student support conundrum? Who will innovate, test, and build the evidence for what works online? It can only be teachers. It may be that we should revisit and rework some old approaches. Pedagogies for supporting large classes might include:

  • Concealed multiple choice questions (possible answers are revealed after students have written their own suggested responses);
  • The virtual Keller Plan (introduce content > self-paced practice > tutor-marked test > student becomes tutor for credit, until by the end half the class is tutoring the rest);
  • The vicarious master class (run a tutorial for 5 representative students; questions and guidance represent all students’ needs);
  • Pyramid discussion groups (240 individual students produce an answer to an open question, then there is a joint response from pairs, then groups of four, etc, until the teacher receives only six responses to comment on in detail).

Collecting big data in line with Laurillard’s Conversational Framework might allow us to better focus on exactly what to collect and how to apply learning analytics. We could consider what is accessed in what sequence, the questions asked, social interaction patterns, tracked group outputs, peer assessment, tracked inputs, reaction times, analysis of essay content, quiz scores, game scores, and accuracy of models.

Teachers as designers need the tools for innovation. She mentioned the PPC (Pedagogical Pattern Collector) browser where you can find pedagogical patterns created by others, tied to particular learning outcomes, and adapt them to your own context and needs. This system creates a way of sharing ideas between individual teachers, across disciplinary boundaries, and between institutions. To meet the upcoming demand, teachers need to work more like scientists who build on and refine each other’s work. The PPC gives them the tools to do this. This supports a cycle of professional collaboration.  As a computational model, it also allows us to work out the consequences in terms of the pedagogical benefits, and the comparative costs of teachers’ workloads, depending on the cost of initial setup and the cost of ongoing support. It also allows us to compare conventional and blended learning to see whether there is, for example, less emphasis on acquisition and more emphasis on discussion. It’s important to invest in teachers who can innovate in learning technologies.

The global demand for HE requires investment in pedagogic innovation to deliver high quality at scale. Technology-based pedagogical innovation must support students at a better than 25:1 student: staff ratio. Teachers need the tools to design, test, gather the evidence of what works, and model benefits and costs. Teachers are the engines of innovation – designing, testing, and sharing their best pedagogic ideas.

Overall, the quality of the papers, the quantity of attendees, and the general buzz around the conference are a sign that e-learning is very much coming of age in Asia.  Next year’s event in Taiwan will carry on the eLearning Forum tradition.

Mobile = social

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

January, 2013
Perth, Australia

I’m now two weeks into my sabbatical leave, which I’m spending writing a book on mobile language learning. The first fortnight, as is usually the case, has been spent reading through the piles of articles and books, electronic and paper-based, which I’ve amassed over the past few months.

Some key themes are emerging from this perusal of the literature in the young and still somewhat fragmented field of m-learning and, more specifically, mobile language and literacy learning. One of the major insights which resonates with me is the equation of social and mobile, which seem to go hand in hand in both our everyday lives and in the educational potential of the medium. Thinking along these lines led me into a conversation with Julian Stodd, who’s written up his own reflections on the convergence of mobile and social learning on his blog. It’s worth checking out what he has to say.

Space for discussion

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

1st International ELT Symposium
1st-2nd December, 2012
Istanbul, Turkey

The 1st International ELT Symposium at Yildiz Technical University, entitled Wired In or Out, focused on Web Technologies in ELT Classrooms.  It brought together an international group of language educators over two rich days in Istanbul at the start of December, 2012.

In his opening plenary, The Heart of Education, Chuck Sandy stressed the need to bring together communities of people using online social networking and other tools. He reminded the audience of the E.M. Forster quote, “Only connect”, and suggested it can be updated in the digital era of personal learning networks (PLNs). But it’s about more than connecting: it’s about connecting on very deep levels, and about asking yourself what you can contribute. When you mentor others, you can learn yourself in the process.

In his follow-up plenary, Blending, extending and bridging language learning in the digital age, Gary Motteram spoke about the importance of the ‘digital turn’ in education. Drawing on activity theory, he mentioned that there are many different people and factors (extending to parents and the wider community, as well as learners’ motivations and expectations) involved in the integration of new technologies into learning. Zeroing in on the role of teachers, he referred to Shulman’s work on pedagogical content knowledge, and highlighted the idea that teachers often see their subject matter differently from content specialists who are not teachers. There has been discussion for years about the  need to train teachers appropriately to use new technologies, but very frequently this still doesn’t happen.

The way teachers teach in the classroom is affected by numerous factors, including their beliefs about the interface between technology and learning, their beliefs about language learning itself (which may be different for different languages, with the communicative techniques typically used in English not always being suited to learning other languages, like Chinese), the institutional setting, and the expectations of learners and the institution.

In her talk, From curation to creation, Marisa Constantinides spoke about the need to deal with information overload through appropriate curation techniques. She defined curation as the process of selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets. She observed that the teacher is by nature a curator. She focused on a number of digital tools which can aid teachers in this process, including social networking sites like Facebook, social bookmarking tools like Delicious, Diigo and Scoop.it, and social sharing tools like Pinterest or YouTube channels, as well as blogs and wikis. She also mentioned new tools like LiveBinders, MentorMob and Learnist. Having a variety of platforms allows teachers to choose the most appropriate ones for collecting different kinds of content.

