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py8s
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« on: April 11, 2008, 01:32:20 PM »

Calling all Local Authorities.
I'm trying to get a feel for the type of mobile devices used in/by other LAs. Particularly those devices with an integral SIM mobile phone card.
If you would let me know make, model, particluarly good and/or bad features about them I would be most grateful.

Thank you
Pam Yates
Teacher Adviser Learning Technologies (Primary)
pyates@worcestershire.gov.uk
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David Perry
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« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2008, 03:48:33 PM »

I'm going to ignore Pam's reference to phones/Sims for the moment and piggyback on her neglected posting to show the world some draft paragraphs from a paper I'm drafting for a client LA currently. Pam - you might find this of interest. Others - I'd love some responses to what I's saying below, knowing that my positions draw from direct experience with a lot of schools.
ALL COMMENTS WELCOME:

Are we getting the right devices?
This question is asked in the context of emerging products in a rapidly changing market. The last year has seen a wave of new products at various price levels with varying levels of functionality. Some do include such as high-quality cameras with video that have been shown to lead in transforming learning practice, some are light and very portable, a few will fit in the pocket though many will not.

To my knowledge, only two small-scale computing devices have been produced specifically for school use and both were ill-fated, though for different reasons: the Apple eMate of 199? And the Fujitsu-Siemens EDA (Educational Digital Assistant). The eMate was ahead of its time, launched before its technology was mature enough and the EDA was behind the times, overtaken by more exciting devices from other manufacturers (notably HTC) and apparently lacking adequate robustness.

The T-Mobile Ameo (or HTC Advantage) has proved somewhat more robust than the Loox in year one of the project and has shown the advantage of 3G data connectivity as well as some of its pitfalls (Internet filtering problems, frustration at crippled telephony/SMS etc). 3G has to a substantial extent ameliorated the difficulties in achieving reliable and widespread enough wireless connectivity to school networks and added the enormous potential of out-of-school internet access.

However, the Ameo is not a pocket device and it relies on an operating system that will probably never provide what education needs.

The operating system burden
Part of the reason for limited take-up and the time it takes to gain users’ confidence, is the clumsiness of the Microsoft PocketPC/Windows Mobile operating system. Even inventive, dedicated applications developers find themselves unable to get past this to produce programs which are remotely user-friendly. Witness the clunky Pocket Slides application – utterly tortuous in comparison to its PC sibling Powerpoint or Apple Mac’s Keynote. And yet, the ability to author in multi-media is absolutely key to these devices transforming learning.

The Asus eeePC has received a very positive reception in education but has taken some time to come through in numbers so we are not yet ready to evaluate it properly. In one incarnation it has a lightweight and potentially cost-sustainable operating system that is very friendly for widespread application development. We can expect to see far more school-specific applications coming through built on Linux if this model is bought for schools in the numbers that seem likely. There is now a Windows version coming through which in my view is a nonsense but represents the power of the huge legacy of embedded skill in the technician and teacher workforces. Windows adds the bloat that Microsoft is notorious for, upping the specification, cost, weight and complexity of the eeePC.

Other manufacturers are jumping on the eeePC bandwagon rapidly and more such devices are appearing almost weekly. What they have in common is:
•   Bag-size not pocket-size
•   Light weight
•   Low cost (around £200 to the Ameo’s £600)
•   WiFi but no other connectivity (though 3G is a simple if costly and managerially complex addition)
•   No touch-screen, so less intuitive
•   Low grade cameras facing the user – the webcam model rather than a multi-media authoring component
•   Modest battery life

The other alternative product group is the so-called UMPCs (Ultra-mobile Personal Computers). These mostly have touch-screen technology using the Tablet version of Windows and their main problems are higher cost and short battery life. However, some are far more innovative in their mode of use than the cut-down laptop that the eeePC represents.

