Research Gaps

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Michael Wilkinson
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« on: January 20, 2008, 01:24:24 PM »

I was wondered what research gaps the community felt there were with regards mobile learning. I think we are all pretty much agreed at the pedagogies surrounding mobile learning, particulary evident at HHL07, and given that what research would add value to the field in embedding these approaches into today's teaching and learning.
Interestingly, some suggest there is not a valid research model to support the study of mobile learning, hence Mike Sharples paper 'Towards a Research Agenda' which suggests Activity Theroy as a model.

I look forward to hearing everyone's throughts
Graham: I know we chatted about this at BETT but I though I would allow you to respond to this to put your thoughts in your own words!

Michael Wilkinson
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Graham
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2008, 09:31:08 PM »

Hi Michael

I realise that, for those that have heard me go on recently, this has become a bit of a soapbox for me but I feel that there is either a gap or a lack of acceptance of the impact that the consumer electronics and entertainment software industries are having on the expectations of learners and they way in which they learn. One only has to look at the work that Derek Robertson is doing in Scotland at the Consolarium to realise the rapid convergence of these industries with learning is palpable.

We hear a lot about "difficult to reach" learners but I would venture to say that the consumer electronics industry is managing to reach a fair % of them more than traditional IT suppliers. At the risk of inviting the scorn of the PC police I tend to invoke the history of satellite TV in this country. Back in the mid-80's there were at least two major players in the race to stick something on your chimney. British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) with their "squarial" and that Aussie chancer, Rupert Murdoch, with Sky. BSB made the assumption, as did many, that because satellite was expensive and required a monthly subscription it would initially be a middle-class phenomenon and went with more expensive delivery technology (as well as expensive offices) and fed them what they considered to be a middle-class diet of arts programming, up-market films and polo. Sky on the other hand went for the jugular using cheaper technology (and cheaper offices) and targeted the mass-market with sports and popular entertainment building from a solid foundation to the point where Sky acquired BSB, etc.

My point is that I believe that there is a lot of tech in homes that isn't recognised as viable or useable in a learning context yet quite clearly learners are getting so much out of it that they're getting bored at school.

Rather than forcing technology companies to create devices to running existing web sites and content and pushing hardware on kids that would rather have something a bit cooler why not go with the programme and ensure that learning materials and learner access is as universal as possible including their weapon of choice whether it be a Wii, PS3, smartphone or Asus Minibook.

So, to round up I think there are some gaps here and I'd say there is some work to be done on demonstrating how off the shelf consumer electronic products and software can be used in a teaching and learning context.

 Smiley

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wolfluecker
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« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2008, 11:19:55 AM »

Graham,

Here's my chance at last to completely and utterly agree with you!  Grin

Everytime I walked past a stand at BETT that was flogging some obscure new proprietary device, handheld or not, my heart sank. For many suppliers there's clearly more money in kit than in software that would work on a range of (consumer) devices, but it's such a counter-productive and antiquated approach, it's depressing.

There is so much scope in using what the kids have in their homes/pockets. It just needs a bit of imagination - and funding (rather than a huge pot of money for *sigh* hardware. Yes, I know I'm simplifying that particular project, but why not spend some money on what to do with all that kit?

Wolf.
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James Clay
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2008, 11:38:49 AM »

So, to round up I think there are some gaps here and I'd say there is some work to be done on demonstrating how off the shelf consumer electronic products and software can be used in a teaching and learning context.


I agree, it was walking around different colleges which made me realise that when it came to mobile learning, it wasn't about getting PDAs running learning content (though I am sure there are scenarios which they would enhance and support learning), but was much more about using the devices our students already have.

One end result of this was a presentation I gave at a JISC Online Conference, available here: http://www.online-conference.net/jisc/content/clay/conference/html/0000.html which looked at how to use a range of consumer mobile devices for learning.

Since then (what 18 months ago) the market has moved forward quite dramatically, it is now even easier for learners to access audio, video and web content on their mobile devices.

One of the key factors has to be how easy is it for the learner to access that content?

Another barrier to overcome is to realise that the mobile device is only one tool that a learner may use for learning. So though a learner may listen to audio, or view video on a mobile device, assessing their learning may take place using a traditional computer or a pen and paper. For me mobile learning is not about learning on a mobile, but as Graham says, learning when mobile. A (paper) notepad can be used when mobile.

Certainly this model is how my institution is moving forward in terms of mobile learning.

James Clay
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davew
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« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2008, 02:43:49 PM »

On a practical note...

Just out of interest... who legally takes on the liability for insuring these devices learners are going to bring with them from home whilst they are on the school site?

I am guessing that the school does by default ..  our experience is that home contents cover does not apply at school. So it could get very expensive as I am guessing that the standard school insurance would not be economic... as the last time I made a claim there was a 500 excess per claim!!!

