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Philip Griffin
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« on: February 25, 2008, 09:53:56 PM »

Why is this forum here?

Laptops are not handheld devices! They may be a good thing, they may be portable, but they are not handheld.

Handheld devices can be used anytime, anywhere. Portable devices are good at desks and you could use them standing with it on a shelf, but if you try using them in the field you are in for a fall and an even bigger smash!

Does it matter? Are we trying just to increase the number of computers available to our learners and the lower cost the device the better. Or are we trying to push back the boundaries of learning so that it can take place when the learner can seize the moment whenever and wherever.

P
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Graham
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2008, 09:44:26 AM »

An interesting question Philip and one that raises not just the question about the devices themselves but about our forum, conferences, etc.

Perhaps you might be taking our name too literally?

When we named ourselves over 4 years ago it was a convenient way of identifying the type of learning we were here to discuss and today it largely still is. As we know, technology, particularly in the computing area, is in a constant state of convergence. We're now seeing phones that are mp3 players, phones that are small laptops, entertainment devices that are web browsers, etc. If we had limited ourselves to PDA's and smartphones we'd soon be facing extinction so we have to reflect the advances being made that are or have the potential to affect learning but at the same time there is no point in us being so broad that we overlap into the general ICT areas catered for by other communities.



Look at a device such as the HTC Advantage / T-Mobile Ameo as an example or the about to be launched Elonex One. Both devices feature detachable keyboards but when attached they work better on a desk. There are also a variety of add-on's to "traditional" handhelds that make them look more like laptops, e.g. add-on keyboards that allow devices adopt a more upright position whilst typing, etc. Now we have a wave of ultra low cost laptops that are challenging this approach and saying "hey, you don't need to do that anymore because you can have the whole thing for less money!".

But whilst it is fun to look at the permutations of devices this forum is about learning and more significantly "learning with mobile and ubiquitous technologies". We themed our last conference "learning while mobile" to take the focus away from devices and towards the learner and how they might access their learning from a variety of technologies rather than a single device. Note this doesn't necessarily mean that they must be mobile whilst they are learning they might, after all, be sitting under a tree or in front of their TV! Although our first conference was themed "Towards 1:1 Access" in retrospect I think the idea of 1 device per learner was somewhat myopic when in many cases the reality may now be that they already have 3-4 devices, e.g. phone, game device, mp3 player, computer, game console, etc. Still, I think that the point about access is vitally important but my suggestion is that we don't get so stuck about what kind of device is used to enable that access. Developments in web technologies provide an element of "architectural independence" and well designed sites will configure gracefully across a variety of devices.

Back to your question "why is this forum here?"

Well it may interest you to know that Asus claim to sell a EEE PC every 6 seconds. The OLPC XO have orders for 1 million plus devices and who knows what the "digital-picture-frame-come-laptop" Elonex device will sell at 99 a pop. The thing is that it's likely that a lot of these inexpensive Linux-based devices will be in peoples hands and that is disruptive for all kinds of reasons.

If such things were too big, too heavy, too slow, too expensive, too disconnected and so on they would not be of any interest. So I think we're seeing a new category of ubiquitous technologies emerging that are of interest to this community because it's not so much the "handheld" that is the issue here but the "how does learning/teaching change if everyone's got one/access?". I doubt that without the efforts made by the visionaries and practitioners (many of whom are members of this community) who were motivated to force earlier "handheld" technologies to be useful tools for learning this category would even exist today.

There's a new kind of learning emerging and certainly to get the best out of this movement it is argued that a new form of teaching practice will emerge.

Ultra low cost laptops are just another technology factor. Under our "ubiquitous technologies" umbrella we can also include domestic game consoles (Wii, PS3, XBox), popular web technologies (social networking, online applications, etc), IP-TV and many other technologies that learners will have access to and can/might/should be embraced within teaching practice. It's when all this starts coming together that things get really interesting.

Smiley



« Last Edit: February 28, 2008, 05:47:27 PM by Graham » Logged
jont
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« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2008, 04:33:27 PM »

Hi Philip , I know your name from somewhere, cant think where...... anyway welcome to the forum..