Traditionally, she suggested, curation has not been looked at as something very creative. In Bloom’s digital taxonomy, the activities of recognising, listing, describing, etc, are shown at the lowest level, Remembering. However, she argued, this is wrong, because curation can be a very creative process, especially in the digital era, and one that involves higher order thinking. If you have an idea and want to explore it, then curating content about it can be a good way to develop in-depth understanding. It can also bring in a social learning element. Part of creation, she concluded, is building on other people’s ideas.

In the final plenary on the opening day, entitled Give the test a rest, Luke Meddings made the argument that we rely too much on standardised testing, and that there is a whole testing economy based around it. As we focus on what can be tested, we develop funnel vision that reduces the areas that are covered. He suggested that we should vary what we do in the classroom, engage in more unplugged/Dogme style teaching, and make use of new technologies where appropriate. He used the metaphor of a railway and a river to suggest that, rather than working solely with a linear syllabus, we can follow the flow of learning – heading in the same direction but allowing more flexibility. Web 2.0 tools can complement the latter. They offer us new ways to achieve formative assessment. Evernote, for example, allows you to take snapshots of students’ learning on a regular basis, rather than just conducting periodic tests and sending out periodic report cards. Teachers need to talk to colleagues about how to find alternatives to standard testing regimes which aren’t helping students’ learning.

In the opening plenary of the second day, with the lengthy title of Technology is a useful tool if used to create and enhance comprehensible input, a derailment if used to overemphasize conscious learning, Stephen Krashen spoke of the war between two competing hypotheses about language. The comprehension hypothesis says that grammar and vocabulary are the result of language acquisition. The skill-building hypothesis says that the grammar and vocabulary come first, and then eventually you will be able to use the language. It’s about immediate versus delayed gratification. Krashen supports the former hypothesis, and outlined the research evidence for it, but observed that for politicians and the public, the latter hypothesis is an axiom.

He made some key points about comprehensible input:

  1. With enough comprehensible input, all the necessary structures are present, so the best input is non-targeted.
  2. Input should be interesting, or ideally, compelling. Reading should be self-selected. It makes it easier for students to enter into a state of flow.
  3. Narrow input is best.

If the computer is used in tune with comprehensible input, it can be very valuable. We haven’t come close to making use of what we already have available; there’s no need for new tools. According to studies, the amount of book reading children are doing has changed little from 1946 to 2010, but magazine and newspaper reading has declined. Website reading is on the increase.

While the jury is out on social networking, Krashen believes that kids are reading and writing more than ever before thanks to Facebook, which is good for their literacy skills. Studies show that the more kids are online, the more they read in print. Several studies show that more internet use leads to more literacy. Krashen suggested that free, voluntary net surfing might well lead to improved language, along the lines of narrow, self-selected input.

He outlined the potential for narrow personalised viewing (including of stories created by children themselves):

  1. Comprehensible stories (aural and visual)
  2. Comprehensible discussions
  3. Series books > TV or movie series

There is so much we can do with storytelling, without any new technology, and without anything fancy. He gave the example of ESL Pod, a simple and straightforward approach involving stories, with materials being given away for free. He suggested, indeed, that it’s important for educators and academics to give away work as much as possible, to stop the rising costs of accessing materials and research. We can be part of a cultural change, he observed, by giving things away.

He concluded by running through what he called ‘bogus uses’ of technology, including many commercial language learning systems which make exaggerated claims but involve very traditional pedagogical approaches. These are skill-based schemes based on the public’s view of language learning.

In her plenary, Facebook nation: Social networks & ELT, Nicky Hockly started off with some facts and figures about Facebook, including the fact that 250 million people access Facebook on mobile devices, and mobile users are twice as active as non-mobile users.  She noted that Facebook already contains public language sites, educator sites and institutional sites. She then focused on setting up class group pages and using them to provide feedback on students’ content and language, and allowing students to read and respond to each other’s work. She mentioned a number of issues that can occur with Facebook, and gave recommendations on how to deal with them:

  1. Teacher privacy: teachers can have two separate profiles, or use group pages
  2. Inappropriate use: teachers can set clear user guidelines, linked to official institutional policies
  3. Facebook as big business: teachers can suggest alternatives such as My Fake Wall, Pikifriends, and Edmodo.

There is little research on Facebook in language education to date. One study found that students preferred closed groups, but another study found that students liked the authentic communication in open groups. Hockly suggested that students could have both at the same time. Feedback was seen as particularly important by students; she recommended organising peer feedback, amongst other things. One study found that Facebook’s enhancement of the community feeling of a class can lead to increased motivation and performance. The research is listed on Delicious under http://delicious.com/nickyhockly/yildiz.

