Monday, 28 June 2010

Great free animation software and an off key eLearning tune

If you only have a limited budget, but you do have a need to build scenarios that show human-to-human communication, this might be a good software to use. Me, I want to learn it as a next step towards augmented learning. While gearing myself to develop an augmented reality project (triggering virtual reality to be placed on top of a real life setting), I have one other obstacle to tackle: learning to build an animated character or object that can feature in an AR environment. There are many software's on the market for building your own animated movie, but someone suggested Moviestorm and indeed it works magnificently!

Short description of the software

Moviestorm is an animation movie software that has a free version (it was completely free, but one of the founders of Moviestorm just informed me that it is no longer for free, you can still try it out for free during 30 days), you can also purchase extra features if you want to in the ‘marketplace’ of the software website. The software enables its users to build animated movies featuring virtual characters in a self-designed decor. As a user you can set the stage, influence lighting, add and change props and characters, use different camera angles for the movie (even add camera viewpoints), edit both audio and video, and publish the final product to any audiovisual carrier which is open to the format (AVI format).

How can Moviestorm be used in a digital learning environment?

While learning Moviestorm software allows me to use its results in an augmented reality learning situation later on (yes, a steep learning curve lies ahead J ), it also has other learning situations in which it can be applied. It allows me to use the animations to create human-to-human interaction learning examples, without having to engage real life actors, clinics or laboratories, thus saving costs. The human-to-human interactions might be of interest to psychology, sales, medical or other learning settings where human interactions can be illustrated as ‘best practice’ or completely ‘not done’ scripts (if you cut an artery, this is what happens...), adding examples to support the theoretical manuals already available in the courses.

Coming to grips with Moviestorm

In Moviestorm you can choose to start from scratch, or to build your first movie using existing sets, characters, furniture or other props. I choose to start from scratch, building my first movie from an empty set (I learn best when a challenge is in my face, the learning curve is steeper, but the results are – most of the time - stronger).

Different steps to take while building a movie with Moviestorm
Setting the scene:
In order to have the feel of an AR setting, I wanted to use a real life picture. So I climbed to the highest point of the institute’s building, and took a panoramic view of the institute (= the background). In addition to the background I added some features (microphones) that would fit the setting I had in mind for the movie.
Additionally, I changed the lights on the scene and I added some walls on the side, allowing me to let the characters enter the ‘roof’. This was not really necessary for the AR later on, but it gave me the possibility of using a door movement, this was a good extra exercise for possible future scenarios.

Building characters
If I would want to use characters in my AR that resembled different persons, I needed to customize the given characters in the Moviestorm movie as well. So I choose to go with four different characters, but building them with the garments (casual, formal…), facial types (strong eyebrows, cheekbones..) and hairstyles (beards, moustache, glasses or not…) from the free library of Moviestorm. For more professional garments (doctor, nurse…) I would have to buy an additional set from Moviestorm.

Adding motion
Once I had my setting and my characters, it was time to put them onto the scene and make them move. This is where the Moviestorm tutorials really came in handy. Moviestorm offers a wide variety of movements, and where the building of characters and the selection of the setting is a bit straight forward, getting all the movements in was a bit of a challenge. It was not enough to pick-up a character and place it somewhere else. For if I would want to make the animated movie look more like real life, I had to put in extra gestures to bring the characters to life (well, I must admit that was one of the guidelines suggested by the tutorial on movement, it did make sense as at first my characters were rather static).
The characters inside Moviestorm can also pronounce words or sentences, meaning their lips will move when you type in the text they are supposed to say. This lip syncing is also considered as a motion. The actual audio that accompanies the text those characters sync must be added later on, or can be embedded using an existing audio file.

Adding sound
To distinguish between the different characters, I opted to use different tones of my voice to give the characters distinct voices. This is where the off key voice comes in as well (yes, I am a lousy singer). Inside Moviestorm you can record ‘live’, and as such link the live recording to the text spoken by the characters. But you can also add your own edited audio to the text by importing a sound you made beforehand.
To get my audio edited I used the free audio editing software Audacity. To make the intro of the movie more ‘rooftop’ like, I added an ambient sound that was available in Moviestorm: the suburbia 02 sound (driving cars, etc).

Editing the movie
After putting all the characters through the motions, the movie could be edited. Again the Moviestorm tutorials come in handy. The tutorial offered for editing only touched the basic possibilities, and for me that was not enough to grasp it. I edited the scenes in the wrong way, pasted content which was not relevant to scenes… made a mess at first. But by going through some of the peer tutorials, it became clearer what I had to do, and how I could build and cut the complete movie.
In the editing process you could also switch between camera’s.

Keeping on top of the movie
As the movie is build, the user of the software can always go and take a look at the product as it was or is at that point in time. This part was easy and straight forward, as it feels like using youtube movies: play and stop button, fast forward options, time line…

Publishing
The final and definitely most straight forward function in Moviestorm is publishing the movie. You can publish a movie by simply selecting the format size and clicking the ‘publish’ button. Really easy.

Well, I still need to work on my audio files, apparently the high pitch sounds in the audacity files resulted in pitched sounds in the final movie (not while I was listening to the preview of the movie, so I need to see what really happens in the audio rendering).
Overall, I was really happy that it worked, one step closer to AR, Yeah!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

What to take into account when chosing a mobile device for learning?


Choosing the best phone for mobile learning can be quite a challenge. It also depends on what you want to do with it and how easy you can get used to technology. The amount of features you want to use will also allow you to purchase a low or high cost smartphone or mobile device.

Let's say you want to explore mobile learning, these are some of your options.

First of all if you are a tech savvy person you could go for a less expensive device which has all the options of the iPhone and more, for the iPhone costs a lot, yet is similar to many other mobile phones that are cheaper. The iPhone is above all an incredibly easy phone to use (very intuitive in its user interface), so for those not that comfortable with technology, the iPhone is the way to go (although it is expensive). If you do not want to pay the cost of an iPhone, you can also go for an iPod Touch, which is much cheaper and offers all the iPhone options, except phone possibilities (but the phone possibilities are not essential for mobile learning).

The same is true for PDA's, with these types of mobile devices you have a range of possibilities, but not the phone possibilities, this again decreases the cost. You can also simply use a MP3 player, as these will enable you to share audio material (e.g. language learning or gather all the songs of birds in the wood and determine which bird it is...)
What can you opt for in a high-end phone or mobile device?
When deciding on a phone, it is good to know what features are most important to you and what type of mLearning you are envisioning, e.g. if you want to use location data to tag your pictures for field trips or similar, GPS will be necessary.