(the naming problem has plagued similar list, the usa list became HMC for handheld and mobile computing. The jisc list www.jisc.ac.uk/pda-edu  retains PDA in its name but also welcome discussions of anything related to mobile learning )

Elsewhere this week Ive seen the term  "multiplatform e-learning".

The various convergences (and divergences) of device and functionality have blurred the lines between devices. However the move to mobility does require different approaches to  provision, design and support of educational materials. (and other things as well)

The forum has proved an excellent resource for lively discussions of how these may be achieved (and indeed how some approaches have failed).


... for me handheld and laptop are two different classes of device. Not least due to the need for a different interface for the smaller screen :-)

But like so many great ideas 'PDAs' suffered from being compared to a similar technology...small laptops. (aka gravity well effect or something like that)

Then the "special" people in marketing departments tried to make the comparisons more favorable, eg gave the device more RAM, more CPU speed, More colours. Result was we ended up with PDAs with pathetic battery life that looked even worse when compared to a laptop, with screens that were unreadable in daylight (oh and gradually got physically thicker* and more unreliable. (the unreliability really did make them more like (ms) powered desktop machines.

I agree with views suggesting that industry fell into (what Palm called) the pc mentality of more is better, more speed, more ram, more storage, bigger screens.

What a lot of people want is something simple that works and is reasonably cheap. The eeePC popularity has surprised a lot of people.

These are interesting times , just need to get a bit more discussion going here, things have been a bit quiet of late.



Jon (and nothing above is meant to be contentious ok :-))
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Graham
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« Reply #3 on: February 26, 2008, 06:17:27 PM »


... for me handheld and laptop are two different classes of device. Not least due to the need for a different interface for the smaller screen :-)


but when is a laptop not a laptop?

is the EEE PC really a laptop? The screen is small and it's very light. It doesn't have the perfect user interface yet but user interfaces are changing all the time as a consequence of the web. It's quite possible that future users of devices like the EEE PC might never see Linux or it's attempt at a GUI.

I think we need to be careful before we stick the tail on the donkey and start defining devices otherwise we'll return to the sort of perennial argument that were a favourite of the PDA fraternity (myself included) until the body started to decompose, "is the PDA dead?".

I'm sure our other community members have some thoughts on this one!



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bobharrisonset
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2008, 08:02:40 PM »

A really interesting question which, as Graham has said previously, the word "Handheld" should be a springboard for discussion and not a straightjacket. Even if we cannot agree about whether laptops are handheld we could always take a tablet? Smiley
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jont
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2008, 10:34:36 PM »

Even if we cannot agree about whether laptops are handheld we could always take a tablet? Smiley
May I just groan :-) Good to see you here bob.
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Philip Griffin
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« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2008, 08:51:11 PM »

Hi

We've just run a special one day project- Tudor Day- which Becta videod for their forthcoming dvd on Learning Platforms.

The learning platform provided the stimulus for the day, the children were then creatively interpreting the information in their own way, before uploading it back to the learning platform.

During this I was watching the children use their handheld devices and it finally dawned on me the sort of device that I think they need. I know that is presumptious of me, but I have asked them in the past and they just lack the experience to know what the possibilities are- or at least they do at the moment.

Now my class have the Nokia N800 Internet Tablet- which is (or was) a pretty good little device. It's limitations indicate to me what they need to be truly creative in a digital world. (It was interesting to note that the other class that don't have the N800's were using them pretty fluently when they were leant them, asking my class if they became stuck).

Now some children stuck to typing in responses to the situation. For that the N800 is not great unless you have a bluetooth keyboard. Others were browsing the internet and copying and pasting information- which was no problem until the internet reached snails pace. Not the fault of the N800, or the Learning Platform (Uniservity) but the tiny hole through which our connection has to pass through somewhere in the LA.

Others were outside using m-explore to locate information hidden in the school grounds. This was fine until they reached the limit of the wifi network. a 3G card would enable contact to be maintained (but brings about cost implications).

Some worked creatively in pen and pencil- producing drawings. The camera on the N800 enabled information to be captured and transferred by bluetooth to other devices including desktops, as well as uploaded to the Learning Platform. Great cooperation skills.

