Viewing posts tagged m-learning

Five predictions for 2011 that will rock the education world

Continuing a tradition started in years past, I list out my predictions for the key stories that will rock the education world in 2011. If I could put it into five words, 2011 will be all about mobile, mobile, change, change, and mobile. This next year, I’m looking more at the big picture:

  1. 2011 will be the Year of the Tablet, but schools still will not know what to do with them. Let’s face it, technology companies do not quite know what tablets are good for, either. Rather than provide consumers with details on the iPad, Apple called it “amazing” and “magical” at its launch — but what does it do? Tie it in with the unfortunate reality that schools lag behind in technology leadership (they generally need others to tell them what to use), my fear is that we will end up with a lot of schools buying into the tablet craze but having no idea what to do with them. 2011 will be the year that we start to look for real leadership for educational technologies, and start to look into using new technologies to do “amazing” and “magical” things.
  2. Accelerating adoption of iPads, iPhones and other mobile technologies into social and cultural frameworks is transforming computing into an ambient experience — that is, immediate and purposive access to ICTs is available anywhere and anytime. Just as 2010 saw shifts in culture where it is no longer socially awkward to check into FourSquare or Facebook while on a date, 2011 will see the social and cultural acceptance and embracing of ambient computing continue.
  3. The New Normal: The recession is officially over, but many people are left unemployed or significantly underemployed. This human capital crisis needs to be dealt with promptly as people who thought they could live a middle-class lifestyle with old economy jobs (i.e., manufacturing and retail) are now considered as obsolete and unemployable. The challenge for educators and governments is to help them retrain for relevant career pathways — or, enable them to create new, innovative jobs that have not existed before. This new recognition of the importance of life-long learning and human capital development could launch a “Manhattan Project” equivalent in education that will transform our generation.
  4. We’re not out of the woods, yet. The principle of accelerating technological change prompts social change, which requires new technological transformations, and so forth. We are slowly recognizing that the only constant is change, and many industries will experience increasingly rapid cycles of transformation — for humans that are ill-prepared for change, this could mean more socioeconomic turmoil and unemployment. 2011 will give us a taste of what’s to come.
  5. People are mobile, too. Rapid developments in mobile technologies also enable society to become much more mobile, and we will see this reflected in the workforce, of which the leading edges will exhibit Knowmadic qualities. 2011 may not yet be the year of the Knowmad, but it could be the year that individuals wake up and realize they have options. For countries like the U.S. that are obsessed with controlling immigration, how would they respond when their best and brightest (especially our most competent educators) begin to migrate elsewhere? Will anybody be left around to turn off the lights?

What do you think?

Read my predictions from previous years:

Going global and purposive

Knowledge powers the 21st century

Dan Wallace (@ideafood) forwarded a link to this short essay by TED curator, Ted Anderson. Networking technologies are transforming the potential of teachers:

There are many scary things about today’s world. But one that is truly thrilling is that the means of spreading both knowledge and inspiration have never been greater. Five years ago, an amazing teacher or professor with the ability to truly catalyze the lives of his or her students could realistically hope to impact maybe 100 people each year. Today that same teacher can have their words spread on video to millions of eager students. There are already numerous examples of powerful talks that have spread virally to massive Internet audiences.

Indeed, the Chinese are figuring this out, and are packaging recordings of instruction by their top teachers in mobile devices. Moreover, free tools like Skype, YouTube and Twitter that operate on inexpensive hardware provide new opportunities not only for connecting teachers with a broader audience of students, but also for connecting students to the world. Likewise, both teachers and students can learn from …and co-create new knowledge with… their peers, globally.

In the comments, Michael Rossney makes another point:

When potential students are selecting a traditional school, or course or teacher the deciding factors are likely to be: Proximity, Cost, Availability of time/course places. These just aren’t such an issue online.

This concept is very real for me: Last week I attended an information evening from a prominent college here in Dublin on a business MBA. I wanted not just to learn strategies but to rub shoulders with result focused businesspeople, social entrepreneurs etc. As I left I couldn’t help thinking that I could get more value studying certain TED speakers or similar if I could just harness that information and use it.

So, there we go. The question isn’t access to technologies, but how we make the most of the technologies and knowledge resources available. Rather than blindly advocating for technological adoption, is it now time to focus on the purposive use of technologies for human capital development?

Another m-learning hopeful comes to the U.S.

Another OLPC competitor has entered the U.S. market. This time, Hewlett Packard Co. is releasing a lightweight “Mini-Note” line of notebook computers. Each unit weighs less than 3 pounds with a screen that measures 8.9 inches diagonally. A Linux-based model is available for under $500. According to an AP article, the devices are not being positioned for large-scale deployment in the developing world:

The Mini-Note will compete primarily with Intel’s Classmate PCs — which are designed by Intel and feature Intel chips but are built and branded by other companies — and Asustek’s Eee PC.

