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Philip Griffin
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« on: March 04, 2008, 10:40:33 PM »

Expect the unexpected

Since September I've been using a set of handheld devices, Nokia N800's, in my classroom. The idea has been to link the N800's, the Uniservity Learning Platform, via the Smartboard to create a new classroom environment. This has led to many challenges. Tasks which appeared to be obvious and easy have proved to be impossible, new ways of working have emerged.

For instance, take Bluetooth technology. The children very quickly realised that they could send each other information via Bluetooth and that such sending would be impossible for the teacher to monitor, especially if there N800 was set to silent. There is now a steady stream of Bluetooth information across the classroom. Some of this is curriculum based, much of it is not. Pictures, text, drawings, applications, games all move seamlessly around. We now have a set of class rules, which we have agreed upon, about what is proper use of a device during lessons. 

Like many other primary classrooms the seating in our room was based around tables. Six tables, each seating a maximum of 6 children, although most of the time some tables were not full. When the children are using books or pens and paper or traditional classroom mediums, one can see at a glance from anywhere in the room whether a child is on task. If they are discussing in groups or pairs, then checking that they are on task is more difficult, but still perfectly feasible. However, give the children small handheld mobile devices then the situation changes. How do you know what they are doing? Are they writing or searching the internet or are they playing a game on their handheld? There is no way of telling unless you can see what they have on their screen. First implication then, the room layout has to change. The teacher needs to be at the centre of things, to be able to move easily between the different groups and talk partners to see, hear and know what learning is happening in their room.

This immediately brings other issues. If the teacher is stationed in the middle of the room, how is power going to be pushed to their laptop or computer? It is still essential that this is connected to the interactive whiteboard and that it should be easily accessed. If the children are not facing the board, do they need chairs that swivel so that they can easily turn round. If the children are not writing on paper, do they need to be sat at tables? They will need desk space when they are writing, but at other times a group may be discussing something or recording which needs a different kind of environment.

What should the children be doing if the teacher is explaining something? Should they really be sat up straight listening? Is this what we as adults do? Are they allowed to take notes as they go along, through using spider diagrams or similar? If they are really taking control of their learning then they should know how best that they learn. If there is a presentation prepared for the interactive whiteboard, should it be available on the learning platform for the children to download? Some children will go further ahead than others- should they all be limited to the speed of the slowest child or of the teacher?

The interim report, written for SEGfL is available at
http://www.segfl.org.uk/microsites/view_page.php?id=469

The project has been supported by Uniservity, Wokingham LA, Nokia and NexGen Solutions.
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Graham
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2008, 08:46:34 AM »

Philip

Thanks for this excellent post and for sharing your thoughts and experience. It's great to hear, in detail, about such initiatives.

Lets hope that this will spur others to come forward with theirs!  Wink

I was wondering though about the title of the post "The Mobile Classroom". Do you think that this could be an oxymoron? In some ways it reminds me of sitting in my office and emailing the person next to me. Sometimes this is useful to keep a record but sometimes it prevents discourse and a sort of management by email culture emerges.

In your work so far, how much has the use of the N800's liberated the teachers and learners from the physical classroom/school building?


Graham
« Last Edit: March 05, 2008, 08:52:04 AM by Graham » Logged
SteveGayler
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« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2008, 02:23:06 PM »

"If they are discussing in groups or pairs, then checking that they are on task is more difficult, but still perfectly feasible. However, give the children small handheld mobile devices then the situation changes. How do you know what they are doing? Are they writing or searching the internet or are they playing a game on their handheld? There is no way of telling unless you can see what they have on their screen. First implication then, the room layout has to change. The teacher needs to be at the centre of things, to be able to move easily between the different groups and talk partners to see, hear and know what learning is happening in their room. "

Dear Phil,

Have you considered SynchronEyes from SMART for your devices, you can download a free 30 dy trial from them.  You can manage all of the devices from your laptop \ PC, pull up indiividual screens onto your whiteboard, take control of a device, or lock all devices with a message such as Eys To the Front.  You just need a very reliable wireless network to make it work.
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Steve Gayler
Graham
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« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2008, 04:02:23 PM »

Hi Steve

Philip's running Nokia N800 devices rather than Windows Mobile PDA's, although Sanako have a similar product to Syncronise that runs very well on the Nokia's.