Other devices can be expected to emerge and perhaps one of them soon will be nearly right for schools. Critical criteria in my view include:
•   A high-quality stills camera (3MP plus)
•   A reasonable quality video camera (MPEG4) preferably with some optical zoom
•   Battery life adequate to give effectively all-school-day use (ie not in continuously use for  six hours but usable on-and-off over that timescale)
•   Standard (USB) charger connections and (5v) current requirements for versatility
•   At least one ‘killer application’ for staff, preferably integrated into the school’s IMS
•   Several such applications for students, primarily for multi-media authoring

David Perry
david perry associates ltd

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Philip Griffin
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« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2008, 08:42:13 PM »

David

I don't want to go over ground that has already been covered in another forum- Are laptops handheld?

/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,58/topic,1262.0

To a large extent I agree with your criteria for a device, which were
Quote
•   A high-quality stills camera (3MP plus)
•   A reasonable quality video camera (MPEG4) preferably with some optical zoom
•   Battery life adequate to give effectively all-school-day use (ie not in continuously use for  six hours but usable on-and-off over that timescale)
•   Standard (USB) charger connections and (5v) current requirements for versatility
•   At least one ‘killer application’ for staff, preferably integrated into the school’s IMS
•   Several such applications for students, primarily for multi-media authoring


I believe that for primary schools  the mobile device needs to be combined with the creative use of a learning platform to enable collaboration and sharing of content. To create web content a relatively simple device could suffice. You don't need a high quality camera or video- just one capable of producing suitable quality for posting on the Learning Platform. You do need the battery life. However, many of the applications can be housed on the Learning Platform.

The critical bottle neck is the speed of access to the web. The wifi within the school must be of high quality.

We've been using Nokia N800 Internet Tablets to try and do this. These relatively simple devices are capable of being used to good effect when combined with a learning platform. They are not a perfect solution- but then there never will be a perfect device.

Philip Griffin
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stu_mob
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« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2008, 11:35:35 AM »

I expect the answer is going to vary from forum participant to participant. I've worked on handheld learning in FE, HE and post 14 schoolage.

It depends on what you are doing whether Internet access is an essential criteria in my experience. For example Ipods have no Internet access but are used in lots of projects and the use of MP3 in learning is a very big area we don't really touch on much anymore in this forum.

Also, in terms of connectivity I've worked a lot with mobile connectivity the latest work I've been doing on some of the Molenet projects demonstrates that Wifi is not the only option and mobile connectivity opens up a lot more (cheaper) devices with Internet access for learning. Materials I've created for example work pretty well on 2G phones up.

So no doubt there will be other views. I really think 'what is handheld learning' will depend on your perspective.

However I'll end with this view. I don't think anyone has cracked it yet we still see a lot of emphasis on the devices rather than the learning. Any new technology in it's first implementation tends to mimic it's closest predecessors.  I think Handheld Learning is still in very early days so we need to be flexible and open to new ideas because it's still an undiscovered country!.
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py8s
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« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2008, 11:47:00 AM »

Thank you David for your reply. I agree with all your points.

Now there's a coincidence, Philip! We are about to begin a project using Nokia N810 INTERNET Tablets. The project will be running until July 09. I shall be writing up my findings and publishing them next year.
If you have any points of note you think may be helpful (any pitfalls to avoid, etc) I would be most grateful.
I am also thinking about putting a small number of ASUS machines into the classroom, too, so that the children may have free access to them. I will be interested to see which they prefer to work with and why.

Thanks again
Pam

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David Perry
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2008, 09:38:21 PM »

I'd be interested to hear from anyone about students authoring materials of their own on the Nokia tablet - tell us what they can do and what it's limitations are, please.

Pocket slides has been at least as important on the Windows Mobile platform as Powerpoint on big Windows - but while the latter is easy to use the former is very clunky. It does though at least allow for multi-media materials to be created on their personal devices.

David
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Philip Griffin
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« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2008, 10:20:37 PM »

Hi

For our interim report go to the SEGfL site

http://www.segfl.org.uk/microsites/view_page.php?id=469

Or if you would like to hear it from the other side, read Iona's forum comments

/component/option,com_smf/Itemid,58/topic,1376.0

There is also a series of articles written for ICTopus Sharing Good Practice entitled "Adventures with a Learning Platform" which include some information on how we've used the devices.

http://www.ictopus.org.uk/

Philip

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