You Need Spyglasses – Are you Serious?

So far in this week’s series on mobile technology in education I have discussed:

  1. Are UMPCs Going to Convert Courses from Paper Based to Digital?
  2. Mobile Web Usage is Increasing – How Will You Use It With Students?

Today I am going to discuss how a simple request for spyglasses made my boss think I was absolutely nuts! She thought my spyglasses were so funny she included them in the show they put on at the work Christmas party.

What are Spyglasses?

Spyglasses are sunglasses with inbuilt miniature video camera. They are most commonly used in the surveillance industry. Alternative names used include undercover digital video recorder and miniature video recorder.

The video camera is located in the centre of the sunglasses and a cord that looks like a sun glass safety cord carries the video signal to a portable media player that records the video.


How Spyglasses are being used

Geoff Lubich (Pilbara TAFE, Western Australia) introduced spyglasses for students based in workplaces. His students are geographically dispersed – spyglasses means he can reduce worksplace visits by getting his trainees/apprentice to record themselves doing tasks in their workplace and forward the video to their lecturers.

I got the spyglasses for speeding up the process of creating video podcasts – when creating how to do skills that need to be filmed over the shoulder. Normally these types of videos would require two people.

Check out the video below showing my spyglasses in action:

*****If the video is missing in your Feed Reader here is the link to it a Google Video! *****

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What are your thoughts on Spyglasses?

  • Are you currently using Spyglasses? If so, how?
  • Cool or not cool?

Mobile Web Usage is Increasing – How Will You Use It With Students?

This week I will be doing a series of posts on the use of mobile technology in education. Yesterday I asked the question are UMPCs Going to Convert Courses from Paper Based to Digital?

So today – I want to know how do you plan to use the Mobile Web with students?… and I will show examples of how educators are currently using it with studmtwitterents.

What is the Mobile Web?

The Mobile Web refers to accessing the Internet from mobile devices such as mobile phones, smartphones (full featured mobile phone with personal computer functionality – no touch screen), Blackberry and PDAs (handheld computer – many have phone functionality – has touch screen e.g. Pocket PC, Palm Pilot).

Companies are now creating mobile specific web sites (i.e. mobile version of their web sites that works better on mobile devices) so that their site loads quickly and are usable for small screen with limited navigation.

The Mobile Web usage will increase in importance because:

“Mobility right now is like the Internet was in 1996; then everyone discounted the Internet, or worried that it would just encourage employees to play games”. Smartphone and PC Magazine

How Educators are Using the Mobile Web

Monash University

Monash University gives their students in Australia, Malaysia and South Africa who are studying Web Systems the option to access their course material on PCs or PDAs (running Windows Mobile 5 or Windows CE).

This is what it looks like on PC


This is the same page on a PDA


If you have a PDA check it out for yourself at Walkabout u-Learning

How I use the Mobile Web with Students

  • Currently I access the Mobile Web in classes on my PDA – if I can not answer a question – I can instantly google the topic
  • The college is currently setting a wireless network – eventually I hope that students will be able to access the Internet on the class set of PDAs 89238359_e959ece3c7_m

Challenges of the Mobile Web

If accessed on a mobile phone there are only 12 button keypad – with no mouse for navigation

  • If you access the mobile web through your phone it is not cheap – good news costs decreasing. So in the short term I would not expect my students to pay to use it on their phones. Also good to know Australia is ahead of America with the Mobile Web!
  • We also need to realise people use the Mobile Web differently from the Internet on a computer. So if we plan to take advantage of it we need to take this into account!
  • Screen size on typical mobile is 160 and 240 wide and 200 to 360 pixels

Check out this great SlideShare by Nick Cowie where he shows how much you would see on a mobile device if the web site does not have a mobile version on their site. Also check out my podcast of Nick Cowie talking about the Mobile Web.

[slideshare id=72591&doc=problems-with-the-mobile-web-barcamp-perth-20072055&w=425]

What are your thoughts on the using the Mobile Web with students?

  • Are you currently using the Mobile Web with your students? If so, how?
  • If you are not using it with students – how do you think you could?
  • What impact do you think Mobile Web will have in education?

Are UMPCs Going to Convert Courses from Paper Based to Digital?

This week I will be doing a series of posts on the use of mobile technology in education.

So being the first post – I decided to start off with probably the most thought provoking… the Ultra-Mobile PC (commonly termed UMPC)… and show you a school in the UK that has set up a wireless network to handle the 245 UMPCs they have purchased for their students.

What is a UMPC?

