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A synapse called GOOG-411

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Posted on 14th August 2008 by Judy Breck in Connective Expression

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Google has a new free service:

You can call from any phone, state a business (think: order pizza) and location, connect to the business, and get that business’s service (pizza delivery). I have posted recently on how the synapse in the brain and the connectors (nodes) in the Internet are a major key to creating learning patterns in the open Internet. GOOG-411 is an Internet node that functions just like a synapse in the brain, connecting remote stuff.

Educators could think of GOOG-411 as a model for a learning network synapse/node. With a future edu-service, could a student input a query for current data for oceanography, astronomy, electoral polling — any of many location based subjects — and get the current data as quickly as Google now delivers your pizza? Sure. Somebody just needs to do it.

Ten things cell phones could be good for in classrooms

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Posted on 7th May 2008 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

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High school teacher Steve Dembo blogs that he is fed up with arguments that keep mobiles out of classrooms because they distract from learning. He writes:

Paper clips are a distraction. Spiral notebooks are a distraction. And as we’ve seen recently, students certainly do NOT need a cell phone to cheat on an exam. So off the top of my head, I decided to rattle off a few things that cell phones could be good for. Such as…
1) Check the spelling/definition of a word
2) Research a topic
3) Look up reference images
4) Pull up maps (even with satellite imagery)
5) Document a science lab with built in digital camera/video
6) Fact check on the fly
7) Mail questions to the teacher that they might be embarrassed to ask
8) Classroom response system
9) Take quizzes
10) Record and/or listen to podcasts

If you check out the list on Steve’s blog, he will point you to examples for most of his list.

Via The Wired Campus where writer Catherine Rampell invites visitors to send in more ideas.

Carnival of the Mobilists #122 features mobile med imaging

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Posted on 5th May 2008 by Judy Breck in Carnival of the Mobilists

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Carnival #122 invites you to sit comfortably and get ready for a blast of the best mobile writing of the week :) – and includes GoldenSwamp’s post about medical imaging via mobile texting.

How to cheat on an exam in 2008

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Posted on 26th March 2008 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

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This video is the best argument I have ever seen against the schools that forbid students to have digital devices with them in class, because the school thinks the kids will cheat. Hey, a Coke bottle works too. Yes, I know the other argument against letting students have mobile phones and other handhelds in class is that they will create distraction and disturbances. Just like cheating, unless students are convinced it is wrong to disrupt class they are going to find a way to do it. Disciplining kids is an age-old problem. The mobile in their pockets today is a brand new and awesome opportunity to put them in touch with knowledge.

Solving college crowding

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

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The young men shown above are roomates crowded into a tiny dorm room where they all live at a university in Senegal. The image is from a New York Times report here about crowding and deterioration of Africa’s universities. (PHOTO: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times)

Is the problem this picture presents solvable? Certainly dormitories cannot be built in time for the students in the picture, each of whom would move through college faster than the building could be done even if the money and planning were now in place. For the same reason, the classroom shortage the crowding represents in the picture cannot be solved for the current generation of African students.

Imagine though, putting a smart phone into the hands of each of these young men. Giving them the mobile phones could be accomplished almost immediately. With broadband transmission reaching the campus, these young men would be able to do their research, learn from open educational resources and supplement their classes online using their mobiles. We may not be able to save the universities for this generation, but we can hand them a great deal of education by providing them with the transmission and their mobiles.

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.

And the kids have phones

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Posted on 22nd October 2006 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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It is simple addition: kids with mobiles + mobile learning stuff = opportunities for kids to learn. The story here today from the BBC shows that the first part of the equation is taking care of itself:

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, recently reported that 82% of 12 to 15-year-olds owned a mobile phone while just under half (49%) of 8 to 11-year-olds had one. Across both age groups, they make an average of eight calls and send 25 text messages a week.

The second part of the equation is an open door to global learning and literacy. Let’s use it!

