Category Archives: mLearning

Software agreements for NZ schools and mobile devices

Had a good discussion recently with my old principal at Russell Street School. We were talking about where to next for the school in regards to elearning and supporting infrastructure.

Like many schools, Russell St is exploring the potential of iPod Touches and iPads to support learning. An interesting question was raised in relation to the current and future software agreements. For those of you who are not sure what the agreements are all about, the Ministry of Education negotiates on behalf of schools in NZ, licenses with software vendors, to provide schools with computer operating systems, office suites, anti-virus and web filtering software at no cost to the school.

Before the question is posed, let’s take a moment to look at the anticipated changes to the tools that students and teachers will learn with, moving away from desktops and laptops to smaller mobile devices and increasingly BYOD.

The Horizon Report:

Immensely portable, tablets serve as e-readers, video repositories, and web-browsing devices with instant access to thousands of apps…

CORE’s Ten Trends:

The available choices for staying connected while on the go are many — smart phones, netbooks, laptops, and a wide range of other devices

UNESCO:

…it is likely that mobile devices with internet access and computing capabilities will soon overtake personal computers as the information appliance of choice in the classroom.

So the question is…

When the next software agreements are negotiated, will the increased use of mobile apps be recognised and included in the deal?

Why? Let’s put that question in a context:

A school has trialled the use of iPads and iPods in their school, has realised the potential, seen the impact on teaching and learning, and has aligned their strategic plan and infrastructure purchasing around this. The purchasing over the next 3-5 years will take the school to a position where these devices out number the desktops and laptops in the school. They would like students to be using iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers & Keynote on these devices (totalling NZ$54.95) i.e. the mobile app equivalents for the same applications the school receives now for no cost  under the current software agreements.

What do you think? The solution of course is complex and is simply not a case negotiating with the Apple reseller here in NZ. Issues already surround  licensing of any apps for NZ schools with a lack of volume licensing among other things, ably outlined in this blog post by CORE colleague @warrenhall.

I know that plenty of you out there will be saying things like AndroidGoogleopen source… and fair enough to in a number of respects.

The point is, new software agreements should reflect current and planned usage and recognise what is clearly an increased use of mobile devices in NZ schools, especially the iPad and iPod Touch.

Tumblr for ePortfolio

It is all go exploring the best mPortfolio (Mobile ePortfolio) option for the iPhone.

Tumblr has jumped to the top of the list with the announcement of Tumblr Backup, a desktop application that allows you to backup your Tumblr blog as a self-contained folder complete with content including posts, movies and images. While this is not directly related to the Tumblr iPhone app, which is fantastically easy to use, Tumblr as a complete eportfolio package is shaping up nicely…

If regular blogs are journals, Tumblr blogs are scrapbooks.

The application is in beta and available now for Mac OS X and very simply to use.

Why is this potentially a good thing?

  • It enables you to capture the content of a blog/eportfolio and archive or burn it to a disc.
  • Parents not wanting to let go of the hard copy of a portfolio can now receive a copy of a child’s portfolio to keep.
  • Students moving on to a new school or leaving at the end of year 6, 8 or 13 can receive their learning journey as a momento or pass it on to their new school.

The whole point of using an online space for an eportfolio is to have it available anytime and anywhere enabling the participation of others. While this new Tumblr desktop app does not facilitate this process and is not designed to, it is great to know you can backup and store your blog, in simple HTML format, for whatever reason you have.

Finally an iPhone

The good news for me is that I now have an iPhone, a lovely new 16GB 3Gs. As part of a research initiative, my colleagues and I at CORE were invited to submit a proposal for an iPhone or Android.

“…the submission needs to include the reasons why you want an iPhone, the things you hope to achieve in work, and teaching and learning. You also need to confirm your willingness to make the minimum 6 blog posts over the next 6 months, along with any potential ULearn presentations…”

Here is my successful proposal. If you view it I suggest you do so with the sound off as it was late at night when I recorded the audio and it is a bit monotonous!

Now I can fully explore the place an iPhone may have in terms of the ongoing accumulation of thoughts, learning and reflection in an mPortfolio after posting about the possibilities several times previously..

