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 on: August 25, 2008, 09:37:19 AM 
Started by Graham - Last post by grouchal
Sorry only just seen the post here - thanks for noticing the article Graham and providing comments and feedback there and posting it here.

@Wolf - thanks for a sterling (if a little grumpy) defense of the spirit of my article.

@epokh - ummh - not sure what I have done to upset you - perhaps you never expected me to read your comments - personally I don't think it is nice to encourage vandalism

As Wolf pointed out I set up two years ago to bring some innovation with mobile phones to the education marketplace. We have been working hard and I think taken the technology further than I have seen on any research project or large company driven enterprise. Our aim is to use the mobile phones that students have currently to help and support them outside of the classroom. We have worked with the Open University on a number of projects, and have two of our own products that we sell directly to students. We are still working hard in helping students and have some exciting projects that we are taking forward at the moment and are looking for funding for.

My article was written to question why the startup community (innovators and entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists) largely ignore education. Getting entrepreneurs thinking about the problems in education and bringing their creativity, innovation and funding for that creativity will make a difference. I wanted to highlight how startups are altering education and showcased some good ones - in the school scene, in student support and in informal learning (connecting teachers and pupils and languages).

My labeling of the two conferences was to show that there are two forces looking at moving technology and innovation forward in the UK - one of them comes from a research point of view and the other comes from a "what existing technology can do" point of view. I should highlight that these are just labels for the conferences - and were not intended to suggest that the conferences were not worthwhile. I am proud that the UK has these two conferences this year - and more should be done, entrepreneurs should be attending and understanding what is going on.

I realize that Handheld is no longer schools focused and accept it has changed as a conference - but when I wrote the article I was not focused on a critic of handheld - but a critic of the UK startup scene with respect to education.

The two key questions posed were:

1. Why are there not many startups in the UK that focus on education?

2. Why do so many of those startups focus on languages?

The answers to both of these questions seem to be complex - but a summary answer for the first would seem to be:

There is a confusion about how the education purchasing system works and how much effort a company has to put in to break into the schools market - this is seen as a barrier to both entrepreneurs and those who provide investment. Investors also see little potential return on education investments which has a huge impact on those looking to innovate.

This seems to link to the second question because it means that those startups that do exist focus on informal education and from that choose languages as the largest market in informal education.

I personally meet so many entrepreneurs and innovators that I think it is a crying shame that that flair isn't turned toward education.

If I might mention David McCall at SUMS online - he is a great example of what can be achieved. He created a set of tools to help with Maths and luckily had the depth of character, personal funding and energy to stick with those tools for a long time before he got them in-front of as many children as now use them. I would like to see encouragement for more people like David who have great ideas but lack their own funding.

 on: August 23, 2008, 10:05:51 PM 
Started by Graham - Last post by wolfluecker
Sorry Graham, a long and bad day at the office had clearly impacted on my judgement and opinion. I was away from a computer yesterday but already regretted the tone of my post and some of the things I wrote. So it was with some trepidation that I logged on tonight...  Undecided

My main gripe was with epokh's post, but I overreacted on that too (sorry).

To be fair though, you did say that you didn't know where Al was getting his conclusions from, and implied that it was because he hadn't attended the event. That kicked off my all-inclusive rant.

However, in return (and probably with good reason) I feel you slightly jumped down my throat now too. I can't see where in my post I've criticised the principle of corporate sponsorship or implied any huge editorial impact at all. I do know what sponsorship is for, so that would be daft. Badly worded as it may be, there was nothing in my post to complain about the very reasonable price of HHL08 or question the integrity of the speakers/workshops and so on.

I don't think I have anything to take back in that respect.  Cheesy

I did sit through that session you mentioned though, and indeed felt like booing some speakers off the stage. Maybe that tainted my overall opinion of the conference, as well as the exhibitors' stalls, which I do think felt rather like a trade show (without selling things). That part definitely had a bigger impact on the overall event than in the couple of years before. Sorry, but as I say, this sentiment was shared by other delegates at the time. Corporate sponsorship is a necessity to achieve affordability for the people you want to include, and that's really fantastic, but let's be honest, it would be naive to say that it has no effect whatsoever on the conference or its delegates. Why would sponsors do it if that was the case?