However, when it came to videoing, the N800's let the children down, as although it is allegedly possible to video record using the devices, this is not enabled.

Ok, so what conclusions can I draw from the creative use of the technology?

I think that a good device for primary use has to be able to be used creatively. It needs to
  • handheld, so that it can be used as a camera or video recorder
  • have a good camera suitable for still and video recording. By good I only mean low definition but easy to use
  • have a powerful wifi connection, with the possibility of adding a 3G card on specific occasions
  • have a touch sensitive screen, but with a sliding keyboard. A qwerty bluetooth keyboard should also be available
  • have creative software such as a word processor, paint, video editor, photo story creator, presenter, animator, etc
  • Full web 2 compatible- java, flash, shockwave etc
  • Integrate fully with any learning platform

This is why I think that the folding design is not the best option for primary schools. It can't be used creatively enough. The device has to be capable of a range of uses. It has to be able to help the learners create their own meaning.
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dsugden
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« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2008, 12:43:09 PM »

I love my eee PC!

I'm heartily rooted in PDAs - but the ASUS eee has so much more going for it:  A larger screen, easier connectivity, fully funcitional PC compatible software and only slightly slower than instant-on.

All this allows me to take notes, record sound/video and communicate via the web much easier than I can with my PDA or my phone (both of which do all of the above). The real killer is that all of the above can be saved to USB stick and re-used, re-edited or output through my PC.

And it is still a handheld device!

It fits in my (capacious) pocket, takes up no more room in my rucksack than my dairy and weighs almost nothing. It is portable (mobile if you like) and (the real cruncher for a Yorkshireman) costs less than half the cost of a high-spec PDA and certainly less than any non-sim PDA/Phone.

It is the UMPC for me.

David
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« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2008, 03:44:31 PM »

I too am being challenged by the emergence of a new generation of UMPC's.  We have been running a project involving EDA's with one Year 7 class in our (secondary) school.  All the pupils have an EDA 24-7 and so do two teachers who teach the class for over 50% of the time between them. 

Now I did expect the teachers to pick things up more slowly, and so we have put in both initial and ongoing support and training for them, but what has really surprised me is how slowly the pupils have picked up using the devices.  Perhaps its because all the pupils have special educational needs, or are EAL learners at an early stage of English aquisition.  Most have not taken the initiative to explore what the devices can do but have stuck to what the teachers have shown them.  The teachers concerned both have other responsibilities in school, and haven't yet become fully confident in using the EDA's themselves (I'm comparing them to primary colleagues who are using them in the LA and seem to have become more confident much more quickly, despite having less in-school support than we can provide).  They are very flexible devices, but staff and pupils have had rouble learning how to use them, and perhaps they only do some of these things really well. 

So am now thinking that if we equip all pupils with a device that is small, light, with good battery life, and that is running the same OS and software as the desktops and laptops teachers already use, then straightaway they will know what it is and what is can do, and will be able to get on with devising meaningful experiences.  Thoughts, anyone? 
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Graham
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« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2008, 04:21:16 PM »

I spotted this interview with Nicholas Negroponte in today's Miami Herald website discussing some of the decision making process in the creation of the XO laptop and why didn't end up being a handheld device:

http://www.miamiherald.com/540/story/448206.html

Quote

Q. Kids don't talk anymore. All they do is text. Why not just give them cheap handheld devices?

A. Screen size or e-book mode is one reason. There is a reason that an atlas is bigger than a novel, that itself is bigger than a train schedule. How our visual system works for reading and browsing is import. The reading experience is key to learning. Another reason for a full laptop is driven by the size of two hands and the desire to have all 10 fingers at work, with a full keyboard. All children should know how to touch-type.


All children should know how to touch-type?

Yes, Nicholas and they should all know Latin and ride Penny-Farthings too  Wink

Seriously, and no offence to the XO initiative, but anyone expecting to touch type on the XO's rubbery keyboard is going to find it difficult.



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Philip Griffin
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« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2008, 10:58:18 PM »

C'mon guys and gals, anything which folds and looks like a laptop, however, mini, is not a handheld device.

Anything that you use two hands to type on is not a handheld device (unless you have three hands, one to hold it with and two to type.

