Tag: mobile learning (page 1 of 2)

Launch of the Mobile Learning infoKit

Yesterday I launched JISC infoNet‘s new Mobile Learning infoKit at ALT-C 2011. Here’s an overview:

The infoKit is designed to augment JISC’s new Emerging Practice in a Digital Age guide (also launched yesterday). If you’re interested in mobile learning you may also want to check out the JISC Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review I authored a few months ago. 🙂

The future of learning organizations: What do we mean by ‘attendance’?

At the JISC Conference 2011 I presented with JISC Digital Media on Using Digital Media to Improve Teaching and Learning. For my part of the presentation I used the question of what we mean by ‘attendance’ as a framework:

This was picked up by the editors of JISC Inform and tomorrow I’m being interviewed for an upcoming issue of the online magazine. I’ve been asked the following questions, and below that I’ve written up notes in preparation into some kind of coherent format.

  1. How do you think student attendance relates to their performance?
  2. How do you think students measure their engagement/ attendance?
  3. How do lecturers and other educational professionals measure student attendance?
  4. How would you define ‘attendance’?  Which definition works best?
  5. What are the issues associated with measuring attendance when students don’t have to be physically present – for example when they are accessing courses online or using mobile learning technology like an educational iphone app?
  6. How can wise technology use help overcome those issues?
  7. What needs to change about the way we approach teaching and learning to get over this?

In my presentation at the JISC Conference I pointed out that dictionary definitions of ‘attendance’ can be organised into three main categories. The first is attention-based and involves applying your mind to a thing as well as some form of effort. This is obviously something that we want in learning organizations* and we often call this ‘engagement’.

The second type of attendance centres around the idea of service. This is what many would see as a rather 19th-century idea of subservience: somebody waiting upon the actions or decisions of a superior. I would suggest that learning organizations might want to move away from this kind of definition of ‘attendance’.

Third, and finally, comes the definition of attendance as involving community. That’s to say individuals are present at an event that relies upon interaction around a resource or proceeding. Live concerts, court summons and webinars can all be examples of attendance as community.

If attendance is best conceptualised as attention-based and community-based then what does this mean for learning organizations? Does it mean the death of the lecture? Is it possible to measure these types of attendance in the way that you can with the service-based conception?

A while ago, John Popham got me thinking when he mentioned, almost en passant, that learning organizations coud be using something like Foursquare or Facebook Places for registration. This fits in well with, for example, Jesse Schell’s work on the ‘gameification’ of life that’s happening through Facebook, iPhone/Android apps and social media in general.

Technology, therefore, is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for social changes to take place. For example: there were mobile phones powerful enough to do what the original iPhone did before 2007 but it took the idea of ‘apps’ for the use of smartphones to really take off. In that sense, it’s the culture and social norms around technology that matter rather than the devices and communications technologies themselves.

Increasingly, and especially in a market-driven learning organizations like that being created in the UK, educational institutions are going to be forced to go where they can get the most engagement. Take the London School of Business and Finance, for example, who have recently launched a Facebook MBA Application. As ReadWriteWeb puts it:

When Bill Gates said recently that in the next five years the best education will be found online, I’m not sure he was thinking about Facebook as the educational platform of the future. But the London School of Business and Finance is, and today the school announces a new course that will make its MBA course materials available online for free, delivered via a Facebook app.

Of course, if you want to actually get your MBA, you’ll have to fulfill the pre-requisites for the program (you need the equivalent of a Bachelor’s Degree) and you’ll have to pay for the credits and examinations, offered through the University of Wales. The LSBF MBA will cost you £11,500 for British students and £14,500 for overseas students.

The three areas I’m researching at JISC infoNet** – Open Educational Resources (OERs), mobile learning and digital literacies (the latter also for my doctoral thesis) – are part of wider changes that I think can be understood using the ‘attendance framework’. Constant contact, previously only possible through physical co-location, leads to interaction, and interaction to engagement.

The first thing from my research is that I think we’re seeing a move away from the educator’s right to lecture towards the learner’s right to learn in personalised and tailored ways. This, along with the ability to use OERs within iTunesU, OpenCourseware, etc. for marketing purposes means learning organizations can justify less face-to-face ‘broadcast’ time and more interaction time. There are, nevetheless, proscribed numbers of ‘contact’ hours which, unfortunately only count if face-to-face. That will undoubtedly change and, as with the example of Michael Sandel’s Justice course at Harvard, prospective students will be able to base their decision on which learning organization to attend based on observable teaching and learning experiences.

