112 posts categorized "Mobile"

January 05, 2011

iPad for Learning for All the Wrong Reasons

In Long Island administrators are seeking to reduce textbook costs by replacing their purchase of paper with the iPad, reports the New York Times. Perhaps some quick maths with the iPad's oversized calculator would have shown the folly of justifying a luxury personal slate on cost grounds.

Update: This post now generating some conversation on The Huffington Post, too.

At an outlay of $56,250 for 70 iPads with textbook savings coming in at $7,200 a year, the idea is that the purchase pays for itself in just under eight years. By this time, the technology will be out of date and the students will be graduating from University.

Crucially, the applications that are really required to revolutionalise learning have a) yet to be built, b) will be designed by professional learning companies, who will c) charge healthy sums for them. Whose iTunes account on the student iPads will pay for this? A modest $2.99 education app for each of four school terms, for every student in a trial comes to around half the annual textbook costs.

It's not just on dubious cost grounds alone, of course, that the justification is being made. Teachers love the iPad, they say, because it allows them to move learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. Teacher Larry Reiff now publishes all his lessons online.

But this isn't thanks to the iPad.

This is thanks to the internet, and millions of educators already publish their courses online through learning environments or their personal sites. You don't need an iPad per se to do this, you need any device, including the much cheaper and more likely student-owned smartphones that, increasingly every holiday season, we see our youngsters hiding at the bottom of their school bags.

Where the iPad - or any light weight slate such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab - can make a difference is opening up the web to those working in schools who are on the move. Principals, teachers making classroom observations and students out doing fieldwork may find them hitting a spot that laptops (with their slow startup times and clamshell) and smartphones (whose screens are a little to small to permit long-form typing or writing) fail to.

I liked Chris Lehmann's instinct to use his (personal) iPad and a Google Form to provide instant feedback on classroom observations as he does his rounds at Philladelphia's Science Leadership Academy.

I admire the work that Steve Beard and colleagues in Shropshire, England, have done to get students designing their own iOS (the operating system for iPhones and iPads) applications, and then testing them out for real. This is the kind of cross-curricular learning that cannot happen in any other way than through the requisite hardware.

But spending $750 to only harness the free apps limits the use of any device. You need to have significant budget to invest in the high quality learning apps that exist and will exist in the future, and a clear means of getting those funds to students. The iPad is not any old computing device - it's a personal computing device. The most disheartening practice I've seen is a return to the computing lab, something we realised a long time ago is not an effective means to integrate technology into learning:

Pinnacle Peak School in Scottsdale, Ariz., converted an empty classroom into a lab with 36 iPads — named the iMaginarium — that has become the centerpiece of the school because, as the principal put it, “of all the devices out there, the iPad has the most star power with kids.”

You cannot get the most out of an iPad without letting the student own it, and harness their personal accounts, tastes and media for some creative learning. Putting it in a lab like this takes away from the iPads principle boon: it helps us move further away from the office metaphor of learning and into new, personalised, anytime anywhere learning metaphors.

The iPad itself is a great device - I love mine and it's changed the nature of computing on our couch. It is the ultimate in personal computing; it is not, as my wife and I have discovered, very good at being a shareable device despite the efforts of crack designers BERG London to make it a non-personal computer. It has helped me read more in a casual manner (rather than feeling I have to carve out a time, place and tome to 'get some reading done'), and this would be a welcome side-effect in any schooling environment. The collaborative annotation of literature has been eye-opening and allowed me to understand some texts I've read before in a new light.

But educators should not get confused between what the iPad offers and what it represents might offer us. Jump on the personal computing bandwagon pronto, for sure. The educational benefits are there (despite what the NYT might claim) and the iPad is still the most beautiful, most appealing and most app-laden device to try it out with.

Some of those experimentations are about the right size - a few classes or a whole small school filling up their boots with iPads makes sense, provided some sturdy action research is taking place alongside. They should learn from those who've been there already, such as Ian Stuart and the students of Islay High School who've been using Ultra Mobile (personal) computers for the past few years with interesting results.

Above all, they should use the internet (through their iPad or maybe just on a plain old PC) to share what they get up to, the impact it really has and, if it has no impact at all, or if the impact is proving hard to decipher, they should let us know that, too. And we can do that without the New York Times.

Pic from, of course, the New York Times.

December 16, 2010

FunFelt: Finally something for toddlers on iPad


Since getting my iPad this summer I've been frustrated at the lack of apps designed for me to use with my three year old daughter, so I'm delighted that we've managed to launch FunFelt just in time for Christmas. Remember fuzzy felt when you were a kid? This is the 21st Century equivalent for iPad.

