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No more pencils, no print books, no more analog backward looks

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Posted on 28th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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The time has come for mobile learning. This is the year: 2007. If you are an optimist you can say that the stars are aligned. If you are more the tempest type, you can join Todd Richmond in saying: the educational sector will be dragged into the future kicking and screaming by the next perfect storm.

Genuine engagement of students with the knowledge available online has been put off for a decade. Wired schools usually have firewalls, making what the kids can look at online selective from the central office. Wired schools put computers in labs or just have one or two in a classroom, so that youngsters have their hands off of keyboards for most of the day. Even online classes tend to be repositioned versions of classrooms from the old analog education system of the 20th century. Although there are bountiful good intentions and elaborate efforts that have accomplished these things, learning is still far from a direct engagement of the school age generation with the new location of and new interaction with what is known by humankind online.

Now it is obvious how 21s century students will engage that knowledge: they will study it directly, interacting with it individually — they will hold it in their hands and interface it with their minds. They will do that with their mobiles, with the portable computers they already have in their pockets.

These are the aligned stars of 2007—the elements of the perfect storm: the kids have the mobiles (cell phones), open education resources online abound, mobile technology is roaring toward broadband with all the bells and whistles of interaction and video and the like, the W3C Mobile Initiative has set a course toward mobile browsing of the internet which will open more and more online knowledge content for learning from mobiles.

The tens of thousands of mobilists gathered last month in Barcelona will have a role in bringing mobile learning forward this year, and if you are one of them I urge you to get to work on mobile learning and be part of the next big thing. Universities, museums, laboratories, individual experts and other keepers of analog knowledge can, should — and I believe will — open their knowledge increasingly to mobile learning in coming months. Gamers will move into mobiles for learning. Teachers will ask students to take their mobiles out of their pockets for integration into the learning process.

And the kids? The first students born in the 21st century are finishing the first grade of school this spring. Teenagers around the planet already have made the mobile basic to their way of life. As Howard Rheingold has written: The tools for cultural production and distribution are now in the pockets of 14 year olds. If we do not morph learning into the mobile venue, the young generation will do it themselves. They are doing that with their music, their pictures, their friendships and (especially in developing countries) with new businesses and services. The day is upon education for: no more pencils, no print books, no more analog backward looks.

Ladybirds of Ireland

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Posted on 24th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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As the mobile phone is developing a ravenous appetite for interesting content, it is a mistake to assume content for education has to be created from scratch. It is truly astounding how much free, open and magnificent learning content is already online. Much of it would adapt easily to the small screens of mobile devices. A fine example are the colorful Ladybirds of Ireland that await ravenous minds of young scholars too often bored by limited ideas available at school in print. Animal sciences, Via Scout Report

The buy is on for mobile content — why not teach something?

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Posted on 20th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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The remarkable page here on the Adobe website is a sign of the times! The page seeks to connect mobile developers with major content buyers, most notably Verizon and Nokia. Here is a call that should be answered by education if we expect to improve learning in our digital age. There is money to be made as well as ignorance to be diminished by selling mobile content for sciences, history, geography, technologies, literature and the 3 Rs.

Words about mobile from the wise: Tim Berners-Lee

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Posted on 17th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

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When the biographers look back on our times – and the hype of contemporariness has faded – Tim Berners-Lee will be recalled as one of the great ones. He will join the kind of real innovators that includes the likes of Archimedes, Leonardo, Franklin and Edison. His achievement is a big step above the acquisition of a few billion dollars, which gives us our temporary digital big guys.

Berners-Lee gave us the open network. That innovation ranks with ideas like the world being round and the sun at the center of our planetary grouping. You probably think I am wandering into hyperbole, but I do not think so. The phase we are now going through in the digital world is something we are calling Web 2.0. What that is at the core is the emergence into prominence of openness. Openness is a gift that just keeps giving – unless we manage to squelch it.

Open networks have a great deal more to give. It is very important to pay attention to Tim Berners-Lee and others who can guide us to keep that giving rolling out.

In his keynote speech to the 3GSM World Congress 07, Tim Berners-Lee told the largely technical and business crowd some detailed stuff about the emphasis the W3C that he leads is now putting on the Mobile Web. He concluded his talk with the following three paragraphs of guidance we are wise to heed about the gifts that are within our grasp by moving toward the Mobile Web.