The second area, mobile learning, is – as I mentioned in these video interviews – a trojan horse for new ways of working and learning. We now take for granted having a device in our pockets that can help us communicate with or broadcast to almost anyone in the world. The opportunities for peer-to-peer learning, as Graham Brown Martin points out in The Napsterfication of Learning, are huge. If post-compulsory learning organizations don’t ensure they have a compelling value proposition, mobile learning could propel them towards a crisis of relevance.

My third area of research is digital literacies, a much-misunderstood topic and one which will soon be the subject of a JISC call for funding. Two of the key things holding back learning organizations from embracing new ways of teaching and learning are the inter-related issues of institutional culture and staff competencies in the digital arena. The two go hand-in-hand: there’s not need for the latter if the former decrees it’s ‘business as usual’. It’s up to those in the senior leadership of learning organizations to convince staff that it’s certainly not ‘business as usual’ and that we’re entering a brave new world where we’re making up the ‘rules’ (if there are any) as we go along.

In conclusion, then, the future isn’t in ‘virtual attendance’ via some kind of Second Life-style ‘avatar as self’. The future of learning institutions is in moving away from service-based definitions of attendance and towards attendance as attention and community. Using that kind of framework or organising schema will help whether there is a business case for continuing existing practices or, indeed, encouraging new ones. Embracing OERs, mobile learning and digital literacies looks to me like the mark of a forward-thinking learning organization.

* I prefer the term ‘learning organizations’ to ‘educational institutions’. Feel free to mentally substitute the latter for the former if you wish.

** A reminder that my research is available at: http://dougbelshaw.com/research

My favourite quotations from ‘Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use’

Teaching with the Tools Kids Really UseIn my current role at JISC infoNet I’m working on a Mobile Learning infoKit to be released later this year. One of the books I’ve been reading in my research for that resource is Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use: Learning with Web and Mobile Technologies. Whilst it has some relevance to Further and Higher Education I think it’s more directly applicable to schools.

As I did with 10 things I learned from ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’, the following are some choice quotations from the book:

Failure to adapt

In the long run, [the] flattening of the world can be advantageous for everyone. But to realize these benefits, people from all walks of life, including (and perhaps especially) educators, need to let go of doing business and usual and begin adapting to the changing world. Emerging nations have been quick to pick up the gauntlet – perhaps because they had little to lose and everything to gain. Developed nations have been more resistant to making the changes needed to thrive in this new global society – perhaps because they fear they have everything to lose. But not taking action is a recipe for failure for these nations. (p.1)

Need for more use in order to develop effective models

[W]e find ourselves in the equivalent of the frontier. Until we are able to openly explore effective uses of these technologies as tools for teaching and learning, we are not going to be able to cite good models. (p.3)

Effective education and technology

Effective education is the foundation of successful societies. But in recent years, at least in developed countries, the survival of the existing institution seems to have trumped the importance of providing relevant, timely instruction. This trend can be changed, but the time to take action is now. One way to move education forward is to embrace emerging technologies that make it possible to implement programs where students master core academic content, hone applied 21st-century skills, and learn how to find success in an increasingly digital world. (p.3)

The futility of banning mobile phones

How does [routine confiscation of mobile phones] waste time? Because many students are turning over either old, disconnected phones or replica phones, which they have purchased online for about two dollars. Students cheerfully relinquish and retrieve these devices each period while retaining possession of their real phones… It is far better to find positive ways cell phones can be used as tools for teaching and learning by identifying and enforcing realising parameters within which students may have cell phones in their possession than to fight what is ultimately a losing – and unnecessary – battle. (p.15)

Mobile phones and etiquette

Students misuse cell phones in exactly [the same ways as the rest of society]. But how are they to learn better behavior without appropriate adult models who take the time to teach digital etiquette? Granted, parents need to take responsibility for teaching good manners to their children, but so do teachers and other school personnel who often spend more waking hours with students than do their parents! (p.18-19)

1:1 requires pedagogical underpinning

Experts generally agree that purchasing and installing equipment to reach a 1:1 ratio of students to computing devices is not enough to make a difference in academic achievement. For this investment to pay off, teachers need to rethink their approach to instruction by trying out student-centred strategies that focus on collaboration, communication, and problem solving. In short, although online research and word processing have their place, these activities are starting – not ending – points. (p.41-2)