Social Media, Mobiles and Games

Came across this Social Media/Mobile/Games counter though a colleague. It is “based on data culled from a range of social media sources & sites at the end of Sept 2009” but the data is constantly updated. More background information can be found here.

A great visualisation tool for for instigating a discussion on the changing face of technology, social media, gaming and the influence that has on the students we teach today and how education can’t ignore the impact.

By default it will show the Social Media data but just click on the tabs in the top right to display the Mobile and Games figures. Add a day, week, month or year to see to numbers jump forward. Fascinating stuff!

ePortfolios and mLearning Part 2

Time to look at mPortfolios options through the ePortfolio solution first. Listed below are some popular ePortfolio options, certainly not exhaustive, but cover a broad spectrum. I’m interested in how each platform can be accessed, edited, added too etc from a mobile device, once again specifically the iPhone or Touch, but will also add in info on other mobile platforms if available.

In no particular order:

WordPress (Edublogs): As mentioned in my previous post, any WordPress (version 2.7 or higher) powered blog/eportfolio is can be easily added to through the use of the WordPress iPhone app which works seamlessly when adding new pages or posts with images. Viewing and adding comments/feedback to the eportfolio requires the use of Safari on the iPhone. However some sites have been optimised for use on the iPhone, often through installing an iPhone friendly theme such as WPTouch allowing the browsing  commenting and administering of the site a simple pleasure! (this site has WPTouch installed so check it out on your iPhone/Touch). With a little work from the WordPress web host to set up the something like WPTouch (wordpress.com has, edublogs hasn’t, self hosted is up to the owner) mPortfolios are well catered for on the WordPress platform.
Andriod WordPress app info here, Blackberry info here. WPTouch supports both.

Google Sites: As part of your education addition or a personal account, Google sites offers another great eportfolio option. Google have an iPhone app which easily sets you are to connect to your google suite of apps, but not sites. Using Safari you can easily access your sites the traditionally way to edit and add new pages and posts. You can also insert images through pasting in thecURL but a lot of the features like inserting a Picasa image, document or calendar does not function well mainly due to the lack of Flash (?) support on the device. No really an enjoyable experience without having an iPhone/mobile optimised site like much of the other Google apps.

Blogger: If your eportfolio is a Blogger/Blogspot (also supports WordPress, Joonla, Drupal, MoveableType and more) blog then look no further than the app mentioned in the previous post, BlogPress. Easily the best option for creating new content and has the added feature of allowing YouTube video embeds. It is a shame it cost the extra money to get all of these extra features but the free version does the basics well. Commenting not catered for and Blogger is not really mobile friendly. I am still playing around with themes and layouts to find the best combination for a mobile friendly site. The best way is perhaps to view the site’s RSS feed rather than the web page, this utilises the iPhone/Touch’s built in RSS reader (go to reader.mac.com in mobile Safari if you are not familiar with this feature). Bookmark the feed to revisit the portfolio on the device.

Elgg: Like most eportfolio tools and certainly a lot of those listed below, Elgg can be accessed through the iPhone/Touch’s Safari app. Editing and adding content is not without problems (in v 1.6). Creating a new blog post is easy enough and adding the title OK but I was unable to enter any text in the body. However, searching through the Elgg community discussion forums there is some development in making iPhone specific themes and even a iPhone app to make accessing an Elgg site better. The user community for Elgg is nowhere near as big as that of blogger or WordPress but it is exciting to see that there is interest from the user base to get this type of initiative underway. That’s great use as I am a big fan of Elgg.

Blackboard: (Untested) I have no working knowledge of using Blackbaord as a portfolio platform but after reading an eportfolio report recently it was one of the most popular options. I have not tested it but have included here after reading that they have an iPhone app that they will custom build to fit your requirements: “Our open platform also lets you build and add your own applications so you can tailor Blackboard Mobile in the way you see fit.” Available for the iPhone/Touch and Blackberry. Potential here? I do know enough to say one way or the other.