For those that have never heard of a UMPC they are 7 inch or smaller PC (=similar size to a portable DVD player) with a touch screen that you can write on with a special stylus. Unlike PDAs (i.e. Pocket PCs and Palm Pilots) a UMPC runs standard Windows operating system which means you can run Office applications on them i.e. Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote (usedUMPC for writing on a touch screen when using a Tablet PC). The first UMPCs were sold in early 2006.

Why the School Choose UMPCs?

Each student at Islay High School in the UK will be provided with a Samsung Q1b UMPC (40 G hard drive), with solid carry case/keyboard, head phones, two batteries and access to webcam [Image by Josh Bancroft].

Check out this photo if you want to see a cool size comparison to a DVD.

Their rationale for this is:

  • They want to shift their perspective from paper with some electronic based material to electronic based material with some paper
  • Instead of paper based handouts – notes will be held on a server where each student can access them when required
  • Using a wireless data projector they are able to wirelessly display what is on 16 student’s UMPCs onto the board at the front of the classroom

They believe the UMPC is simply a conduit which allows a greater range of learning styles to be catered for across the curriculum.

Check out this great video by Andrew Brown where Ian Stuart from Islay High School demonstrates their UMPCs and discusses how they will be used at his school.

Challenges with using UMPCs

When the UMPCs were first released they did not sell well – very expensive, had poor battery life (~3 hrs), slow processing speed and some had issues with crashing from overheating. To decrease the size/weight of a computer – your aim is to make it more mobile – means compromises have to be made.

However the Samsung Q1b UMPC does well with battery life (Ian Stuart says at 70 % screen setting 7 hrs, at 50 % screen setting 9 hrs). Cost wise it sells for $1,650 in Australia.

Check out this great review on the Samsung Q1b UMPC.

What are your thoughts on the use of UMPCs with students?

  • Would cost of each device and possible damage by students be a barrier?
  • Will the operating speed of the Samsung Q1b UMPC be adequate enough for the students?
  • What are you thoughts/concerns on replacing handouts and text books with electronic versions?
  • If you were going to move to wireless network and electronic based material – would you have chosen the UMPC?

Why I use PDAs in the classroom

New term has begun and out come the PDAs for the students to work with (PDAs are small pocket size computers that run mobile applications like mobile Word, Excel and Internet Explorer). Always fascinating to hear their response the first time they start using them, such as “Do we get to keep them?”, “How much do they cost?”, “Surely with the fees we pay we should get to keep them?”, “I have no hope of using one of these as I don’t even know how to use a computer” “Awesome – this is so cool”.

Why I use PDAs with students

microI teach students how to identify fish diseases. This means they have to look under microscopes and be able to actually identify common parasites they see. Using a PDA means they can:

  • Look at color images of parasites
  • Watch movies of what the parasite looks like under a microscope and how it movies.

When they study the anatomy of fish they can look at lots of colored photographs on the PDA as they do their dissections.

Last time I checked you can not achieve this with handouts, and PDAs definitely engaged students.

We have also discovered that having short videos (max. 5 mins) that show how to do a task e.g. how to tie a knot means that the student can watch the video at their own pace, stopping and starting as required, as many times as they like, while they do the skill. This means the lecturer can then focus on assisting students that need more help without the whole class having to wait.

Why we chose PDAs

Choose with m-learning is:

  • Do you tap into mobile devices that students have
  • Do you supply the mobile devices

For my class students needed to have a device that they could use next to a microscope or while they were dissecting fish. It needed to be small, reasonably cheap (so if something happened I would not cry too much), able to show videos and contain notes. Unfortunately not all students have a device that would meet these requirements so wipaq-rx1950-pocket-pc_190x170e needed to supply them.

Choices could have been a PDA or video ipod. However the PDA has more functionality in this situation and, one day wireless will be switched on in the College, and we will be able to use them to access the Internet in class.

I use a class set of twenty HP IPAQ rx1950 (no longer sold in Australia).

Downside of using PDAs are:

  • Time spent charging the devices – however I have just purchased a unit that charges multiple PDAs at a time (can also use for ipods)
  • Creating the material for the PDA – initially you do spend time setting up the material that you want the class to use. But really that is no different for creating any resource for class – it all takes time.
  • I use cLaunch to put icons on the front screen of the PDA so students can easily access the required resource – this takes time on 20 devices

Here is a video that shows how I use PDAs with my students, the resources and their thoughts on the use of PDAs:

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Wireless Woes

The thought process:

Part of my role is m-learning – and yet I have no wireless. How can I talk and demonstrate wireless technology if I have not experienced it first hand. Definitely a valid reason for me to spend my time and hard earned money investing in setting up a wireless network for my home (also thought it would make it appear that I was spending more time with the family since I could sit with them and be on my laptop).