Objections should not be deal-breakers

Unfortunately… objections are often used as deal breakers. Although it’s important that these concerns be put on the table, the driving purpose should be to enable educators to have open discussions about potential unintended consequences. Once everyone’s concerns are out in the open, it’s possible to consider solutions or strategies for working around problems. (p.113)

Exciting times for educators

This is an exciting time to be an educator. The possibilities for reaching and engaging students are growing daily. As new tools for communication and collaboration continue to be developed and made readily available to people around the world, educators continually need to adapt their approach to instruction to ensure that classroom activities remain relevant. Fortunately, these changes are doable. All that’s required is the will to move forward. (p.121)

e-Learning: Mobile learning, VLEs and Quality [video]

At the Plymouth e-Learning Conference last week Brian Carroll from Crimzn.com grabbed me for an interview about all things e-Learning.

Mobile devices in e-Learning : Doug Belshaw, JISC InfoNet from NLIAH Leaders on Vimeo.

The clip above is one of six available here:

  1. Mobile Devices in e-Learning
  2. Enabling Content creators in e-Learning
  3. VLEs v Ease of Virtual Learning
  4. Justifying a VLE
  5. Quality of e-Learning Resources
  6. Adding Value to e-Learning materials

The videos are for The National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare (NLIAH).

Exploring Mobile: Considerations and Opportunities

I’m presenting with Zak Mensah of JISC Digital Media at the Plymouth e-Learning Conference today. Our slides are below, for what it’s worth (given that there’ll be plenty of audience interaction!)

Mobile phone ban? #govephonehome

If you believe that mobile phones aren’t just used by young people for bullying, ‘happy slapping’ and distracting each other from learning, then you need to get involved with this:


mobiMOOC: 2 April – 14 May 2011

mobiMOOCOne thing I’m working on in my role at JISC infoNet at the moment is a Mobile Learning infoKit. It should be ready in time to complement the launch of JISC’s Emerging Practice in a Digital Age guide at ALT-C 2011.

After the JISC Mobile & Wireless Technologies Review I carried out at the end of 2010, I’m keen to find out out the practice behind the theory and strategy I discussed in that (17,000-word!) review and have been looking for opportunities to do so. Thankfully, I’ve found just the thing.

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course, ably explained by Dave Cormier:

A mobiMOOC is running from 2nd April until 14th May 2011 and anyone can take part! There’s a host of well-known names in the mobile learning world running sessions and facilitating, so I’m very much looking forward to it.

The benefit of the MOOC approach, of course, is that you can dip in-and-out at will, set your own learning goals, and (being mainly asynchronous) fit it around the rest of your life.

I hope you’ll join us.

My research is your research.


In the spirit of ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’ and ‘you are what you share’, I present:


I’ve seeded it with OER, mobile learning and digital literacies. There’s also a found, an electic repository of interesting stuff I come across.

This can be considered part of my ongoing project to streamline and share each part of my workflow. See Web apps and workflows for more by way of explanation. You’ll notice I’ve added a ‘Research’ link in the top navigation for ease-of-access.

The Mobile Learning Edge: Tools and Technologies for Developing Your Teams [Review]


The Mobile Learning EdgeWhen it arrived last Monday, my wife – in that way that only I would notice – looked at me semi-accusingly. “Another book, eh?” she seemed to say, “I thought got your books via your Kindle now?” I swear that the reason old people don’t tend to say much is because they know what the other person’s thinking.

The Mobile Learning Edge: Tools and Technologies for Developing Your Teams winged its way from Canada to the UK courtesy of my responding to a tweet from Gary calling for reviewers. As I’m currently writing a JISC Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review, it seemed rather serendipitous.

The Conclusion

In ancient times, people cut to the chase. Take St. Paul’s letters, for example. He states who he is first and only then greets the elders at the church to which he is writing. It’s always puzzled me that people only indicate who the letter is from at the very end; at least with emails you know who it’s from straight away by virtue of their email address.

So, my conclusion? The Mobile Learning Edge (hereafter MLE) is worth reading by those interested in mobile learning in a formal educational context. Whilst it (presumably due to encouragement by McGraw-Hill, the publisher) tries to be all things to all men, it nevertheless has value to those working in and with educational institutions. Woodill expertly collates and synthesizes information, presenting it in an engaging and convincing way.