Among other things, many of us are hoping that a low-cost open platform will have a much greater penetration in what we currently call the developing world. I personally believe that it is important to humanity to connect peoples across the world as widely as possible. I think we must preserve the diversity of cultures and ideas. But also I think we must connect people to give more global harmony. We should not add connectivity to the long list that the richer countries have and the poorer ones do not, a list which of course has clean water, health care and peace pretty near the top.

As part of the Mobile Web Initiative, W3C held a workshop on the Mobile Web in Developing Countries. One of the concerns is that some of the new phones aimed at the lower cost bracket don’t all have Web browsers. The area is very exciting, and the figures for coverage – 80% of the world’s population I have heard (World Bank, according to Wikipedia), and for market growth in developing countries seem very positive.

So when we look at the choices for the mobile devices, it is clear that they must continue on the path to an open Web platform. That is what the Mobile Web Initiative is about. Huge new markets, and huge opportunities for humanity, depend on this. We know in general how to do it. But there is a lot to do.

George Friedrich Handel and his music

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Posted on 16th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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The entry page of this virtual collection quotes Beethoven: “Handel is the greatest composer who ever lived. I would bare my head and kneel at his grave.” Now the works of great musicians are increasingly accessible online, as this website handsomely demonstrates. Arts, Via Scout Report

Mobile learning can deliver reading and math skills; why not try it?

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Posted on 16th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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Just about every American kid we see these days has a mobile phone in his or her pocket. Nothing could be simpler technically than seeing to it that each of those phones has interesting reading practice, the simple rules of grammar and basic math tutorials available for the youngster to use whenever the mood might strike — bored on the bus or in the car backseat, extra time in class at school or whenever.

Mobile learning would be trying something new. This very serious prediction from ETS researchers tells us why new really do have to try something new:

There is little chance that economic opportunities will improve among key segments of our population if we follow our current path. To date, educational reform has not been sufficient to solve the problem. National test results show no evidence of improvement over the last 20 years. Scores are flat and achievement gaps persist. Hope for a better life — with decent jobs and livable wages — will vanish unless we act now.

We must raise our learning levels, increase our reading and math skills and narrow the existing achievement gaps, or these forces will turn the American Dream into an American Tragedy — putting our nation at risk.

Wise crowds and the “Canyon of Pain”

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Posted on 15th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Blogs, Wikis and Swarms

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No one I know of is more perceptive than Kathy Sierra who, among many things she does, blogs at Creating Passionate Users. She has a post there today (that includes the above drawing) titled How much control should users have? What she says in that post strikes me as a little mentioned yet major, fundamental aspect of what is being called Web 2.0, participatory media, do it yourself (DIY)—the cool new stuff that is getting so much attention as the way the wisdom of crowds emerges.

OK, so it’s great to have everybody in on creating stuff and making decisions, but what if they don’t want to—or if doing it is too [Kathy would use an expletive beginning with "F"] difficult to do? When figuring out how to participate in a wiki is too tough for most of us, the wisdom of that wiki is aggregated from only those who managed to move through the canyon of pain.

The mobile phone industry will make big strides in coming months if it is able to get more kinds of people using more kinds of features. Kathy’s insights make me convinced that the challenge for the mobile industry is in large part attracting folks to the fun and ease of using the features—avoiding the canyon of pain.

In mobile learning the situation is a special one. The educators are mostly on the left side of the canyon in Kathy’s drawing and the kids are big time mobilists on the right side.

Students in real astronomy network

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Posted on 13th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Networks

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This week eSchool News reports: “in the latest frontier of astronomy, known as ‘virtual astronomy,’ professional astronomers are increasingly enlisting the help of students and other novice stargazers to sift through these data in search of the next great breakthrough.”

What is happening in astronomy is at the leading edge of virtual apprenticeship—something that will replace uncountable hours of boredom experienced in the past by young people in schools. The Internet can connect youngsters to real places of productivity and research: businesses, laboratories and venues where knowledge is refined and art is made. In the agricultural world of a few centuries ago, the kids learned farming in real barns and fields. In the industrial times that created schools, children were sent to schools instead of factories (a good idea!). The Internet provides a new means for new generations to learn by participation. The astronomers are showing us that way, as described in the article cited above and here.