Depending on these features you can make a selection of phones and then compare them in one of the review sites (or a couple of review sites, sometimes those sites already have a 'best off' list: http://reviews.cnet.com/best-cell-phones/ , or a funny geeky one: http://www.testfreaks.co.uk/mobile-phones/ ). In any case it is good to look at which devices are on your local market and then look at (and compare) the specifications of your short list of mobile devices you want to choose from. Go for sites that offer both expert reviews AND peer reviews, because it is the user that is important, not the geek.
Personal criteria that might influence your mobile device purchase
(basically what you do is check what you feel is important to you, the more possibilities, the more your device will cost - most of the time):
Camera quality: how many mega pixels does the camera have (the more mega pixels the better the quality of the pictures taken with it)? this was critical too me, as I like to record high quality movies and pictures for later recall (visual person)
Memory extension:
if you use a lot of big files (movies, audio, podcasts...) it is a good thing to look at phones that have a memory slot (most of the time it is for mini SDcards), this offers you the chance to have access to more files.
Wifi possibility: if in doubt, I would certainly go for wifi enabled phones: wifi enables you to connect to free internet, which will save you a bundle especially when being abroad.
Bluetooth:
this might be interesting if you want to connect to other devices without using a USB connectivity cable. It is also handy for health check-ups, they use bluetooth for instance for wireless interaction between a blood pressure meter and the software to analyse diabetes.
Phone capabilities and specifically quad band connectivity
: only important if you travel internationally, because if you only have access to - say 2 - phone frequencies, you will likely not be able to access in some continents.
Mail access: is there a possibility to exchange between your mailbox and the mobile? Or is it of interest to you? If yes, look for that specification.
In addition to that one: synchronisation with outlook: only necessary if you work with outlook, this enables you to exchange mail and your contacts between your desktop and mobile phone.
Office possibilities:
this enables you to look at office documents (depends again on your need).
Social media widgets: does the device offer easy to install social media widgets (e.g. facebook, flickr, twitter...). Having this function will enable you to quickly personalize your phone to your own social network.
GPS: that is increasingly important for geo-located learning as well, in those cases the GPS will know where you are at and offer you nearby information (shopping malls, geek stores, museums... linked to your location). But of course also easy to find your way around unknown territory.
Applications - can you add software that is build for your mobile phone, to your mobile phone? To me, being able to add extra applications to a phone is very important, as applications offer a wide variety of possibilities not necessarily integrated in the basic features of a phone (e.g. speech to txt, keeping track of your walks, comparing prices of products across various supermarkets and looking for the cheapest product in range, recognizing buildings...)
Touch screen or not: again this is very personal, some like touch screens, others do not (with touch screen you cannot write a quick sms blindly or from the pocket of your pants for instance, but on the other hand it offers immediate contact with what you see).
Screen reflection: if you want to use your phone outside regularly, it is a good thing to check readability of the screen when you are outside, standing in the sun.
Battery life (thanks to Nick Short!): this is pretty important if working away from a power source for example on a field trip.

Now with all these above mentioned features, it is clear that they are only interesting if you really want to explore them, otherwise it is better to buy a simple 'intermediate' smartphone which offers access to internet, phone capabilities and basic note taking (and the price is much lower than high-end phones). With these 'simple' phones you can already exchange pictures, movies, and discuss what these audiovisual materials you gathered with peers. From a learning point of view, even the simplest phone can add to a learning process.

What mobile operating system to choose?
Let's say you go for the more high-end ones, at that moment the operating system of the phone becomes very important (apple mobile operating system, windows mobile operating system, android OS, Palm OS, Rim or Blackberry OS, Symbian OS (the last one is the Nokia operating system)). Of all the Operating systems, the blackberry is the most restricted one as it needs to be connected to a central Blackberry server (rectification thanks to mLearning-world.com (who work a lot with blackberry comment - see below: the Blackberry's do have third party software that allows synchronisation with e-mail without having to go through a BB server).
There is also the operating system to consider when buying a new phone. Btw: always buy a phone that is not the first generation (these have many childhood diseases), always go for a second or third generation of a phone (e.g. do not buy the first android phone, but buy the second version they put out).

Both iPhone, Windows Mobile and Android offer 'application market place', and for the android many of them are for free. For instance if some application would be useful, but does not exist yet, android offers an open SDK (= an open development kit, which is similar to easy building blocks to build mobile software that the mobile device can run). And - thank you to Jra! - the iPhone also has a SDK kit which is easier to use than the Android one (but the Android SDK is open source, so it is again what you like best as a user or developer).

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Mobile Moodle at mLearnCon

On Wednesday my esteemed colleague Carlos Kiyan and I presented the concurrent session 802 on mobile learning.

We were not really sure if we connected with people during the sessions, but luckily a lot of people connected with us afterwards. We even got people willing to collaborate with us on the project, so thank you sooo much to all of you kind people. It is thanks to you that we feel more at ease, and that we can keep going.
For those who could not join our session, these are the slides. Feel free to send any comments or questions, or to join the project.

Rick Nielsen: making a podcast a learning experience - not just a listening experience at mLearncon


A gray haired, bearded man, taking time to be consize. This is a live blogpost, so please overlook any mistypes, short notes...

What is a podcast: automated, time shifted, portable, media

the spoken word
From simple to more complex
first video was 1899, so build 111 years ago. Broadcasted word was introduced 125 years ago, the written word is about 4000 years ago, the spoken word was always around.
The broadcasted word was revolutional, because you could connect with people fare away from where you are/were.
Real stories capture attention, so do fiction stories. The well spoken word enters the theater of the mind. the human voice is a powerful learning tool.
Using natural voice: it's not about hired talent!, relax, from the diaphragm, you will be much easier to listen to, more genuine and believable, does anyone think that their voice sounds good when recorded.
Internet business mastery: Sterling and Jay: www.internetbusinessmastery.com (Inge check it, they have 96 episodes)
Podcast is like a conversation with friends: casual and relaxed, it is engaging, it is local (anyone can build it), global (you can broadcast it) and targeted (you can provide a content that is targeted, so your audience will be targeted).
Tell your story don't try to be someone else.

the podcasted word
You can listen anywhere (car, plane, train, walking, jogging, gym...), any time (day or night, today, tomorrow, next week) - so try to make your content relevant for now and later (evergreen subjects), it's on a device of your choosing (iPod, cell phone, dvd, cd, network, tv...), they ask - they receive: your audience subscribes (RSS), when you add new info they will know, its "pulled" to your audience automatically.