Although having said that I'm with Philip on room layout rather than surveillance unless we're preparing learners to enter a world where their computers are being continuously monitored.

But hang on... Wink

Cheers

G
« Last Edit: March 05, 2008, 04:06:48 PM by Graham » Logged
Philip Griffin
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« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2008, 05:26:15 PM »

Hi

Interestingly I teach in an (air conditioned) temporary (permanent?) building at the other side of the playground, so it really is a mobile classroom in both senses of the word.

One of the advantages/disadvantages of the N800 is that it is a Linux device. This means their is a large number of enthusiasts out there developing software but that some commercial software won't run. Neither will the Sanako software- this runs on the later N810 but not on the N800- even with the updated OS2008.

The Sanako software would lock the devices down and stop the learners installing software, would cut out the bluetooth and enable total teacher control. Is this good pedagogy for the 21st century?

Having said that, it would be great to easily show all the screens from the N800's on the Smartboard at the same time. So some aspects are worthwhile.

Time to leave my mobile classroom now, I think.

Philip
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Graham
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« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2008, 05:54:57 PM »


The Sanako software would lock the devices down and stop the learners installing software, would cut out the bluetooth and enable total teacher control. Is this good pedagogy for the 21st century?


An excellent point, well made.

It seems that the more we move forward with genuinely liberating technology the more fear it generates leading to systems that restore old pedagogy's to control the learning process. Interactive Whiteboard's are a great example of digital form over function and another technology that, in many cases, have been co-opted to reinforce old familiar teaching practices.


Having said that, it would be great to easily show all the screens from the N800's on the Smartboard at the same time. So some aspects are worthwhile.


This is easy enough to achieve by wirelessly sending work created on a mobile device to a central store then simply recalling and displaying it via a teachers laptop or alternatively/simulataneously on the parents PC or at home on TV using a game console without any limitations on number of learners or how many pieces of work you can display. The control aspect is not necessary in my opinion.

 Wink




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Philip Griffin
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« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2008, 07:56:20 PM »

Graham

You are right that there are other solutions to the central display of work. In fact, our project aimed to do just this via the Learning Platform. Unfortunately there is a problem, not of our making, with this. Somewhere in our LA everyones internet goes through this tiny hole. At peak times (say between 9am and 3.30pm) their tends to be a little bit of a wait while the data squeezes through, which is causing our project (and everyone else) a bit of a problem! Despite the experts trying to find where the constriction is, it is still there. Bit embarassing when you have 3 high powered visitors in the room wanting to see Handhelds interacting with the Learning Platform and even the laptop takes 5 minutes to go to a new page!

In the words of a good book, Don't Panic!

Philip
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Graham
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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2008, 09:17:59 AM »

Ah yes!

Connectivity, connectivity, connectivity  Cheesy

Whilst devices get cheaper and more ubiquitous it is connectivity that becomes the bane of the mobile learners life.

What was once thought of as a high speed connection supporting a couple of ICT suites doesn't seem so speedy when every learner is connected and often those wireless routers need changing too. I've had experiences in schools when connectivity was lost in LA's when the football or cricket was on, indicating there was some heavy streaming going on!

Devices supporting Wi-Fi, WiMax and cellular (EDGE, 3G, etc) seamlessly will help, provided that the industry can get to grips with sensibly priced data plans for learners so they are connected wherever.
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Philip Griffin
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2008, 06:29:22 PM »

Oxymorons

Well, after looking that up (!) I've been thinking about it.

