Gadgets and more!

Mobile e-Learning Made Easy

Tom Worthington FACS HLM

IT Consultant and Adjunct Lecturer, Australian National University

For AITD National Conference, Sydney, 10:30am, 22 April 2010

Tom Worthington, (aka the Net Traveller) demonstrates some cool gadgets, courseware and software being used in Learning & Development.

Tom Worthington

Tom Worthington and other Defence personnel on the USS Blue Ridge

Tom Worthington is an IT consultant and has been an expert witness in several court cases involving international patent, computer, web and Internet issues, as well as advising governments and companies on computer problems. He is a Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Australian National University, where he teaches the design of web sites, e-commerce and professional ethics. In 1999 he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy.

In addition, Tom has an interest in architecture, environmental design, energy and water saving technology. He is the founding chair of the ACS Green ICT Group, and has been invited as a guest lecturer on the effects of ICT on urban design for the Bauhaus Dessau and on smart apartment design at the University of Canberra.

Tom is author of the book Net Traveller and information technology professional, with 22 years experience. He writes about buying and selling on the net, e-commerce, net business, people using the Internet and travel.

Tom is a past president, Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society, a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Educational Gadgets In Ancient Greece

Writing with stylus and folding wax tablet. painter, Douris, ca 500 BCAntikythera mechanism in the the National Archaeological Museum of Athens
  1. Writing Tablets
  2. Antikythera mechanism

Last year I visited Delphi in Greece. Walking up the sacred way I waited for a message out of the ether. It came in the form of a telephone call from Australia asking me about e-publishing. The caller asked of I was busy, I replied that I was walking the sacred way and Delphi. There was a long pause, as the caller worked out what I had said and what it might mean. That was the only inspiration on that path.

The most evocative part of the site was below the sacred way at the gymnasium. There is an old olive tree, stoa (covered walkway) and flat exercise area. This was where the ancient philosophers did their teaching. As I was walking towards the ANU this morning I could see the main oval under repair, alongside the covered gymnasium building and the cafe. It occurred to me that what happened here was much the same as at Delphi thousands of years ago. Even the tablet computers look much like ancient wax tablets.

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens holds a small corroded piece of metal. This is the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient mechanical calculator, far more complex than an astrolabe and possibly designed by Archimedes. The mechanism has inscriptions on it providing a short user manual and the gears in the mechanism show signs of modifications which might be considered the world's first known "software upgrade".

Clearly technology for information recording and calculation have advanced in the last two thousand years. However, the physical and mental abilities of teachers and students have not changed greatly. As a result ancient wax tablets are about the same size and shape as modern tablet computers, as the hands and eyes of the ancient users are much the same as those of today. Similarly an ancient calculating mechanism required user instructions, just like a computer today. It should not be assumed that just because we live in a "modern" age that the fundamentals of education have altered greatly.

Top Tips for e-Learning with Gadgets

  1. Start by adapting old content with new devices
  2. Accessible web pages adapt well
  3. Do not target every platform
  4. Consider Open Source Software
  5. Consider Open Access publishing

Gadget Taxonomy

 Amazon Kindle eBook readerOLPC XO-3 XO 3.0 Educational Tablet Computer
Google android smart phone
  1. Pocket size: Apple iPhone, IPod Touch, Google Android Phones
  2. Handbag size: Amazon Kindle (smaller unit), and Kogan k-Pad
  3. Satchel size: Amazon Kindle DL, Apple iPad, Netbooks

May have local WiFi Internet access or 3G access

All use some sort of web HTML format

Students may have multiple gadgets

One way to categorise the large number of portable gadgets which can be used for learning is how easy they are for the students to carry. Leaving aside electronic pens and classroom clickers, The smallest general purpose device has a screen the size of a credit card (Apple iPhone, IPod Touch, Google Android Phones). These screens of these devices are usually touch sensitive.

The next size of device is too big for a pants pocket but might fit in a trench-coat or handbag (small paperback book sized with screens about twice to three time as large as a credit card). Examples are the older smaller Amazon Kindle and smaller Apple iPad clones, such as the Kogan k-Pad prototype (7 inch screen).

The largest size gadgets merge with the smallest laptop computers. These are satchel size netbook computers and tablets: Amazon Kindle DL, Apple iPad, Netbooks. Thes are screens of at least 10 inches and either a touch screen and/or keyboard. One format which might become popular is a netbook with a touchscreen which can be twisted around to fold over the keyboard, making a table computer.

Devices are likely to have wither local WiFi Internet access or mobile 3G access. WiFi is useful for home use and on a suitably equipped campus. Mobile 3G is useful for access on the bus.

All these devices are likely to use some sort of web HTML format. E-books tend to use some sort of HTML subset. However, it is possible to create web content for all these devices.

Students may have multiple gadgets, such as a smart phone and a netbook. It is not clear if the students will be willing to carry more than two devices. The dedicated ebook may get displaced between the smart phone and the netbook.

First global Green ICT Course

The course was first run twice in pure e-learning mode as a distance education course for the Australian Computer Society. It was then offered in "blended" mode, with a combination of face-to-face seminars and e-learning at ANU. However, students showed little interest in the blended course. The seminars were the dropped, reverting to a pure e-learning format and the students then enrolled. Most students were on the ANU campus, some interstate and one overseas. Students clearly prefer on-line courses, which has implications for andragogy, university planning and Australian overseas income from education.

Learning Without Paper

The course notes were first carefully formatted with the Moodle Book Module, for delivery via the Learning Management System. The materials are formatted to resemble a traditional textbook, with a table of contents, sections and chapters. Material in PDF format was manually reformatted as HTML in accordance with the techniques of accessible web pages from in the ANU course COMP2410. As well as easy reading on screen and printing, this also allowed the notes to be readable on a smart phone, such as an Apple iPhone from Moodle, with no additional work required. The Moodle Book was then converted to web pages for use outside Moodle, and to Kindle e-Book and PDF formats for electronic and traditional paper publication.

Example: e-Learning for Defence Department

More Information

Slides for these notes are also available.

Copyright © 2010 (Version 1, 21 April 2010) Tom Worthington

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