STOP, LOOK, THINK – What Is Material Really Going To Look Like on A Mobile Device

Opinions differ on text based material on mobile devices from those who believe the zoom feature of phones like the iPhone means that material developed for the web will need little or no change for use to people that believe the exact opposite (e.g. limited amount of text per screen, essential text only).

This video might HELP you form your own opinion on designing text based material for mobile devices used for mlearning (mobile learning). In it Nick Cowie demonstrates why you need to design mobile specific websites for mobile phones in his humorous WebSledge for Perth WebJam. While Nick’s video is based on mobile phones the same principles apply to all mobile devices. Thanks to Nick Cowie for giving me permission to use his Slides and letting me create this video, and Stewart Greenhill for letting me use his audio to create this video.

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Read these articles for more information on using the Mobile Web in Education:

  1. Mobile Web Usage is Increasing – How Will You Use It With Students?
  2. What can we do about policies that are stifling innovation in educational uses of technology?
  3. Please Wait a Sec, Just Need to Check Training Info on My Mobile Phone?
  4. Will Mobiles Be THE Tool of The Future?
  5. Mobile learning
  6. iPhone vs Mobile web

What can we do about policies that are stifling innovation in educational uses of technology?


My final post for this week’s series on mobile technology focuses on the great challenge and barrier facing uptake of m-learning: our organisation and Government policies on the use of technologies with students.

Yesterday Dianne posted this comment “All of these devices are banned under our student code of behavior, although if cellphones are turned off and out of sight, they are not confiscated” in response to my post on How are we going to effectively use the mobile devices in our student’s pockets?. The constraints placed on Dianne with the use of mobile phones is not isolated, it is a global issue, and is not limited to mobile devices, increasingly, as educators, we are being preventing from accessing Internet sites which would enrich our students’ learning experiences [Image by Johnmulk].

Take for example my children’s schools. Both schools have implemented a Phone Policy which at one of the schools has been extended to include related technology such as PDAs. So as a teacher in these schools if you want to be innovative and actually use any of the mobile devices to engage your students you can’t because you will be contravening school policies.

As Darren highlights in Pay Attention a simple activity like giving your students 10 minutes to send a text message to someone outside the school to find out

  1. What they had for breakfast?
  2. What is the weather like where they are?
  3. The one thing they last purchased.

With the added challenge that students get bonus points given messages back from people in other countries using language other than English is a powerful way to engage and empower our students’ learning.

As an educator my attitudes over the years have changed. The policy in my organisations is mobile phones must be switched off in class. I have changed from the days when I enforced phones must be on silent, and would confiscated student phones if it interrupted class too much, or offer to answer their calls. I freely let students use their phones – amazing they can be responsible – they don’t disrupt the class – and it is far less disrupting than confiscating phones.

On a side point – you can’t have different rules for teachers and students – if mobile phones are banned in classrooms because your organisation believes they are disruptive then that means teachers also should not be using their mobile phone in class! WALK THE TALK or change the TALK!

It is time to take action!

Policy makers need to stop stifling innovation in the educational use of technology. Stop blocking video sharing sites like YouTube, podcasting sites like Podomatic, social networking sites like Twitter etc, reconsider views on mobile devices. It is far better to educate our students on appropriate use of these technologies than ban/bar their use. If we are going to overprotect our students, lets also stop them crossing roads.

Image is by Lynetter – refers to the fact that mobile phones are the divining rod for the digital age.


How are we going to effectively use the mobile devices in our student’s pockets?

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?
  3. You Need Spyglasses – Are you Serious?
  4. Barcodes, RFID and NFC technology – use in education and training explained in Sue language!

With m-learning and mobile technology the choice is to either supply the mobile devices that the students use OR take advantage of the mobile devices that the student’s already have.

Ideally we should be taking advantage of the mobile devices that the student’s already have but how are we going to do this effectively?

Our reality is our students have different mobile devices with a wide range of capabilities (from only capable of playing music to web browsing, video calling, music and video downloads, and streamed TV).


1. Mobile Phone showing multimedia options, 2. PSP Front, 3. flashpod (4), 4. Apple iPhone, 5. Control remoto del iPod Video vs Ipod Shuffle

Number and types of mobile devices in my class of 21 students is:

  • 19 had Mobile Phones – phones ranged from very basic to 4 students with a Motorola V3X which is capable of web browsing, video calling, music and video downloads, and streamed TV
  • 7 had PSP (PlayStation Portable) – the main use of a PSP is for playing games however PSP do supports music, video, photo, web browsing and wireless connectivity
  • 3 had Video Ipod
  • No. with mp3 players was not counted – but would expect to be high
  • No.of digital cameras was not counted – but I should have

With their range of devices we can not use “one size fits all” approach instead we will need to use a range of m-learning approaches (e.g. podcasting, moblogging) while making sure we do not discriminate or disadvantage any student.

It is not possible to do justice to all m-learning using student mobile devices in this post – so I will be doing a series of posts on this topic next week.


  • Are you currently taking advantage of your students mobile devices? If so, how?
  • What issues do you have with getting students to use their OWN devices?

