Tuesday, August 2, 2011

mLearning at Campus Technology 2011

This past week I spent a few days at the Campus Technology conference and Expo (incidentally it was also collocated with the AAEEBL ePortfolio conference) and it was quite illuminating! I wanted to spend some more time with ePortfolios, but I ended up spending most of my time in eLearning (and oddly enough Rubrics, but more on those on another post).

Three sessions I went to  dealt with mLearning:

  • Engaging Faculty: Observations from the ACU Mobile Learning Initiative (Scott Perkins & George Saltsman, Abilene Christian University)
  • Using iPads to Produce and Publish in an Educational Reporting Class (Wendy Chapman & Bill Cells, USC Annenberg School of Communication)
  • Welcome to Class, please take out your cellphones (Mark Frydenberg, Bentley University)

There were quite a few interesting things to take away from each session!  The ACU Mobile Learning Initiative (MLI) and the session with Mark Frydenberg had quite a few things in common. In the ACU MLI session what we learned that that device penetration is quite important to faculty.  Faculty felt reluctant to assign mobile enabled activities to students if they felt that not all students would have equal access to the devices that were required for the assignment. Another equally important lesson is that WiFi-only doesn't really cut it if you really want users to be familiar with the device and use it in new and innovative ways.  I called this "equality of access" on the twitter stream while I was live blogging the session.

What is meant my equality of access is that when you have a mobile device, you can have access to all of its features no matter where you are.  It also implies that there is an inequality of access if a user doesn't have a device but can still check it out from IT or the library.  The idea is that any barrier is bad for usage and creativity. If you need to check out a device, the affective filter can be raised so that it makes it like the device isn't yours, there are limits to its usage and therefore to your creativity. By the same token, WiFi only devices have a barrier to usage when you have to check into a WiFi space, something mobile users don't have to do.  The key here is to not think about it the device - to be able to just use it.

Frydenbetg's session was sort of like a companion to the ACU MLI session in that Frydenberg talked a lot about tools that educators could be using like PollAnywhere, Qik (and similar services) and so on. I think that the SMS based polling was quite cool, and for a regular sized class (fewer than 30 students) you can get a free PollAnywhere setup! Not bad!

The session on using iPads for content creation was quite interesting and illuminating.  Yes, iPads have been seen mostly as content consumption devices, but add a keyboard and a budding journalist can capture video and edit it on his iPad, and upload it to the net; Capture photos and edit them and upload them; Capture audio and edit it in a multitrack editor...and upload it; And of course type articles and upload them online publications.  The key thing from this session was that content creation was doable on an iPad, with cheap apps, and free (or cheap) online services. The one caveat is that typing on-screen is a major pain in the butt and students who had external keyboards were much more satisfied by the experience.

All things considered, the mLearning sessions at Campus Tech 2011 were pretty good!
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