Tuesday, December 15

Which m-learning devices should I buy?

Dear m-learning.org, I am new to m-learning and want to know which devices to buy for my class

We are getting more and more of these requests, partially connected with the latest round of MoLeNET funding in the UK, so I thought I would post some suggestions, below


STEP 1: have a look at http://www.molenetprojects.org.uk/moletech/ which has some very useful overviews on the different devices, and what you might want to do with them.


STEP 2: In thinking about what type of device to go for, some very important considerations are:

  • Do you want your learners to be consumers, or creators of media?

    long term, helping your learners to be “creators” is always better and can be applied to a wider range of learning situations. (Think writing, filing, reporting, synthesising information, publishing.) 

    For this, you want devices that are easy to input (camera / audio / text), share (wireless / data bundles / bluetooth) and possibly manage centrally. 

    But there are some very nice “consuming” devices, like PSPs, Nintendo DSs etc. If you have very good resources and a simple to use device, you can get good short term gains as “consumers” too. Examples here are DS games that help you learn a language, or build your maths skills, or using a PSP for watching video clips

    For this, you should start with your resources, and work back. So if you are teaching Spanish and rate the DS Spanish game, go with that.

    A good hybrid of the two is the kind of work done by the amazing Tim Rylands (try his big game hunting) that uses “consuming” devices, but then builds richer learning interactions on top of them


  • Will you be generating and sharing learning resources?

    “Making your own” is almost always a good idea for any longer term project, and is particularly effective if you can include your learners in the making. But it does narrow the range of devices available to you, as you need to have easy ways of sharing what you have made, and putting it onto the devices.


  • How will you manage connectivity?

    Do you have a wireless network? How mobile will your learners be? Are you using SIM cards? Who pays for data?

    There are many important considerations to do with data cost, but this posting is about the devices themselves, so restrict your choice to be “with a SIM, or not”


STEP 3: Evaluate some of your front-runner choices. Ultimately the decision is your own, though many people end up going for something different from what they started wanting.

A couple of kneejerk responses to specific devices are:

Nintendo DS lite = very good if you have a good game to use on it that aligns well with learning (though there are not too many that do). Also quite good as a communication tool, messaging between learners. But – rubbish for putting anything you have made onto it. (so, all “consumer”)

PSP = less good than the DS, because there are fewer decent learning games. But a very good “media player” – so if you have videos you want student to watch, it is great for that. Would be HUGELY enhanced by buying the addon GoCam video camera, which allows students to record, as well as playback video. (transforming them from a “consumer” to a “creator”)

Mini PC / UMPC / Netbook = fantastic in terms of value for money, and offering a wide range of good resources available for free. Also a great “creator” device with much much better ways to input words, audio, pictures etc. If at all possible get one with an inbuilt webcam too. The only real disadvantage is size. Are they really mobile enough? Really, they are just “laptops-lite”, so it depends what you plan to do with them, of course.

Smartphones = these are the best bet if you really want to be mobile. Powerful enough to be like a netbook. small enough to carry. Almost the same “creator” tools as the mini PC, but with all the portability of the DS and PSP. Use a sim to connect, or block it to save data costs.

Another good reason is that the smartphones of today are likely to be similar to the mass-market phones of tomorrow, so it is a good way to prepare for the close future when learners will be bringing in their own phones.

but … which smartphone! Zealots go to war over lesser issues …

Right now, all look too expensive when you can get a netbook for about the same price, though with a good phone contract the price drops dramatically. Headline things to think of when selecting one are:

iPhone / iPod Touch = still the best for slick interface, great apps and ease of use. But poor for text input, and terrible for uploading and sharing your own apps

Windows Mobile = best value for money, as you can pick up devices from a few years ago quite cheaply. Also – huge number of apps available for it. Much easier than the iPhone to put your own apps onto (but more complicated to use). Watch out for non-touch screen versions (WinMob 6 Standard) which are very feeble, and if you go pre WinMob6 make sure you back up regularly, as you can lose your work when the battery dies !

Android = The Google device snapping on the heels of the iPhone. That is how it is promoted, but in reality it is closer to Windows Mobile (and in fact shares the same equipment manufacturer, HTC). A great device, certainly one to watch – especially given the very open operating system, and easy-of-development if you want to make your own Android application. Right now, you may find it a bit pricey, and certainly not as slick as the iPhone, but it’s open systems make it the best bet yet for the educational device of the future.