Mobile technologies, as always in conferences these days, made an appearance in numerous talks, and formed the main focus of several.  Within a year or two, it will certainly be normal for conferences in the area of new technologies to focus as much on mobile apps and the mobile web as they do on the original web – and that trend was in evidence at this event.

In her talk, MLearning: More than an illusion of illumination, Işil Boy pointed out that mobile learning is about more than apps. If e-learning is beyond classroom walls, she suggested, then m-learning is beyond computer screens. She suggested that the Affective Context Model helps explain the value of mobile learning with its anywhere/anytime aspects, and its push and pull features. When integrating mobile technologies into our teaching, we need to prioritise the learning objectives and consider the ‘teacherware’, that is, ensuring that teachers are well trained.

After mentioning a search engine for apps, Quixey, she went on to recommend a number of apps:

  • Speaking: TripAdvisor (project work, talking about holidays, planning a holiday); Dragon Dictation (dictation software); Audioboo (voice recording and adding pictures)
  • Writing: Skitch (pictures with annotation – speaking, basic writing and vocabulary development); Google Docs (writing, presentations, etc); Lino (online stickies service)
  • Listening: Stitcher Radio (radio shows, live stations and podcasts); Learning English Elementary (English learning podcasts with exercises)
  • Reading: Zite (a personalised magazine that learns what you like); The Poetry App (over 100 poems with video and audio narrations)

After illustrating QR codes as a recent trend, she went on to highlight AR (augmented reality) as the new trend in mobile educational technologies, one which allows students to participate interactively with computer generated simulations. She also spoke about mobile storytelling as a new iteration of digital storytelling, illustrating the possibilities with a multimedia app called Storykit. Mobile storytelling and AR can come together with a simulated 3D app like ZooBurst, where you can create AR markers that allow you to use the simulations in a real-world environment like the classroom.

In my own presentation, From start to finish: Mobile technologies and language learning, I surveyed the terrain of mobile technologies in the teaching of language, beginning with simpler uses, many of which are oriented towards content consumption or behaviourist drills, and leading up to those which are more learner-centred, innovative and creative. The tools and techniques covered included podcasting, apps, polling, multimedia recording, QR codes, geosocial networking, and augmented reality.

In the closing plenary, A technological disaster (references at: http://atechnologicaldisaster.pen.io/) Lindsay Clandfield pointed out that a lot of current technology use involves traditional pedagogical approaches and strategies that simply incorporate new technology, but there has been little fundamental change. Teachers are sometimes blamed for this, and the digital native/immigrant distinction plays into this.  Teachers do ask themselves questions about whether the technology fits with everything else they are having to do; whether the net will undermine their authority; whether the technology will work on the day in the classroom; and whether technology will add to rather than reduce time pressure. From a pedagogical point of view, the technology seems to lend itself to a behaviourist approach. Sometimes technological solutions are imported but not localised. Assessment still remains stubbornly resistant to the innovations and developments in the wider field of digital education.

There is a broader question about whether technology works: does it lead to better learning? One issue here is what we mean by learning. The No Significant Difference website documents 350 research reports which show that there is not much of a difference between technology-enhanced education and what we were doing before. There has been some suggestion that technology may deprofessionalise teachers. It may be that new teacher and learner roles are culturally bound; online learning may be in line with the American view of individualism and autonomy. Teachers, too, may be very restricted by the systems in which they teach.

There is also a larger ideological debate about deschooling society. For some, the end of schools could mean free education for all, with no barriers. For others, it may mean removing state control and repositioning education within the private sector. Another issue is the e-waste produced by the move in a digital direction. Yet another question is whether what is economically good for technology companies is always good for technology users. The NESTA Report says that the huge investment in digital technologies in UK schools over recent years has produced little measurable change, because these efforts have put technology above teaching, and excitement above evidence.

In short, there has to be space for educators to discuss with each other the issues and challenges of working with new technologies, as well as the benefits. A symposium like this one has provided space to do just that.

Fair sailing

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Apps Fair
Perth
8 November, 2012

The inaugural Apps Fair, held at the University Club at The University of Western Australia, took place on 8 November. The programme brought together seasoned presenters, experienced in the use of iPads and other mobile handheld devices, with around 120 teachers whose schools are embarking on the mobile learning pathway.

After an opening presentation by the Dean of the Faculty of Education, Helen Wildy, my colleagues Grace Oakley, Robert Faulkner and I spoke about our recently published AISWA report, Exploring the Pedagogical Applications of Mobile Technologies for Teaching Literacy, highlighting nine key considerations for teachers using iPads. Jan Clarke, the ICT Integration Consultant at AISWA, followed with an overview of AISWA iPad projects, including the use of these devices in a CARE school context and in a remote Aboriginal community school.

Stephen Atherton from Apple spoke twice, firstly on “Educational Technology: What the Future Brings” and secondly on “iPads in Education” (references available here). These talks gave an overview of the present context as well as future developments anticipated by Apple. Dave Belson, the Technology Integrator from St Stephens School, offered a well-received Mac Lab workshop on how to make e-books.