Mobile out from Africa

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Posted on 12th September 2006 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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African with mobile phone There are now more mobile phones in use in the developing world than in the more advanced countries. The EPROM program based at MIT and Nairobi University facilitates mobile development to platform the many new and original mobile uses spawned in Africa. This is the program’s overview:

“EPROM, part of the Program for Developmental Entrepreneurship within the MIT Design Laboratory, aims to foster mobile phone-related research and entrepreneurship. Key activities include:

  • the development of new applications for mobile phone users worldwide
  • academic research using mobile phones
  • the creation of a widely applicable mobile phone programming curriculum

Todays mobile phones are designed to meet Western needs. Subscribers in developing countries, however, now represent the majority of mobile phone users worldwide. We believe the adoption of new technologies and services within this vast, emerging market will drive innovation and help shape the future of the mobile phone.”

Little kids need converged mobiles

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Posted on 17th August 2006 by Judy Breck in Schools We Have Now

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A major theme of this blog is to point out that mobile devices are the core tool for learning in the 21st century. While speculation about what kids should have goes on and on, what they DO have is far more illuminatingand disheartening.

The two paragraph at the end of this post are from a New York Times article today titled Back to School, With Cellphone and Laptop. The paragraphs I picked are about elementary school children. From reading them we get the mental picture of a pre-teen child with a cellphone in one pocket and a flash drive in another. (I was at a conference recently where one of the Ph.D.s was complaining that he had lost three flash drives already that day; they are about the size of a half a stick of gum.)

Some of the questions the image of mobile phone, flash drive toting children bring to mind are:
What about kids who dont have a flash-drive receiving computer at home?
Why isnt the flash drive built into the mobile phone?
If the flash drive were built into the mobile phone, would we make sure the kid can study those files on that mobile device?
Why are the school files he uses not accessible through the Internet so he can use them from home, the library, etc.?
Why doesnt her mobile phone have Internet access so she could study her files on the bus (if they were on the Internet)?
Why are the hundreds of dollars worth of printed study resources still in the childs backpack if she is carrying her study stuff on her flash drive. An expensive redundancy here?
Why is the education establishment so far behind on the digital convergence curve? Why!

New York Times article quotes:
The LG Migo VX1000 . . . . is a child-friendly, simple phone: no text messaging, no games and no camera. It is also very small and light, well suited for child-size hands. The Migo has only four numbered buttons, which can dial four preprogrammed phone numbers. Those numbers cannot be changed without a password. To place a call, the child simply presses one of the numbered keys and the talk button. In the middle of the phone pad is a large key for emergency calls.

Catherine Poling, the assistant principal at Kemptown Elementary School, near Frederick, Md., suggests that students also get a flash drive for portable storage of their computer files.With the volume of files that students work on, including video and images, it would be helpful if they all had a mass storage device to transport files between home and school. . . .

The mobile camera factor at the British Open

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Posted on 24th July 2006 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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Golf junkies like myself noticed yesterday that mobile cameras were the factor that came the closest to costing Tiger Woods the championship. At least twice the television cameras stayed on Tiger as he backed off of tee shots having been distracted by a mobile camera clicking to capture his image. Apparently that happened several times when the cameras were not watching. The ABC commentator complained that the officials should walk ahead of Tiger warning the crown not to use their mobile cameras. On one of the holes coming in to the finish, Tiger backed off his tee shot growling about a camera, then still appearing angry hit is ball on to and over and past the green. It was one of his few shots of the tournament that was not almost perfect. Not long after that, as the TV cameras looked over the shoulders of the grandstand crowd at the 18th hole on the final day, there were mobile cameras to be seen raised in the hands of spectators.

As the tournament was televised, a standard shot of the first tee included Ivor Robson, Official Starter, who announced each golfer. He preceded the introduction by reminding the audience that cameras were not allowed on the course and that mobile phones must be kept in an off position. The logic of that policy is obsolete now that most mobile phones have cameras built-in. The issue becomes the same as it is in schools. Are we going to have to take the mobiles away from students and golf fans, or will students and golf fans have to learn not to use the devices to blow the attention of teachers and Tiger? I have more hope for the students than for the golf fans.