Learning is a social activity, and we do need the classrooms particularly at primary. We need the class part as children need to learn in a social situation. We need the room part as we have to work somewhere. Perhaps the definition should approach that of church- in that a church is not a building but when 2 or more people gather together with a particular objective in mind.

We also need the mobile part if we are going to allow greater creativity and collaboration- even (especially) at KS2.

Philip
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Spike Town
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« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2008, 10:17:53 AM »

This has been an interesting thread to follow as it throws up the debate about what a "liberated" classroom is.

I was interested to read your comments about control in the classroom Philip because they are concerns that have been raised continually with primary teachers that I work with.

In MY classroom I would feel comfortable that the devices were being used primarily for the use intended by me, that is the ethos that I feel MY classroom always has. That is not to say that children in My classroom haven't passed notes to each other saying "You Stink" etc from time to time, that is because they are children. I would hope that bluetoothing songs, pics or whatever to each other would happen outside of classtime as swapping of media (e.g., pogs, football stickers etc) always has done. What I think is a bigger concern is the push for this idea of personalised learning for all without stopping and defining what it actually means. Graham mentions the problem of the whiteboard reinforcing the pedagogical style of teaching that has been around for, well, as far back as schooling has existed (you can go back to Plato's Academy for a pedagocial equivalent of a teacher explaining ideas to a class and then inviting discussion, though the historical record does not mention how effective Plato's technical support was). It amuses me that Whiteboards get attacked as the antithesis of inclusive learning at conferences by people on a stage trying to teach us what they think in front of a presentation screen (or even a whiteboard)! If talking to a large group of people with some sort of display (possibly interactive) is so rubbish for getting a message across why is every conference I've ever been to set up like that... What I would entirely agree with is that interactive whiteboards, projection displays and ....er blackboards have been used for very presentational style lessons that do not include learner direct involvement (just as a passive learner) for years. Good teachers however, have always and will always have a mixed style of teaching where sometimes the children sit and listen, sometimes they contribute, sometimes they lead etc. So, given that good teachers know how to engage children effectively new technology is not a problem for them but it won't revolutionise the classroom quite the way that I think people are often touting. At the end of the day there is a curriculum that has to be taught (or learned? hmmm) and teachers must use the best means to achieving that aim. The use of mobile devices increases the flexibility that the teacher has in:
 
a) giving the children decent teaching content (weblinks, vid clips, questions to discuss etc)
b) giving the children better access to their learning space (VLEs, MLEs...oh u know what I mean!)
c) giving the children better opportunity to discuss  and receive feedback on their learning possibly from a wider range of people than simply their teacher and class
d) giving the children an more effective way of recording work, developing ideas than the traditional pen and pencil
e) making home school links more effective if the parent has access to the online learning space and possibly the device to some extent

Now take a child who is motivated, averagely bright and give him 24/7 access to his school class page via a school supplied smartphone/pocket pc/nokia etc. He will go to school, the teacher will use the whiteboard to show/demonstrate/take feedback/manipulate diagrams etc and set work accordingly for the child to do, in class, when he gets home, through a choice of ways on a choice of software. I think I am right in saying that this is where you are coming from Philip?

But just for a second take the example of a child who is not motivated and is in the same class. All the opportunities are there but will they be taken? In fact I would argue that the only bit where they would actually learn anything (if at all) in that scenario, is in the classroom with the teacher engaging them, questioning them asking them perhaps to explain what they ahve done on the board where they can manipulate images, text etc (or on a private computer of course). So which is the most effective way of teaching?

As anyone who has taught will tell you, children are all different. Sounds obvious but that often gets lost in the sweeping Brave New World statements. What it comes down to is commitment by the learner and that is what good schools teach better than anything else. Yes literacy scores can be high but I work with several schools where the children can parrot out the answers to the key questions to pass a test but they have no desire to learn, to find out or have pride in their work. The Foundation Stage curriculum and reporting requirement is an interesting contrast to this. Up to the end of Upper Foundation Stage children are assessed on how they interact with others, how effective they are at communicating with one another, solving problems etc....sounds like an advert for the CBI requirements for employers and yet we stop all this when they get to 5 and say "now learn stuff."