I think the only point we really seem to disagree (and hey, that's cool!) is that HHL leans towards the technology end of handheld learning. I think it does - just reading the majority of posts on this forum. No problem, I'm a technologist, and I'm not saying it covers technology for its own sake too often, but you certainly wouldn't confuse it with a pencil-based learning initiative.

Do introduce me to those people throwing money at educational innovation startups. I'm not actually chasing that dollar, but I can think of some people who do. Otherwise we'll just have to 'make do' with more capital expenditure funding  Roll Eyes

 on: August 23, 2008, 10:02:52 PM 
Started by epokh - Last post by epokh
There's an updated comparison of the last ebook readers based on the e-ink technology here:
It's interesting to see tha almost all of them use the VizPlex ink panel.

 on: August 22, 2008, 07:49:13 PM 
Started by Mark van 't Hooft - Last post by MAMK
Wonderful!  I look forward to the results that come out of this issue.

 on: August 22, 2008, 06:06:26 PM 
Started by geoff stead - Last post by geoff stead
The LSC have just this moment announced, via the MoLeNET website, that there will be further funding available for FE colleges, and their partners to buy mobile devices!


Now looks like as good a time as any to try to verbalise what works well with m-learning, and what doesn't, to help any new bidders leapfrog into being 2nd or 3rd generation mobile learners!


 on: August 22, 2008, 12:25:09 PM 
Started by Graham - Last post by epokh
lol I didn't want to start a flame.
I just got the idea reading the websites, but I trust the opinion of an insider.
Thanks wolf for the clarification.

I like dialectic  Tongue

 on: August 22, 2008, 10:26:26 AM 
Started by Graham - Last post by Graham
so it's about time those 30 investors at HHL get their wallets out for educational innovation too.

LOL!  Grin

If only you knew Wolf!



 on: August 22, 2008, 09:47:24 AM 
Started by Graham - Last post by Graham
Woah, slow down there!!!

Wolf, where did I criticise Al's article on Techcrunch?

What I said in response in techcrunch's comments section was that it was a timely and interesting piece. I hope I added to it by taking part in the discussion regarding investment in education related businesses.

I can't see where I've done anything but promote Al's article and provide linkage.  Huh

I did wonder why Al had described the HHL Conference in the way that he had because he'd also used the names of sponsors from last year, I also wondered why he'd confused us as a "technology-led" event when our focus is quite clearly about learning. Yes, learning enhanced with certain technologies otherwise we'd just call the event "learning" and we'd have breakout sessions on innovative use of pencils. We also wouldn't attract a particular audience (you for example!).

Your feedback about last years event is extremely valuable and I hate to sound defensive but last years conference had a single afternoon technology roadmap session, that many delegates found informative, looking at how things would develop to 2012. In this session we had senior representatives (CEO's & Directors) from leading technology companies including the BBC, Microsoft, Intel, RM, O2, etc present their vision. This session, led by Stephen Heppell, was unfortunately used by a minority of the speakers as a platform for corporate promotion however many of the presentations were excellent. It's also worth noting that during that technology session there were 4 other learning focussed sessions running in other rooms and a practitioners zone where delegates could see first hand how leading practitioners were developing their learning and teaching strategies.

In regards to garnering corporate sponsorship for the event, this is to keep delegate fees low, it has no impact on editorial. I think you'll agree 275 for the early bird rate for a 3 day event that includes delegate materials, refreshments, meals, a social evening and a Nintendo DS & game is pretty impressive value, no? Without sponsors or exhibitors we couldn't deliver this kind of event which is one of the fastest growing educational conferences for an affordable delegate fee. Unlike trade events (and even some conferences I could mention), sponsors and exhibitors all recognise that their investment in the event does not affect the editorial policy of the conference programme and where they may be asked to speak they are requested to present within the themes of the conference. If they don't? Well as a paying delegate I'd expect you to boo them off stage!

Yes, we could triple the delegate fee and become TED - preaching "edgy ideas" to business executives with pony tails but for now I like the fact that we are reaching the innovators, early adopters, thought leaders and key practitioners that might not have a big expense account to attend events but are prepared to take the risks necessary to shape the future of learning.