Students say #1 obstacle includes no to mobiles

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Posted on 8th May 2006 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

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Heres the quote a NetDay survey published this week in eSchool News:

When asked what obstacles were standing in the way of students’ tech use at school, the No. 1 response of students was institutional rules prohibiting cell-phone use, IM, eMail, or other forms of communication.

The survey says that while adults teachers, administrators and parents use email to communicate, students prefer instant messaging, especially among themselves. NetDay ceo Julie Evans says, “IM is more valuable to them because it is instant, and they can speak with multiple people at the same time. I believe that this highlights a greater sophistication in student tech use–and a trend for us to watch.”

Yet, as eSchool News comments, The policies of many school systems appear to conflict with this trend, instead of talking advantage of it.

Why not make the #1 tech goal for educators to take advantage of the mobile phones students have in their pockets:

Devise IM subject conferencing as lessons.
Use the phone cameras to capture images for science and art.
Interface Internet resources on the smart phones.
Create a classroom demand for learning games to challenge the gaming industry to produce them.
Collaborate through conferencing with distant students.

Integrating mobiles into education will sideline the weird trend the eSchool News story conjures toward the communication among educators by the email medium while the kids are interacting through IM. Adults need to catch up and to lead in education communication. Achieving that goal, summons us to integrate the students mobile phones into the learning process.

Mobile phone soap operas

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Posted on 16th February 2006 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

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c/net News.com reports here that soap operas will soon be available for mobile phones. Rather than stories in the soaps tradition, that last for years, the mobile soaps will have stories with “three-month arcs.” Sounds to me just right for a semester of episodes, perhaps for history or biography. Why not have three-month arcs of mobile content telling the conquests of Genghis Kahn or the life of Simon Bolivar? When kids in a class finished assignments ahead of time, they could watch their phones until the bell rang. Now, of course, the digital native generation has to keep phones turned off at almost all schools.

Rollable pocket display by 2007

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Posted on 9th February 2006 by Judy Breck in Mobile & Ubiquitous

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rollable screen Polymer Vision
The report here on bigger and better mobile phone displays does not say they can’t happen. It says they are taking too long. This is great news for learning. Millions of kids around the globe are already mobile phone equipped. Their standard learning device is looking more and more like it will be their phones. This means the delivery of learning could leapfrog the delay of waiting for the PCs or laptops to get to the world’s young learners.

But there’s more: the last paragraph of the article makes the exciting statement that we may have rollable pocket displays by 2007!

The genuine expectation of roll-up screens has not sunk in yet to public awareness much less at the cutting edge of education thinking. Probably subjectively, most of us think the little screens are too small to be the main thing in learning. The above illustrations from Polymer Vision belie our doubts. It is all too easy to think of future mobiles as either laptops (which are modified PCs) or mobile phones (the descendants of the old rotary models).

The functional ancestor of the rollable screens is paper! How cool is that! We need to make the shift in thinking scribes once faced when they realized they no longer had to chisel stone or draw with sticks in mud when somebody figured out how to chew up papyrus weed and roll out paper.

Thanks Greg!

Instant Messaging for learning language

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Posted on 1st February 2006 by Judy Breck in Mobile Learning

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The new issue of Innovate has an article by Susana M. Sotillor describing her case study using IM in a collaborative learning project. Sotillor is an associate professor of linguistics at Montclair State University. The project tested her idea of providing corrective feedback through text messaging to students studying English as a second language. Her article is a detailed analysis of what this small experiment showed and concludes with suggestions for exploring the idea in the future.

Kudos to Innovate and Professor Sotillor for engaging the mobile future of learning. Something that seems obvious here is the individuality of both learning a language and owning a mobile phone. Both are personal: 2 peas in a pod, birds of a feather to turn a phrase or 2.