podcast essentials
podcast strategy: define your audience, clearly define podcast purpose, your audience will be able to more readily focus on your content. Intro (current events, just what is going on), feature segment (the main topic), outro (post listener action - PLA) - comment on your blog, sign up for email link, "ethical bribe".
episode structure: build on concepts from one episode to another, your audience will continue to grow in understanding as a result.
episode continuity: sequence it logically.
episode consistently: publish with a frequency, make your publishing schedule known to your audience, and then publish on time.
episode length: establish episode length (average 20 minutes, be consistent), publish to be listened to in one sitting, if your episodes are too long, your audience will not return, no PLA - bummer (they will not do the follow-up because they will be gone).
podcast format: there are 4 formats: choose a format that best meets audience needs: monologue (not as easy as it sounds), dialog - easier to produce, round-table - keep your voices in order (use people with different voices, different accents... to enable people to know the different personae), interview - audience loves these.

the podcast experience
Learning objectives: comprehension is usually not assessed as formally as in traditional eLearning, just another conversation in your day, the podcast medium is usually quite casual. Try to put reflection moments in it.
study aids and more.
attention: get their attention, when on the web, use good titles to pique curiosity, spread the word, publish on iTunes, talk it up through twitter and all the social bookmarking sites, frequent blogs posts too!
engagement: get audience feedback, involve your audience directly by mentioning comments on the air - give them a shout, playing 800 number comment, interact through twitter, fora, via teleseminar...
Relationship: create relationships
Influence: trust, cut through 'defenses', they will listen to you and take your advice, you can more easily change minds an ultimately behavior, your audience will listen, learn and contribute.

Mark Siegel: advancing learning in healthcare using mobile technology (mHealth) at mLearnCon


Rapidly talking gray haired man, focuses on the end user as the main stakeholder. Consultant working in Asia and Africa, his company: http://www.msasolutions.net/.

Great book to read: Checklist Manifesto book (http://www.amazon.com/Checklist-Manifesto-How-Things-Right/dp/0805091742) by Atul Gawande.
(Will post his slides once he sends them)

Liveblog notes:
Truly following a context model and knowing and bounding with your end user, to ensure you will get the context right, the more you will be successful. Use creativity.
Overarching message: do not try and reinvent the wheel, take what you used well and think about that in a context of mLearning.
smartphones pushes us to take a relook at learning (not training, real learning).
Many emerging regions is leapfrogging into a different learning ecosystem.

Promise of mHealth to advance learning
Partners in Health (www.pih.org) came right in, used the mobile technology they had already in place, and were able to build their infrastructure to build everything up (they did not need internet - it was down - but they could do everything online)
iPhone based IT infrastructure and android phones
providing patient records, medical triage, tracking volunteer staff, monitor warehouse supplies ....
Partners in Health is a self-contained unit.

What makes mobile so suitable for health purposes?
Great because you can integrate: mhealth, ehealth, telemedicine, CME - this is an option that never existed before.
Grounded in the audience, and system oriented.
Overall goal: behavior change leading to a healthier population.

Strategies
Get a complete working set-up, that is generic and scalable, sustainable.
Leveling the playing field of that knowledge in a non-hierarchical way, as you must be able to reach all the HCW in a sometimes challenging region.
Assure continuity!
sharing knowledge more efficiently.
Build generic processes.
Interesting in developing countries: much more mobile oriented (because of many, many, many money streams).
A major part of the budget goes to electronic patient records (US funding) and a lot of funding to adherence (follow-up medication...).
Mobile technology gets more and more interesting thanks to sensors.
Try to formalize the way learners are learning already: really grasp the way learning happens, with all its different features (which networks, which approach...)

some of the examples:
UN mobile health report: episurveyor: 2-way data exchange (http://www.episurveyor.org/user/index)
Frontline sms = open architecture: www.frontlinesms.com/
Commcare (tanzania):
Open Elis (reporting and reference) open architecture laboratory: http://openelis.uhl.uiowa.edu/?q=node/1 (very successful and picked up everywhere, started in Peru)
Nacera (Peru): remote communications between healthcare workers, to address maternal and childcare
Wireless data transmission: compact cell phone microscope to diagnose malraia in field settings: university of California.
Disease awareness and information: very big use of mobile technology. Speech recognition using mHealth to address literacy barriers: healthline in Pakistan: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~healthline/.
Communication and training: Amcom software platform (http://www.amcomsoftware.com/), i-tech global laboratory information system training. National school of nursing in Guatemala.

Framework Mark offered
needs and audience
learning information and communications programs
learning environment and organization
learning strategies and tools
development and delivery
learning system

social, cultural and audience considerations: solutions integral to people's lives, storytelling, peer to peer, ...

David Metcalf: mLearning theory mashups at mLearncon


Very intelligent man with charisma, with homepage.

liveblog notes from the conference. Link to presentation (pdf, look from 7th slide).

Mixed emerging technology integration lab (METIL)
5 ideas:
  • mobile performance support
  • authentic learning and mobile
  • empowering constructivism
  • spacing effect (mobile enabling interval-based learning, reinforcement and retention)
  • learning theory mashups (mobile, web2.0, ISD, situated learning and context, mobile game learning.)

mobile performance support
Knowledge objectives: because you do not need learning objectives for some needs. So it does not have to have the wrapper of learning on it.
Strategies a holistic learning approach for

Examples
aid tracker: haiti relief, on request and nsf (national science foundation) assessment funding. Looking at health care and education, needs for small businesses... also assessing mobile education rebuilding.
Sign Smith Studio: signing science pictionary: American sign language (from Vcom3D) with avatars. (see examples from ADL workshop military language solutions)

authentic learning
personal experiences, learning by doing on relevant topics. Immersive environment...

examples
'goforthegreen': learning game for sales people with a 9 step process themed around golf. Runs from the same code across different OS!
'supernutrition': facebook-style mobile social game, teaches the new FDA food pyramid through eating for energy to perform missions that can get you enrolled in Superhero school (9-12 year olds), also across platforms.
symbol demonstration: qr security access codes. if you succeed in getting through the assessment after taking the mobile content, you do not need to go to learning (yes, that would motivate me :-)
How to keep the simulations up to date: the super nutritious game, content can be added easily, as the algorithm is generic. Skill trees are build, together with templates and frameworks (lots in flash?)
Most of the projects were build by frontend xhtml, and on the back-end: php, database.

empowering constructivism
build once you already have experience and understand context to build further by yourself.
Socio-constructivism

example
Abilene Christian University: ACU connected: gave iPhones to all students. Encourage faculty experimentation's, numerous projects, user-generated context used, integration in iTunes U, convergence of new media.
it is about empowering instructors and learners, and how they can/are willing to interact.
Allogy: mobiel course management system: cloud computing, cognitive spacing, social networking (scorm based: encrypting big text into small send-able message (cfr zipped) which unzippes in your phone.