Back to making your own mobile content: there are many different approaches to this, but when we make m-learning modules, we use our own, home-grown MyLearning Authoring tool to build mobile apps, or even mobile aware web sites that run on almost all of the touchscreen devices mentioned above (as well as UMPCs, netbooks, laptops etc).

If you want to give it a go, to make some mobile quizzes and games to give any lesson a real lift, try our free trial version.  We also have some ready made m-learning content which may be of interest.


I hope this helps …. by necessity I have kept the advice at a very high level. If you have any suggestions please comment

Thursday, November 12

Meet Derek Wyatt – the mobile MP

DerekWyatt2I have just finished an enjoyable few hours with Derek Wyatt MP – a true champion for new technologies as well as the first MP to have his own iPhone app!

He blogs. He flickrs. He tweets. He podcasts. Radio5Live named him as the “fastest emailing MP”. His website has overtaken the local paper as a source of up-to-date local news. He even streams all his speeches and interviews. But more than that, he has been working on many of the “back end” policies and campaigns that keep our online-world turning.

Wow. And I thought I worked hard.

It turns out he is a great fan of our work – both in the mobile world, and more generally with our e-learning and technology tools and he gave us some great advice about taking what we do in the UK out onto the world stage.

But what about his iPhone app, I hear you ask?

It is not yet live, but when it is it will give his constituents (Sittingbourne & Sheppey in Kent) mobile access to local news, as well as yet another way of getting hold of their MP


DerekWyattWe have a tradition in our office of “Knowledge Shares” – a public soapbox for anybody who has something to share to teach the rest of us, and Derek gamely volunteered a very entertaining 30 minutes of thoughts, advice and gossip ranging from learning technologies, to the 500 emails he gets a day, to some juicy stories that stay within our walls in Cambridge!

A true comedy moment happened when we inadvertently served scotch eggs and pork pies for lunch – it turns out he was outed in the news as a closet lover of pies and eggs.

A great day. Finished when he needed to rush back to Westminster for an un-expected vote in parliament. This is the first time we have met and I hope not the last.

Thursday, November 5

I’ve hacked you – now pay me!

All this week, Dutch iPhone users have been seeing this message on their beloved devices

your iPhone has been hacked because it’s really insecure! Please visit xxxx/iHacked and secure your iPhone right now

Together with a request for $4.95 for help securing their phone.

What’s going on?

It turns out that an enterprising Dutch teenager (PureInfinity92) managed to hack a large number of Jailbroken iPhones, flagging up a couple of well known security breaches. He used a combination of port scanning and OS fingerprinting to find iPhones in T-Mobile's 3G IP range and exploit a known security risk in those that were jailbroken (OpenSSH is installed with the same root access and password on all devices!)

Unfortunately for his entrepreneurship, he was quickly outed, and his paypal account blocked. He has apologised to all, offered refunds to those who paid up, and made his security advice available for free

In fairness to the guy, his original message did say:

If you don't pay, it's fine by me. But remember, the way I got access to your iPhone can be used by thousands of others. And they can send text messages from your number (like I did..), use it to call (or record your calls), and actually whatever they want, even use it for their hacking activities! I can assure you, I have no intention of harming you or whatever, but, some hackers do! It's just my advise to secure your phone (: Have a nice day!"

Find out more from the original Dutch posting (translated by Google)

So – why use Jailbreak at all?

One of the biggest problems with using iPhones, and iPod Touches as learning tools is the “closed shop”, when it comes to sharing, and distributing Apps. Teachers cannot easily share content they have made.

Developers need to pay, and be approved by Apple. All applications need to go via Apple(iTunes), and be approved by Apple. Added to that, many countries (like most of Africa!) are not even allowed to download apps from iTunes. This is a MAJOR restriction on educators looking to make and share applications.

Jailbreak is the widely used, though not-quite-legal technique of unlocking your iPhone so that applications can be directly uploaded without going via iTunes and the AppStore. Unfortunately though, it is (by definition) not as secure as the Apple’s proprietary approach, which is why PureInfinity92 managed to hack as many phones as he did.