PebblePad: (Untested) From the website: All installations of PebblePad include a version of Pebble Mobile. To access your mobile version of PebblePad simply point your mobile browser at your normal PebblePad URL and add ‘/mobile’ at the end e.g.: http://www.pebblepad.co.uk/eportfolio/mobile. Plans are seemingly afoot for an iPhone app: We are currently developing a PebblePad iPhone app which will allow users to work with PebblePad on the move. Features currently include viewing your assets, uploading a file, creating a thought and posting this to a blog. This is still an ongoing project due for release in the very near future (PebblePad Newsletter, 10/2009). Sounds great!

Have also not tested the following options: KnowledgeNet, My Portfolio/Mahara, UltraNet. (I do not have access to try some our the the time to try the others but will attempt to try).  As with the other options, I would image that Safari on the iPhone allows surfing of these sites and editing facilities as per a standard web browser with perhaps some limitations… please confirm if that is not the case!

To wrap this post up though it is pretty clear that the eportfolio tools that have a specific app such as Blogger or WordPress have a big advantage over those that don’t. However this experience is not complete until the eportfolio host has taken some measure to also make the eportfolio system mobile friendly to aid viewing and commenting while on the go. While this and a dedicated app is not absolutely required, it makes the process of uploading and sharing learning and receiving feedback on that learning very easy and helps contribute to a collaborative eportfolio from a mobile phone.

ePortfolios and mLearning Part 1

I have been very interested in the concept of the mportfolio, the result of blending together the eportfolio and mlearning. I have blogged about this before, and here. This blog post is an attempt to pull together what is currently available now for options of creating and adding to an eportfolio through the use of a mobile device, specifically an iPod Touch or an iPhone.

Why these devices? Firstly as an ADE, I promote the educational use of Apple products. Secondly, I own an iPod touch (not an iPhone…). Thirdly, the developments of apps and mobile integration of the Apple mobile platform far exceeds any other option, so therefore if there is an appropriate app ready to use it is more than likely to exist on the iPhone platform.

This following breakdown is by no means exhaustive. Please let me know of any other solutions/apps that should be listed here.

mPortfolio options through Apps
Searching the term portfolio in the iTunes app store brings up plenty of stock or photographers portfolio apps, searching the term eportfolio returns 1 result for the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh web app. In reality there is no real ePortfolio app for the iPhone as such, and I wouldn’t really expect there to be. Instead the question really is what app best supports an existing eportfolio set-up or what app allows the sharing of learning, reflections and feedback? So here we go…

In no particular order:

WordPress (Free):If your eportfolio is contained within a WordPress blog (wordpress.com, Edublogs or self-hosted) this is the app for you. Allows new post and pages to be created, images inserted (taken on camera or saved from web) and comments moderated. Draft posts can be saved locally if offline and posted when connected. More than one blog can be administered, so you could set up a class of student blogs/eportfolios. The ability to post learning/reflections is excellent but the app does not directly facilitate other stakeholders giving feedback on learning. this would have to be done through a web browser. The app is very easy to use and has worked seamlessly for me when used on this blog. App in beta for BlackBerry phones.

Evernote (Free): Evernote for iPhone lets you create notes, snap photos, and record voice memos that you can then access any time — from your iPhone/iPod Touch, computer, or the web. The notes are synced to your online space on the Evernote site, this becomes the container for your eportfolio/learning. The notes can be made public or  shared with others at your discretion. However a note cannot be commented on directly, as in a blog post, for feedback purposes. If you were to upgrade your free Evernote account to premium (US$45/year) then others you have shared notes with can edit or add to them, allowing a kind of commenting/feedback feature. Also the free account has an monthly upload limit of 40MB. The app works well and syncs perfectly with the online space. The ability to embed or cross-post notes into a blog would be awesome! Limited to one Evernote account per iPhone/Touch.App also available for BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Windows Mobile phones.

BlogPress (NZ$4.19) & BlogPress Lite (Free): Similar to the WordPress app but dedicated to Blogger blogs. The full version allows uploading/inserting of photos (to your Picasa account) and movies (to your Youtube account) into posts. The lite version is limited to just photos. As with the WordPress app, draft posts can be saved locally if offline and more than one blog can be administered, so you could set up a class of student blogs/eportfolios. The ability to post learning/reflections is excellent but the app does not directly facilitate other stakeholders giving feedback on learning. this would have to be done through a web browser. An added feature unique to BlogPress is the ability to the post the same post to multiple blogs which could come in handy if as a teacher you wanted to post the same message to all or a group of students blogs/eportfolios at once.