Spacing effect
memory curve (varies according to the individual, differs from one piece of information to another.
intervals based on IQ or on existing knowledge (inge what is the link between iq en spacing effect?)

example
Brain Challenge
Mobile MysportsPulse (math and science education: voice, mobile web, text message, email. Also using extrinsic motivation.
Combat Medic Card Games: mass casualty events for combat medics. 'Golden hour'. Also uses sequencing. this delivered a mobile interval spacing algorithm. (Inge: great implementation possible for own use - take note)

Learning Theory mashups
Nice remark: 'recitations' used learning technique in Haiti (Inge cultural link)

Mashups
many learning theories blended together
discovery learning
jigsaw - collaborative learning: segmented information
ITI - integrated thematic instruction
GELS: guided experiential learning (also narratology)
outcomes
alternate reality gaming

Kirkpatrick scale (Inge, you forgot to add this to your models en frameworks for e/mLearning)

google leadership game: interactive experience using moving knowledge for leadership => 'glearning' mashup with other google tools: youtube, gmail, googledocs, modeerator, google talk... This enables cloud learning, not needing an lms! Once google added a 'leadership board' to gLearning, the participation rose with 90% ! This was clearly a motivator. On top of the gLearning, google offered great analytics to get to grips with learner data and use.

UCF college of medicine: a surgery tool which builds on mixed reality and mobiles, so you see the instructions on the mobile and in the mobile version you see a 'patient' that needs to be operated on. Then you have a mannequin (tactile feel) on which you can practice surgery and the mannequin looks like the avatar on the mobile to enhance the experience.
Something really cool: augmented cognition (Denise Nicholson? not sure if I got the name right), linking a learning helmet to the learner getting all sorts of psycho-metrics that offer an insight in the learners state of mind, brain activity... which allows teachers to switch between learning activities that best align with the current state of the learners brain (really cool stuff!).

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Richard Clark: mLearning on multiple devices: a practical guide at mLearnCon


Again blogging live, so excuse me for short sentences, mistypes...

A very intelligent and sharp minded man with glasses, with kind gestures to give energy to his words, mainly elaborating with iPhone examples.

He will talk about strategy if you want to make native, or near to native applications.
First: what role do these mobile phones play in your strategy? what is it aimed for? what do the other academics, organizations do? how do you support it? these things are set on a mini video with possible feedback (says Richard Clark) E.g. use the CellCast player (http://www.onpointdigital.com/products_cellcast.htm).
mLearning platforms: you could use mobile podcast to keep people up to date.
Turning up your web development skills, will enable you to prepare cross platform content for smartphones.

Key questions to ask: comfort level with technology, approach (direct instruction (not really great learning, dixit Richard, for mobile learning), performance support, gateway to existing), online versus offline (sync issues), range of devices (take into account the lowest version of the operating systems), fidelity to device conventions.

Learning objectives: each module should be linked to one particular learning activity. So taking the main objectives apart and paste them with different sub learning objects with relevant learning activities. A quick reminder of the overall linkage of all the learning objectives works enlightening and repetitive for learners.

interesting: instapaper (interesting online, offline page reader, for iPhone, iPod, iPad)
Apple: when launching the 4.0 version of the OS, apple launched a different developers agreement: for the OS4.0 you can ONLY use apple development software and developer tools. This is done so the adoption of Apple OS4.0 would not be held behind by 3rd party software, and also to keep the look and feel of Apple sofwares.

development options: front end - back end: common data, built-in viewer, common data, custom viewer. Cross-platform: lowest common denominator and no common denominator.
Webkit: apple, RIM (just bought a company which will make the new blackberry phones probably full webkit), google, Nokia, some of WebOS from Palm.
So if you use the Webkit for testing, it will be 85 to 95% cross platform: local database, html5...

Development options 2: html5 + javascript, html + graphics + javascript.
Tools: appcelerator (www.appcelerator.com) great analytics which is embedded in the framework, with lots of data on the use and access of your users) = logic in javascript + user interface in html or Rhomobile = logic in Ruby, programmatic UI in Ruby (I would go for the first one).
If you are going to build cross platform be sure not to get only into the logic of one OS more than another.

Testing: unit testing using javascript (with program for getting bugs out), simulator-based testing (with for instance EggPlant (testplant: www.testplant.com/) = automated test protocol, that will save an enormous amount of pain and time, remote device testing (perfecto mobile, inge look it up), manual testing versus VNC-based tools.

Or like it was mentioned in the mLearnCon program: Unlike e-Learning on the desktop, where a couple of platforms predominate (Windows and Mac OS X), mobile platforms come in many different forms with differing programming requirements and user interfaces. Unless a developer is going to go for a simplistic “lowest common denominator” approach, he or she will have to find a way to create, test, and maintain the same application on multiple platforms.

Mimi Ito: what the user wants in mLearning at mLearnCon

A dressed in black woman with Japanese features who talks amazingly quick and eloquent.

Device proliferation is one of the specific features of the new mobile user. It is personal, ambient contact enabling, sharing media. People will go to a great length to have personal, customized media based on - sometimes - a conglomerate of devices.
Japanese youth are into mobile media longer than any other user group around the world. Very few learners and educators take advantage of the new mobile possibilites. We should overcome the boundaries of schools, companies... and really get into mobile sharing and learning across boundaries.
Kids always reiterified boundaries, but in todays society the boundaries are more than ever challenged. The media use of youth has had an innovative influence on society.
Technology becomes a proxi for social context. So both social and context are important. The relationship to mobile devices is a proxi for the social relationships the users have.

We have moved to an era that we can be part of the media flux 24/7. An era of multitasking, where the constant stream of social media is constantly there. Downside of connectivity => constant attention cuts => need new mechanisms to filtering focus.

fluid flows of knowledge is the model we should follow, dixit Ito, refering to Hagel, Brown and Davidson. Using connectivity as resources for lifelong Learning.
social media = social communication + personal media.
Peer sharing, social viewing, locative media, transmedia. The nice thing about mLearning is that it makes it ubiqiutous.

Peer sharing
shift from traditional top-down formal formats to connected, informal formats.
In a lot of ways the mobile phone is the first personal computer (emerging regions, youngsters) = personal connectivity to the mobile world. It is an individual device = powerful adoption pusher.
looks into the effect of mobile phone communication on language, e.g. 'U rawk', 'drinkin til 2'
The important thing about sms is sharing presents, it is about sharing presents, it is about sense of social connection, a social wrapper. Fulltime intimate community. Text messaging drove mobile internet in Japan, because it was not possible to text message across different providers. With this push into mobile internet, other sharing medias followed.
Connecting all this mobile connectivity into learning.
Participatory learning emerged, and the pc was not the best option for this mobile exchange. Ambient access became possible, and this ambient access was linked to the specialist community, or the trusted community. So this enabled building on each others experience. Peer learning gave much better results than the hierarchal learning that was happening before.

