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Written by Bob Harrison on Tuesday, 31 October 2006
/mlearn2006.jpgA week after one of the most successful mobile learning conferences, Handheld Learning 2006, held in London in association with the DfES, the UK was fully represented at the 5th World Conference on Mobile Learning hosted by Athabasca University and held in Banff, Alberta, Canada where delegates from over 20 countries came together to explore and share the potential and practice of learning with mobile and portable technologies.

The conference got off to an inspiring start with a presentation from Dr Mary Lou Jepson, Chief Technical Officer, One laptop per Child Foundation (Commonly known as the $100 laptop initiative) www.laptop.org 

Mary Lou explained how her background at Intel eventually took her to MIT and a life changing meeting with Nicholas Negroponte;

 I think it is very clear said Mary Lou 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

/olpc.jpgSeveral 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, gamer 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.

If you give a kid a laptop you give them more opportunity said Mary Lou.

Highlights from over 60 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 and their continuing development of multi media learning applications using Flash Lite and a presentation on the Wireless campus project at the University of Ulster and their use of Toshiba Tablets on a Wireless campus.

Laura Naismith, Birmingham University, continued to contribute to the work in this area with her work with museums and multi media tours using hypertags and Jocelyn Wisehart also reported on her continued work for the TDA 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 on how college tutors integrated the use of mobile learning into 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 five strong team really raised the black country PDA project profile on a world stage.

ALT past chairman, John Cook of London Metropolitan University demonstrated his own personal and his institutions commitment to mobile learning with his workshop on blended solutions and of course Mike Sharples and Elizabeth Hartnell-Young ensured Nottingham University Learning Sciences Research Institute (Mike is co chair of ALT-C 2007) maintained the UK prominence in this exciting yet still emerging field.

Notable overseas contributions came from Tom Brown and Herman van der Merwe, South Africa who both challenged the m learning 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 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 m learn project work by Geoff Stead and Jill Attewell reported at previous mlearn events.

All of the proceedings can be seen at http://www.mlearn2006.org  Mlearn 2007 will be in Melbourne, Australia from Oct 16th to 18th, preceded once again by Handheld Learning on Oct 12-13th 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.

About the Author

Bob Harrison is a teacher and tutor for NCSL as well as a Consultant with the DfES Improvement Group.He also is 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 and whilst in North America spent a day at Stanford University with staff responsible for the Stanford Virtual High School Project. He is writing in a personal capacity and can be contacted on www.setuk.co.uk

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 31 October 2006 )
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