A week after the mobile learning conference: Handheldlearning 2006 was held in London, the 5th World Conference on Mobile Learning was hosted by Athabasca University in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Delegates from over twenty countries came together to explore and share the potential and practice of learning with mobile and portable technologies.
Dr Mary Lou Jepson, Chief Technical Officer provided an inspirational opening keynote about the “One laptop per Child Foundation” which is commonly referred to as the $100 laptop initiative. Mary Lou explained how her background at Intel eventually took her to MIT and a life-changing meeting with Nicholas Negroponte. Mary Lou stated:
"It is very clear Silicon Valley makes stuff for the billion rich people in the world but there are 6.5 billion people in the world. A lot of people talk about the digital divide I want to do something about it"
Several countries have already signed up for the minimum order of 1 million laptops including Libya, Thailand, Nigeria, Brazil and Argentina. Each device has a CPU, WiFi, sunlight readable screen, video, microphone, speakers, game buttons and a hinge so you can turn it into an e book. Power is supplied by a handle or foot pedal type device and 6 minutes of revolutions will give an hour of battery life.
Highlights from over sixty workshops and presentations included Andy Black from Becta sharing his development of a glossary of British Sign Language which can be delivered on a range of mobile devices. Claire Bradley and Richard Haynes from London Metropolitan University presented about their continuing development of multimedia learning applications using Flash Lite and there was also a presentation on the Wireless campus project at the University of Ulster and their use of Toshiba Tablets on a Wireless campus. Laura Naismith from Birmingham University has continued her work with museums and multimedia tours using hypertags whilst Jocelyn Wisehart reported on the use of PDAs in Initial Teacher Training. Jill Attewell and Carol Savill-Smith presented findings of a small but significant follow up study from the original Mobi-learn project regarding college tutors use of mobile learning in the curriculum.
CTAD/Tribal stimulated a lot of interest in their work on mobile authoring tools and the “Get mobile” products as well as the developments of mobile learning in the “Skills for Life” agenda with a joint presentation from Jo Colley, CTAD and Bob Harrison, Toshiba Information Systems. Agnes Kukulska-Hulme shared two significant pieces of research with both reflective and emerging perspectives on innovative practice. The Wolverhampton Learn2Go work was featured and Terry Russell, University of Liverpool and Dave Whyley and his team generated significant interest in their PDA project.
Notable overseas contributions came from Tom Brown and Herman van der Merwe of South Africa who challenged the mlearning community with specific reference to the Educause sponsored Oblinger book “ Educating the NET generation” www.educause.org. Other South African contributions came from Hendrik Steyn and colleagues who are working in Teacher Education using digital books and cell phones and Jacqueline Batchelor on the use of wikis on school trips. The Learning and Skills sector would have been inspired by Selena Chan from Christchurch Polytechnic, New Zealand who reported on the use of mobile phones for assessment purposes in work based learning settings.
The USA made several contributions to the proceedings this year including a fascinating presentation on “group scribbles” using Tablet PCs. Caryl Oliver, Australia, continues to contribute to the field with her work using mobile devices to engage with disengaged learners in Post Compulsory Education which resonates with some of the early mLearn project work by Geoff Stead and Jill Attewell reported at previous mLearn events.
All of the proceedings can be seen at www.mlearn2006.org. mLearn 2007 will be in Melbourne, Australia from Oct 16th to 18th 2007, preceded once again by Handheld Learning on Oct 12-13th 2007 at a location yet to be decided.
The synergy between these two events powerfully demonstrates the rapid progress made by the mlearning community in the UK, the accelerating pace of technological change with devices and connectivity, the raised expectations of the digital and net generation and the continuing pedagogical challenges which this presents to educationalists in the UK and globally.
Please note that a review of the mLearn conference in 2005 is available in ALT-N online, Issue 3.
Handheldlearning 2006: www.handheldlearning.co.uk/hl2006/
One laptop per Child Foundation: www.laptop.org
mLearn 2006: www.mlearn2006.org
Bob Harrison is a teacher and tutor for NCSL as well as a Consultant with the DfES Improvement Group. Also, he is an Education Adviser to Toshiba Information Systems (UK) Ltd and is advising consortiums working on the BSF project. Bob was recently presenting at the 5th World Conference on Mobile Learning in Canada. He is writing in a personal capacity and can be contacted on www.setuk.co.uk or at email@example.com.
Andy Black has worked in the Learning & Skills sector for 15 years. His major interests are the use of ICT to overcome barriers to learning in disengaged and disadvantaged learners. He has written extensively on these subjects and the role of emerging technologies as well as developing a sideline in demonstrating gadgets and gizmo’s especially mobile devices. Andy joined British Educational Communication Technology Agency (Becta) July 2003 and was involved in supporting the Learning and Skills Sector. He currently is working on an ematurity framework for further education colleges. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.