Wednesday, January 10

psp, TV, mp3, pda, mobile phones: can we REALLY put learning onto them all?

How do we cope with supporting real, valid, mobile learning on a huge range of devices?

The more time I spend surrounded by mobile learners, the more this question comes back to haunt me. We have used many different approaches and devices already, but still the issue is FAR from simple.

There are a wide spectrum of strategies. At one end we have learning that is VERY device specific - exploiting what each device does best. At the other end is data-pushing, where we have some central resources that get intelligently reformatted for multiple different devices.

But which is best?

Evolving standards for data push us towards the data-push area. I can see the same RSS feed on many different devices. My smart content system will reformat a powerpoint to run on many different devices. A lo of energy has been invested in perfecting data-push, but is that really enough for learners?

At the other, device specific end, think about simple mp3 players. All they can do is audio. Nothing else. But they have a really useful place in learning. Why can’t I listen to key lessons, and reminders?

Or think about camera phones. Encouraging learners to collect media samples can be a rich and rewarding addition to their learning.

But data push doesn't even get a look in on either of these examples. And most mobile web standards are irrelevant.

So where should we put our energy?

My personal philosophy on this is that we need to be able to do both. We should rejoice in the standards, and wherever possible support the emerging mobile web and data standards like XHTML, RSS, Wap, XML, CSS etc. But we also need to make the most of the unique features of specific devices. Just because the web browser on my smart phone doesn’t talk to my camera, does that mean I shouldn’t take a picture as part of my learning? Of course not! But I can guarantee that if all the learning is too standards or even browser centric this will be neglected.

So - I go for both. Some materials can be pushed out to multiple devices. But beware of losing the (possibly even richer) learning that happens with device specific features.

Thursday, January 4

Stop ActiveSync asking about partnerships!

Every now and again I stumble over a small technical solution that makes a big difference to my sanity. Here is an essential one for anybody managing multiple PocketPC devices.

If, like us, you use your PocketPc as a shareable learning device and NOT as businessman's tool you will know the frustration of having to tell ActiveSync NOT to form a lasting friendship with your devices everytime you connect them. This is especially true if all you are doing is uploading files to them.

Well, did you know you can turn this off?

You can configure ActiveSync to always assume you want to be a guest.

The trick is that you need to change a registery setting, but Bob, one of our mobile developers, has kindly created this little utility so you can do it yourself:

You will need to download and open our handy ActiveSync Dialog Tweaker utility

To switch "Guest only" mode on, run this file: active_sync_guest_only.reg

To switch back to "Ask me" mode, run this file: active_sync_guest_ask.reg

You can run both of these files directly, just say Yes when it asks if you want to add the information to the registry.

hope these tips find a use somewhere in the mobile ether!


Smallprint1: any registry settings are changed at your own risk

Smallprint2: Guest only mode will only work if
no partnerships have already been established on the desktop.
If a previous partnership has been established, the ActiveSync UI can be suppressed by clearing the Open ActiveSync when my device connects checkbox in ActiveSync's Connection Settings dialog.

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