Linking social media to location: locative media
inward photography, putting themselves in the picture. Outward with pictures. Community pictures: mobile social network that captures where youth was when and which can be shared afterwards as well, so they are always carrying mini sticker albums around (Inge: this is reallllly great!).
Ambient storytelling: university of social California. application that launches once you enter a building, and it provides a set of tools that can be used in the building, creating a knowledge database of what people do and emerse in when moving through the building (qrcodes, ...). Effort to build a history, linked to a location. Visitors and residents of the building can also participate in these activities.

Social viewing
connecting through their mobiles to connect to similar experiences. Japanese example: Nico video: annotations can be made on the videos, so if you are watching a video with many, you can add your remarks at any part of the video and you can put it on any scene of the video. Access to video is increasingly via mobile, but there is a lack of social connectivity in videa and it is precisely the communication layer that drives the learning and attention. One exaple Project k-nect: students could connect to their mentors, peers, content => learning outcomes: Bjerede, Atkins and Dede, it is connectivity to learning AND mentoring (Inge check this).

Transmedia
Social glue happens. Linking up the specific features of mobile devices, and linking them to other media. Example: pokemon, media sensation that crosses cultures and regions. Infiltrating social meanings, it is a huge knowledge economy behind it. content is about gaming and social interaction. Media mobilezes kids to act: viral contageous media. Media is the social glue, one pokemon is taking out, and other people flock together. Opportunistic learning moments, because they have these portable devices. Context of learning and social learning. Gaming is based on sharing more and more, social learning wrapper is getting more important by game designers. Social experience is part of gaming for nintendo, and since pokemon they really got the idea and importance of social gaming. Social connection with other platforms is also gaining importance with Nintendo DS. Now they start with Nintendo DS classrooms.

Manhatta project: collaborative project in New York city, drawing on the work of eric anderson, who looked at the ecosystem of New York. These databases and learning resources is put online. Now a game is made, to get youngsters out in the streets of New York and share eco locations with the database. So knowledge base knowledge media.

Inge question: there have been some projects in trying to get kids of around 12 years old a different learning experience, different in it not being traditional school curriculum, but do you know of any early smaller children initiatives? Ito answer: most of the initiatives are for the middleschool kids, quest for learning school, manhatta project... but it is covering these kids, because they are at an age where they move from being inquisitive to being blocked by peer pressure.

Question to you all: do any of you know of any initiatives directed at really young kids (even beginning with kids only a couple of months old up to 6 year olds) that embeds the new media results that come out of these researches into new forms of education?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Mike Sharples: Innovationi n mLearning: an international pespective


Looking Sharp as ever, straight from the mLearning theory and practice edge. And yes, Mike Sharples is one of the KEY mobile learning theorists, so if you want to get in-depth into mLearning theory, check his papers and talk to him (nice person, a bit reserved, really British)
He will talk about the learning opportunities going beyond only delivering content (via mobile platforms, iPads, manuals.... and propping it into mobile devices).

From basic technology: example in India (Calcutta) peer educators of male sex workers: it is a marginalized community (homosexuality was forbidden in India until recently), but all had mobile phones. It is a mixed reality project, how to deal with police harassment, how to contact a person... and to build a community between health sex workers. It uses sms, with a powerful server engine to play a game, as well as interact through sms messaging. Behind it all just one high-end computer.
Other example: the advanced augmented, 3D, high resolution mobile app with head-mounted display (HMD) which is build for geology students in the Lake district. Where they use mobile devices that can capture the real environment, and on which the mobile device puts extra information (e.g. what if we would put windmills here, or how would this region have looked like in the ice age...).
Looking at three International mLearning projects:
Generative framework for learning with technology (shows great presentation slide whiere learning is shopped up in different learning activities): so what is the setting, the target group...
most of eLearning and mLearning is currently only a very small part in all of the possibilities mLearning can offer. The next three mLearning projects go beyond the small section of delivery normally covering it.

MobiLearn (goes back to 2002, first European project in mLearning)
aim: develop mLearning outside the classroom. Which makes sense in the search of the complete spectrum of learning that goes on when using a mobile.
Three scenarios: art gallery learning, first aid in workplace, work-based MBA course
first scenario: learning in a art gallery (Ephisi art gallery was made available after hours - WAW - looking at Botticelli without the crowd).
MobiLearn wanted to build a complete learning platform: enabling collaborative learning, context learning, open web service based system, mobile multimedia, adaptive user interface.
context sensitive learning: location-based content and services, ultrasound tracking system, context awareness: which painting, how long, have I been there before. The ultrasonic transmitter and receiver, was accurate to 10 cm (and in 3 dimensions). So given that, how can you allow people to interact between people/learners without even having to interact with the device. It knew where you had been, how long you were in front of a picture, ... it new what language the learner was preferring. One of the key aims for this enrichment was the 'heads up' experience, you want people to look at the real world, not looking down at the device => audio was relevant to keep the heads up. If you want to enrich surroundings make use of appropriate, relevant audio. The longer you stay in an area, you can enrich with video also.
What did we learn from the project (after 3,5 years): it's the learner that's mobile, as a learner you interact throughout the day, so focusing on the mobility of the learner is central. Secondly: the system that was build was to strong, we needed to be flexible, modular, blended, integrated with existing tools, rather than developing a monolithic system. Thirdly: a user/learner learns throughout the day, it is interwoven with everyday life. Fourtly: context is constructed by learners through movement and interaction.
Giunti labs build upon the outcomes of the project, but made it scalable. Giunti was primarily a publishing company, they switched to mLearning based on industry standards, and which is modular in approach (Mike says the way to go).

(question by Shilpa: how scalable is this type of project? Answer: nowadays a mixed approach, based on existing instruments and integrating them allows a much more scalable mobile solution).


L-Mo project
Subject: learning languages (driven in many cases by the company Sharp).
How can you enable that type of language mLearning? Started on eBooks, but with additions so it is adaptive to the learners capacity and with dictionaries. Mike Sh. was one of the evaluators, a partnership with Oxford library. The evaluation was with Japanese high school students learning English.
Study: was one of the few comparative studies (paper book, standard eBook and the adaptive system called Elmo), with cross-over design, random groups, based on 39 Japanese students.
outcomes: the students learned something, they learned more than the paper book more, with eBook learned almost the same. But the study showed that most of them never used the dictionary. Interview data provided limitations: lack of annotation facilities, hurt eyes, problem that it is again another device, So a device should be small, smooth in use. so now sharp is developing on these results: game based, audio used, incentives embedded...
Lessons learned: know your learners, understand culture and context, wide gap between what works in the lab and what works with users.