Our m-learning.org team do certainly not recommend jailbreaking your iphone, though we are very against the current restrictions on regular teachers making and sharing Apps and look forward to the time that Apple opens access to their Apps up a little more (like all the other mobile App stores!)

Tuesday, November 3

Flash on my iPhone? It’s showdown time!

  • For several years Adobe has been promoting Flash as a great technology for mobile devices (and it is).
  • For several years Apple have been making amazing mobile devices (and they are).

… and, for some bizarre reason, the two have been bickering all along, and never quite making friends.

The latest move in the ongoing showdown is this slightly aggressive message iPhone and iPod Touch users get if they visit a website requiring flash: 

Apple restricts use of technologies required by product like Flash Player. Until Apple eliminates these restrictions, Adobe cannot provide Flash Player for the iPhone or iPod Touch 

This is Adobe’s second move in the past few months to push the blame back onto Apple. They also announced that the next version of Flash Professional will allow developers to build iPhone apps from their Flash projects.

This is great news, as it will open up App development to the vast army of skilled Flash developers and coders out there. And the announcement was made via this hilarious “myth buster” movie


But – the bickering is hardly over, and iPhones will still not be “running Flash”. There remains no support for websites containing Flash. If you want that, you had better stick with your:

  • WindowsMobile
  • Android
  • Blackberry
  • Palm Pre

etc etc etc devices!

Tuesday, October 20

What is this Android thing?

You may have heard the word Android being mentioned recently around the mobile phone world, well here is a quick post on what the fuss is all about.

Android is a new-ish Operating System (OS) that has been developed by around 50 big names across the device and software industry (the Open Handset Alliance) to try is to offer a low-cost, fully-featured, open-source OS. Then hand that over to the cell phone manufacturers so that they can concentrate more on designing desirable hardware, rather than divide their efforts on the OS and hardware.

Android’s roots are based in the open source Linux platform, but it has been optimised for the smaller mobile platform. It has also been done very nicely too!

Who is involved in Android?

Some of the companies involved are Google, HTC, T-Mobile, Motorola, Samsung, Garmin, Vodafone, eBay, Toshiba, Dell, LG, Sony Ericsson, ARM, Acer, plus a massive following of Open Source development. So you can see it has some weight and momentum behind it. Google are probably at the forefront of these and provide a big driving force behind it. So, you may also hear the term Google phone, they are effectively one and the same - just differences on what applications are pre-installed. (Though it is a little more than that in reality.)

What does Google get out of all that? More mobile searches, which may be one of its biggest sources of growth in the coming years, plus a chance to drive the direction the mobile world operates, rather than relying on others to do it.

Is Android for just phones?

At the moment Android is available off the shelf, on top end phones from HTC, Motorola, LG, and Samsung. Mobile carriers such as T-Mobile, Sprint, and Vodafone are also rebranding the phones as their own too, so the same phone may have more than one name!

But Android is not just for phones, Acer are just about to launch the Aspire D250 net book, which will dual boot Windows XP and Android. You will note that names like Toshiba and Dell are in the Android club. While they are rumoured to be releasing android phones soon, is this the start of a new mass produced laptop environment.

Why do I care about a new OS?

An OS is the environment that you use every day to do the stuff you want to do on your computer/phone, so it can help/hinder you, and even drive you to frustration when it gets it wrong. I hear Vista users mumbling away at this point. An OS can make or break your relationship with a bit of IT kit.

Well from my own usage I would say that the Android experience is a refreshing change. Things are natural to do and things just seem to work.

Android is also going to be appearing on a lot of phones over the coming months, so it is coming to a phone shop near you soon!

What can I do with an Android phone?

Answer: how long is a piece of string...? Well, not quite, but the top end phones are now becoming very adaptable bits of technology, and Android phones are helping to lead the way. Let’s list a few things that can be done. Phone, Email, SMS, MMS, Browsing, IM, Calendar, Contacts, MP3 player, Calculator, Camera(Stills and movies), Slideshow player, Voice recorder, Memos, Office type applications, SatNav, Weather checking, Google maps, Compass, Social networking, games, and of course learning all sorts of things. This is just a list of the stock or mainstream free applications. If that doesn’t appeal then there are around 10,000 applications in the Android Market that can very easily be installed. They range from classic and whacky games, an interactive map of the stars (very cool!), dictionaries in various languages, GPS tracking, office utilities, social networking to fuel prices. You hear the advertisement “There is an app for that...” - Well on Android there certainly is, arguably even more than the iPhone (that should provoke a response from the iPhone fans).