During the day, there were two 1-hour sets of 20-minute table rotations, where participants experienced a total of 6 apps, explained to them by teachers (including our pre-service teachers) with experience of using them in the classroom. They had a chance to try out the apps, ask questions, and make suggestions. The level of noise in the room was testament to teachers’ engagement in this process, and participants came away with many useful ideas.

Later in the day, four highly experienced school practitioners – three of them Apple Distinguished Educators – shared their insights with teachers. Noburo Hagwara, Director of Innovation at Kolbe Catholic College, began with an overview of his journey using mobile technologies, leading from the iPod Touch to the iPad. Ben Beaton, Information Learning Technology Curriculum Manager at Scotch College, gave a talk with the title: “Teaching For Tomorrow: How Mobility and E-learning Can Extend Learning Beyond the Classroom”. Anna Hu, Director of Information and Learning Technologies at PLC and Scotch, and Jeremy Hetebry, ILT Curriculum Manager at PLC, rounded off these presentations with a talk entitled “Using Mobile Technology and Apps within K-12 Curriculum: Current Trends and Research and the PLC and Scotch Experience”.

All in all, it was a busy but exciting day, bringing together old and new users of mobile technologies in a productive discussion forum. It has real potential to become an annual event.

M-learning comes of age in SE Asia (II)

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

MobiLearnAsia Conference
Singapore
24-26 October, 2012

[Continued from Day 1 blog post]

In his plenary which opened the second day, Harnessing Magic: The Mlearning Opportunity, Clark Quinn suggested that it is time to find new uses for mobile technologies. Past technologies have successfully augmented our bodies; the question now is how we might augment our brains. Of course, we do have a history of using technology to augment our brains. Books are one example. This has limitations if the knowledge changes and the books don’t. He quoted Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. The limitations on how we use new technologies, he suggested, are between our ears.

Learning in the past was social, but as the volume of knowledge increased, we moved into a transmission model. In the 2009 US Dept of Education study of e-learning, which found that it was superior to face-to-face learning, the researchers suggested that the improvement was not due to the medium but the chance to step back and think about how we do education. Formal learning methods are important for novices; they become less important vis-à-vis informal learning for practitioners; and for experts, informal learning is much more important.

There are four Cs of mobile learning: content, compute, communicate and capture. The first three are not unique to mobile, but the last is. It’s about capturing in context. We’re beginning to see ways in which virtual worlds connect to mobile technologies. System-generated content is also becoming important as we move towards web 3.0. Web 2.0 was about user-generated content; web 3.0 is about system-generated content, where content is pulled together on the fly. This allows us to customise the online experience and online learning. Thanks to sensors of different kinds, the technology can work with the context.

He concluded by asking what’s on the horizon. Games will be important – learning should be ‘hard fun’. Social media will be important. So will augmented reality, where information relevant to the learner can be presented in a visual interface. The fact that a device knows ‘when’ we are (as well as ‘where’) means that key information can be provided before and during a performance, and then afterwards learners can be prompted to reflect, thereby turning real-world performance into a learning opportunity. Personalisation will be increasingly possible; different people need different information flowing to them in real-world contexts. He suggested, finally, that we should consider moving away from an event-based model of learning towards slow learning. We need to develop people at the rate their brains can handle.

In the panel discussion on the second morning, a number of key points were made. Gary Woodill noted that e-learning is just the classroom placed on the screen, whereas m-learning is about learning in context. Clark Quinn suggested that there is a need for teachers to show students 21st century skills so students can learn to search for themselves and, to some extent, bypass educational institutions. We’re not yet very good at delivering chunked, distributed content. He also suggested that mobile learning designers should be asking: “What is the least assistance I can provide?” though, as Woodill pointed out, the assistance must be sufficient to help the learner achieve learning goals. Gary noted, further, that we need a design science of mobile learning.

Woodill suggested that there is a subtle shift underway from competency-based to task-based education. What matters is not what you know (there’s just too much to know nowadays) but whether you can do a task. Mobile may be about learning something quickly when you need it, and then forgetting it and moving on to the next thing. Jawahar Kanjilal asked a very important question about learners in less privileged situations: what if you don’t have a teacher, but you have a mobile phone? It becomes your teacher. Gary suggested that a mobile device can be like a faucet which filters the firehose of the internet, bringing you what you need, when you need it. The next ten years, he argued, will be the age of the algorithm, to sort out all this information. Predictive analysis will be important (e.g., see: Recorded Future, Sweden).

In his presentation, Mobile Learning Case Studies: Examples of Effective Mobile Learning, Gary Woodill outlined a number of case studies of mobile learning solutions. The audience was then asked to analyse these in terms of the design patterns. One strategy for instructional designers may be to take case studies and reverse engineer them. On design patterns, he recommended the books: Technology-Enhanced Learning edited by Peter Goodyear and Symeon Retalis, and Diana Laurillard’s Teaching as a Design Science. He also recommended the Float Mobile Learning Primer app, which contains 63 case studies.

