Want a tablet? Choose your vendor lock-in.

Ever wondered why Mozilla’s Firefox web browser exists? It’s because about 10 years ago Microsoft had sewn-up about 90% of the market and was creating vendor lock-in through anti-competitive practices. You can read about this in the History of the Mozilla Project. Happily, Mozilla were successful and now there’s at least two high-quality alternatives to Microsoft Internet Explorer – which itself has become more aligned with web standards. It’s a win for everyone who uses the web.

The next battleground is mobile. Although Google’s Android mobile Operating System (OS) is billed as ‘open’, for example, it’s not really developed in the usual Open Source way: the source code tends to be released long after each iteration of the OS. Apple, meanwhile, maintains a notoriously closed ecosystem with a stringent procedure for inclusion in their App Store. They also control how you can get things on and off iOS devices in order to make money from the iTunes store.

Amazon, meanwhile, is a fairly new to the mobile device game. They’ve taken Android and significantly modified it – including defaulting to their own app store. They’ve slashed the price of the Kindle Fire 2 (with, cleverly, ‘special offers and sponsored screensavers’) for Black Friday* making it a loss-leader. They’re betting on making the money back through Kindle book purchases, Amazon Prime subscriptions, and Lovefilm streaming.

So even though we may have multiple vendors it’s essentially similar problem to the Internet Explorer issue ten years ago. You may get shiny new ways to consume things that the vendor is selling you, but it’s not a great situation, overall.

You want a tablet? For Christmas 2012 that means you’re going to need to choose your vendor lock-in.

Thankfully, all this is set to change in 2013. Why? Two reasons. First, Mozilla are working on Firefox OS built entirely of standards-based web technologies. Secondly, Ubuntu Linux is being developed for mobile devices like the Nexus 7 and (even more excitingly) you’ll soon be able to run an entire desktop OS from your docked smartphone.

My conclusion? Buy a tablet if you have to, but be aware that real choice is around the corner…

(this was an attempt to write my version of the NSFW (but excellent) post by Terence Eden)

*The cynical nature of this marketing ploy is bad enough when tied to American Thanksgiving. It’s even worse when standing alone in the UK context.

Image CC BY-SA tribehut

 

BYOD and cross-platform tools for learning.

I had a really interesting conversation on Twitter with Fraser Speirs and Dave Major this morning about ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) and cross-platform tools for learning. You can see that conversation ‘storyified’ here.

I’ve blogged before about why a ‘mixed economy’ of device is best for educational institutions and I’d like to expand upon that briefly with three main points:

1. Learning is something that happens in the brain of learners. You might be able to give them consistency of device and platform but you can’t guarantee that they will have the same experience. Therefore, using that as a reason to go with one particular device is problematic.

2. Educators need to focus on activities rather than tools. One of the examples that Apple advocates often give of the superiority of iPads is GarageBand. It’s an awesome application, but it’s not a learning activity. I’d be really interested in discovering which learning activities can only be carried out on one type of device. I suspect you won’t find any.

3. What we do in classrooms is linked to, but should not be driven by, market forces. We can only buy and use what’s available, but we don’t have to be taken in by the rhetoric of companies. After all, they’re in it to make money. How the world turns out is much more in the hands of educators than anyone else.

Remember that. 🙂

Image CC BY Domenic K.

 

My mobile learning article for the Guardian Teacher Network

Whilst I was enjoying the sun in Malta and Gozo last week the Guardian Teacher Network published an article I wrote entitled How to use mobile devices in the classroom. It’s a piece I wrote originally in the wake of the #govephonehome debacle and then edited for publication a couple of months ago. It links to the lesson plan and presentation that regular readers of this blog will already have seen. 🙂

I wouldn’t have used the image included in the article as I think it displays the opposite logic to the position I’m arguing; it posits a negative whilst I’m espousing a positive. I suggested the photograph above but am at the mercy of editors!

I’m speaking at the Guardian Innovation in Education event next month. There’s still tickets left and the website features an interview with me here.

Image CC BY mortsan

 

JISC Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review

If you’re reading this via email, RSS or a non Flash-enabled device the embedded media probably won’t work. My presentation is on Slideshare and the mobile review is accessible at http://mobilereview.jiscpress.org. Alternatively click here to view this post on the blog. 🙂

Since starting at JISC infoNet in April 2010 I’ve worked on a OER infoKit and a learning and teaching upgrade to the Digital Repositories infoKit, both with the talented Lou McGill. Back in July I wrote a successful proposal to embark on a mobile and wireless technologies review for the JISC e-Learning programme. It grew to be a much larger piece of work than I envisaged, probably because I enjoyed researching and writing it so much! I’ve interviewed, met and read about wonderful people doing fantastic things in mobile learning.

I’ve now finished that review and it stands at about the same length as my MA dissertation. Wow. You can access various versions of the mobile and wireless technologies review via http://mobilereview.jiscpress.org or directly below (click to enlarge):

In addition, here’s a presentation I’m making to a JISC Review Board meeting today about my findings (you might want to view it on Slideshare with the notes on!)

