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Mobile Tools Roundup

7 July 2009 One Comment

I recently was invited to participated as a guest in an online course run by the School of Education at the University of Waikato.  The paper was a second year course “Telecommunications in Education”.  My role was to facilitate and contribute to online discussion for one week.  I thought I would cross-post some of the discussion starters I used here on my blog for other people to discuss also perhaps.

Qik is a tool worth considering.

What is it?
Qik is a website - kind of like YouTube, except that instead of uploading videos that have already been recorded and saved to your computer, it allows you to record and stream live video from your mobile phone camera.

It is a free service (however, the whole time you are streaming your video it is connected to the internet so unless you are on wireless this can cost $).

The reason I am directing you to this service is because we are not talking about years in to the future, we are talking about today. Students can already do this - today. We can’t block it or stop it - it is out of our control. The only thing we can do is role model and teach best practice. YES there are potential problems with this - but they are nothing that aren’t already happening already in the playground (last year playground fights were recorded and uploaded to YouTube). The only difference is this is live. We DO need to address these as blanket banning is obviously not working as it is still happening.

But let’s think a little more proactively … harnessing this potential in the classroom - how could it be used?

I was speaking at a teachers’ eLearning conference in February. A number of teachers were not able to attend as schools can generally only afford to send one or two teachers. These teachers wanted to be part of the conference even though they couldn’t attend. A teacher in the audience used Qik on her mobile phone to live stream the second half of my session on mobile phones in classrooms.

If you are interested in having a look click here.

Anyway, this is just to give you an example of the quality of video received from a $400 phone (or free on a plan).

There are a number of mid-range phones that are now coming out with 2D barcode readers. However, if your phone does not have one you can get a free one from the web (I use Kaywa Reader).

When you open these programmes on your phone, they instantly open your camera and you are able to use this to scan 2d (2 dimensional) barcodes like this one:

2d code

The barcodes contain information, maybe a message, a person’s contact details, a phone number or a link to a website.

You can create 2D barcodes for free from a number of places - but I use this one. You then can print them out, or paste them in to a website like I did above.

Current uses around the world:
Japan has already been using this technology for years and years (they have moved on to the next big thing now!
When we were in London last year, we could buy our train tickets on the internet, but needed to print these out - they had a 2D barcode on them which the ticket collectors simply scanned and then you threw the paper away. Now, when you buy your ticket, you enter your mobile number and it sends the barcode to your phone, when the ticket collector comes by you just open the image on your phone and they scan it from there.
2D barcodes are everywhere in advertising - in particular on billboards and on buses - you scan them and get more information about a product allowing you to get special offers etc.
The Sydney Morning Herald has these printed next to many articles, so as you can scan the paper and get more information sent to your phone if you are interested in a specific article.

A number of PE teachers are using these to create orienteering courses for their students (remember you only need one per group)
Teachers are using these on worksheets as an interactive way to get students to access more information.
Teachers are setting up workstations around the room where students scan the barcode to discover their task.

There are heaps of potential applications… would be neat to hear what some of you think…

Here is a quick list of the most common tools you will find on a standard cellphone:

Camera - still and video
To Do List
Alarm Clock
World Clock
Timer/stop watch
Voice Recorder
MP3 player
Currency Converter

(My phone is 3 years old and I bought it for $100. I deliberately use this phone as it has the same functionality as most phones that students have)

How might you be able to harness some of this functionality in your classroom to meet a need that you might otherwise not be able to?

Most people know that you can get applications to run on an iPhone - in fact this is one of the biggest draw-cards of the iPhone, allowing you download specific programmes to turn it in to a tool that perfectly fits your life.

However, you can also do this with your standard mobile phone - by finding and installing little programmes (most of which are free) to run on your phone.

Here are a couple that are particularly useful for the classroom:

Enables very specific graphing functions to be completed on phones

Turns phones in to a full graphics calculator

Mobile Study
Allows you (or your students) to create quizzes online which are then sent to students’ mobile phones for them to complete.

Give your phone GPS functionality, get directions, find landmarks etc.
(programme free but requires you to use the internet on your phone)

An English dictionary
(they advertise at the top of the page - scroll about halfway down)

GetJar is a site that has 1000s of these free applications for your phone. You can either search for a particular function or select your phone model and search only applications that will run on this. As with most things you do have to do a little exploring as there are many applications that you won’t be after for classroom use (a lot of social networking and gimmicky type applications)

Try searching for Encyclopedia on GetJar (link here) to get an idea of the different types of tools available…

Sometimes I think that when I tell people about my research that they have an image in their head of what my classroom might look like - rows of students hunched over desks, thumbs tapping away on tiny keypads as they squint to see tiny screens!!!!

My view of mobile technology is simply this. Our students have in their pockets, incredibly sophisticated little devices with a ’swiss army knife’ range of different tools. How can we make use of some of these tools to fill a gap or serve a purpose to allow learning to happen that we might not otherwise be able to achieve.

The example I often give is, imagine if your principal offered you a class set of digital cameras - or even one between two students - how would you make use of these??? Yet the reality is, for most of our students - particularly in secondary, but increasingly in primary and intermediate also, we already have nearly a full set of digital cameras.

QUESTION: How could you use mobile technologies to enable learning to take place outside of the classroom walls either by bring learning experiences from outside back in to the classroom, or the other way around, sharing the learning that is taking place inside the classroom to an outside context. (Nathan Kerr’s project covers both of these aspects).

Please do think beyond these tools, but I just wanted to give you two examples for you to think about:



Also, my research document which you can find on my blog gives examples of the way we used mobile phones for each year level I worked with - the contents page will direct you there and it is not a huge read.

One Comment »

  • Jonathan Nalder said:

    check out bluechat also Toni for java enabled phones - free chat app via bluetooth - no sim required to communicate!

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