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The Steering Committee Speaks PDF Print E-mail
Written by Handheld Learning on Monday, 17 September 2007
/group.jpgThis years Handheld Learning 2007 has been guided by a steering committee that is quite possibly the most vibrant and experienced group to have steered such an event. The result is that the Handheld Learning Conference is now considered to be of international importance where many of the key thought leaders, opinion formers and practitioners are now fully engaged.

All members gave their not-inconsiderable amount of time freely not just during meetings but also via relentless phone calls and emails from myself as we developed each theme and considered the many hundreds of responses we received from the call for papers. This has been a significant labour of love for all concerned so I was keen to know more about their motivations and share them with the readers of this site and delegates attending this years conference.

/dougbrown.jpgDoug Brown, Deputy Director Technology Futures Unit at DCSF offered me the following insight “Today's children are growing up in an increasingly multimedia rich environment with devices that are becoming more personal and also enabling greater communication and collaboration.  The opportunities for learning are enormous and this event will enable us to take forward the discussion on how best to utilise these devices in education and to develop the system to maximise their potential."

Tony Parkin, Head of ICT Development at the Specialist Schools & Academies Trust was impressed with Handheld Learning 2006 and welcomed the opportunity to participate in the planning of this one. He said “Events like this are important to keep the momentum going on promising innovations in new technology. It is key that there are opportunities where educationalists, the industry, higher education and technologists get to interact, exchange opinions, and help shape the direction of travel. “ /parkin.jpgTony continued, “Mobile technologies have a huge potential in many different ways - too many to list. You only have to see any student of any age using a mobile device of any kind to see the potential for learning, or actual learning, and how this learning is collaborative and social. The challenge is to identify how this informal learning can be integrated into more formal learning so that educational institutions can derive the benefits of this potential.”/david-perry.jpg

David Perry, an independent consultant with in-depth experience in evaluating the performance of handheld learning initiatives in the UK joined the steering group because he believed “The conference is maturing and needs careful thought” hoping that this year’s conference would deliver “A sense that mobile technologies in schools are starting to be ready for 'second adopters' - and then the majority”

/valerie.jpgFor Valerie Thompson, Chief Executive of the e-Learning Foundation, participating on the steering group made practical sense given similar goals between the organizations, “The e-Learning Foundation is working with Handheld Learning on the conference for a second year running, rather than stage its own autumn event, which we used to do until recently. There is a huge amount of synergy in what the conference aims to do with the work of our charity, and as collaboration is our preferred way of working it just makes sense for us to join forces,” Valerie makes the point that the event marks a sign post to a future direction “The event will provide a showcase for the direction that personal, portable technology for learners is moving. The majority of investment in ICT for schools remains locked in the past; IT Suites, desktop computers, pupil:computer ratios, etc. These are now inconsistent with the Personalised Learning, Every Child Matters and Home Access agendas.  This event will provide decision makers with the knowledge they need to go back to their workplace and review current ICT and learning strategies to better reflect what young learners need.”

/clare.jpgClare Riley, Education Relations for Microsoft is effusive about the future for mobility in learning “ For me, mobile is a way of life!  Sat Nav and my funky little phone - with its email/to do list/contacts etc – make it possible to be a single mum with a full time job and not be late for the football match!  It’s all there to help me – all the time – anywhere.  And I am in touch with my friends and my children any time, anywhere: whenever I need to know anything!  I can’t imagine life without them!  And that’s why I think mobile technologies have a role in the transformation of teaching and learning.  In the same way that television has become “invisible” to us (we take it for granted) so have communications technologies for teenagers (things like texting and IM).   In a recent survey by our online business we found nearly half the teenagers asked said their mobile was the first thing they looked at when they woke up and the last thing they do at night. They don’t just use mobile for text and phone calls: over 70% use them for playing games; over 60% for sending pictures or video and over half go online for entertainment, news and sport.  As an integral part of daily life, this is something we should be harnessing.  But, to make mobile technology an integral part of learning, we need to be able to provide a device for every child – with a price that makes it accessible to all schools and their students.  In addition, to be a truly “invisible” part of the learning process, devices need to have the functionality, be the right size and have sufficient battery life to ensure they are embedded in teaching and learning.  Given the massive investment in Building Schools for the Future and the government’s drive for Universal Home Access – the “tipping point” may not be so very far away!”

From a US perspective Tony Vincent and Mark van’t Hooft have made important contributions to the shaping of the 2007 conference.

/vincent.jpgTony hopes that “Handheld Learning 2007 inspires even more teachers to explore learning while mobile. I also hope that educators who are already using mobile devices with students discover new and useful resources, strategies, and techniques. I'd like to see those who are in positions to affect change understand the needs of today's students and tomorrow's society and appreciate that mobile learning can help fulfill those needs.’ He adds, “One factor that may help usher in the use of learning while mobile is the Mobile Web. The Mobile Web continues to grow and offers many sites and services to a variety of devices. Schools may not have to purchase much technology to access the Mobile Web--they can encourage students to bring whatever Internet-enabled devices they got: a mobile phone, PSP, Nintendo DS, Palm, Pocket PC, iPhone, etc.”

/hooft.jpgMark wants the conference to encourage delegates to take things further, “I hope that this year’s event will encourage attendees to really push forward. It seems to me that we’ve hit sort of a wall in the use of mobile technologies for learning. I’d really like us to have some good discussions about what we need to do to keep moving forward, especially when it comes to bridging learning inside and outside of schools. The My ArtSpace project and Frequency 1550 are good examples of how that could be done, but they’re really pilot projects. We need to figure out how we can take projects such as these and implement them broadly.” The best example’s Mark has seen are “those where mobile technology has truly become an integrated tool, where students use it as needed. This means that technology use is more student than teacher-directed, diverse, and flexible.

So there you have it, wise words from wise people who have worked very hard to create a conference programme that challenges, stimulates but most of all inspires.

I’m confident that you’ll enjoy the results.

The Handheld Learning 2007 Conference & Exhibition runs from Oct 10th-12th
Central Hall Westminster, London, SW1

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Last Updated ( Monday, 17 September 2007 )
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