How to Read Blog posts on a Phone Using Mobile Friendly Google Reader

Christine Martell (Visuals Speak Blog) comment on my STOP, LOOK, THINK – What Is Material Really Going To Look Like on A Mobile Device was “Now I’m really scared to look at my blog and site, so it’s a good thing I don’t know how to! Hope the next article is how to fix such things?

So here is one solution for how we can cater to our mobile readers cutesy of a comment on Nick Cowie’s post on The mobile web meets Google Analytic. Before I talk about the solution let me just thank Nick for telling me how to work out how many people are reading my blog posts from mobile devices.

And the answer if you are wondering is YES, people are reading on mobile devices. Numbers of mobile readers will increase with decrease data plan costs and increased confidence in using the mobile web.


Thanks to Mr Speaker for the comment on Nick’s Post! Mr Speaker said on Nick’s post “I read your post (and am writing this comment) on my mobile – but I got here through RSS with Google Reader Mobile, which does an excellent job of reformatting pages to mobile friendly ones.”

Mmmm why didn’t I think I that? Well, lets seeing blogging, podcasting, mlearning, mobile learning, mobile technology and Web 2.0 – means a lot of ground to cover!

So check out my video on what a blog post looks like on a mobile phone (actually my PDA) using Internet Explorer.

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So if you want to inform your readers on how to read a blog on a mobile device perhaps Christine we could add a section on reading on a mobile device? Now Nick, sorry to bug you, but will this work solution work on all mobile web browser? and let me guess perhaps it would be expensive for an Australian unless used wireless instead of your data plan?

And finally for Michelle and Alex – I do believe that being able to use a mobile friendly version of Google Reader means that Google Reader now is winning against NetVibes? Not that I am keeping score 🙂 For a comparision of mobile Bloglines and Google Reader check out this post.

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?

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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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).

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.