Barcodes, RFID and NFC technology – use in education and training explained in Sue language!

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?
  3. You Need Spyglasses – Are you Serious?

Today I am going to discuss how asking simple questions like please explain:

  1. What are barcode, RFID and NFC?
  2. How can barcode, RFID and NFC be used in education and training?

can drive two experts crazy when you expect them to answer the questions using “Sue language” (which is really hard because half the time Sue does not understand her own language!!).

What are barcode, RFID and NFC?

Barcodes use wide and narrow spaces to represent letters or numbers.

Standard Barcode on left (image by Iscan) and 2D barcode on right (image by Varjohaltia). A 2D barcode is able to store more information.


Barcode is read by a barcode reader that triggers information to be retrieved on the reader e.g. the price of an item at a supermarket.

RFID stands Radio Frequency Identification

RFID tags contain microchips that are able to hold and store far more information than barcodes. Information like documents or text from 20 kb to 1 MB depending on the tag. RFID tags either hold the information in the tag and is transferred to the the RFID reader; or triggers information retrieval from within the reader when read with a RFID reader. RFID tags, because they use radio frequency transmission do not need line of sight like a bar code.

Passive RFIDs have no battery whereas an active RFID tags has an inbuilt battery. Active RFID tags can be read from a further distance away (up to 10 metres) because their battery is transmitting a signal.

Expensive items in shops often have RFID tags attached to them – these are what trigger the alarm.

This is an example of one type of RFID tag (image by pommesschranke)


NFC refers to Near Field Communication

NFC uses short range wireless communication and usage is mainly aimed at mobile phones. The technology is based on RFID technology – but the phone acts as the tag reader. The idea is by touching NFC enable phone on a tag you could trigger it to load up a web page, ring a number or send an SMS.

Check out this video for more detailed explanation of these technologies by Marcus Ragus.

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For more detailed information I recommend that you check out Marcus Ragus and Ian Whitehouse’s RFID scoping study.

How Barcode and RFID technology is being used

New England Institute is currently using RFID technology with students for asset registering and OHS induction. Their RFID podcaster can be used to trigger audio, video or text content on the RFID reader.

Daniel Dacey (New England Computer Solutions) is also working together with Marcus Ragus on a learning table. This video will give you a better understanding of the potential applications of this technology.

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Fortunately no experts were injured in my quest for knowledge; and I would like to thank both Marcus Ragus and DanielDacey for their patience!!

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.

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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?

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.

Have PDA, will travel!

As part of my role in the Fresh Thinking Program I was fortunate enough to be invited to Pilbara TAFE to do a workshop on mobile technology (in particular PDAs). This definitely felt like a case of how much can you fit into 24 hours; and felt like going to two different seasons in the same State (Perth was cold and wet; Karratha was fine and hot).

I was very excited about the trip as it was the first time I have been into what I would call the “true Australian outback” (i.e. remote and arid areas of Australia) as opposed to the Australian bush. So I flew to Karratha on Sunday, arriving at 4.00 pm, and was meet by one of my online aquaculture students, Mike, who lives in Dampier which is 20 minutes from Karratha. (I flew back on Monday night and Mike was so committed to his studies that he sat next to me for the entire flight home to Perth).

Besides catching up on how Mike is going with his aquaculture studies, he was also nice enough to take me for a quick tour of Dampier and then showed me some Aboriginal rock art on the Burrup Peninsula. I think he may have thought it was funny when I was excited seeing kangeroos (yes I have seen lots of kangeroos but it was lovely seeing them with the scenes of the Pilbara in the background). The 4WD to the site was lots of fun – how I was totally amazed at how quickly the sun set.

That night I had a lovely dinner with Karen Higgins from Pilbara TAFE and then went to bed early for a change. Monday I spent most of the day in a seminar room at Pilbara TAFE Karratha’s campus and had a great time with their lecturers. I gained from listening to Karen’s section of the workshop and watching the lecturers in action. Their thoughts on using PDAs are very similar to mine which is why they were keen to have me come and visit. I am impressed by the work their lecturers are doing with mobile technology considering the heavy teaching load of most of the participants and I look forward to hearing how this years project goes.

Monday night I jumped back on the plane home to Perth (at 5.30 pm). Poor Diana from Pilbara TAFE was disappointed that I did not have any time to properly see either Karratha and Dampier. She was embrassed by me taking photos from the car window as she drove and has promised to send me some lovely photos for the video podcast I am going to create about my visit. I would love to visit this area again however with the resource boom, accomodation and airflights to the area tend to be booked out. There were lots of great things that I would have like to have done but with it being apparently the most expensive domestic airflight in Australia ($733 return from Perth to Karratha for a 2 hour flight) it is unlikely that it will be a holiday destination with the kids in the near future (considering it cost us a lot less to travel to Syndey – which is a 6 hour flight).

Oh BTW title have PDA, will travel relates to the fact that using my PDA I was able to remain connected to the Internet and my emails. BTW Question – how much of the great Australian outback can you fit in with only 24 hours, most of it spent in a seminar room or in the dark? Answer – not much I think I blinked and missed the Australian outback!!!!

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).