My Art Space
:
attempting to work with learning through context, construction.
aim: how can you connect learning in the classroom and learning outside classroom. How do you connect these two. so the classroom learning provides the material and than experience is added.
exploit the power of inquiry-led learning, learners are active collectors so use it. Mobile phones are used to collect data, and this data is shared and discussed by peers and teacher.
Formative evaluation from initial design to final deployment one year of evaluation. Findings: technology worked amazingly (mostly not the case of start technology use), students spend longer time 90 min. in stead of 20 min for traditional school field trip), supported active inquiry, active choices and connectivity, need for more teacher preparation (trying to orientate teachers was the hardest part of the project). , manage the amount of collecting data back in the classroom worked because they could do all they wanted, but manage it socially afterwards: choose a limited amount of data afterwards)
Lessons learned: keep it simple,

Because the museum staff was the hardest to get into the project, a new model was developed that worked around the museum staff. OOKL is the iPhone business model, it is based on revenue sharing: venues join free of charge, OOKL sells their content to iPhone users and on the web, shares 60% of revenues with the venues. Venues can digitize their collection using an iPhone running OOKL or user contributed content (great! crowd sourced approach!).

Tomi Ahonen: Mobile in Learning: lessons from around the world



First key speaker at mLearncon Tuesday 15 june 2010.

Tomi Ahonen
comes in with a gray mob-reminding hat and starts with a joke on the age of a mobile learner based on sms-capacity.

What was his speech about: mobile phones are the most prevalent technology, ever. 4,6 billion people have a phone. There are more phone users, than there are people having access to running water (Inge thought: telecom companies in low resource areas might put some of their profits into running or clean water projects - if they are not already doing it).
More kids have their own personal cellphone, than they have their own personal books (Inge: sad fact... except if you think about the Kontax-project lead by Steve Vosloo which increases literacy in young adults by the use of cellphones). Sms is much faster than e-mail. 10% of youth feel perfectly relaxed with sending sms messages while having sex (UK research). Underground trolleys and buses use sms to buy tickets, paid parking with sms, tax return via sms in Estonia, Estonia will do the national election via sms, m-stamps for snail-mail (alphanumeric codes - in Germany - accessible 24 hours a day). 68% of teens said their favorite way to communicate via SMS. texting underneath the sleeve: teenagers give their old not connected phones. The future is not only mobile, it will be ubiquitous with various devices, but mobile will be the preferred device of youngsters. India has 90% coverage via WAP enabled phones. Ringtones are 5 billion dollar business, no other technology had use for ringtones => new businesses start up.



This creates a complete different generation, one that all previous generations can not imagine how it shapes the lives of contemporary young generations. Permanent connections and almost telepathic communications will reshape the world that we live it, that THEY will build.

When did mLearning start? In Japan in 2000. The first school implementation was in Singapore in 2001. Mobile exams first appeared (according to Tomi) was in New Zealand 2003. The first daycare mobile blog dates from 2006 in Finland. Mobile books take Japan since 2007. 58% of Kenya uses mobile banking for personal financial transactions. QRcodes and other mobile coupons for discount rates. Poland: free cooking advice from Knorr via mobile. AMF Ventures saw that mobile data is much more accurate in measuring data. Smirnoff bartender app. 5th most popular mobile category in Korea is Learning for user generated content (26%). Voice to voice translator apps. Mobile love detector (voice tension gives you love results). Game with "Mosquito Noises" in UK from MobHappy 2 december 2008 (by Fanta).

Great resource: forum Oxford forum: www.forumoxford.com (enrollkey forumoxford, I think, otherwise ask Tomi).

Mobile is the 7th mass media. But new media will not kill previous media, it only has new benefits, uses (look at the picture below). A nice mobile app: Carbon Diem to look at your carbon footprint.




Or from the program: Mobile is the most prevalent technology on the planet, exceeding TV by a factor of 3 to 1 and personal computers by 4 to 1. Being digital and interactive, mobile is well suited for uses in education. Called the seventh mass medium in the industrialized world, in the Emerging World mobile is often called the "first mass medium" and services such as internet access will be primarily from mobile phones, not PCs. This opening keynote presentation examines the consumer use of phones and the uses of mobile in education and learning. Case studies from different parts of the world will illustrate how the exponential growth of mobile technologies impacts the way we live, work, and learn.

preconference workshop during mLearnCon: android 101

Currently in San Diego for the mLearnCon conference, the first one! Organized by the eLearning Guild.

Eric Converse and Silke Fleischer from ATIV software were bold enough to give non-professoinal developers the chance to build an android application from scratch by using the SDK software! This was something I really wanted to be part of. And what a great experience!

These are the people you want to join up with if you are interested in building cross platform mobile applications. They work with iPhone, Blackberry, Android (and a bit of windows mobile) and they are complementary with knowledge. So contact ATIV software if you have an idea for mobile content delivery, also for mLearning, as Silke is an eLearning expert on top of mobile expert.

Although my computer absolutely challenged both Silke and Eric, they managed to fix all the quirks that came up. Quirks, because the other participants had very willing computers taking all the information and coming up with the correct configurations. The great thing about the errors was though, that I learned a lot, as I could see the logic behind bug fixing in Eclips.

The afternoon part of the workshop was hands-on (difficult to blog as my hands try to get going with all the provided guidelines). But below is a bit of the 'theory' parts that Silke and Eric gave during the morning.

what is android, what is it made off?
android is a mobile OS based on Linux (Andre!)
it is developed for mobile, so you can leverage resources that are already on the phone, so you can use what the phone has (if it is available on the phone)
apk = jar (zipped up folder of files)
assets: all of the files (where your native web stuff will go)
meta (lib of all the other files)
res (resources, drawable items...)
androidmanifest.xml: is corner piece of the architecture= what is going to launch, what type of activities are allowed to run.
classes.dex: where all the classes go (this is typically android, not java related)
resources.arsc (zipped version of resources map)

what is an app made off?
set of activities, youc and spread activities across different apps
it allows the user to have a seamless experience, although there are a lot of different parts in it.
activity = framework in which the views can run (cfr view controller of iPhone)
content provider: = allows information to be exchanged with other application, but in a structured format (=security wise, every app runs in its own space (typical linux), this prevents people from corrupting other content). e.g. gps is used and you come up with mean distance, this might be useful for another app, you can exchange it with other app.
service = everything that demands more than a bit of time, you can put it in the service section, because this will ensure the user interface will not be taken up with processor calculator time.

component Activity, what does it have inside?
view: you can add any view on the next one (the one owns the other, long branch of tree) = hierarchy of views

component Broadcast receivers: this broadcasts data from an app or an activity to be able to link outcomes with it. It is event driven and for all that are willing to listen.

design before development: needs to be VERY clear, because you want a clear design before asking the developers to go ahead with it.
(ask weblink to Silke or Eric, for they have example links)

user interface guidelines (ready mades available) you can make everything you want to design (icon, menu design, widgets, activity and task ... guidelines). Look at guidelines delivered by android, for it has solid guidelines to get the best kind of mLearning and user experience. Also important to have a similar look and feel!