Safari: The standard web browser on the iPhone/iPod Touch. Needs to be mentioned here as it allows connection to any online service that may contain your eportfolio or elements of. Works well and is the only way to add links and other features to the body of your text in blogs posts etc. Makes web browsing a great experience on a mobile but dedicated web apps are much more intuitive.

Tumblr (Free): Conceptually very similar to Evernote. Upload text, photos, quotes, links and audio (i.e. learning, reflections etc.) to your Tumblr blog/eportfolio directly from your iPhone/Touch. Post can be saved locally and uploaded at a later time. Integrates with other web containers such as Facebook and can also broadcast to such services as Twitter. Many more features through web site. Easy to use. Limited to one Tumblr account per iPhone/Touch. Comments and feedback on posts can be made through  your web browser rather than the app.

BlogWriter (NZ$2.59) BlogWriter Lite (Free): Allows posting to WordPress or Blogger blogs. Full version allows photo uploads with geotagging but free version is limited to text only posts. Also includes an RSS reader. Interface is a bit clunky and visually not that appealing but the app does what it says it will do. I have included it here but prefer the free WordPress and Blogger apps over this.

Tubey (NZ$4.59) Tubey Lite (Free): This app did not work for me but I thought I would mention it here as the concept is great and has potential to be used as a component or contributor to an eportfolio. Tubey allows the user to click, upload and share. Using the iPhone’s camera or any saved images, these are imported into the app, titles/transitions added, and the really fantastic part, narration can be recorded to explain what the images (learning) is showing, the movie is then uploaded to YouTube and cross-posted to your Blogger blog. Potentially cool, but kept returning an error for me and had no movies successfully uploaded.

Some other apps that could potentially be useful for contributing elements to an eportfolio include PixelPipe and Qik (both free but iPhone only) which record and upload video/photo content to up to 110 different online sites including most well known blogging platforms and video/photo sharing sites or can cross-post content to your blog. Unable to test due to having no iPhone…

So what does all this mean? Essentially what this shows is that the mportfolio can happen and quite easily if the container for it is a well known blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogger. These two platforms are well catered for in terms of apps that can post content.

However for me it has opened another chapter of my own eportfolio developemnt to the reality of a more streamlined, less time consuming eportfolio through sites such as Tumblr or Evernote which are easily catered for on the mobile platform and through traditional means. That would be an eportfolio that captures the process instantly through rethinking the capturing and posting learning, and thoughts including written, visual and spoken with the use of an iPhone (or the continually rumoured iPod Touch with camera).  I had never really considered Tumblr or Evernote to be a serious contender in the eportfolio stakes but when I see the ease of capturing learning evidence on a mobile device and uploading it, I am almost converted! Others are too, various blogs post describe the potential such as here. However before I convert fully, I need to read some of the fine print regarding accounts for students and also investigate privacy/security issues.

So to finish, there are plenty of apps that support an existing eportfolio especially if it is contained within a blogging platform. However these apps are only designed to post new information or edit existing content, but  don’t support the ability to directly participate, comment, provide feedback in the eportfolio. To do this one must use a web browser either on the mobile or on desktop computer. What would be really great is if an app was developed specifically for commenting on blogs, much like the WordPress or BlogPress apps allow specific posting to their respective blogs, an app could allow commenting to a WordPress blog and a different app to a Blogger blog. Either that or it could be a feature of the already existing apps.

Next post will look at mportfolios from the eportfolio tool perspective. For example, if your eportfolio is contained in an Elgg installation, how can the iPhone support and allow posting to it? Should be interesting.

iPod Touching

So far so good with the trial of integrating iPod Touches into the classroom and the student’s learning. The students are really eager to use these devices and while there is a large number of things we would like to do on them and can’t, they have certainly been well used.

This post is just a quick rundown on some of the key apps we are using so far. I am very open to using a huge variety of different apps for a whole range of purposes. That is one of the great things about the app store concept, you can just go and search for an app to fulfill any particular purpose and there is almost always exactly what you need. Unfortunately some do cost but there some really good free apps that are worth looking at. At this point in time I am not looking at purchasing any apps for classroom use. So here is to the top four freebies we are using.