Every book has its weaknesses. There is, for example, at times an uneasy glossing and assumed-similarity between the needs of those in formal learning situations and those within businesses. In addition the way in which the book is written seems to purposely align the author with initiatives in which he played no part.

But to overly-criticize MLE would be churlish. It is a readable, reasonably-comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the current state of play in the mobile learning arena. If it were available for the Kindle for £10 (as it should be) I’d recommend it without reservation. As it is, it comes recommended.

The Overview

I have to admit to chuckling a little when I read the opening pages of MLE. Only the day before I had commented about the paucity of metaphors that I come across in educational contexts. It was only after reading the whole of the introduction to MLE that I realised Woodill was setting up – quite cleverly, I thought – the rest of the book to call for a return to authentic learning. He indicates, and purports to show, that mobile learning is our natural way of learning: sitting in classrooms is something alien to us.

Figure 5.5 on page 184 of MLE features an engraving from eighteenth century Europe showing one of the most crowded, although admittedly neatest, classrooms you will ever see. Context is one of the strengths of the book: Woodill is a master at putting things in their historical place, charting the development of technologies and pointing out significances. Granted, in some cases such generalizations could be contested and rely on the tried-and-tested metaphors of hunter-gatherer communities and the industrial revolution, but they are, on the whole, sound.

Of the ten chapters that make up MLE, around seven will be of immediate interest and utility to educators not directly involved with the overall strategy of their organization. Those who do occupy such senior positions will find enlightening the chapter contributed by David Fell, interim CEO of a broadband corporation. In it, Fell discusses of the importance of ‘co-opetition’, a term that will become increasingly familiar to those in charge of schools, colleges and universities.

Easily the best part of Fell’s chapter, however, is his inclusion of and discussion around the following diagram from Ambient Insight:

"A Perfect Storm" Drives Adoption of Mobile Learning

Whilst usually skeptical of diagrams that look designed-for-Powerpoint this one nicely summarizes why now, in the current context, is a great time for institutions to be pursuing mobile learning initiatives.

The second contributed chapter comes from Sheryl Herle, a corporate learning consultant. This, unsurprisingly, deals with Return On Investment (ROI) and business-focused strategy. The chapter does, however, contain some gems that I’ve saved for future use, including the advice that you should be focusing on what you don’t want people to do rather than narrowly defining what you do want them to do; that IT Services/Support’s job is to deal with security threats and network stability – which is why they often oppose ‘innovation’; and that whilst it’s possible to come up with ROI figures for mobile learning initiatives they’re unlikely to be comprehensive or realistic.

Returning to the main author, Gary Woodill’s contribution to MLE, it is clear – and indeed he tells us – that he used to be a teacher. Not only that, but his doctorate (like mine) is an Ed.D. For all the discussion of ‘corporate learning’ and ’employees’, Woodill’s pedagogical background pervades MLE. Take, for example, the structure of the chapter ‘Learning by Communicating, Interacting, and Networking’:

  • Quotation
  • High-level overview setting the scene
  • Problem (disruption of mobile)
  • Some truths (we are social beings)
  • Examples
  • Case study
  • Theory supporting examples
  • Recommendations

The above, fleshed out, could form a lesson plan. This structure and method of presentation makes MLE a satisfying read.

This, as the author would admit, is a book of its time. It’s relevance in a few years’ time will be less powerful but, for now, the appendices, featuring links to relevant blogs and academic articles are a goldmine. Woodill indicates on his companion site to the book, mobilelearningedge.com that there will be a second edition of MLE and that he will use the related site to keep the content fresh.

I hope this is the case. 🙂

Weeknote #21

This week I have been mostly…

Delivering on projects

I launched two new things yesterday:

Finding out more about mobile learning

Wednesday was a 17.5 hour working day for me, but worth it! I was down in London for the MoLeNET conference and awards ceremony because of the JISC mobile & wireless technologies review I’m currently undertaking.

Such enthusiasm! Such transformational projects and learning experiences! Awesome.

Playing around with video

After reading about the importance of online video for, well, everything, I thought it was time I played around with it a bit more. Hence:

Looking after my son

I’ve been looking after Ben for the last three Fridays as my Mam is currently visiting my Dad in the United Arab Emirates. (Happy 61st Birthday Dad!) For the first two of these that meant dropping him off and picking him up from school nursery then spending the afternoon together. However, he was running a temperature yesterday, so didn’t go in and wasn’t up to doing much active stuff apart from the inevitable ‘Calpol half-hour’ after taking some medicine…