To a lesser extent, they also will go up against the XO laptop from the Cambridge, Mass., nonprofit One Laptop per Child, which is intended primarily for schoolchildren in developing countries.

m-Learning comes to the U.S.

NPR reports that the One Laptop Per Child project will provide computers for kids in Birmingham, Alabama. The report highlights a key challenge of the project: Can a slow computer have an impact in a high-speed society? Maybe not.

Meanwhile, Nokia quietly announced the WiMAX edition of the N810 Internet Tablet. As noted here previously, it’s predecessor, the N800, has potential as an m-learning device. The N810 is based on the same hardware and software architecture, but incorporates a keyboard and can connect to both Wi-Fi and WiMAX networks. Can the expanded networking capabilities of the Linux-powered N810 WiMAX fill the low-cost (but highly connected) computing gap in U.S. education?

China hearts m-learning

You don’t need to understand Mandarin to know what’s going on in these commercials. The videos seem to stream slowly from these Chinese YouTube equivalents, so you may want to brew a pot of coffee as they load. Believe me, it’s worth the wait.

First, a collection of Ozing (好记星) commercials:

Then, the infomercial:

The Chinese are embracing mobile learning (m-learning) devices, and the manufacturer’s use of Dashan (AKA Mark Rowswell) as a pitchman conveys the impression that the West is using devices like this already. On the contrary –we confiscate these things at the school door! Is it too late for the West?

(Make sure to read my previous post on the Ozing V99.)

m-learning in Open Seminar 2.0

[Cross-posted from e-rgonomic]

Special thanks to John on showing how a paper cup is a technology (see post). Here is a small demonstration of the Open Seminar 2.0 conference and the emergence of M-Learning (mobile learning) era. This is a success story for the intelligent use of domestic mobile ICT and education. [Idea: Edwards Bermúdez]


[Marduk in his impressive connections tower in the middle of an English-Spanish conference: USA, Ecuador and Mexico]

Now for an update and correction…

I need to post an update and correction to my review of the Nokia N800:

First, “timeless,” a MicroB developer, pointed out that when the N810 is released, the clock speed on the N800 will increase through an OS tweak:

For the record, it’s the same processor. When IT OS 2008 becomes available and you flash your N800 with it (and the pain of restoring all the data), it too will sometimes run at that faster speed. I work on the web browser (hence my blog alert), but basically there are two components which you can trade off speed CPU and DSP, if one’s running faster the other needs to be slower. For IT OS 2008, they developed the code to dynamically change the speeds of these two components.

He says Nokia’s press materials regarding the issue have been very confusing, and that…

It’s kinda like the old fassion 386/33 days where there was a turbo button that could make it run at 16mhz. Except, because all the games ran at 16mhz the turbo button was left in the off state at shipping. (More technical answer being that in order to play sound well they hadn’t yet made software to automatically press/release the turbo button, but…)

Also, the “Nokia Internet Call Invitation (Beta)” and Gizmo Project are separate applications –not one package.

One month with the Nokia N800

Last month, I wrote on my latest handheld acquisition: the Nokia N800. I wrote a little on my initial experiences, and pondered its use in education. Now that I’ve had this for a month, it’s time for an update.

nokian800.jpgUnlike most electronics produced by Nokia, the N800 is not a phone. It is an Internet Tablet. It can connect to wifi networks, but it cannot connect directly to a 3G (UMTS) or EDGE network. Supposedly, a 3G version for Sprint is in the works, and should be released in 2008. For those who need telco network connectivity and cannot wait for the Sprint version, you can tether it to your cell phone via a Bluetooth link.

Positive experiences

The N800 has a gorgeous display. At 800×480, the resolution is high enough for most applications. Because so much screen resolution is packed into a small space, smaller text on Web pages can be harder to read, but the devices contains well-placed zoom-in and zoom-out buttons to enlarge text and graphics.

screenshot-2007-09-27-22-07-17.pngThe built-in Web browser (Opera) renders most pages beautifully. For those pages that do not render properly (or where certain features are missing), a Gecko-based (used in Mozilla and Firefox) engine is available through the MicroB project. The Gecko engine, however, is a little bit slower and more prone to crashes.

The device also contains a simple, but surprisingly capable RSS reader. Fresh content can be displayed on a home screen widget; and, the RSS application loads all needed graphics and properly renders all content in a highly-functional (and readable) interface.

claws-maemo.pngThe built-in email application is deficient on many levels, but it is possible to install Claws Mail through a couple clicks from the repository list. Several Claws plugins are also readily available. For the uninitiated, however, configuring Claws can be quite painful.