So what has all this got to do with Mobile Classrooms I hear you yawn? Our classrooms are not just for teaching literacy, numeracy, history etc. They teach children to operate in a civilised society. A classroom is a microcosm of the world we live in, it should be preparing them for that. Yes they need to know stuff, but they also need to know how to behave, how to cooperate, share, dicuss etc. So Philip I agree entirely with you that from a teacher point of view you need some level of control to see what is going on because you are teaching them how to behave and if you can't tell how they are behaving it won't work!  But actually the software that allows this to happen (such as SynchronEyes) is actually highly valued by the kids in my experience because it allows them to share, collaborate and lead (oh no, not on a whiteboard) more effectively than with isolated machines.

Rant over,

ST Cheesy
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« Reply #10 on: March 07, 2008, 12:10:31 PM »

This is a great topic and it is good to see a few air what they think it is... 
I like what Spike Town has said
Quote
The use of mobile devices increases the flexibility that the teacher has in:
 
a) giving the children decent teaching content (weblinks, vid clips, questions to discuss etc)
b) giving the children better access to their learning space (VLEs, MLEs...oh u know what I mean!)
c) giving the children better opportunity to discuss  and receive feedback on their learning possibly from a wider range of people than simply their teacher and class
d) giving the children an more effective way of recording work, developing ideas than the traditional pen and pencil
e) making home school links more effective if the parent has access to the online learning space and possibly the device to some extent

Now take a child who is motivated, averagely bright and give him 24/7 access to his school class page via a school supplied smartphone/pocket pc/nokia etc.
 
Don't get me wrong this is no advert! these are some of the functions / tools from RedHalo  

In my opinion some of the fundamental parts of learning going forwards is getting more parental interaton in education as it is great when it happens!  Also allowing the pupil to add and use content out of the dare I say "classroom" on any internet enabled device, not just the school supplied device.  As I also believe education does not have to stop once the pupil "steps out of the classroom"  Wink  And I feel if it is available to them in an environment they are already using WWW (cyberland) outside of the "classroom" it would be engaged by them, which surely can only add the their overall eduction regardless of the "classroom"?

Well my rant as a non-teacher but parent  Grin
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gevpaul
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« Reply #11 on: March 07, 2008, 11:24:30 PM »

I also like what ST says about good teachers teaching but there has been research by the Institute in London (I'm searching for the reference) which indicates that teachers with "interactive" WBs are more likely to be in information-transmission mode rather than working towards a constructavist approach in the classroom.

I would guess that as ST laudes the EFYS assessment (and I give 3 big ones myself for this) before we move into behaviourism and transmission model for the rest of school eternity and begin doing the SAT and GCSE shuffle so we should be pushing a constructavist model. Thus getting kit into the hands of the kids is key here.

I also sit on the, they've got kit, let's get them using it group. Anyway back on the classroom track. Very few classroom still have fixed desks and I don't know about you boys and girls but I was always moving the tables in my classrooms. We had rows, groups, pairs, courtroom, monastic, debate, no table sitting on chairs, no table and no chairs sit on the floor (!) and every other combination in my teaching room (and even occasionally in my lab when I was teaching science but the lab benches were bolted down). So this is nothing new.

Perhaps the real key to the mobile classroom is to think about this meaning not always being in the classroom so using forums, wikis, blogs etc... as asynchronous tools as well as the classroom based stuff. You see where I'm going but it's 23:25 and I'm beginning to ramble!

Paul
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Philip Griffin
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« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2008, 09:23:23 PM »

I've just been given the devil's dictionary of education.

It defines classroom as

black chamber in which some thirty people sooner or later accept that one of them is in charge.

Sorry, it doesn't define mobile!