Fun Felt has a beautiful user interface, 50 delightful realistic felt shapes, colours and sounds that help you to easily produce the pictures you (or your toddler) want.


You can save your creations to iPhoto and share them via email. You can also save your artwork to the Felt Board library to continue working on it later. The FunFelt letters allow you to start spelling out words.

Don't be surprised, then, this year if your email Christmas card comes in the form of a FunFelt creation!

You can download the app now from the Apple Store.

FunFelt is one more app from the world's first iPad Fund that I kicked off in January with Northern Film & Media, based in Newcastle. It's also the second in a series of 'retro' games that we've brought up to 2010 for the iPad. Check out the first one we launched, Pitch N Toss and Pitch N Toss Lite.

Chris Chatterton, Producer, Fun Felt puts the development this way: “The Fun Felt app has been a labour of love. I have a background in graphic design, so the user experience and the interface were very important to me. Throughout development we tested the app on a focus group made up of children of different ages. This helped us to find out what worked and what didn’t, meaning that the final version has a clean layout and is easy to use. "

October 07, 2010

Making impossible invisible magic with an iPad

Matt with light city
The chaps at BERG are one team that I'd love to engage on designing what a school space should look like. Not content with reinventing how we might read through touch devices, several months before the iPad was launched, they've now taken the device and shown us that it's not for reading after all - it's for creating 3D light forms that can dance, write and recreate city-scapes before our eyes.

Watch their video in HD to see the finished result of their experimentations, read the blog to see how they did it and see the behind-the-scenes pics on Flickr:

Making Future Magic: iPad light painting from Dentsu London on Vimeo.

September 24, 2010

Technology's impact on learning: Pecha Kucha

In 6 minutes 40, the 20 ideas I think will affect educators in a big way in the next couple of years. This appears as part of New Zealand Core Education's EDTalks:

20. QR Codes and other smart mobile means of making the real world expand into the virtual world will become commonplace in the pockets of our students. With Layar you could craft a living history of your school transposed onto existing real-world buildings viewed through a smartphone camera.
19. We will gain a better understanding the hype curve, and what types of behaviour with technology can be spotted along it.
18. This gives us a chance to shorten that lead time to get to the learning quicker
17. Anything 'touch' changes the game, not necessarily because of the device itself but because of the way it affects the design of everything else around us, especially websites.
16. More will leave the desktop and go online, whether it's MIT's Scratch heading online next year thanks to the MacArthur funding we awarded earlier this year, or
15. Making real life products that students can feel, touch and use will be where the best learning takes place. Students will stop "doing" stuff at school and will more likely "make" stuff at school.
14. We'll think about how we build more interaction into our virtual spaces but also our physical spaces.
13. Think how engagement of the senses can do something as simple as encourage people to walk up the stairs rather than take the escalator.
12. The last 30% of our planet will get online in the next year as more of the world, south of the equator, gets powered up and online. This will mean an explosion in connections.
11. These connections will nearly all come from Africa and South America initially - most African countries are at the birth of their internet journey.
10. When we start collaborating with all these new partners at scale, we'll find that the ultrafast broadband of which our schools are so proud will become, rather quickly, slow-feeling.
9. This is especially true thanks to our changing TV habits. We'll be watching more television online than we do on the television, which will contribute to this higher demand for bandwidth.
8. We'll actually watch less television, but all of it online. Television choices will start to be made for us, using algorythmns to work out what we might want to watch based on our friends' and our previous selections.
7. We'll also stop just watching the television, and start interacting even more around it, online more than with the people in the same room as us. Maybe education will have a second chance at getting television use for learning right.
6. Understanding open data will become more important than social media has been in the apst five years.
5. This means, in the next two years, we might actually find ourselves with a teaching population that is more illiterate than the youngsters they are teaching, as this basic skill of understanding complex data is mastered by young people quicker.
4. There will be less money for spending in education, and innovation will start to appear as a result.
3. Open Source technologies will increasingly make us question why we spend so much on corporations' pay-for technology when so much else is available for free from passionate communities of practice.
2. The innovation will start to appear not from big industry making big things that do things for people, but from 'small' people in their bedrooms and startups making things that empower people to do stuff for themselves, and that includes learning.
1. And the people we're empowering will come at all ages, all cultures. The lead time for people to understand how they can become collaborators, makers and doers has decreased from the years and months of the industrial age to hours and minutes for new generations. Just see it in the way my daughter reacted to Skype over four minutes, from horror to fear to curiosity to comfort.

August 17, 2010

Some ideas from Google on mobile developments

"We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run." Roy Amara.