(android phones have voice recognition to get google search with voice recording - Inge look it up)

Inge question: can you pull in a personalized video that you rename after having it recorded with your android phone: generic personalization is possible if you use some basic java programming

what we saw in the afternoon:
  • how to install all the necessary software to build an app
  • links to reference material build by them (really great and demonstrative ppt)
  • how to customize the template they provided
  • how to publish
  • what to look out for when you will be publishing your app (legal issues: copyright, tracking possibilities...)
  • what they take into account when building an application (guidelines, keep up with what is out there, listen to other developers, always connect to your users (offer them a way to contact you when using an app)
  • and: great bug fixing tips

If you ever have the time (and rush) to follow one of their workshops, do it, both Eric and Silke keep good pace to get information across, as well as getting participants on track. Really amazing team work btw.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

12 User centered issues for sustainability of learning projects in international settings


During the workshop all the participants shared their experience on what factors to include (if resources are possible) in a learning (mobile, eLearning) project:

  1. involve all stakeholders using focus group and observation methods;
  2. take a random sample of users within the defined user target group, not people you know, to ensure that you design something that is aimed at a wide variety of your target user group;
  3. ensure longterm support for the users;
  4. enable knowledge sharing between users;
  5. include an ethnographic assessment to tailor to the local context: respect local customs, identify local 'information' stream, language use...;
  6. look at human computer interaction (HCI): for increased design affordances and user preferences;
  7. include adaptability for an ever changing technology settting;
  8. ensure back-up people for all the profiles that are needed in the project;
  9. ensure capacity building and empowerment of the users (lifelong learning capacities are a surplus);
  10. use physical sensors (in the beginning it can be disruptive for the users, but after a while they get back to their natural state of behaving, enabling the observers to monitor emotional respons to the researched object or system;
  11. include positive emotional stimulus to enhance motivation;
  12. break the total system down to the smallest possible bubble (both content, design, technology....) to ensure longterm and rapid adaptability when necessary.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Mobile challenge from a diabetic project developed and implemented in Trinidad and Tobago region


In the workshop on Telemedicine in Tromso, Norway, a very lively and motivating speaker has challenged the mobile community, so feel free to think along and give possible references that could help her strengthen her fantastic doctoral research idea.

Her question in short: is there any research on best mobile design delivery that could benefit her mobile project on diabetes, so she can augment her mobile design as to better reach the users (diabetic patients) that are using mobile phones to monitor and keep track of their chronic diabetes health?
Does anyone know of research looking at mobile content design to improve mobile learning assimilation or outcomes? Feel free to drop me a line.

Link to her project: www.salys.org/research.html
Notes on her project (rough notes taken during her presentation of the project):

Mobile dsms: a mobile diabetes self-management system based on peer support by Salys Sultan
Type two diabetes is studied because it is a lifestyle disease
DSMS: which focuses on sustained support, but because it is too costly and time consuming for 1 on 1 patient doctor relation,

Why go for a mobile platform
Mobile phone is personal
Ubiquitous
Connected
Increasingly intelligent
Available anywhere and anytime
Push and pull model

This project came out of the medinet project (link to word document on the medinet project): carribean wide health project
Pilot study of Trinidad and Tobago islands
Bluetooth between blood pressure machine and sugar calculator machine and phone of the patiens
With feedback loop for the patients health
Every islands would have their own medinet architecture
Because of the age, a personal assistant was given to the patients to give support extra.

Peer based mobile DSMS
Heisler (2006) has shown that models that build on peer support have proven to be both successful and cost effective as they combine the traditional peer support.
Group services: contact members, post discussion forums, share results, arrange meetings (real life meetings)
Personal services: capturing observations of daily living 5ODL) readings, activity, food intake, location … and reviewing past results.

Research contributions
Social networking for health care
Health data visualization
Social aspects to motivate and sustain patient adherence
User interface design for the visual impaired


Expectations
To learn relevant techniques to ensure the design of the design of the patient interface services this suitable for motivating and sustaining patient adherence
To establish a plan of action/way forward for scaling the medinet project

www.salys.org/research.html

discussions will be put into categories for discussing
ante project: diverse feedback on mobile use of different age groups
keeping access under three clicks to get to needed information
privacy issues, you as a user says what you want to share

mobile systems used is the operational system of windows, this was done because of the Microsoft funding and giving software and phones.
Java phone option is also available.
The project started and was implemented completely from the Caribean region (great!)
Started with paper prototypes given to the users in order to build the DSMS software (which was build by S. Salys.

A bit more on the evaluation factors that they use in the peer-based mobile project:
Peer-based medical service for DSMS by S. Sultan
Each diabetic group: max 5, hoping sense of competition as well as community, amount of users: 25.

Main outcomes to measure: knowledge health status, system usage, social outcomes,
Did the users increase overall subject matter knowledge. Tool: diabetes knowledge questionnaire by America standard.
Is the phone a good tool for delivering health care

Health status: better self-management behavior, hopefully (with diabetes test to see how there overall health improve?
Result: is mobile tool as health care instrument effective in health

Social outcomes
Did you feel part of the group, activity logs, how much the group feature was used, analyse the logs to make sense of what we saw by qualitative surveys.

Overall objective: whether phone instruments can have a positive effect on health, effective health care instrument.

Algorithm on what effect the combination of the group has on the outcomes (is looking to build an algorithm to improve the outcomes, as part of her doctoral thesis – really interesting!!!)
The groups background was kept as simple as possible: limiting the groups to a similar knowledge of diabetes background (the users were taken from a known group of diabetes people, so they all had similar knowledge of diabetes and how to control it). As the users came from Trinidad and Tobago their economic and social background was almost similar.

Longterm view: ten years down the road.
The trial will depend on the funding available depending on the cost of the strips used in the diabetic analysis (always look at the completeness of the trial, to also include measurable effects: for instance 1 year for short outcomes, 2 year is ideal for getting research value also longterm). Currently it will be a 3 month test to look at possible effects.

The experimental design has come from literature review of existing diabetes/mobile projects.

Peer support as main topic: there are other diseases how telemedicine can be used for discussion forums 2 NST pHd’s working, one on breast cancer, and one on psychiatry and drug abuse). Maybe look at other chronic diseases?

If you study intervention, do NOT do anything else BUT the intervention.
AND if you plan a study take into account festival days (in case of diabetes), as there are 15 festivals in Trinidad Tobago region, and during these festivals everyone is really enjoying life 

Large gaps in mHealth: cost/benefits analysis and parameters suggested: usability, analyse major issues to include in the research using e.g. the physical systems that are already in place as informal observations moments, in the one on one environment an observer can look at the pick-up rate of the competencies (but most users prefer to start using the material once they are in their home, comfort zone). Health care is a private matter: people will change their behavior when they are observed, because of perceived expectations.