It has a place, I'll admit, and is now very cheap but it doesn't give you some of the really important aspects of handheld learning. It doesn't fit in your pocket and is not fully compatible with ANYWHERE anytime learning. Probably an excellent device for sitting at a desk in a room and typing in something in Open Office (or whatever) but can you take a photo of your science experiment and upload it to the web?

A good secondary school device is what it seems like to me.

Not that the perfect device exists or will ever exist.

Philip

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Graham
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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2008, 11:36:50 AM »

Hi Philip

The wonderful thing about this thread is that people have different opinions and definitions that provides fertile ground for discourse, encouraging forum lurkers to be bold and post something to contribute to the discussion  Wink

As mentioned earlier there used to be regular outbreaks of heated debate about whether the PDA was dead. Now the daisies have blossomed pretty much everybody agree's that the smart phone replaced the PDA and even if they don't the economies of scale make this a reality. Now, I've been a fan of the Nokia Internet tablet devices since they first appeared and we received early engineering samples. Like you, I'm not always convinced we need keyboards but when the new Nokia tablets arrived with keyboards this helped for some data/info entry but to be honest I wouldn't want to input an awful lot through this means and we don't have speech recognition on handhelds yet (except for the Nintendo DS). For a while, on a first generation, Nokia 770 I used an external keyboard (SU-8W) at meetings and on trains when I wanted to write a lot or send emails, etc. When out of range of Wi-Fi connection was made via my mobile phone. This set up put the screen of the tablet in the right position for reasonably fast input. So although I needed at least two pockets, although in practice a bag, this was my handheld solution.

So I can't agree with your definition that anything that requires two hands on type is not a handheld device. The problem with my handheld solution above was that I needed a firm base like a desk.

Now, I agree that a device such as the EEE PC isn't strictly a handheld (as we've said this community isn't Jesuit in it's definition or scope of interest)  but I can type on it with two hands and I can rest it on my knees, grass, floor, etc., and it is light enough to carry in my bag and it has a camera that can be used to take pictures or video's of science experiments.

"Anywhere, anytime learning" is a bit of of a myth amongst some mobile learning projects because of poor connectivity issues and in some projects the lack of connectivity renders the so-called mobile devices as static content delivery systems which pretty much defeats the point. At least some of the new laptops feature the capability for cellular connectivity as well as Wi-Fi. I realise that cellular data-plans are still silly money and there are issues with coverage and contention but these will all be addressed during the coming years as the operators need to stay in business by winning volume data contracts and shifting content is the only game in town.

My further concern around this over-hyped, under-delivered term "anywhere, anytime" is that many are still focussing on a single device and as you say there isn't a single perfect device. The reality is that some devices will do things better than others, I get a better experience watching a film on a 50" plasma with Blu-ray and 7.1 surround than I do from a iPod Nano but the Nano fits in my pocket and is more convenient for watching movies on the train. It is possible to edit a video using online software or even on a mobile phone but today you're probably best using iMovie on an iMac or equivalent and then if it makes sense accessing via your handheld or if you want to show your folks at home via the Nintendo Wii, etc.

I think anytime, anywhere is certainly a good direction but I also believe we need to follow that with "on anything" (or as Merlin John once said, "whenever, wherever and whatever") so learners and schools remain "architecturally independent" of any device or operating system where learners can access their work with devices and tools that are relevant/convenient to the task in hand, i.e less device focussed.

Cheers
Graham
« Last Edit: March 12, 2008, 11:42:03 AM by Graham » Logged
Philip Griffin
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« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2008, 07:48:02 PM »

Graham

I think we have different perspectives on this

Quote
"Anywhere, anytime learning" is a bit of of a myth amongst some mobile learning projects because of poor connectivity issues and in some projects the lack of connectivity renders the so-called mobile devices as static content delivery systems which pretty much defeats the point.

For my purposes, I don't expect the device to be permanently connected to the network (who does?). What I'm expecting my learners to do is to go and do something somewhere, bring it back, change it and upload it. Perhaps it should be called just that, something, somewhere learning!

I want them to be creative with their devices and publish their efforts for others to see and to comment on, allowing both learners to improve.

Philip
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