It was a long time ago in tech terms, but last year I sat down with Robert Swerling who looks after mobile startups for Google UK. We're now in an age where Google App Creator (above video) will encourage ever younger developers (i.e. schoolkids) to make mobile applications, as well as an inevitable tipping point coming soon in those buying Android phones that run Google products and those kids' apps.

Here's some of Rob's stats that give me this confidence in believing we need children to be aware of how to create, as well as consume, the apps around them:

  • 91% of Americans keep a mobile phone within 1 metre for 365 days a year
  • 63% will not share their phone with anyone else
  • Mobile is the 7th mass medium
  • The prevalence of iPhone apps as an alternative medium to consume and share now generates 50x more search queries than pre-iPhone.
  • 60% of time on the mobile phone is now spent on non-calls activity
  • The average person downloads 40 applications, or apps
  • The Japanese spend 2 hours per day on the mobile web
  • There are 9m new subscribers each month in India
  • In Kenya paying by text message is fast superceding credit cards as a means of payment
  • Mobile video fingerprinting will soon create a translation magnifying glass when you're abroad
  • 5 of the top 10 novels in Japan were written on the mobile phone

These might be read in conjunction with the last stat dump I did in 2008 on the state of Mobile in Asia.

So, if you're going to get students making mobile apps, what would Robert advise the pros,  and how might these affect some higher order planning and thinking in your students?

  1. Velocity
    Give customers what they want as fast as possible. Stop putting up so many barriers such as checkout: experience is the same in Prada, fish and chip shop...
    If you give people what they want and get them away from your site as quickly as possible, then they'll come back.

    This is about students learning how to make less mean more. What is the core of what you're trying to say, write or achieve with a project? What elements can you do without? What elements will you save for later when you're upgrading the app for users? What will you leave out to keep the jar half full?
  2. Visibility
    Don't surprise customers. In a good bar the price is on the beer, you know whether it's available, you know how quickly you can get it. This affects choice.

    This got me thinking about how visible (or not) learning is when the learner is not driving its direction, its content, its timing and its pace. Teacher-driven planning of learning leaves too much invisibility. If it doesn't work in the marketplace, how on earth can it work for learning in the classroom?
  3. Value
    Understand the medium and deliver. Online is cheaper, offers depth, reviews, suggestions, interacting with others.

    A basic learning in doing your research - too many student-driven projects are let loose before the students have done their research. The result is painful for everyone involved. Building apps like this forces you to research in depth and from the perspective of a potential customer, so empathy is trained and honed here.
  4. Variation
    Never come out of beta. You can constantly experiment using your feedback and stats.

    Lifelong learning anyone? This is the core skill of the app builder, and the core skill of any successful learner. It's just that this has a context some learners might grasp a little more.

I like Robert. He works for a company known for its constant agenda of change, change in itself and making change in the world. But I like Robert for the realism that he betrays now and then. As he put it:

"A great wind is blowing and that gives you either imagination or a headache."

Quite. Which one have you got?

June 16, 2010

iPhone + Book = Book: beautiful transmedia book

Catriona would love this. It's an iPhone 'book' within a book, taking the best of both worlds, and my daughter's insatiable desire to turn the page (No, Dadddy! Don't you turn the page!), her delight in fun animations and adding some of the interactivity the iPhone offers. It's from the clever Mobile Art guys in Japan.

Thanks to the Swissmiss for the tip of the hat.

June 14, 2010

Augmented Reality Is Helpful To Be Less Helpful

The app in the video above shows how augmented reality can help give you the answers to a Soduko quiz in your local newspaper. You can also ask it just to give you a hint. Now, imagine that this device, primed for heating, were constrained to solely giving you the interesting question, the clue or hint. We begin to see how augmented reality contributes towards Dan's mantra of "be less helpful" to make learning better.

Can you imagine holding the app over a French language text or physics problem and getting that little contextual nudge that great teachers have always offered? What would that free the teacher up to do? How could it add to the learning experience in homes where parents take less of an interest in (the learning of) their children?

Tip of the hat to my favourite polymath, Noah Brier.

April 13, 2010

Reasons for literacy to love the iPad #1

I'm selling a bunch of iPad ideas to my investment panel tomorrow on behalf of my client companies and looking forward to producing some fun, engaging and hopefully profitable little apps early on in the new marketplace, before it, too, gets over-over-overcrowded.

This example of how Alice in Wonderland will be iPadised has a budget well above our prototypes, but creates the kind of eye-popping engagement for reading that most of us learning and teaching reading in any language wouldn't want to miss.