You can see the most popular apps online here. This is just small sample available to the devices and installing them from the phone is very easy, even for the Technophobe. You just search for key words, scroll up and down the different application tap and install on the one you want.

Is this Nirvana?

It is not all perfect yet as there are still some gripes. Yes the phones are generally costly at the moment (similar to iPhone) as the phones being released are all top end. But I think the prices will come down as the number of handsets increase and it becomes more main-stream and it gets used on lower spec devices. Some things are not as quick (split second timing) to do as an iPhone equivalent, but newer versions are just getting quicker and with Android you can easily upgrade the OS – something you can’t easily do on an iPhone.

But it is a huge and very interesting leap forward forward for mobile phones and will certainly help shape the mobile world in the year or two.

But I still want an iPhone!

Yes, the iPhone is a very nice and trendy phone with great functionality. Android is right there beside it as it can do everything an iPhone can do and more. Some things it does better and some things not as well. One thing you cannot do is ignore Android.

Android is here to stay and with predictions that 75 million android phones will be sold in 2012 it is only going to get bigger.

Go into a mobile phone store and ask to play around with an Android phone, you will be surprised what can be done on a phone nowadays. Then let your creative mind think about the possibilities in using it for learning!

Friday, October 2

Quick guide to low cost ICT devices for 3rd world

For several years, those nice people at infoDev / World Bank have been keeping a (slowly aging) list of excellent, low cost technology cheap and robust enough to be used in the developing world.


Great list – but almost impossible to keep uptodate. Especially when it comes to Mobile. Growth of mobile phones, and connectivity via mobile networks has massively leapfrogged the non-mobile alternatives in most of the developing world, with no sign of slowing down.


And the list doesn’t really include ANY phones


Well – today is our moment to put that right. infoDev has decided that the only way to keep it fresh is to “crowdsource”, asking all of us to contribute devices we think need inclusion.


If you know of a mobile device worthy of inclusion, please fill out their handy survey, below, which will send your suggestions straight to the team at infoDev to include in their new list.


Thanks, infoDev for collecting this info – and don’t forget the mobiles!


Form also available directly at  http://bit.ly/ict_device_survey

Thursday, October 1

elearningdebate – but what are we learning?

I spent several very fun hours at the Oxford Union last night, enjoying a (non)debate on the whether e-learning is up for the challenge of preparing learners for tomorrow.


The good and the great of e-learning were there. Entertaining arguments were put forth both for and against. It was very enjoyable, and a great brand-positioning event for the sponsors.

But the frustrating thing is that there WAS no REAL debate! Both sides seemed in total agreement that:

  • right now, there is some great e-learning, and some rubbish e-learning
  • we should all strive to make it better / more inclusive / richer / more collaborative
  • the term “e-learning” is sometimes shackled unfairly to the driest-end of the page-turning (“paper behind glass”) spectrum, when really we all know that it should embrace all digital modes and media
  • e-learning is never the sole solution for all students. But it is a growing part of the solution for many students (including some who would never have studied without it!)


So – ermmm – not too much of a debate then!


Maybe I missed something. The twitter universe seems more positive. it just felt to me that much of the argument ended up around semantics and word definitions. Both sides effectively willing us to vote for them if we wanted e-learning to get better. In the end the NOs got more votes than the AYEs, but only by all asking us all to vote on the same thing!

That said – the speakers were fantastic fun, with some great quotes, we all enjoyed it.


The saddest bit for me was that there was hardly ANY mention of mobile learning, and mobile connectivity. It seems that for most of the speakers “e-learning” is still stuck on a big-screen multimedia PC connected to the web with a high speed cable.

Doh! get with it guys!


The real benefit of Learning with Technology is all about reach. Getting to learners where they are, when they need it, on their own terms. if you can’t do that with your e-learning you are missing the best bits of the experience!


thanks again to all involved

Monday, September 28

m-learning for trade unions

The TUC is encouraging members of all their unions to take learning into their own hands … and onto their own phones!

