Wednesday, March 28

TES: the one that got away?

Last week I was rather shocked by an article in the TES (Times Educational Supplement) that seemed to suggest that we shouldn't bother making an effort to support reluctant learners.

As a die-hard techie it is a rare moment that I actually write anything (other than blog postings, of course), but I was enthused enough to send a gobsmacked-type email to the TES Editors.

Shock-horror: they replied! the main editor of the TES wrote back and said:
Thank you for your letter. ...... I'm afraid this leader is one that got away. The TES doesn't support the view that schools and colleges should wash their hands of reluctant students. We are carrying a letter in FE Focus this week making some of the points you raise.
I am not sure if this quite counts as a "simpering apology", but I look forward to reading the letter they publish about it!

For those still reading ... here is what I wrote:

Dear TES

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry when I read your editorial on the use of m-learning in Pembrokeshire. At first I assumed it was an attempt at a joke, though quickly realised it was in fact serious!

Your writer seems to have missed out on 90% of the work that Pembrokeshire College has done, focusing instead on the headline grabbing (albeit rather tired) issues of loaning phones to students, and the text-inspired slang they may chose to write in.

Right now, the UK sits amongst the leading countries in the world when it comes to using innovative and new technologies to enhance learning. Sadly, it tends to only happen in specific pockets around the country, but these pockets are being held up, world wide, as examples of best practice. They are being used to help us all rethink how we are able to deliver learning to the maximum benefit for the widest range of our citizens.

The Pembrokeshire work, which won a Beacon Award, is exemplary in that it deploys the technology appropriately and in conjunction with many other teaching techniques, technologies and practices. The team there were involved in the very first m-learning project in 2003/2004 which is when I was pleased to get to know them.

Would your editorial writer prefer us not to innovate, but rather sit still and wait to be overtaken by others that do?

Working with new media always presents risks, but despite the hype, the issues raised in your editorial have not featured in any of the many projects that we have been involved with over the last few years, spanning several thousands of learners.

For anyone interested in finding out some of the facts, here are a couple of useful websites which also include some of the research reports that describe what is actually happening: (specifically the reports, here: ) (for some future gazing schools) (for a lot of the current academic study)

as well as some very active blogs and community sites:

I hope this helps set the record straight, and keeps the flag of innovation flying

Yours sincerely

Geoff Stead

Ps: I know that several very influential practitioners and innovators are formulating a reply to your article, which I will be signing up to as well.

Tuesday, March 27

How to mix your mobile learning cocktail with some traditional ingredients?

We have been getting a lot of recent interest from mainstream, traditional e-learning providers who are trying to understand how they can add a mobile dimension to what they already have.

This is of course great news, because in my book, "the more formats the better". Why prescribe where and how your learners will access their learning if you don't have to.

I stumbled over an American site today that specialises in creating audio stories, by interviewing customers / employees / managers, editing them and delivering them as podcasts. What especially caught my eye, though, was an excerpt from a presentation they gave, where they summarised the most important things they have learned about creating desireable learning resources.

The most important thing we have learned is that in order to deliver value we must deliver ALL of the following:
  • Compelling content. If the content is not interesting, it well never get used and consumed. (Instructionally sound content is not necessarily compelling or interesting)
  • Multiple mediums and delivery methods. Web, CDs, Podcasting, elearning – all offer value, but nothing works for everyone.
  • Client and user support. The greatest product in the world goes nowhere unless it is promoted, supported and measured properly. This is an area we are still learning about, but we have learned a lot.

This matches pretty much exactly with our finding in as well as many other recent projects we have done, and certainly spans well beyond podcasts to embrace PocketPC, Java Games, SMS quizzes and other technologies as well.

And how does this link back to the e-learning service providers I mentioned at the start? Well. to me it helps to put m-learning into a useful context, as well as perhaps challenging the types of learning that are currently in many large, online learning environments.

  • Is the content really compelling? (harder to do than it sounds)
  • What is my learner wants to view the content on their phone. Can they?
  • Are there mobile-ready tutors available to support them?

Friday, March 23

Is TES losing the thread?

The hot-topic of the day in the UK technology learning community seems to be a collection of articles in today's TES.

The first article refers to the fantastic, award winning work being done in Pembrokeshire College supporting hard to reach learners with various innovative approaches.

The second article, an editorial, seems to use the work to rampage against investing money into innovation and outreach projects, without fully understanding the work that Geoff Elliott and Pembrokeshire college have been doing or the great strides forward they have made.

Geoff, for what it is worth, the rest of the mobile learning community think you have been doing some fantastic work and making real strides forward with your projects.

Please keep it up!

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