Also as a person who has sorted out many a squabble on the last day of term over children who have swapped similar home owned gaming  devices.... I am not sure your average teacher would be so keen. I became very adept at adjudicating over number of scratches etc... but it was very time consuming....

any thoughts?

 Undecided
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Graham
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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2008, 12:34:42 PM »

A good point Dave and clearly this might very well constitute a "Research Gap" as Michael suggested.

Out of curiosity, which home contents policies aren't supporting domestic gadgets taken out of the home and into school and why?

Not to play down the importance of what you've said but perhaps it has been tackled in some form in the past along the "someone broke/stole my slide rule/calculator/trainers/watch, etc" vein. I wonder what happened then or what happens now?

Although my initial response to this thread was a general point about enabling the use of existing technology outside of school for learning, clearly mechanisms, acceptable use policies, citizenship etc need to be developed if we are to encourage learners to bring their own technology to school and respect others.

My intuition says that it should be the individual who is responsible for the care and insurance of their property at school or elsewhere. Theft, bullying, deliberate damage, etc is tricky, I expect it would be either a criminal or civil law matter but presumably this is already a problem with other desirable items of property, what solutions if any are used to deal with those?

I did a cursory check of house contents insurance policies and most seemed to cover gadgets like cameras, etc outside the home. None specifically excluded schools although most excluded "property held or used for any profession, business or employment" so I wonder if this might be a get out clause. The excess charged for a low value item (under 1,500) by Direct Line insurance is 25.

I know that as part of my mobile phone agreement there is standard insurance that provides me with a new phone regardless of circumstances and location.

The insurance business is fiercely competitive and the creation of a new market such as supporting claims for items our children's property might be an area in which some companies will compete on. A recent trend in car insurance, for example, is to pay out on vandalism without affecting no-claims discount. For those living in some inner cities this is a positive boon.


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Michael Wilkinson
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« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2008, 06:11:00 PM »

In response to the insurance comments...
At the moment students are bringing their phones into school anyway, some covered by the standard mobile phone insurance, others home insurance, some no insurance at all. Given this is only a mobile phone it is not seen as a problem - after all it is the responsibility of the student, as is their PSP or DS etc. that they carry about with them anyway.
If the student see's an opportunity to access or capture learning using any such device - this is surley or 'digital natives' finding authentic uses for  digital technology and harnessing the skills developed for using such consumer electronics for the purposes of learning. Effetively the gadgets and technologies belong to the student - the fact they can be used for the purposes of learning should not in my opinion, mean a moral responsibility for schools to support insurance.
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Graham
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2008, 12:12:54 AM »

I did a bit more research on some of the insurance issues and it would seem that the companies concerned are certainly interested in addressing the value of contents both in children's bedrooms and school bags.

A research study by the Co-operative Insurance reports that the average child has 1,260 worth of gadgets in their rooms with kids in the North East having the most expensive rooms averaging at 1,540. The value of this market in the UK is reported as 14 Billion. This report along with others suggests that home owners maybe be under-insuring their contents as a consequence of the digital natives living under their roofs.

According to one article Esure insurance valued the contents of the average school bag for an 11-16 year old at 265 but also recognised that fashion conscious teens could be going to school with personal items valued at 1100.
Whilst many of the reports I've read suggest that the best way of avoiding the damage or loss of mobile gadgets at school is to leave them at home, perhaps unaware of an impending mobile learning revolution, they do recognise the need to insure other high value items outside of the school such as musical instruments.

A further article from Lloyds TSB that highlights the cost's of gadgets owned by young learners is here.

I'm certainly not an expert in this area but I've yet to find a home contents insurer that do not cover personal possessions taken outside of the home by a children that is damaged or lost at school. I did find one company that offered a policy specifically for gadgets taken to school so I expect that some companies have already spotted an opportunity:

http://www.sfs-group.co.uk/products-personal-possessions-scheme.htm

Hopefully they will be followed and premiums reduced!

 Smiley


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Michael Wilkinson
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« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2008, 10:12:45 AM »

What seems such a simple issue is un-ravelling to become a mind field! Well done Dave for bringing this one up!

With specific relation to SmartPhones - most projects who are supplying such devices to students, have options of insurance for those devices - especially important for those supplied with SIM cards.
This has been equally as topical with some projects asking for parental contributions towards the insurance which poses a further question - should be charging parents additional costs for their students education (ok..that's a debate in itself!)
Other projects are looking at the total costs of supplying a device, contracts (voice and / or data), insurance, internet filtering etc. and this is the whole offering given to the students hence, the SmartPhone is fully insured against theft or damange etc.
Ok...this does not cover the wide range of consumer electronics our students have in their bags, but is testiment to the need for a more prominent structure around insurance and as important, the whole school discussion with learners about their responsibilities.
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davew
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« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2008, 10:23:04 AM »

Hi,
Don't want to prolong this discussion toooo much, but the point is that even if Insurance companies were persuaded to insure a device for day to day use in school. (and I am not convinced that they would on a mass scale - given our experience with "Speciallist" insurers on the Learning2Go initiative) If the school had asked learners to bring the devices in then it would surely take the responsibility for this.