If you don’t know unionlearn, they are the TUC’s learning champions, encouraging

unionlearn with the TUC

all trade union members to become learning activists. Not only that – but they have started championing mobile learning!


Excellent stuff. When learner champions like unionlearn start embracing mobile learning it is a clear sign that mobile really works!


Have a look at their home page – it links directly to on overview of what m-learning is all about, as well as inviting any trade union members to register for a free mobile learning seminar.

Congratulations, unionlearn.


Our team at www.m-learning.org are very pleased to be working with TUC and unionlearn on this exciting initiative.

Monday, August 10

m-learning in Australia

It has been a funny week – I was invited, at very short notice, to present our mobile learning work to the Department of Education, in Australia!image

(New South Wales, to be specific)

It was a real honour to be sent there. We spent 4 days working with schools and colleges, talking about our mobile learning authoring tools, as well as showcasing some of our more recent project work, like Bloom (mobile learning in the transport sector).


Wow – what a place – I like Sydney!


I didn’t have enough to time be a tourist (that will have to wait for next time) but I was there long enough to be reminded what thought leaders Australians are when it comes to distance learning. Very inspiring. Some serious logistical challenges to get support remote learners, and great opportunities for mobile technology to leapfrog current provision.


I hope to get back there soon - a mad flurry of visa organisation and flight booking meant that I didn’t even get a chance to catch up with the great Australian connections I have managed to make while in the UK – sorry about that, and thanks to the DET NSW for the hospitality.

Friday, June 19

mobile learning in a taxi …

BLOOM-ing marvellous! We are in the closing stages of a great project called BLOOM, which is all about using m-learning in the workplace (in this case, for the transport sector).

Have a look at this great little video of our mobile learning solution being used by Taxi drivers while waiting on the rank (errm … no … not while driving!)

A great example of how mobile learning can help you reach the parts other types of learning can’t


Hope you like it – and please leave us comments with your thoughts. We are thinking of releasing a couple of other, similar case study videos if there is demand for them

Monday, June 1

m-learning in Denmark – the FLUID way

Top banner

FLUID is an association of “flexible learning providers” in Denmark. We are not talking acrobats, here, but rather practitioners specialising on breaking out of the constraints of traditional learning provision. Many working with teenagers, or adult learners.


They have just hosted ON THE GO, an event specifically to raise awareness in Denmark for mobile learning. Or as it says on their website:


Den 28. – 29. maj 2009 satte FLUID fokus på m-læring: I spændende oplæg blev der diskuteret tilgængelighed, teknologier og set spændende eksempler. Flere af præsentationerne ligger klar til download, og resten vil blive lagt ind over de nærmeste dage.

which sums it up so much better than I could!

I was the only UK contributor, but other international delegates joined from Iceland and Norway and Sweden to inspire and enthuse. M-learning is still at a fairly early stage in Denmark, but already there are several exciting projects and initiatives happening.


If you want a preview of my presentation (without being able to enjoy the pleasures of Copenhagen at the same time) it is up on slideshare:

Thanks Astrid, and the Fluid crew for a great event!

Tuesday, March 24

m-learning authoring tool: huge discount available

The latest version of the popular MyLearning Author was released this week, and to help us celebrate, specialoffer.gifthere is a 30% discount for all new licenses bought before the end of the month (March 2009).


What's new?

  • No longer just "WindowsMobile", your content can play back on many more mobile devices including several smartphones, UMPC, Mac, Linux, Windows ...
  • Some great new activities, including a mobile survey builder
  • More ways to share your courses (with other authors, as well as with your learners)
  • Revamped installers for your courses
  • Many usability improvements, as suggested by our (very) active users!



Can I upgrade?

Of course! If you already have a valid license you can upgrade for free. If your license has expired you can renew for even cheaper (50% off).


What about courses?

We have over 20 mobile courses available right now, but are also happy to help you customise (and mobilise) any existing resources you may have.


You want some?

Over 5000 happy learners can't be wrong ... If you want to start making your own, engaging mobile content with our tried and tested author, dive right into our online shop right now, or chat to any our mobile team at ctadsales.education@tribalgroup.co.uk


Happy mobile course creating!

Wednesday, February 18

British schools scoop USA mobile learning award!