Singapore River Trail from LDR (http://www.ldr.sg/trail_catalog.html)

In his presentation, Create the Future of Mobile Learning, Png Bee Hin explained that the future will see a big shift from ‘e’ to ‘m’-learning. He described the development of interactive trails by LDR using the LOTM authoring tool, which allows multimedia content and interactive activities to be delivered to smartphones (Android or iOS) using location-based technologies and a geofencing approach. The delivery of materials can be triggered using GPS, IR (image recognition) and Bluetooth. To date, they have created 42 location-based mobile trails for Singapore. The Battle for Singapore app, set up as a game, is available as a free download.

Working with the MOE, they have created trails where teachers can track students’ progress, location, activity results, and multimedia submissions (which typically include photos and videos, but can also include oral interviews and even re-enactments of historical events). It can work like a treasure hunt; students are instructed to take pictures using an IR camera at some points, and a code is pushed to them so that they can complete part of a puzzle. Students can be of all levels from primary upwards. The Singapore River Trail (see above), which was originally in English, has now been converted into Mandarin as well.

Teachers can keep track of their students, and communicate with them, from a central location. Teachers are essential to the learning process: they need to re-enter their students’ learning spaces at the appropriate moments to guide their learning. They can also create customised trails for their students, by dragging/dropping and cutting/pasting within the LOTM tool, without any need for programming knowledge. Teachers and students have even worked together to create mobile trails that map their own environment.

He concluded that location-based technologies (GPS, IR, AR) have great potential to enhance field-based learning. Having an authoring tool simplifies and speeds up deployment. The most exciting result of all, he suggested, is the finding that user-generated trails are possible.

At the other end of the technology scale, but in a project with enormous potential to make a difference around the world, Jawahar Kanjilal and Bhanu Potta gave a presentation entitled Mobile-Based Lifelong Learning for the Millions: Nokia Life.  In it, they looked at how mobile learning can reach under-served populations in emerging markets.  This is a mobile-only paradigm for those who do not have access to the internet. Only a minority of people in the world have data connected smartphones; then there are feature phones which are data connectable; and then finally feature phones with no data, and SMS only. The projection for 2015 is that 2 billion people will have data connected smartphones; 3 billion will have feature phones (with or without data); and 2 billion will have no phone.

For many people who have mobile phones in emerging markets, it is their first phone, their first camera, and so on. They expect it can deliver many things. Information can be a great leveller for those who currently have no access to it. At every life stage there is an opportunity for informal learning. It is possible to provide content about education, health and agriculture, for example. It can’t be something which is broadcast to everyone, because it needs to be relevant to individuals and should ideally be local, even hyperlocal (how to you start saving in India as opposed to Indonesia?); it needs to be personalised.

The philosophy behind Nokia Life is: “Inform. Involve. Empower” (see: Life Tools is Now Nokia Life on YouTube). It is about “designing for personalization at scales of millions”. Emerging markets have the largest number of first generation school attendees. Parents who have a small income can pay for this service to support their children’s education. The messages can be a trigger for further offline learning. There are currently nearly 80 million users across India, Indonesia, China and Nigeria. Around 40% of subscribers overall are teachers rather than students, so teachers can use the messages as a resource in their classrooms. More than 10 million unique updates are sent out on a daily basis. SMS is used as the vehicle. It is embedded in the menu of the phone, rather than being a downloadable app. The creators considered voice at the beginning, but they were told the written word is more powerful. The users can refer to and show the written words to others.

The biggest problem was to get the content in the right format to distribute through the mobile system. Curation of content and knowledge was a major task. There are four categeories: Education (including Life Skills, Learn English, Exam Tips, General Knowledge,  Dictionary), Health, Agriculture, and Entertainment. Potta gave the example of the Learn English service in China, set up with the collaboration of the British Council, where a word of the day might be given, with pronunciation, an example, and a translation. In some messages, there is a button to call a hotline for more information. Since it is too early in these markets for user-generated content, which might conflict with users’ sense of the credibility of the information, the social – or web 2.0 – aspect involves a call button, a polling function, and/or a share function.

There is a variation of Nokia Life called Nokia Life+, a web app which is designed for those who have smartphones, or feature phones with data connectability. This may be the direction in which things evolve in the future. It’s a scalable platform to reach and engage the next billion. All in all, it’s about developing an ecosystem of partners: governments, NGOs, knowledge creators. The ecosystem is beginning to build up. Nokia Life can directly support six of the eight UN Millennium Goals.

