Article from ALT Newsletter (,0,w)
April 24, 2006
International workshop on wireless and mobile technologies in education
by Bob Harrison

Soon after Mlearn 2005 (for a review of this conference, see ALT-N 3), this Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) event provided a focus for some of the world’s researchers and practitioners engaged in the development of wireless and mobile technology in education. Hosted in Tokushima City, Japan, in November 2005, it was attended by more than 200 delegates from over 20 countries. Surprisingly, however, it was the United Kingdom (UK), especially Nottingham University, which played a key role; this may have been more a matter of chance than design.

Professor Claire O’Malley, of the Learning Sciences Institute, Nottingham University, in her keynote presentation “The public and private lives of mobile devices: implications for learning” provided a clear conceptual and strong pedagogical platform for the delegates. Her speech was illustrated with practical examples of mobile learning from Nottingham Castle. Further representation from Nottingham included Professor Mike Sharples (formerly at Birmingham). Mike took part in a number of presentations at the conference which reflected his diverse interests such as his work with Susan Bull on using handheld devices in a range of locations, Tony Chan on personal learning environments, Antti Syvänen on context aware computing and Pat Thornton on the delivery of Japanese language learning tools.

Djanogly City Academy is also based in Nottingham and, as the first purpose built wireless school in the UK, has attracted attention from academics and politicians alike through its innovative use of mobile technologies. Djangoly is also a founder member of the Toshiba Ambassador programme. This programme was presented in the conference as an example of the importance of both staff development and the establishment of a community of practice in supporting the use of wireless and mobile technologies in learning and teaching.

Several other contributions from the UK included Brendan Riordan who reported on a recent project conducted with John Traxler, at the University of Wolverhampton. This project examined the technical and pedagogical implications of using bulk text messaging to enhance student support, inclusion and retention. Although developed in Wolverhampton, this work has an international dimension being piloted at schools in Kenya. Keith Mitchell from the University of Lancaster demonstrated an ingenious use of mobile phones in the “uLearn” project. In this initiative, school children use camera-enabled smartphones to request context aware information within a park, triggered by taking pictures of specially designed “visual cues” at specific locations. Another contribution from the UK was from Sanaz Fallahkhair, Lyn Pemberton and Richard Griffiths of the University of Brighton. This presentation discussed the use of mobile phones and interactive television to deliver language learning, and won the conference’s “best paper” award.

Professors Mizuko Oe (UEDA College of Fashion, Osaka) and Masahiko Tsukamoto (Kobe University), provided a futuristic and entertaining finale to the conference, in the form of a “Wearable Computer Fashion Show”. I look forward to seeing these designs on the streets of the UK soon!

The conference website is available at:

Bob Harrison

Education Adviser
Toshiba Information Systems (UK) Ltd

National College for School Leadership at the Centre for Educational Leadership
University of Manchester.

Published by The Association for Learning Technology
The views expressed in this newsletter are the authors' own and not necessarily those of the Association for Learning Technology.
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