Mobile Learning is starting - slowly - to build momentum in the states, and today that momentum picked up some speed.

At mobilelearning09, a discrete collection of the main players in US industry, education and government got together in the President's Ballroom in Washington DC to celebrate some embryonic US projects, and help steer them towards something bigger and bolder.award

It was an insightful day with a wide range of contributions, but the highlight for the small British contingent was the 1st Annual Mobile Learning Award 

The day ended with the award ceremony - celebrating the most significant contribution to mobile learning in schools ... and with much excitement and cheering was won by ...

Dave Whyley and his team from Learning2Go in Wolverhampton!



Go Dave!

If you are still living in the Dark Ages and haven't heard about it, Learning2Go is a bold, very well respected collection of projects run across several Wolverhampton schools (at all ages), using smart phones to transform the way learners are learning, and teaching are supporting them.

Go look it up.

Tribal are proud supporters of Learning2Go, and love the fact that kids as young as 5 are making use of our tools and content. Several Learning2Go schools use our MyLearning Author to make their own mobile learning resources.



The UK contingent was pretty small as the event was a very US-centric affair, but our vibrant mobile community was represented by David and Gavin of Learning2Go, as well as Geoff Stead of Tribal (www.m-learning.org) - we did our best to share lessons from our far more mature m-learning market place and left excited by future prospects for m-learning in the USA.


Thanks all for a great event, and big congratulations to Learning2Go

Tuesday, February 17

m-Learning in the USA

The USA has been punching way below it's weight in m-learning for quite some time, but it feels like the giant is slowly awakening:

1: I am on my way to meet the US Navy, who have invited us to run a mobile learning project with them

the details are not yet public, but we hoping to integrate the best of mobile learning with their high-performance e-learning system

2: Tomorrow I will be at a mobile learning "think tank" in Washington DC

mobilelearning09.org looks small, but hopefully perfectly formed ... with a large number of people I have not heard of in the m-learning arena before. Lets see what's happening in the US!

3: A great looking m-learning content site is being launched tomorrow, at http://cc.mlearnopedia.com

In their infinite wisdom(!) Tony Karrer and Judy Brown have linked their content aggregator to our humble blog ... so if you visit cc.mlearnopedia.com don't be surprised to find out about us all over again!


We look forward to finding out more, and reporting back on what's happening in US mobile learning!

(I am doing my first "blogging on a plane" ... so not sure exactly when this will go live!)

Monday, January 19

m-learning in 2009: predictions

The ever-charming Graham and his crew over at handheldlearning convinced a group of us to attempt a prediction about what would happen in the world of m-learning in 2009.

Here were my thoughts, in a christmas-pudding-inspired pantomime stylee:

Several of the large scale vendors and suppliers of VLEs, laptops, mobile phones will start talking seriously about mobile learning (YAY)

but they will dramatically over-simplify it to suit their own agenda (BOO).

For example saying they support m-learning, when all they mean is that you can do a small subset of their e-learning on a micro browser.

Phone providers will start selling their phones as m-learning tools (YAY), when all they are really interested in is increased data income (BOO).

Content providers will start supporting m-learning too (YAY), but many will merely be squashing big-screen learning on to smaller screens and thinking that they have got it (BOO)

The risk with this swell of well-meaning but slightly misguided support is that some of the real innovation that currently surrounds mobile learning might get swamped by these simplified ideas. (AAAHHH)

But all is not lost, because the number of mainstream tools that empower m-learning will continue to get easier (and cheaper) to use. (YAY) Think podcasting, think GPS devices and maps, think portable media and game players.

As the body of research grows, showing that m-learning really does work, increasing number of teachers will give these tools a go (YAY) and their cost of entry will go down as increasing numbers of learners will come to class carrying their own, rich media, learning enabed device (whether a smart phone, a UMPC or a game device).

Will this have come true by the end of 2009? Without a doubt!

But all is not lost ... if you are one of those vendors / suppliers / publishers, and you really want to get to know m-learning spend a little time cruising the many many successful m-learning projects around the globe and speaking to real teachers and learners. There is good stuff out there. I know I will be!

See if you can prove all my negative (BOO) predictions wrong ... check back this time next year to find out! :-)

Related (possibly!)

Related Posts with Thumbnails