In his presentation, Cross-Platform App Development: Going Native the Easy Way, Graeme Salter listed a number of reasons for setting up educational apps, including the following:

  • Improve learning outcomes
  • Improve student satisfaction (e.g., convenience)
  • Improve student or teacher productivity

There are, however, alternatives to having an app. One is to have a mobile optimised website (m.domainname.com). As a business, you can tap into existing apps and have your company advertised there. Another alternative is an iBook. If, on the other hand, you need an app, you should ask yourself whether it needs to be a native app. Android apps are catching up very quickly to iOS apps. Native apps have these advantages:

  • Operate fast
  • Can access all device features
  • Don’t necessarily require an internet connection
  • Have access to global marketplaces (including direct sales, in-app purchases, and advertising revenue)

On the negative side are these factors:

  • Royalty fee to marketplaces
  • Marketplace controls the customer information (for this reason, the Financial Times changed to a web app)
  • Approval delays (even for modifications)
  • Complexity of development

He suggested some solutions to these problems:

  • Step 1: Create a web app
    • Outsource development (e.g., Kenotopia – design an app in PowerPoint or Keynote, then outsource the coding to someone else; fiverr – will design an icon for $5; a company like oDesk or Vworker will do the whole thing. The big rewards are for ideas, not development.)
    • Use tools that don’t need coding (e.g., Tumult Hype, which allows you to write HMTL5 with no coding required; you can then use JQuery Mobile, Wink, etc, to add a mobile framework so you have mobile functionality like touch, swipe, and gestures)
    • Write in HTML5 (make some simple modifications to old HTML – there are few differences)
  • Step 2: Convert to a native app (e.g., with PhoneGap, Appcelerator, PhoneGapBuild – you can create native apps for multiple OSs)

For an inaugural conference, MobiLearnAsia 2012 did a superb job of pulling together a great deal of national, regional and international expertise, and provided a rich forum for interactions between participants from a wide range of countries. It has also filled a gap in bringing an annual m-learning conference to the Asia-Pacific region. I look forward to seeing how things have developed when the second MobiLearnAsia conference takes place in October, 2013.

M-learning comes of age in SE Asia (I)

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

MobiLearnAsia Conference
Singapore
24-26 October, 2012

[See also Day 2 blog post]

The inaugural MobiLearnAsia Conference in Singapore has brought a much-needed regional focus to the emerging field of mobile learning. As the global phone count goes up (see image below), m-learning will become an ever more important strand of education. This conference drew together some of the world’s foremost experts in the area and showcased many local and regional initiatives. In fact, because of the richness of the content, I’ve divided this blog post into Day 1 and Day 2. The third day was devoted to full-day workshops.

Screenshot of Phone Count tally, 25 October 2012 (http://phonecount.com)

In his opening keynote, Mobile Learning: Past, Present & Future, Gary Woodill noted that there are different histories that underpin mobile learning. Learning before classrooms was mobile and social, and people learned by watching and talking to others. The printing press allowed standardisation, which helped foster the rise of modern classrooms. In the 1770s in Prussia many modern schooling concepts were developed: the idea of sitting at desks; putting up your hand for questions; recess and detention. Students were immobilised behind desks.

Mobile learning restores the idea of being in context while you’re learning.  There is a long tradition of learning without classrooms, on field trips, excursions, in apprenticeship situations. Mobile learning taps into this tradition.

One of the first school level mobile projects was the Wireless Coyote Project, run by Apple in 1991. In 1998, the HANDLeR project was run at the University of Birmingham by Mike Sharples. Clark Quinn defined mobile learning in an article in LiNE Zine in 2000, and then a flurry of mobile learning articles followed. Initially people saw mobile learning as an extension of e-learning, but now the focus has changed to the learner being mobile. The first mLearn conference was held at the University of Birmingham in 2002. IAMLearn was launched in 2007.

Mobile learning, Woodill argued, is an ecosystem consisting of devices, networks, and so on.  We are just at the start of Stage 2 in the scheme below:

  • Stage 1 – New technology applied to old problems (including coursebook & textbook delivery online, and use of LMSs, which are an example of a classroom metaphor that has not left us yet)
  • Stage 2 – Variations and mashups – struggle for ‘dominant design’
  • Stage 3 – New uses, new improved technologies

Key affordances of mobile technologies include:

  • Mobility
  • Ubiquity
  • Accessibility
  • Connectivity
  • Context sensitivity
  • Individuality
  • plus more

New uses of mobile technologies, which come under Stage 3, include:

  1. Social networking (e.g., ordinary users of the net spreading news before journalists report  it; or users of InstantMe, the mobile version of PatientsLikeMe; there is a real sense of community and emotional connectedness)
  2. Data Collection (e.g., citizen science such as on a mobile app like HealthMap)
  3. Live Trend Tracking (e.g., improved responses to disasters and outbreaks, or data on traffic jams, often provided automatically by phones without user input)
  4. Just-in-Time Information (e.g., the Baby helpline on 511411 in the USA; QR codes and Google Goggles also fit in here)
  5. Augmented Reality (e.g., see the Medical training Augmented Reality video)
  6. Mobile Games (e.g., the How Healthy is Your Food? app)
  7. Location-Based Apps (e.g., the WikiMe app)
  8. Storytelling (can create records and put them together in specific ways)
  9. Lifecasting (allows you to learn by revisiting experiences at a later date)
  10. Performance Support (e.g., on-the-job support, medical support for post-operative patients – this is a trend towards DIY health)
  11. External Interactivity (e.g., the BBC Bird Flu billboard in New York, where the public could text in responses)
  12. Haptics (e.g., the hug shirt or the kiss phone)
  13. Self-Tracking (e.g., tracking your own exercise, heart rate, etc; see The Virtual Self by Nora Young; there is also a trend towards self-tracking of informal learning: for example using Tin Can API, an extension of SCORM, or an app like Tappestry)
  14. Co-ordination (e.g., for emergency services; ‘vote mobs’)
  15. Collaboration
  16. Collective Behaviour (as seen in the Arab Spring)