Learning should be in this mobile mix

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Posted on 12th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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The giant 3GSM World Congress is meeting this week in Barcelona, with 60,000+ in attendance to smooze and learn about mobile phones. The overview article in ZDNet here says that an important Congress topic is improved Internet browsing on mobile phones. The education sector should be in this mix to be sure our kids are able to access learning and knowledge through the computers in their pockets. ZDNet says:

Because the show is based in Europe and draws a significant number of attendees and exhibitors from Asia, where mobile technology is typically more advanced than in North America, it often provides a sneak peak at technology and trends that will soon make it to the U.S. market.

Analysts attending this year’s event say there will be several themes dominating the show floor and discussions throughout the congress. “I don’t think that there will be any single theme this year,” said Matt Hatton, a senior analyst for Yankee Group. “But there will be a lot of talk around taking the mobile Internet to the next level, making it a richer experience, and figuring out how to make money from it.”

Mobilizing Web 2.0
A watered-down version of the mobile Internet is no longer acceptable to subscribers, Hatton said. And as a result, operators are trying to figure out ways to make surfing the Net on a handset resemble surfing the Web on a PC as closely as possible. One operator focusing on this issue, U.K.-based Vodafone Group, announced last week as a preview to 3GSM that it has struck deals with social-networking site MySpace and video-sharing site YouTube to add those applications to its handsets.

The beautiful blue yonder of digital education

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Posted on 9th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Subject Sampler

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The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Safety Topics page here is a marvelous, focused online mini-school for pilots—and it is free. Take online courses on topics for small plane pilots and general aviation subjects. Click into background webpages and related links. The informative modules are ideal for adaptation to mobile phones. This content network takes you into the beautiful blue yonder of digital education. Transportation Via Scout Report

The Machine Is Us

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Posted on 8th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Emerging Online Knowledge

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The 4-minute video on YouTube here is a fast trip to the Web 2.0 world of hypertext. The video is the work of Michael Wesch, an assistant professor at Kansas State University. Wesch makes the key point that: Each time we form a link we teach an idea. I would add only when our students are liberated into this new connecting Web, are we enabling them for their 21st century future.

Learning on a lot of cylinders

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Posted on 7th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression

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This picture is from the article here today in the Washington Post about Webkinz toys. The cutline under the picture: “Megan Leffew, 10, and her brother Brian, 7, play with Webkinz in real life and online.” Like Megan and Brian, the lovable stuffed toys have a life both online and in the children’s real world. Quoting the article:

“It’s a gaming concept, it’s a nurturing concept, it’s a highly interactive concept,” said Paul Kurnit, who heads KidShop, a consulting firm. “It’s really working on a lot of cylinders.”

Here is yet another concept from the online world that has potential for education. Why not, for example, mechanical toys which have parallel online avatars where the toys can be taken apart and rebuilt while the student doing that is learning principles of mechanics? That would get a kid’s mind firing on more cylinders.

Handheld augmented reality — aliens like these will be on the phone

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Posted on 6th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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alien game

The eSchool News article here details this news from the article’s summary:

Researchers at Harvard, MIT, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison have developed a project that uses “augmented reality” to teach students math and literacy skills. The project involves teams of students gathering data on handheld computers to explain why aliens have landed, and in the process students “interview” virtual characters they encounter at certain GPS hot spots. The researchers say the project holds great potential for engaging students and teaching high-level skills.

The article is an interesting update on yet another digital technology which holds huge potential for learning and should be receiving the attention of the education establishment.

This kind of learning cannot be done from the desktop computer because the learning is location based. The article explains:

Augmented reality uses global positioning system (GPS) technology to track a person’s movement, and when that person reaches a designated point, he or she is confronted with a computer-generated image or situation pertaining to the scenario.

Harvard professor Chris Dede adds although this pilot project used GPS-enabled handhelds:

“in the coming years he and fellow researchers expect that the same technology students used to complete the activities will have found its way onto cell phones.

Carnival of the Mobilists at Wireless World Japan

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Posted on 6th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

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This week’s best blogging about the mobile venue is now on line here with with reviews by Jan Kuczynski at Wireless World Japan.

It could be mobile learning stuff

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Posted on 5th February 2007 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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RedfordRobert Redford is shown above with Bill Gajda of the 3GSM World Congress from the 3GSM conference website here. The mobile the men are showing off is displaying Sundance Film Festival Mobile Premiers. There is no technical or screen size reason that two leading educators could not be doing exactly the same thing showing off learning content interfaced on mobiles. We are getting movies this year. When will we get the science, humanities, literature and the 3Rs for the little kids?