I’d love to hear your feedback on the review, either here or at the JISCPress site. 😀

 

Weeknote #25

This week I have been mostly…

Reading mobile-related stuff

I’ve been reading some fantastic stuff this week, the highlights being the Proceedings of mLearn 2010 and Education in the Wild: contextual and location-based mobile learning in action. I shall be synthesizing them at On The Horizon next week and writing the draft of my JISC Mobile & Wireless Technologies Review the week after.

Playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2

I very rarely buy full-price video games but I was so impressed by the online, multiplayer Battlefield:1943 that when my brother-in-law and family came to visit this week I bought Battlefield: Bad Company 2 whilst it was on offer in the local supermarket. I’ve played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (albeit briefly) but prefer Bad Company 2 for some reason.

Demoing Google Apps for Education

JISC infoNet, for whom I work (via Northumbria University) is part of an umbrella organization called JISC Advance. The latter includes JISC’s Regional Support Centres, of which there are 13. One of these, RSC South West asked me to demo Google Apps for Education to IT managers as I’ve experience with it both in my previous position as Director of E-Learning at an Academy and in my current role within JISC Advance.

I decided to create a video for people to go back to. Here it is, for what it’s worth (bearing in mind someone else had already gone through the email and technical side of things…)

Thinking about emigrating

Previously, when it hasn’t been half-term, this week before the clocks go back to GMT has been the worst for me. It’s just so dark and depressing. I can guarantee that this time next year, in 2011, we’ll either be on holiday somewhere sunny or have moved abroad! :-p

 

Weeknote #24

This week I have been mostly..

In Malta
I spent Tuesday until midnight last night travelling to and from, and attending, mLearn 2010. One of the largest mobile-related conferences in the world, mLearn was not only held in a great location, but attracted some top names.

Of course, there was the usual conference idiosyncrasies, but overall both the quality of research and social aspect were solid. People really do need to learn how to present more engagingly, though and not rely on tiny sample sizes. I met some really interesting people and it was nice and Malta was sunny most of the time.

I’ll be writing about my experiences of mLearn over at my conference blog sometime this weekend. 😀

Putting the new version of my thesis structure online
I met with my thesis supervisor via Skype on Monday to discuss my progress over the last few months. I’m happy with how things are going and, perhaps more importantly, so is he! My thesis is much better structured now. Whilst I’ll not be submitting on 1st January 2011 (my earliest submission date) next Easter is looking good. More here.

Considering my future
Next year is crunch year. If I want to return to working in schools at senior management level it would have to be for 2011/12. Whilst that could be sensible given my 2-year contract with JISC infoNet, I’m not entirely sure whether that’s in my own or my family’s best interests. And, besides, I’m enjoying myself with in FE/HE. 🙂

 

Weeknote #16

This week I have been mostly…

Sorting out my presentation for ALT-C

I’ve never been to ALT-C, mainly because it’s:

  • Right at the start of the academic year (a difficult time to get out of schools)
  • Focused mainly on further and higher education

This year I’m presenting with a colleague on behalf of JISC Advance. I’m really looking forward to finding out more both to aid the mobile and wireless technologies review I’m currently undertaking and my Ed.D. thesis. Lots of top-notch people are going to be there! 🙂

Launching a new blog

I’ve been looking for blogs relating to mobile technologies in education and have found there’s a dearth of them. I contacted Nick Dennis who agreed to start a new tumblr-powered blog with me at http://mobilizingeducation.tumblr.com. I’m sure he’ll get around to writing a post sooner or later… :-p

Getting up early

I’ve been up before 5am twice this week (I’m usually up at 6am) to work on my thesis. I’m much better at thinking clearly in the mornings and need not to be disturbed by a certain 3 year-old! The planned regime until I finish my thesis (which wasn’t quite achieved this week) is:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday – work 4.30-6.30am on thesis, do weights in evening
  • Tuesday, Thursday – go for 3 mile run in morning, work on thesis during lunch break
  • Saturday – go for 3 mile run in morning, work on thesis all afternoon

Feeling like I should be on holiday

Working in the education sector during August is like being in a ghost town. There were only two of us in the office yesterday afternoon at JISC infoNet and almost everyone you email is their Out of Office autoreply on…

 

Intention vs. Effect

Like many people I had, up until a couple of days ago, the following appended to all my outgoing emails from my iPhone:

Sent from my iPhone.

My thinking? They’ll understand why I haven’t written a longer reply. That was my intention.

But the effect? Variously:

  • I’ve got an iPhone. You haven’t. Ergo, you suck.
  • You’re not important enough for me to spend longer replying to  you.
  • I’m busy. Leave me alone.
  • I don’t know how to change the default message on my iPhone. Ergo, I suck.

The effect was vastly different to my intention.

So what have I done about it? Replaced it with:

– – – – –

http://bit.ly/dajbelshaw

http://five.sentenc.es

At the top is a shortened link to my Google profile, whilst underneath is a website that states that it is my policy to use no more than five sentences (where possible) to reply to an email.

How does that make the recipient feel now? Is the effect closer to my intention?

I think so.

 
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