Take it back Sir!  Cheesy

Epokh comments, whether we agree with them or not, are his own as are any made on this forum. Perhaps they were related to the dismissal of mLearn as an academic event without a real eye on commerce. But mLearn is a research conference and has never pretended to be anything else.

 on: August 21, 2008, 09:56:39 PM 
Started by Graham - Last post by wolfluecker
Sorry, but what are you guys on about? I have no vested interest in defending Al or his article, apart from knowing that he's a thoroughly decent chap, but I don't see why what he's asking is in any way arrogant. He put his own money where his mouth is and started up a business in the fledgling mobile learning domain, which is why he's perfectly entitled to comment on it. From the premise of the article, he is one of the 'experts', because he's running a startup himself. TechCrunch is a business publication, so yes, people talk about profits and business models a lot, and that's what he was asking.

Graham, Al has attended HHL, which is where I first met him a couple of years ago, so he does have an informed opinion of the conference. I agree with you that it's not schools-oriented, but I think his comparison of mlearn and HHL is pretty spot on. One event is for academic experimentation, research and analysis, quite removed from commercial constraints and business cases.

The other (at least last year) struck many people as turning into a technology show, with big brands having a platform to present their products and views on how to use them. I know I'm being a bit controversial here, but that's how I (and quite a few others I spoke to) felt about it. Judging by this year's programme I think you've addressed that criticism - I for one wrote it on my feedback form last year. ;-)

Anyway, back to Al's article: I think it's brilliant that someone talks about the business of educational SME's and innovation in the field for once, not just about ivory tower pilot projects and about which of the latest mobile technologies will change the world of learning. The whole social innovation area is getting a lot of attention (and money) as mentioned by Martin Owen in one of the comments, so it's about time those 30 investors at HHL get their wallets out for educational innovation too.

A script kiddie defacing TechCrunch? Come again?


 on: August 21, 2008, 06:42:06 PM 
Started by Graham - Last post by Graham
Hi David

First, I should say that I am no more a Nintendo fan than I have an appreciation for a variety of technologies with an interest in how they can be used beyond their intended purpose, i.e. for new learning. In chez Brown-Martin we have iPhones, iPods, PSPs, PS1, 2 and 3 (don't forget that HHL's Chairman is ex boss of Sony Europe and Sony Computer Entertainment Europe) and iMac, Mac Mini, iBook, a couple of Powerbooks, a couple of EEE PC's and a Windows PC plus probably the largest collection of PDAs, Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices outside of a museum. I also have an original Newton Messagepad and a real Star Trek Classic Tricorder prop  Grin

More importantly we have a very good alarm system wired to the Police and a big dog  Smiley

So I'm a geek and an agnostic one at that  Wink

Several manufacturers were offered the opportunity to provide delegates at this years conference with a device. Originally we wanted to give people a choice of three. But in the end only one device came through at a price that made sense.

And it's this point that I was making in my response. The $100 laptop designed by academia became the $180 laptop when, at the time, you ordered a million of them. At the same time you could walk into a toy shop or go on Amazon and buy a single Nintendo DS for $129. Add another $20 and you get Brain Training, the single most successful e-learning title ever that made mental arithmetic cool and spanned generations.

This is not about me being a fan of any particular technology but recognising that the technology that many learners already have is far more powerful than what many think they should have at school. We also have to recognise the economies of scale that means we (and more importantly government agencies) can no longer ignore the consumer electronic industry. This extends not just to hardware but also to software.

My further point is that technology will not solve learning challenges but good teachers will and that by understanding the world in which learners inhabit these teachers can draw out rich and deep learning experiences.

This is not a new thing. Teaching music can be done the hard way by learning notation before playing a single note or perhaps more easily by motivating a student by encouraging them to play their favourite tune first then building around that experience.

What are "tens of thousands of WinMob devices", very few of which are used in schools or by young learners, against over 70 million Nintendo DS and 40 Million PSPs or for that matter 3.3 billion mobile phones?

The first keyboard a child will ever use will be that of a gaming console, TV remote or phone. Why do some people get all nostalgic over the QWERTY keyboard and treat a cut-down laptop that short changes our children as if it was the second coming?

Are we talking about learning here or ICT?

We've spent billions on ICT over the years, how much impact has this had on learning?

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