Not to mention the logistical nightmare of trying to teach in a situation where some learners had devices and others didn't... some were insured others weren't... I just feel that someone needs to think through the practical issues here.

I am sure that in the near future, that when the basic funtionality of higher end phones enables authoring of work not just passive consumption of content, then I can see schools encouraging the purchase of school devices from a recommended menu. Probably with a bulk negotiated insurance...

This is probably the halfway house situatiuon that might appeal to schools... but we ain't there yet!



Regards

D
« Last Edit: January 27, 2008, 10:27:03 AM by davew » Logged
Graham
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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2008, 12:00:56 PM »

What seems such a simple issue is un-ravelling to become a mind field!


Hmm... I really don't think this is a mine field Michael. You've asked for some research gaps and it looks like you've found some!

Kids using their very powerful gadgets at home for learning and taking them to school might have some benefits. These benefits could, for example, include the fact that the school doesn't have to buy every child a device and might encourage the development of software and content that is not device specific. Investments could then also be made in connectivity and CPD which always seems to be the last thing on the list after buying loads of hardware!

Dave has, rightly, from his experience in Wolverhampton raised the issue of insurance but I would counter that the insurance industry is based on the mass market and in terms of home contents specifically mass market consumer products that can be easily replaced. Advice to parents and insurance bought either as part of an existing home contents policy or at point of purchase of the device (s) may also be a solution along with an acceptable use policy agreed between parents and schools making it clear that gadgets brought to school are at owners risk. Buy any gadget at Dixons, Currys, PC World etc and you're always offered an insurance. This is because it's a big money thing for these retailers. Perhaps with some encouragement these retailers may offer a new policy to specifically meet the needs of young learners.

The policy that I drew attention to above (whom I have no connection with nor endorse!) indicated that from around 1 a week a parent could ensure up to 3000 worth of their child's possessions at school including a mobile phone.

I take Dave's point also about "if schools had asked learners to bring the devices..." but is this different from bringing in expensive musical instruments, sporting equipment, etc?

Other projects are looking at the total costs of supplying a device, contracts (voice and / or data), insurance, internet filtering etc. and this is the whole offering given to the students hence, the SmartPhone is fully insured against theft or damange etc.


On the subject of Internet filtering on phones, the mobile telecommunications companies in the UK are very strict on this and have extremely good filtering that can only be switched off by proof of age of user (credit check, etc).

Hi,
Don't want to prolong this discussion toooo much,


No worries about prolonging discussions Dave, that's the whole point of the forum!

Hopefully other members will join us.

 Smiley

I am sure that in the near future, that when the basic funtionality of higher end phones enables authoring of work not just passive consumption of content, then I can see schools encouraging the purchase of school devices from a recommended menu. Probably with a bulk negotiated insurance...


You're no doubt right about the functionality as the same thing happened with pocket calculators that also started off expensive and are now cheap although I don't know if there was an insurance element in those days. I'm looking forward to seeing devices being bought from vending machines in the near future!


I'd argue that we're heading towards more web-based applications. Today I can author, edit and share documents, spreadsheets, pictures, videos, audio recordings all on the web via a browser on a variety of devices. Thus the device (and operating system) is becoming less relevant. Perhaps the most basic level of functionality therefore is the ability to run a modern browser.

I'm not convinced about a menu of school devices (such menu's can limit innovation and encourage cartels) although it might be interesting to see what an agency such as Becta might consider to be the desired functionality set - aren't they doing this with the "Home Access Task Force" which may well end up as a device like the RM Minibook?

I hope other members will contribute to this thread as I think there are some interesting themes that Michael has provoked!

Cheers

G

 Smiley



« Last Edit: January 27, 2008, 12:18:14 PM by Graham » Logged
davew
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2008, 07:33:17 PM »

I think that I've probably made my points.

There has been a move recently on this forum to speculate on what will happen when learners bring in their own devices..... This will not be as easy as some seem to believe. Paricularly for school aged learners.

I am not saying that it will not happen. BUT we do need to be realistic about this. The approach that most seem to be taking at the moment is to procure the devices on behalf of parent and learners to make the classroom adoption easier with this new technology, this has been very successful, and has given us the body of research knowledge that we have at the moment.