Philip

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James Clay
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« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2008, 01:16:10 PM »

It amuses me that Whiteboards get attacked as the antithesis of inclusive learning at conferences by people on a stage trying to teach us what they think in front of a presentation screen (or even a whiteboard)! If talking to a large group of people with some sort of display (possibly interactive) is so rubbish for getting a message across why is every conference I've ever been to set up like that...


I agree it's always interesting how e-learning/ICT/ILT conferences rarely use the technology or the personalisation that they are promoting.

I remember at a learning technology conference, ALT-C 2005, when I ran a workshop in a workshop session. It went down really well (got mentioned in despatches) partly because it was a real workshop, in other words the participants participated and did stuff as opposed to listen and discuss at the end.

Previously a lot of workshops at ALT-C consisted of a presentation followed by a short discussion (well all the ones I went to were).

More recently at ALT-C we have seen workshops running rather than presentations.

Back to talking at the front...

However just because every conference you have been to has had people stand at the front and talk doesn't mean that this is a) effective for everybody and b) the only way to do it.

You may want to have a look at the phrase unconference (or semi-conference).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconference

The (FE) ILT Champions are having an unconference or semi-conference on the 18th April this year and it looks like it will be very interesting and very informative and there will be no keynotes, no large presentations.

I wonder if Handheld Learning 2008 could be different this year?

Just an idea.
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James Clay
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Graham
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« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2008, 02:47:47 PM »

 Smiley

We're probably wandering a little off the thread topic here but I'm certainly interested in any ideas that genuinely improve delegates experience of the Handheld Learning Conferences. Every year since it started we have enjoyed a mix of "stand in front" presentations to workshops to networking sessions, last year we were twittering, sending in live questions/comments by SMS, streaming video and numerous delegates were live blogging. Following the event, all main room presentations were put online for video streaming, as were many of the slide presentations and naturally there were many lively debates in this forum following.

None of the presenters are told how to present and choices about whether to use a Powerpoint or a more interactive style of presentation is left to the presenter themselves. As can be expected some presenters were more captivating than others depending on their own style and use of available technology.

What has been interesting to date is the the unwillingness of delegates to use the more interactive facilities. Perhaps they felt uncomfortable using their mobile phone whilst demonstrating their attention to the speaker? Every delegate was made aware of the Twitter facility yet less than 50 subscribed. Less than 25 questions or comments were submitted via the SMS system. 8 delegates agreed to receive news alerts or messages during the conference from our news service via their mobile device.

I do like some of the unconference ideas but I've yet to figure out how we might do this with 800+ paying delegates who need to know some idea of what they are getting (to get budget, etc) and cover the not insignificant costs of venue, audio-visual, subsistence, delegate materials and operational. This years conference will feature some "big" presentations as well as "keynotes" from internationally respected speakers but, as always, we will certainly develop other format ideas further and look forward to those interested putting forward their proposals to run a session.  Wink

So, this leaves me wondering whether we are really talking about the use of technology and knowledge transfer that is appropriate to the audience. I suspect that the delegation attending the conference will be used to interacting with the conference in a familiar way given that when we nudge people outside of their comfort zone the uptake is limited. We already know the statistics about the small % of teachers who play video games or are part of an online social network,for example. Having said that, I believe that what has been achieved has been largely effective in forming the agenda and debate about learning with m and u technologies moving forward.

Back to this thread, I'd say the issue is that young learners are yet to have the "teacher in the front, stare at a big interactive telly" learning style hard-wired into them so might there be a better way? Actually I'm not against IWB's per se, like most technology if used well then they add a lot to many learners experience but I do wonder about how incremental this improvement is, i.e. is it transformational?

Philip is already challenging the layout of the class and later I was challenging the physicality of the class, i.e. is a school a building?

I have been involved in some projects, outside of the UK, where there wasn't a building, nor an IWB for that matter so I think this is an interesting area of discussion.

And a really good one too!

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