Handheld Learning 2007 - Review PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tony Vincent on Friday, 26 October 2007
mobileOctober once again brought me to London for the annual Handheld Learning conference. Traveling 4,300 miles from Omaha, Nebraska, USA was worth it as the 2007 conference was even larger than last year's.

While handheld computers were still a major topic at the conference, the focus was certainly learning. In fact, the theme this year was "Learning while Mobile." Mobile doesn't necessarily refer to the devices, but to learners. Students use a variety of computers in different shapes and sizes to learn wherever they happen to be. The ones I heard mentioned most were mobile phone, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP, the One Child Per Laptop computer (OLPC) iPod, and Pocket PC.

In fact, the conference kicked off with product announcements for mobile learning. RM and Samsung announced inexpensive mobile computers that were created with input from Handheld Learning 2006. I found it promising that the vendors in the exhibition hall seemed just as interested in getting product feedback and suggestions as they were in making sales of current products.

One of the things I enjoyed most about Handheld Learning 2007 was using Twitter. Twitter is a free micro-blogging service that allows users to send “updates” via SMS, instant message, email, the Twitter.com site, or Twitter software. Updates can be up to 140 characters long and can be received in the same way they are sent.

Handheld Learning 2007 delegates were encouraged to use Twitter to log their learning, ask questions, and network with one another. The conference had about two dozen delegates posting to Twitter. Posting was slow to start but by the end of the conference the posts were frequent. Twitter users can "star" their favorite updates to save them. Here are some of the updates I starred from various usernames:

xlearn: been to see Red Halo's wireless syncing software. looks v useful. 12:57 AM October 12, 2007

GillClough: Handhelds seem particularly helpful for less able kids. Wonder what the manufacturers make of that :) 12:38 PM October 12, 2007

digitalkatie asked a question during a session: As a Scottish person unfamiliar to English system - what does CLC stand for? 12:21 PM October 12, 2007 and eyebeams responded to digitalkatie's question: City Learning Centre DK 12:23 PM October 12, 2007

digitalkatie: Superclubs guy saying he would like to see kids attending the conference - agreed!! 04:14 PM October 12, 2007

MAMK: I have the feeling that this HHL conference is too technology oriented...where are the students? 07:14 PM October 11, 2007

digitalkatie responded to me asking her what she was learning about Windows Mobile 6: see my blog http://digitalkatie.typepad.com for notes on what's new with WM6 04:20 PM October 12, 2007

I even starred some of my own Twitter updates for preservation and reflection:

tonyvincent: If you have a long URL to give out at a conference, how about giving a Tiny URL instead? http://tinyurl.com 09:37 AM October 10, 2007

tonyvincent: Recommendation for all conferences: two-sided name tags...they always seem to be flipped around with no name showing. 07:50 AM October 10, 2007

tonyvincent: "The most important assessment is self-assessment." -Marc Prensky 10:28 AM October 10, 2007

Twitters agreed that Graham Brown-Martin's electric blue suit was a high point of the conference. GillClough replied to kathtrinder's update that Graham's blue suit was a conference highlight: Totally agree about the suit Kathy. Quite mesmerising 04:23 PM October 12, 2007

You can go to http://twitter.com/hhl/with_friends to read an archive of Twitter updates. You will also notice that many have kept sending Twitter updates after the conference has concluded. To see starred updates from the conference, go to http://twitter.com/hhl/favorites.

I hope to see use of Twitter (or similar micro-blogging service) expand at next year's conference. Every delegate seemed to possess a device that would allow participation (i.e. mobile phone, Internet-enabled handheld, laptop). I also know that as a learner, I welcome opportunities to interact with other conference attendees and to multitask.

Of course, there is always room for evolution and improvement for Handheld Learning. I want conference organizers and session presenters to figure out ways to infuse learning while mobile during next year's conference. Since almost everyone brought some sort of device with a glowing screen, it just makes sense to practice what the conference preaches. Those devices should be used for more than checking email during and between sessions. Texting questions to the speaker and Twitter were a good start. I'd like to see presenters model how classrooms teachers and students can use technology for learning while mobile.

I wrote in a Twitter update: How about we use visual aids other than gobs and gobs of text? 09:12 AM October 12, 2007.

As I pointed out in that message, I'd like to see presenters use more effective visual aids than bullet points and charts. I traveled a long way to hear them speak. I'm not all that interested in hearing speakers read directly from their PowerPoint or Keynote slide shows. Not all presenters were guilty of committing "Death by PowerPoint," but I have to say that this faux pas was committed much more often than in other educational technology conferences I have attended.

/stage.jpgWith Twitter, blogs, and streams of the event, one might wonder why even physically attend the event?  

There are many reasons why I'm glad I attended. First, delegates have the ear of important decision-makers and industry leaders. Also, the venue for the conference is always classy; words and photos can't describe the historic architecture, the elegant atmosphere, and modern stage lighting. Besides the physical surroundings, many of the speakers energize and inspire you.

Actually, it's not just the speakers; I have been greatly inspired by other delegates. Everyone who attends seems to be very knowledgeable and have practical advice or imaginative ideas for making learning better. Graham Brown-Martin's welcome message states, "When you leave I want you to feel satisfied that you have participated, gained new knowledge and expanded your network. My goal is that your time spent here will act as a catalyst for your own work that you’ll want to share at future events." Graham's goal was unquestionably met for me, making it worth my twenty hours of flying it took to get to London and back.

Read what others thought here.

Media from Handheld Learning 2007:





Full Conference Guide Book

Handheld Learning 2007 website

About the Author

/tonyvincent.jpgTony Vincent is a former classroom teacher and an independent technology and education consultant based in Omaha, Nebraska. He is co-author of Handhelds for Teachers & Administrators and maintains learninginhand.com, a website devoted to handheld computing in education.


If you have enjoyed or found this article useful you may wish to share your knowledge or experiences with the rest of the international Handheld Learning Community by submitting an article. This site supports many other sites via its RSS feed as well as Google News. If you'd like to be considered for publication on this site please submit via articles (at) handheldlearning.co.uk

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