Posted by: addyedina | June 21, 2010

CETIS – Mobile Tech Meet 15th June


This week Ben and I were on the road again, we headed south to University of  Bolton for a one day Mobile Tech event organised by CETIS, the Centre for Educational Technology and Interoperability Standards.  This event seemed to follow on quite nicely from last months EDUSERV Mobile University event.

Mobile technology seems to fall into two streams, administration tools (mAdmin) and learning tools (mLearning). The case for mAdmin in Universities seems a no brainer.  A survey by Edinburgh University reported that showed that 49% of students had smart phones.  Although the definition of “smart phone”, one that could access the internet, is perhaps not what everyone would use to class smart phone, it is clear that a significant portion of students can access the internet through their mobile and this figure is rising steadily.  This means that the business case for developing some sort of mAdmin app is a bit of a no brainer.  Students have phones and informing the students through their mobiles is an effective way of communicating.  However, ensuring that the students feel that this is being used to make their life easier or enhance their time at university and not just to remind them that they owe the university money is critical.

The CETIS event focused on the mLearning side of things.  How can universities make the most of new technology to enhance the students learning experience.  There were a couple of presentations by institutions that had implemented mobile technology for learning. The first came from Richard Hall (de Montfort) and Tim Linsey (Kingston).  This reported on the findings of the Morse project which looked at mobilising remote student engagement.  The system implemented mobile tech in geography field trips and allowed students back in the lab to see what was going on and interact with those in the field.  The second example came from Andy Powell (Leeds) and  Robert Campbell (ecommnent).  The Alps (Assessment and Learning in Practical Settings) project allowed training medical staff to fill in reports on their clinical visits.  Tutoring staff could then review these reports and provide feedback.  Andy and Robert were very open with their comments and were happy to share their experiences of “if we were to start this project again with what we know now….” with the group.  This kind of feedback is really useful.

Another presentation that stood out was Scott Wilson (Bolton/Cetis) who gave an overview of the power of widgets.  Widgets could be a way around the native app problem.  With HTML5 and javascript you can package apps up to run in browsers.  Why is this so good? Well, the majority of phones are not smartphones but significantly more phones can run a browser.  So, you can reach more people on a wider range of browsers with less effort.  But, there are some drawbacks.

Good

  • cross platform compatability is more staightforwrd
  • reaches more devices
  • standard toolboxes such as bondi are making things easier
  • HTM5 is pretty powerful
  • can package everything into the widget and run it offline so low cost to user

Bad

  • resistance from some operators
  • hard to optimise for individual phones
  • may not utalise all functions/sensors on a device

So, widgets look like a promising direction, especially if you want to deliver a learning object to a variety of users pretty quickly and the ability to package all the data into the widget then run the app offline reduces the cost to the student.

The day finished with a general discussion about mobile tech.  The focus of this leaned towards ensuring that  mobile tech is applied where it is most likely to enhance the learning experience and not just because it seems like everyone else is doing it.  It was also suggested that if institutions wanted to poll students on what phones they had, using the same definition of a smart phone would enable surveys to be compared.  Perhaps CETIS could stick a listing of suggestions on its site and we could decide as a group.  My simple definition might be.  If you google it you get the following suggestions: SmartPhone definitions. I would perhaps suggest the following as a simple option: “Any phone that is more than just a phone, which is an internet-centric device and that you can add functionality though downloading applications from the internet”

Overall, a good day out.  If you are interested in mLearning then look at the CETIS page and come along to the next event.  Slides of the presentations are available here : Mobile Tech Meet 15th June

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