The Woes I have faced:

1. Wireless Access point
Already had a router so thought probably best to get a wireless access point and add to my router. Was told by IT friend that any idiot can set up a wireless access point. They obvious did not mean this idiot!

Purchased a D-Link wireless access point (and my router was Netgear). Tried to configure access point directly with Router and wired directly into two different computers. No luck. Could not get it to detect access point. Waited for IT friend to come back – day later – and nope he could not get it to work.

2. Wireless Router

Went back to Harvey Normans, they swapped the access point, no questions asked. None left so had to purchased a wireless router (D-Link). Great now have two routers – just what every household needs NOT.

Fortunately this time idiot was able to configure and set up router. Was definitely feeling so much better with oneself – now have wireless throughout the house. Great except that wireless keeps turrning off on work lap top.

3. Wireless on Lap Top

Work has supplied me with a lovely widescreen Acer TravelMate 6410. On the front of the laptop it has a toggle switch that you move to turn on wireless. It also has the ability to turn off wireless, by itself, when I am using it andwill not let me switch the wireless back on unless I restart the computer.

Obvious question – must be the new wireless router. Nope . Was doing the same thing at BarCamp and now at Frances’s hourse. After BarCamp I contacted work helpdesk and they installed a new wireless driver in case that was the problem. Has made no difference. How long it takes to disconnect varies. Sometimes a couple of minutes other times will last for up to an hour but most the time will be after 5 minutes.

The Answer?

Frances has tried everything with it. No luck.

I think there is a problem with the wireless switch. So it would be worth me borrowing the same lap top from someone else to bring home to test. That woud be interesting as the College purchased 30 of these; might be a worried if it is a problem with all of them.

Relucant to give to our helpdesk to send to be fixed as the last time I did this with my old lap top it was gone for a month.

Personally what they do in the following video is what I would like to do with the laptop. While I am at it I would add the D-Link wireless router which has lost Internet connection (for my PCs that were directly wired to the router) at least 4 times in the three weeks since I bought it (meaning I had to turn it off and restart it).

But I am controlling my temper – only because there is no snow – and maybe because it is a work laptop. Although I do think this is a really good reason for me to buy myself an Mac laptop – the new wireless should work on it and much better for my podcasting 🙂 . Wonder if my hubby would understand the need?

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Aquaculture lecturer fights Telstra over PDA bill

Aquaculture lecturer fainted when she recieved the SMS from Telstra, when she was in Geraldton this morning, apparently she has exceeded her data plan limit by 259% – not sure whether the words are oops or sheesh.

So while the solution to lack of Internet access on my laptop was solved by using my PDA – perhaps it was not the best solution (make sure you check out the best data plan for what you want to do – 3G plans are the best in Australia). Good news is boredom meant that I had a great time testing out the different mobile website.

Mobile Web sites I liked were:

  • Gmail – fanatastic (shame only a few people sent emails to gmail account 🙁 ) (open up Google in your mobile web browser and the link to gmail is located towards the bottom of the page)
  • Facebook – great (except no one to play with) (
  • Twitter ( – this may have been the culprit for the over use)

While it was good to access these web sites, their limited features made them less fun compared to my PC and I really missed reading my favourite blogs. I did think when I woke up really early this morning that maybe I should pay for Internet access for my laptop but thought the manager may not consider a phone call on the emergency number for Internet access actually constituted an emergency (although I think it was).

Noodlez (Michael Newby) and I did discuss via twitter that maybe we needed to form a self-help group to overcome finding it hard to be unplugged for more than 10 minutes, and we would use twitter to support one another. Let us know if you want to join our self help group.

Workshops went well and will write about it over the next couple of days. Both Ann and I were really impressed by the enthusiasm of the staff involved. Photo is the dedicated team of IT help working hard to get Audacity working on all computers for the podcasting workshop. Thanks to the IT team for their excellent support over the two days. Both staff and IT team rocked. Thanks for inviting us.


Have Internet access so able to travel

290964810_2ca0057642_mTomorrow morning I am flying (small plane – Fokker 50 – and weather is really bad) to Central West TAFE in Geraldton for their Quality week (as part of my commitment to the fresh thinking program) where I will be doing workshops on e-learning and m-learning. So far I have been to Swan TAFE and Pilbara TAFE. I am finding the Fresh Thinking program has been a great opportunity to see and experience what is happening at other TAFEWA colleges. Photo by Purpleairplane.