Woodill’s predictions for the near future (around 5 years) include the following:

  • Mobile becomes ubiquitous (‘MobiComp’) (as we move from mobile learning to context-aware u-learning, using sensor technologies, mobile devices, and wireless communications)
  • New mobile interfaces arrive (such as contact lenses which measure health from fluid in the eyes)
  • Mobile devices become embodied (see: Mobile Interface Theory by Jason Farman, e.g., on the use of brainwaves to control technology)
  • Mobile learning goes 3D
  • A new gesture control language (including ‘surface computing’,  where there are projections onto your hand or body)
  • Sensors become integrated (see: Body Sensor Networks edited by Guang-Zhong Yang)
  • Device shape shifting (see: The Shape-Shifting Future of the Mobile Phone by Fabian Hemmert on TED)

In summary, before classrooms, learning was social, contextual and mobile, but classroom learning immobilised learning. Web 2.0 led to networked social learning. Mobile devices have now led to mobile learning. Woodill suggested that using mobile devices only in the classroom is like only using your car radio while parked in the garage.

We’re already beginning to move beyond mobile learning. Education and training have become mobile, networked, cloud based, curated, open, social, informal, location-based, shared, contextual, ubiquitous, peer generated, learner generated, filtered, collaborative, gamified, and personalised.  What will we call this? It’s not just mobile. We don’t have a good metaphor for this yet.

He concluded by outlining the ongoing impact of mobile learning along the following lines:

  1. Continuous learning for all
  2. Everyone can be a learner, everyone can be a teacher
  3. Increased access for those lacking education
  4. Innovation can come from anywhere
  5. New generation of leadership in technology
  6. Organisational disruption

In their talk, Oceans of Innovation, Sir Michael Barber and Saad Rizvi gave important background and context to others’ presentations on mobile learning, as they discussed the content of their recent publication of the same name.

A thousand years ago, the centre of gravity of the global economy (measured by GDP) was in Asia, but there was a gradual shift of dominance towards Europe and America. From 1950 onwards, we saw Asian economies begin to rise again, and in the last 10 years we have seen the most dramatic shift in history towards Asia. This will continue in coming years.

There are major challenges ahead in the coming half century, which require global leadership. But there is no clear leadership at the moment.  Global leadership develops when there is innovation, which leads to economic growth, which leads to economic influence, which in turn leads to global leadership. As the centre of gravity shifts eastwards, the important leaders of coming years may well be from the Pacific region. More precisely, the future leaders will emerge from the education systems of this region. The PISA results and TIMSS results show that there are very effective education systems in the Pacific region. An average 15-year-old in Singapore is performing about 2 years ahead of an average 15-year-old in the UK or US. They even have a lead in English, though it is a second language for many.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that these students have other skills like entrepreneurial skills. In other words, is the education system as measured by PISA and TIMSS enough to generate the kind of innovation and leadership that is needed to address global issues? No – it’s a good foundation, but it’s not sufficient. Well-educated means: E ( K + T + L), i.e.,

  • E [Ethical Knowledge]
  • K [Knowledge, i.e., Know-What & Know-How]
  • T [Thinking = all teachers helping students to think in different ways, creatively or deductively, rapidly or reflectively]
  • L [Leadership = the ability to influence those around you, to be persuasive, to be empathetic and listen, to influence decisions on all levels).

Countries like Singapore are well-placed to develop this knowledge and these skills, and develop global leadership.

They suggested that we need to rethink 45-minute back-to-back lessons. Maybe students can use mobile technologies and learn outside the classroom. The flipped classroom model provides one option. We also have to find ways of using new technologies to assess and test the new skills in new ways. Students can acquire reading, writing, maths skills at the same time as they learn new skills.

Barber and Rizvi presented an Innovation Framework for future education, arguing for whole system reform as well as systemic innovation leading to whole system revolution. With the educational changes of recent years, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ontario, Finland  (they suggested that though it is a very unique society and its lessons are difficult to replicate, what we can learn from is Finland’s recruitment of the most talented people into education) and Australia (under Julia Gillard’s reforms) are among the countries and regions  which are best placed to get this set of changes right.  Technology and mobile learning will be an important part of this. They noted that an excessive deference – as is sometimes found in some Asia-Pacific nations – can limit innovation. Students have to learn to question, to challenge, to debate. Much of the world’s innovation comes from large, diverse cities, and Singapore is well-placed in this regard.

In his presentation, Technology Enabling Education, Suan Yeo, from Google Enterprise Education, gave an overview of current trends from Google’s perspective. He noted that the second billion smartphone users are now coming online around the world (see: The Second Billion Smartphone Users by Jon Evans).  How we learned is not how our students learn.