The device can also be used for multimedia playback. Assuming you have the proper codec installed, video playback is good. MP3 playback is flawless. Again, by clicking through the repositories listed at, installing additional codecs is quick and simple.

Finally, the hardware seems solid. With casual use, you can expect the battery to last a day. It can remain on standby for up to a week. The built-in wifi antenna is also superb, and does well at detecting and connecting to access points with weak signals. Whereas my laptop can only detect 12 wifi networks from my home, the N800 detects 23.


The device doesn’t boast full Java support. This means I cannot use Java-based applications such as Oracle Calendar (my university forces me to use it). Support for Java is a much-needed feature for a future OS release.

Although the device transfers data at a rapid rate, Web browsing is not as swift as I would hope it would be. As previously mentioned, the built-in Opera browser lacks compatibility with some Web sites. MicroB is more compatible, but still very buggy.

Gizmo ProjectAlthough Skype released a client for the device, they haven’t provided support for the built-in Web cam. My guess is because, due to memory limitations, N800 code would need to be tight, meaning that Skype developers cannot get away with obfuscating their binaries with meaningless code. Failure to incorporate such a feature makes Skype look bad. Perhaps now is a good time for them to consider opening their standards? Video calls are still possible by using the built-in “Nokia Internet Call Invitation (Beta)” application, but you’re limited to calling other N800s.


As a traveling presenter, I would like a device smaller than my laptop to play PowerPoint (or presentations. It would be great if a future edition of this device had a video-out solution. The onboard chipset already supports video output, but Nokia chose not to include the connecting hardware. Adding video-out support should be a small addition.

The device needs to ship with international character sets. Packaging Latin, Greek and Cyrillic characters are a good start, but Arabic and East Asian characters should be shipped in the base package, too.

Finally, upgrading the device’s firmware is a pain in the neck. Nokia and the development community periodically release new OS versions and fixes, requiring firmware flashing each time. Although most user data is retained, this causes most applications to disappear. It would be nice if Nokia provided an option to reinstall application and library packages (if available and compatible with the new kernel, etc.) after each update.

Does the N800 belong in schools?

Inspired by devices such as those built by Noah and Ozing (see also this EF article), I continue to evaluate if the N800 has a place in schools. In places with limited electrical or network connectivity, content and curricula can be distributed via SD cards and charged less frequently than laptops would need to be charged. The battery shipped with the device is sufficient to allow moderate use throughout a school day before needing a recharge.

The N800, however, is not designed for children. It is designed for hackers, technology mavens, and other nerds. Perhaps, then, it can find a home in higher education? Given the expanding developer community and (mostly) open platform, maybe successor products could become the OLPC-parallel, “$200 palmtop” for college students in developing and “developed” countries.

But wait! The N810 is coming…!

As my luck would have it, less than a month after my N800 arrived, Nokia announced a successor product, the N810. Apart from integrating a GPS receiver, a keyboard, and a swifter processor, there are not many differences from the N800. The built-in keyboard, however, should make it a much more attractive product to educators and other markets. More on that device once I get my hands on one…!

The m-learning potential of the Nokia N800

I purchased my third hand-held device on Friday. My first was a Newton MessagePad 2000 (which I later upgraded to the MP2100). The second was a Handspring Visor Platinum. The new device is a Nokia N800 Internet tablet.

Nokia N800

The N800 is a WiFi device with an 800×480 (!) touchscreen strapped on, and can support up to 16GB of SD flash memory. It runs a light/mobile flavor of Debian GNU/Linux. This means that developers can readily tap into a large library of open source tools. The user interface could use some help. As Sean Luke points out, my old Newton is still superior in many areas.

The N800 has some great things going for it.  I particularly enjoy:

  • The huge screen on a small device, allowing me to view Web pages as they’re intended to be viewed
  • WordPy, a competent offline WordPress editor (one wish: it needs a means to upload/incorporate images from the N800)
  • The option of using a Gecko/Mozilla or a Opera-based browser
  • The community-supported Claws mail
  • Skype!
  • Having a mobile device with an option to use a proper command line interface!

The N800 is not marketed to be used as a m-learning device, but I cannot help myself from comparing it to the Ozing and Noah m-learning devices reviewed last May. Where the Chinese devices fell short on application quality and developer accessibility (at least the Noah NP890+ runs a Linux variant), the N800 has an active, open source development community. Perhaps the Chinese companies will learn from Nokia and open their software to more developers and platforms? Or, perhaps others will leapfrog the Chinese to exploit the m-learning potential of the N800…