It is almost 9.30pm, my bag is not packed and I am flying at 7am but I have made sure of the most important thing – Internet access. Yes I know the College will have it but they might block all the sites I use to interact with my friends 🙁 (and might not like me doing this).

Accessing Internet while mobile

No point bothering with wireless on my laptop as wireless is not functioning properly (great bought new wireless router and laptop has problem). Thankfully PDA is working fine; so will have email access to home account. Will not be able to access work email on my PDA as they are using MS Outlook Web Access and it does not resize for my PDA – not my problem (hello? they want to mobilize us and forgot this aspect).

Mobile Twitter

Most importantly Matt has advise me that I will still be able to Twitter by using He has advised me not to set up notifications to my phone rather to get all updates and twitter directly from my mobile web browser using Will just have to live without GTalk and Skype for 2 days (I may survive?)

Can one have too many phones?

Still all is good in terms of accessing the Internet compared to Alex who is visiting Parnngurr. Generator turns every night (after which he has no Internet) and he has 3 mobile phones with no phone connection (although to me that is at least 2 phones too many).

Tools for the mobile lecturer

The shift from classroom based delivery to workplace delivery and workforce development means VET lecturers will need tools to ensure greater mobility. I don’t believe that one size will fit all; individual preferences and varying workplace environments circumstances will need different solutions. However I do believe that you need to start by focusing what is your desired outcome and then focus on the technology. Too often we focus on a piece of technology and then try to make it meet what we are trying to achieve.


Here are some ideas for reducing the amount of paperwork and equipment you need to carry when you need to be really mobile:

Video ipod

  • Attach an Audio/Video cable for iPod. Now you can play movies on your ipod on a TV or a data projector (and the quality of the movies is really good!). You could even convert your PowerPoint into movies so that you can have mobile PowerPoint. You will need to change movie output on your iPod. Start iPod. Go to Movies>Video Settings change TV Out to Ask. Thanks Richard Meagher for showing me that iPods can do this
  • Attach an FM transmitter to the iPod and it will play music through the radio. Catch up on some learning by listening to some podcasts while you drive (or remain calm by listening to your own music)

PDA with inbuilt phone

With this type of PDA you have phone, inbuilt camera/video (approx. 2 megapixel) Internet access, email, organiser for appointment/contacts, mobile office with pocket versions of Word & Excel (both with reduced features compared to standard Office) and mobile PowerPoint (can not edit on PDA unless you install Pocket Conduit Slides which is a 3rd party application). Hardware like the infraBLUE IRMA Bluetooth Presenter is required if you want to run PowerPoint from your PDA on a data projector.

When I go to meetings or seminars I do not write on paper instead I write all my notes in Word (using transcriber) on my PDA (e.g. On Monday I wrote 3 pages of notes on my PDA at an all day seminar. Monday night I then transferred notes to PDA and could then read through them). I am also able to read/respond to my emails and Google information while I sat listening to presentations.

For Australians make sure you buy a 3G device or you will be paying a lot to use the Internet and access your emails.

Workplace Assessing

If you are wanting to reduce the amount of assessment paperwork you carry there is are several options. If you have to manage a large number of students a database that manages their contact details, records any contact, manages assessment outcomes and contains assessment checklist is the way to go. Now all you need to do is choose a device.

Device Advantages Disadvantages
Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC)
7″ display
Extremely small (size of portable DVD player)
Runs standard windows operating system
Able to write on screen
Can run Access database
Relatively new technology
Some of the early models had overheating problems
Cost (e.g. ASUS is $1,999)
Poor battery life (2-3 hours) may be an issue depending on the work environment
Slate Tablet PC Larger than a UMPC i.e. larger screen display
Runs standard windows operating system
Able to write on screen
Can run Access database
Normally has a lot better battery life than a UMPC
Bulkier than a UMPC or PDA i.e. less mobile
PDA Smaller than a UMPC
Highly mobile
Less expensive in terms of hardware
Good battery life
Will need a basic PDA with good processing speed (i.e. no inbuilt phone or camera) – approx. $600
Will need 3rd party application like Visual CE to run database on PDA
Ideally need to daily sync PDA with desktop PC database
Information can be inputted on PDA but all assessment checklist need to be set up on desktop PC
Can have problems with syncing PDA database with database on PC

I personally DO NOT believe that a PDA with a Visual CE assessment database is THE SOLUTION.