Firstly, the WordPress app. Great app providing the ability for students to create and write new posts in their eportfolios. Works really well once the students blog log-in details are set-up. Easy to add images that are stored in the image library either synced from iPhoto or saved from the web including our Flickr account. My only gripe with this app is that the latest version, which offers some great new features, is not compatible with the WordPress blog service we use so we are still running the old version (1.1).

iTalk is a great voice recording app that works really well. The sound quality is excellent and the big start/stop record button makes it really easy and intuitive to use. The app requires a syncing application on your computer which allows you to download your recording through your wireless network. The app requires that you purchase a headset that allows you to record onto your Touch any while this expense may put you off recording, it is well worth the money especially with Skype for the iPhone/Touch being released last week.

Safari for the Touch works extremely well but it is an app called Bookmarks that we use which really adds a lot more functionality and focus to our web browsing. It is a Delicious bookmarking app allowing your to stay logged in to your Delicious account and access your links. It does just what it claims to do. You can set it up so that you can save bookmarks to your Delicious account but I haven’t had a need or the time to investigate that yet.

Briefcase Lite is an app that allows us to connect to any computer on our network including our server. This is great for transferring or retrieving files and viewing them on the Touch. Most file are able to be viewed including Pages, Keynote, PDF, movies, images etc. The real potential of this is for those families in the class who do not have broadband at home to view the multimedia content in the eportfolios. A simple process will enable the content to be transfered to the Touch and then taken home for sharing. While we have not used it for this prupose yet, I know a couple of parents I have mentioned this to are keen to give it a go.

So all is well. Some of the potential is being realised but not all of it. Hopefully the upcoming holiday will give me some time to play and explore some more apps.

Touches ordered!

The good news for me and my students is that I have been given the go ahead to order a couple of iPod touches for enhancing the learning in my class. I am really excited to be given the opportunity to trial these great little mobile devices and integrate them into all facets of teaching and learning.

The problem is that when I did go to order them through the RED online store, they had none in stock and in fact had 1195 on back order!

Amazing! An online educational store with that many on back order. There must be some kind of touch movement I not aware of…

Stayed tuned for many more posts on how the year progresses integrating these mobile devices into our learning, once they arrive.

Animoto and the iPod Touch

With the beginning of the new school year approaching, my interest in using mobile technologies for learning, especially so the iPod Touch, is starting to really take hold. Although I do not, apart from my personal iPod, have access to this technology for my students (yet… right David?!) to use I am investigating new apps and uses for the technology.

My most recent playing around has been with Animoto’s new iPhone/iPod Touch app which allows users to create Animoto slideshows direct from their device.

While the iPod does not have a camera to capture images to use in a slideshow, you can use any image stored on the iPod. This includes photos synced from your computer or any image saved from the Internet direct to your device. This is where I see the real potential for this app on the iPod.

The movie below was created 100% on the iPod. By simply saving images of frogs and toads (let’s assume a child is undertaking an inquiry on them…) and using the Animoto app, the movies was created and is easily embeddable in a blog or wiki.

Great fun and so easy. Motivating. Engaging. Students could complete this at the beginning of a unit of work to get them thinking about the topic or at the end to show a understanding or new knowledge. Artist studies, personal interests, curiosities… anything…

iPod Touched

I couldn’t hold off any longer and got myself an nice new 8GB 2nd generation iPod Touch. So far so good, in fact, one could say that we are very good friends already.

The online App Store has become my latest time waster as I have waded through the hundreds of apps available. Only one purchase so far, AirSharing, allowing you to transfer files wirelessly from your computer and view them on the iPod. Files such as all the iWork formats, MS Office, web archives and a huge range of audio and video files. Much easier than emailing the file to yourself.

Posting this from the WordPress app which makes blogging a breeze while on the go. Even if you are not connected you can save your post to the iPod and publish later when you are back online.

A lot more investigating and playing on this gadget to be had to really investigate how it is best used to support teaching and learning. I am sure it has a place!