Design: text or text to switch (audio), but looking at mobile designs that could result in the best of outcomes.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Telemedicine and eLearning in eHealth: case of Norwegian lessons learned


Tromso workshop 2010 June
Currently I am following, speaking and participating a workshop on Telemedicine and eLearning for eHealth. A one week workshop in collaboration between ITM and NST (WHO centre).

Participants from Sudan, Ethiopia, Ghana, Trinidad Tobago, Norway, Italy, Peru, Brazil, Canada, Belgium.

notes taken Monday 7 June 2010, First content session Steinar Pedersen:
Lessons learned from telemedicine projects which can also be used for eLearning projects in the medical field
  • TTT: things take time and be patient, build maturity before implementing technology in a field
  • Move from the competence centre to the periphery
  • Be aware of the National competition and join forces so the National strength can grow, build round tables. It is better economics and knowledge exchange.
  • Anchor level should be as high as possible (top level stakeholders)
  • Argue on quality not on cost saving (Inge take this into the m/eLearning overview
  • Secure the infrastructure
  • The hen and egg problem (interconnectivity problem)
  • Link technological developments to health priorities
  • Always try to put a medical doctor or nurse in a the middle of the good medical/technological news (much more convincing)
  • Use radiologists (or other people that are used to follow things on screens)
  • By introducing technology, discussions on medical hierarchy can take place, be aware of this potential dynamic
  • Chance of success is better if you introduce it to existing part of the organization, ideally if this service is 24 hours good for organizing the receiving part of the service.
  • Create solutions based on national and international standards (e.g. visa card logic, electric power sockets)
  • People are ready to be very, very innovative when it comes to do what they already are doing very well even better
  • The same doctors and nurses are not very interesting in doing what they were already doing in another way (no benefit, just different).
  • Even if developments go very slow, it will be part of the future health care, in that case even the smallest steps count.
  • Keep the doctors responsible

Questions from participants, answered by Stainer
Developing countries big challenge is developing policies, how did Norway do it?
They health minister was not that strong, so parallel pillars were build for decision making, but policies can also be taken from similar countries, so you can leapfrog into policies that work.
How to get commitment from all the stakeholders: that is really difficult
Metrics and triangulation, how do you do it? How many refers, how much money is saved in transportation, how satisfied are the health care workers and the patients (the patients seems to be more satisfied and the peripherals are more satisfied (in general) than in the centre.
Were there infrastructural challenges in Norway for setting up Telemedicine? We still need to fly over a CD-rom to exchange data between South and North Norway. When we started out with radiology, there was very low bandwidth, downloads were done overnight because it took so much time. But from a mobile side, there are more mobile subscribers than there are people in Norway. eHealth is also subscribed in the medical curriculum of medical students which is important for longterm implementation. Trust is very important to get successful projects.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Ethics, technology and learning

This last couple of days have drained my spirit, mainly because my ethics were challenged on different levels. I did not find the energy to write about it until today and it is with a sad heart that I reflect on why I have felt a bit in despair.

Why do governments politicize education? (Becta in the UK, long-term vision in Belgium)

Belgium and long/short term educational vision

In Belgium education was in the hands of a visionary politician for some years. During his reign long-term vision constructed results in getting young learners from other national backgrounds integrated in our school system (and society), and in restructuring education so it would no longer be discriminatory for youngsters who were not good in languages/maths but good in technical intelligence. He was a visionary politician because he cared about results and he crossed political boundaries while gathering his cabinet (people with lots of experience and who belief in durability, loose from political views). After yet another fall of the government a different politician became minister of education, a different one though from the same political party. He had a short term vision and wanted to profile himself, he immediately started cutting initiatives. Which one’s? the ones that got good results with young learners from vulnerable socio-economic groups and the restructuring theme that would rectify some of the big Belgian education problems (e.g. less respect for hands-on jobs).

But a society is only as strong as its weakest link: get everyone educated in something they feel comfortable with to build a strong society.

Becta in the United Kingdom

Becta is the government agency leading the national drive to ensure the effective and innovative use of technology throughout learning. It got great results and – in my opinion – Becta single handedly got Britain into the 21st century teaching by taking all (well, many) of the teachers along the learning path into the knowledge era. They produced an amazing amount of publication, accessible to all and tackling technology/learning issues that matter to many of us.

But the government changed, and because of this Becta will be shutting down in November 2010, in spite of many good learning outcomes and products.

So why do governments politicize learning?

Why can the military achieve what civil society cannot

In the last weeks I had the pleasure of meeting people actively involved in training soldiers. I am against violence, and I do belief no one on earth, no country, should have a military, but e.g. civilian aid army. But I cannot deny that the military offers opportunities for some young adults that they would otherwise never have (but they also risk their lives). No matter what group of human society, it is always a group of humans with all their nice and less friendly characteristics.

While talking to the teachers and exchanging ideas I wondered how they managed to reach learners that society could not reach. For example: many young recruits do not master basic calculations and/or reading/writing skills. This means that society and its education missed the boat. It is true that this is a joint responsibility, schools, parents, government should work together to improve the overall state of human comprehension in our young people.

The strange thing is military does reach them, and some of these young adults actually learn content that they did not absorb before (although I assume they had the chance). So why is that? Is it because the military actually use learning techniques that attract these young adults? (e.g. some of them got a Nintendo DS to learn simple math skills. Why? All of the peers were using Nintendo DS to play games, so if anyone was using a Nintendo DS, the peers would think “ah, he or she is playing a game” – so not loosing face while actually learning to count.

Another thing was language: recruits got language training, okay basic, but still it worked and they were actually eager to learn more (at first only words were offered, but on demand of the recruits complete sentences were offered for learning).

With new technology they were also provided just-in-time first aid help lessons, with simulations they were trained for in-the-field situations….

Say results would show learning outcomes improve drastically with the use of simulations, games… (Which is proven for some digital learning activities), than why can’t the government invest more money in them to reach those hard to reach learners that the military actually reaches?

Why is it still about technology and not about learning?

All of us that depend on funding know that if you stick the latest technological hype into a funding proposal, linking it to learning in some way or another, you have a far bigger chance to get your proposal accepted. Currently European politicians linked to EU funding say: we should get more learning results from the learning projects that run/ran, what are the long-term results (if any)? And indeed learning results are what count, not the technology. But is learning today actually about learning, or is it just another economic reason to sell stuff to regions or people that sometimes simply do not have the budget to sustain these technical solutions once the funding stops?

What are we to do?

How can we all insure that no matter what, learning and human consideration will improve with any technology for learning we introduce? How can we put education on the foreground and not technology? How can we opt for long-term actions leaping across political boundaries instead of ‘look-at-what-I-did’ projects from short term leaders?