Smart tags for Smart Learning

Marcus Ragus and Daniel Dacey were invited to Perth for the WA Training Forum (they were here from 14 to 17 May) to do a presentation on Smart Tags for Smart Learning. This meant Frances McLean and myself got to spend most of the week with Marcus and Daniel talking about mobile technology and m-learning. Shame poor Frances was not well all week and Daniel also got sick; but other than that it all went well.

As a result of their visit I managed to record some of their presentations and an interview; which I have now edited into three different podcasts so others can gain from what I learnt.

The podcasts are:

  1. Detailed explanation of the difference between barcode, RFID and NFC technologies. I have two versions of this podcasts – a longer (12.35 mins) audio version and a shorter (7.30 mins) video version.
  2. Part of Marcus’s Smart Tags for Smart Learning presentation – this is video podcast where I combine parts of Marcus’s presentation with small parts of my interview so that you can visualise how barcode, RFID and NFC technology can be used in education and training.

Just for laughs I have uploaded this picture Daniel took of Marcus explaining the technology to me. It was his revenge after me annoying him taking photos. BTW that is not a look of boredom – but a reflection of how tired I was ( the past few weeks have been very busy with minimal sleep).

Choosing which PDA to buy? and why this task should never be given to me!

Some people really love shopping and find it really easy to make fast decisions on what product to buy. I am not one of those lucky people, with my scientific background I have to thoroughly research the product before I can make a buying decision. I am so bad that my friends and family refuse to go shopping with me.

So imagine the frustrations I am having deciding which PDA will meet our work requirements (and to make it worse I need to order two PDAs). Poor Frances has spent the week discussing the pros and cons with me and luckily Smartphone and Pocket PC magazine for April/May has arrived to help me with the decision (what an excellent magazine – I just wish it was montly). BTW I can not believe that the June/July issue is showing on their website and I have only just got the April/May copy.

Pierre Khawand does an excellent review of 9 top smartphones in his 81 day experiment article for Smartphone and Pocket PC magazine. Basically for a period of 81 days last year he trialled 9 of the top smartphones; each device was trialled for 9 days.

Before I get into discussing Pierre’s article – let me clarify one point – the definition of a Smartphone – there is growing confusion on the correct definition of what is a smartphone. I am going to go with the definition used in “What is a Smartphone” on O’Reilly Network “The word “smartphone” is defined as “a mobile phone that incorporates a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)” by the Oxford American Dictionary. So, by definition, a smartphone is a converged, multipurpose device.” BTW watch out as some smartphones do not have touch screens.

Pierre suggests you use the following 3 step process for selecting your smartphone:

  1. Be clear on what you needs are – list what you must have and what is less important
  2. Don’t be blinded by the obvious features; consider the behind-the-scene factors
  3. Test drive before you buy

So the first decision is do I need a PDA or a smartphone? Well if ultimately we need to run a workplace assessor database on the device than I would need to go for a PDA with a reasonably fast processor. A smartphone would not have the processing speed to handle an assessment database because including features like phone capabilities and inbuilt camera means that they have to compromise on processing speed to add in these features. However it may be more important for a workplace assessor to have access to email, Internet and a phone than an assessment database. So my decision for the two new devices is to go for a Smartphone (i.e. PDA with phone capbability).

Next hard point for me is size vs mobility. I currently have a HP iPAQ rw6800 Multimedia Messenger which I love because it is really small and very mobile. I was meant to get the HP iPAQ hw6965 Mobile Messenger and while others at work like this model I find it way too bulky. However the main feature that most like with the HP iPAQ hw6965 Mobile Messenger is the built in keyboard which is missing from my current model.

The main features I want in a PDA is small size, phone, email, document writing, Internet access, touchscreen, camera and must be 3G (data plans are expensive in Australia and both models of HP we have are 2.5G which means we are paying a lot to use the Internet on these devices). I have now decided that because email and document writing are an important feature to me – a keyboard would be better. While I know people that manage really welll without keyboards; I believe that I would used my PDA more effectively if it had a keyboard.

So which devices have I crossed off my list and why:

  1. Apple iPhone – concept looked good – but is 2.5G, does not have removable battery, no expansion slot and poor support for third party applications (with a Windows Mobile 5.0 device you can install lots of great software that enhances the device). This device will probably be popular with those after a good combined phone/music player.
  2. Samsung Blackjack – has not got a touchscreen.
  3. Palm Treo 750 – While this Palm runs Windows Mobile 5 it lacks WiFi (the College is changing over to wireless so lack of WiFi is an issue)

It was suggested that I have a look at the HTC S620 however this also does not have touch screen and is not 3G.

My decision? Looks like I will continue to drive everyone crazy, including myself making the decision. Some also suggest worth waiting for Windows Mobile 6.