Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mobile learning

I've often thought that mobile learning is going to be an even more exciting development than traditional eLearning. Even in developing countries, mobile phones are well used (here in Thailand, I'm often embarrassed by how old my phone is compared to the young people on the SkyTrain). So their potential for unlocking a much more accessible approach for education is huge.

There is some interesting work going on in Europe, based on mobile phones. Lots of ideas are flying around like pervasive educational games for pupils, on-demand tutoring/mentoring for university students, making interactive location-based content using the mobile version of the Flash application...

There is a good research project, called which has among its goals:
  • "adaptable interactive tools (primarily games played on a mobile platform) with which to deliver learning objectives and which help to integrate the use of ICT in the delivery of the school curriculum;"

  • "to build communities of creative, networking children in the NMS, generating their own cultural content and communicating with peer groups in other countries"

  • "to make the multilingual and multicultural local content created during the games to be shared and repurposed for use in the wider eLearning context of schools and children".

Futurelab is an excellent UK research centre for ICT in education. They have produced a report called "Literature Review in Mobile Technologies and Learning" which includes a number of casestudies.

Ericsson, the mobile phone company is doing some research on m-learning, and offers a nice overview presentation (PDF) and also an update on main EU activities in this area.

Mobilearn is a large scale EU project led by Giunti(an Italian LMS & multimedia company). The project has made available a great deal of handy resources.

Finally, I also came across Mobile Learning, a good blog keeping up to date on the issues.

Update (17/10/2006): I met with Teemu Leionen from FLOSSE Posse in Bangkok a few weeks ago, and he let me know about the MobilEd project, which is doing some interesting experiments using mobile wikis in low connectivity contexts in S. Africa.

Update (3/11/2006): Howard Rheingold recently posted about free mobile phones for teenagers supported by advertising in Finland. It would be interesting to see a similar initiative in developing countries.

Photo by Donknuth.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Open content for education

Educational content is still too expensive and inaccessible for many developing countries, whether it is digital or traditional. As connectivity rates increase dramatically, it makes sense to prepare digital materials for these newly connected educational institutes, teachers and young people. There are a number of interesting projects worldwide to do this, including the Global Text Book project, aiming to "create a free library of 1,000 electronic textbooks for students in the developing world". These textbooks will cover areas typically included in the first two years of undergraduate study - I'm sure many developed world students will use them too.

Another interesting approach comes from the Centre for Open and Sustainable Learning, part of the Utah State University in the USA. They are involved in a range of projects such as Creative Commons for Education, creative learning environments using advanced visualisation, and open course ware (OCW). Even better, all their materials are CC licensed too.

Wikieducator is also part of the whole open content movement, acting as a hub for those interested in this area. The portal itself hosts free content for education, and the people behind it network to find ways of funding open content projects. Meanwhile the Bazaar is a similar approach, but a wider scope, as it's a community for exchange and use of both open content and free & open source (FOSS) software.

The University of Art and Design Helsinki has recently collaborated with UNESCO to offer the Young Digital Creators kit, a free kit for schools and other educational organisations, which includes a variety of approaches, tips and more for helping young people to make creative content. To support the activity, the kit includes a number of FOSS tools. UNESCO also has another project for producing CDs of FOSS tools and open content for education, which I previously blogged about here.

Finally, the mother of all open content projects, Creative Commons has a great archive of materials and useful advice for licensing your content in more open ways.

Update (24/10/2006): UNESCO's Virtual University project hosts a number of online discussions of Open Educational Resources for Higher Education.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Learning Management Systems: the next move

As usual I've been keeping my eye on the current research in Learning Management Systems (LMS) and their other incarnation, Personalised Learning Environments (PLEs). I recently came across this article - Social software: E-learning beyond learning management systems - which unifies two areas I'm into: social networks and LMS. As a student, I have used a very basic LMS, but really only for accessing archived materials put online by tutors. As a real-life learner, I don't really use LMS-type software but I do use social networks and I'm an avid consumer of all collective intelligence-type stuff like Diigo and Technorati. However, all this changes week to week. If we take into account multiple intelligence theory, and combine this with the budget limitations faced by education, it becomes clear that a really good PLE is probably not achievable, unless the student has almost infinite control on the look and feel (or even sound!) of the PLE, the speed of new data update/transfer (for instance I love to be interrupted, I find it inspiring, while others find it counterproductive) and even the kinds of communication tools he/she needs.

But do we need one unified system to provide all this? Or should we just be flexible and open to the needs of individual students? On one hand, the unified system is attractive because it is safe and controllable, but this also limits its flexibility and potential. Meanwhile, a truly open 'free for all' approach can customise for any student, but is likely to be low on child protection and guidance for those who need it. Maybe the answer is we need both?

In any case, in a developing world context, the whole debate is still more open, as few schools are using LMS. Some well-off universities have bought into commercial LMS like Blackboard, but it's really the exception. So, should we be advising developing countries to implement LMS? The concensus here seems to be that we should, and probably focus on Moodle as it is relatively low cost. But for a small school, with low numbers of computers, this is surely overkill and it's better to look at a PLE type setup.

Photo by Alexa Joyce