It was the case 20 years ago that students went to school to access sophisticated equipment; but now the equipment students have at home is often more sophisticated than what is at school. The kids growing up today are going to expect technology to just work; they don’t want to think about messy operating systems, upgrades, patches and so on. Some things students of the future won’t need to learn include how to use paper maps; how to use a mouse; or how to burn CDs or DVDs. Banning new technologies in class is not an answer; students find a way around bans. Instead, we need to teach students how to use technologies, about digital citizenship, and so on. Learning analytics is a current major trend.

He made a number of points related to the growing importance of mobile learning and, in particular, Google’s emphasis on the browser as the key platform of the future:

  • Mobile has become students’ first choice for internet access.
  • Technology has to enable learning outside the classroom. Many schools are shifting away from closed classrooms and moving to an open learning model.
  • Using the OLPC program, the next generation of users can leapfrog a generation.
  • Using open technology is crucial in education – through the Khan Academy, Udacity, Gooru, Coursera and so on.
  • It is important to give everyone open access to information. Whatever the platform or operating system, the one common factor is the browser.
  • Google is starting to view the web as a learning platform. Google is betting that the web is here to stay, and so delivers many services through the web. It believes that the browser (notably its own browser, Chrome) will become the desktop of the future. This allows a unified experience as you move between different devices, e.g., desktop computer, tablet, mobile phone.
  • Google’s tools like Gmail, Google Docs, and so on, are designed to allow you to access anything from anywhere.
  • Google Docs allows people to collaborate from anywhere.
  • YouTube is Google’s second most popular service after Google Search. YouTube is now the second largest search engine in the world. There are more than 700,000 educational videos on YouTube. YouTube is also a way of connecting with other people and crowdsourcing your learning.
  • Google’s Project Glass might allow people to get rid of phones eventually with wearable technology (see Project Glass on Google+ or the Project Glass: One Day … video on YouTube)

In his talk, Scaling Up Mobile Learning, Chee-Kit Looi asked what kind of curriculum we need to make use of the affordances of mobile technologies. While it may work in one classroom with one teacher, how can we make it work for the average teacher? Many countries are going 1:1, but what is a good pedagogical model that is sustainable? And how do we bridge informal and formal learning?

There are both planned and emergent learning spaces mediated by 1:1 mobile devices; some are outside class and some are in class:

  • Type I: Planned learning in class
  • Type II: Planned learning out of class (e.g., an excursion)
  • Type III: Emergent learning out of class (e.g., students use mobile phones to capture pictures)
  • Type IV: Emergent learning in class (when students inquire about some element of the lesson)

A smartphone can be a learning hub for all these types of learning, and it can be an essential part of the lessons. In comparing primary science classes, one of which worked with mobile devices integrated into their learning, there was improvement in student scores. Having students create animated sketches can help the teacher identify misunderstandings, for example. The teacher felt it deepened the students’ thinking and improved the quality of the questions they were asking.

There are advantages of scaling up this approach:

  • The research study showed gains in subject matter, positive attitudes to subject learning, new media literacy, and good learning habits – self-directed learning
  • There is more holistic learning with mobile devices as learning hubs to support seamless learning inside and outside the classroom
  • Teachers developed constructivist practices

Strategies for scaling up include:

  • Regular sharing at the TTTs
  • Teachers practise mock lessons
  • Lesson study through video-recorded classroom sessions
  • Customising lesson plans for high, middle and low achievers

Success with mobile devices is due to these factors:

  • Curriculum integration; the devices are not just an add-on
  • Mobile devices are personal to students and they have 24/7 access
  • Intensive PD
  • Strong leadership support

In summary, a mobilised curriculum can make a difference to students’ learning (engagement, self-directed learning, and collaborative learning).  It is important to find ways of scaling it within schools and across schools.

In her presentation, Mummies, War Zones, and Pompeii: The Use of Tablet Computers in Situated and On-the-Go Learning, Terese Bird outlined three projects involving mobile technologies:

  1. Mummies: Windows tablets were used by Museum Studies Masters students (not 1:1). This involved a cleverly designed PowerPoint presentation which had the feel of an app, and included information and videos from British Museum staff. It was used to support students on museum trips. At the same time, students could make their own multimedia recordings. They had to email in their multimedia-rich reflections by 10am the next day, which led to a much richer learning experience.
  2.  War Zones: iPads were used by MSc in Security, Conflict and International Development students on a 1:1 basis. The iPads contained a tailored app, SCID, designed by KuKuApps of Leicester, including key learning resources like e-books and OERs which could be accessed even without an internet connection. Many of the students were located in conflict zones and could not always access the internet.
  3.  Pompeii : archaeology researchers in Pompeii used iPads to superimpose archaeological data on photos. This supported note-taking, and data was synchronised wirelessly with a central database.

Thus, on Day 1 of the conference, a wide range of devices and platforms was presented, with presentations cohering around the value of mobile learning both in enhancing the classroom and in fostering contextual learning outside the classroom.