The base functionality of many of the devices constantly offered as options on this forum, only (In my opinion) offer limited learner engagement. Can the web based apps that you talk about, be accessed and used meaningfully on the average windows smartphone Graham?

Most musical equipment is procured/ loaned from school and is covered by school procured agreements.

Much of the research currently available on mobile learning points towards how difficult it is for schools to cope with multiple devices of the same type. This is challenging enough.... I await with interest, the results of any projects which use multiple devices, which are bought in from home. I hope that the results of these projects will be as freely published as our work from Learning2Go.

As Andy Black asked, are there any schools out there doing this at the moment, which is beyond pushing content to devices?



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Graham
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2008, 10:09:28 PM »

The base functionality of many of the devices constantly offered as options on this forum, only (In my opinion) offer limited learner engagement. Can the web based apps that you talk about, be accessed and used meaningfully on the average windows smartphone Graham?


As mentioned earlier there has been some impressive work with devices such as the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP by the likes of Derek Robertson at the Consolarium, Paul Hynes (Specialist Schools & Academies Trust), Jonathan Sly and Anna Suggett (Essex LA), etc. Philip Griffin has been using Nokia 810 devices with Uniservity's Learning Platform (there were some of his students doing cool stuff at BETT), eTech's popular StudyWiz system runs well on Apple iPhones and iPod Touch devices.

Many of the online app's are going mobile, Google docs, maps, etc are useable on windows mobile devices as well as other devices that support browsers as are other web apps such as Flickr. In addition to Google's announcement of Android to accelerate the development of web based mobile apps, Yahoo! also made announcements of developments in this area at CES.

So my intuition is that, whilst there is still a lot to be done, developers recognise the future is the mobile web and will create applications that work gracefully across many devices including Windows Mobile smartphones. My thoughts expressed at the start of this thread was a call to developers to consider what could be done to provide enhanced learner engagement using existing and emerging consumer technologies. After all the Sony PSP and Nintendo Wii both support browsers with Flash and some educational publishers, e.g. SUMS Online, have already spotted the opportunity.


As Andy Black asked, are there any schools out there doing this at the moment, which is beyond pushing content to devices?


I think this is one of the "research gaps" that  Michael, who started this thread, was searching for!

If it hasn't been tried then maybe it should?

Other opinions please!

 Smiley

« Last Edit: January 27, 2008, 10:19:59 PM by Graham » Logged
stu_mob
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« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2008, 01:43:59 PM »

Mmm insurance always tricky. I have seen policies that would cover a device used in school but am not an insurance expert.The sticking point with the policy however is the turn around time, which can be weeks. Specialist mobile policies give a 24 hour turn around but they are expensive when measured against actually risk. Turning the issue around wider use of mobile devices might bring costs down as economies of scale come into play.

Anyone who has spoken to me recently (and I have gone to ground the last few months Wink will know that whilst I strongly value the output from work based around single device projects, I question the long term viability. So research based around using a multitude of devices would be very interesting. It would be a challenge but I really think some of the specifications I see for running some mobile learning is appalling and is  tantamount to being a promotional advert for not just one particular OS but one particular range of devices in some cases. We need to move away from that and research in that area would be good and always been something that I have pursued an will continue to do so.

It would also be interesting to see  if students will use their own devices. In HE  most students have their own laptop or desktop computer, so for that sector it might not be a major leap to use their own mobile devices, FE might be more of a mix and schools would probably be the most reluctant sector. But I am speculating - lets see research that challenges of confirms these views. If students would use their own devices then we could look at using public sector money to support those without the fiscal means to access these tools.

A challenge we already acknowledge on this forum is that these devices are primarily consumer or business focused in terms of marketing and design. So some research into whether or not that really matters in terms of using them for learning would also be interesting!
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sharplem
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« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2008, 09:33:42 PM »

Some major companies are already looking at how to develop and market new consumer devices aimed specifically at mobile learning applications - and without giving away secrets, it's likely that we'll see some exciting examples soon. More generally, I think we have now reached the point with handheld computers - with the ultra-mobile PCs costing less than 200, and mobile phones that have powerful multimedia functionality - that we were at 20 years ago with pocket calculators.  Insurance and classroom management of personal technologies are problems to be solved,  but not research issues. One central research issue is how to connect the learning at home with learning at school, using small consumer devices as the bridge. Extending school into the home isn't the solution, nor is allowing unrestricted social networking and gaming in the classroom. We need to explore new forms of pedagogy and technology that build on children's informal knowledge and social skills in the classroom, and that augment the home as a site for exploration and inquiry. To give a concrete example - we're exploring how mobile technology can help young children to understand about the connection between the heart and fitness using a personal heart rate monitor linked to handheld technology and new software for science inquiry, to explore heart rate and exercise at school, in the playground and at home.
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