January 25, 2010

TapTale: Bringing literacy to a (iPhone) screen near you

TapTale is a new iPhone and iPod Touch app designed as a prototype to help learners build confidence in their creative writing. The Times Education Supplement talks this week about the app, one of the newly launched products whose development I led as Commissioner at Channel 4's Innovation for the Public Fund, working with Derek Robertson at LTS and the clever chaps at Six To Start.

The proposition was a simple one: experiment to see what the iPhone and iPod Touch could add to the reading and writing experience. Making it was a genuine challenge for us, for Learning and Teaching Scotland and the award-winning developers SixToStart, whose work on Penguin's WeTellStories made them the best choice to give this groundbreaker a chance:

“Readers have to work out what they have to do in the story to progress,” says Adrian Hon, who created the application and co-founded Six to Start with his brother Dan. “The story might say something like ‘the witch went up to the door and knocked three times’. The player would then have to tap on the phone three times in order to advance. Or they might read that the house fell to the right and they have to tilt the phone to the right to read about what happens next.”

The goal is to encourage young people to write their own stories and include their own “gestures”.

Once a tale has been created, users can upload them to the TapTale website, where other registered users can download and read them. Registered users can also provide feedback on any tale via the website, by slotting pre-written statements into a form.

Naomi Alderman The app helps students get started by modeling what it expected, with none other than an award-winning writer to get the creative wheels greased. In 2006, Naomi Alderman won the Orange Award for New Writers, and she now offers a growing selection of exclusive taptale stories, written just for the screen space and gestural potential of the iPhone. They're also available to read on the Taptale website.

She's also offered up a selection of free-to-view writing challenges for educators wanting to use the app in their classrooms, or assign challenges for homework on the iPod Touch or iPhone.

Brian Clark, working with LTS on trialling the project, describes how it might be used in practice this term:

TapTale’s primary goal is to promote literacy through the reading and writing of tales using the tap, tilt, shake and swipe functions of Apples touch screen devices.

When creating a tale, pupils are asked to write chapters using the touchscreen keyboard on the device. In order to progress from chapter to chapter, the reader must use one of the tap, swipe, tilt or shake sequences. It is up to the author of the tale to decide what action must be taken for the reader to see the next chapter.

Once a tale has been created, users can upload them via the device to the taptale website. This allows other registered user to download and read their tales directly on the device. Registered users can provide feedback on any tale via the website using a ‘fridge magnet’ style form. Anyone can read the tales created directly from the site, but of course the tapping and tilting functions are not possible in this view.

Taptale Feedback System 2 Fridge-magnet peer-assessment

My favourite part of this exercise may not even be the iPhone app itself. Rather, the online peer-assessment community we've developed is, I think, a first (though I'm happily corrected). I wanted to see a fridge-magnet approach to student feedback, something that would allow structured feedback to take place but not just in a "tick-box" fashion. I think I also wanted to hark back stylistically to the days of scholastic readers that I had when I was aged four in primary school, learning how to read for the first time. The result is quite a delightful way of helping students - and the general public who stop off by their writings - to learn new ways to provide "two stars and a wish" type feedback to each other anonymously, while maintaining the integrity and safety of a learning site used by young people.

The system prompts you to use one of the many critiques that Derek and I thrashed out over a boring train trip or two, to accept it, before pushing up the next set of options. Go and have a play on one of Naomi's stories and you'll see how challenging some of the vocabulary is yet how easy the interface is: struggleware if ever there was any.


Criticism of the iPhone for learning

As development work began in the early days of summer 2009, we hit criticism straightaway: "kids don't have iPhones, schools barely allow mobile phones, and in the current straightened times we shouldn't be investing in the most expensive-per-inch handheld technologies around". It was the same criticism hurled back in 2004 when I was making podcasts with and for the students in my secondary school. Fittingly, it is my old education district, East Lothian, that is the first to put itself forward to try out these devices and see what, indeed, they might add to the learning process.

We're ready for a resounding tumbleweed to be heard on the question of any educational advances here - no-one's done this before, and we just don't know what it has to offer that paper and pen don't. Likewise, I'd be curious to see what the tactile approach to story reading and writing brings to those kids who have less motivation to read, who have trouble structuring their stories. I also think the online writing community platform we've developed offers a creative, supportive environment that, in brilliant classrooms may well exist, but which is hard to achieve well all the time in every classroom with the timetable constraints we all face.

One final really interesting point is that one of the first criticisms of the app from a student has been: "it doesn't allow me to add pictures to my story". Interesting, and perhaps valid in a world where apps are laden with features, features, features.

Taptale is relatively simple. It's about making writing and reading as simple as possible, while forcing the hand of the writer into doing certain things: providing constructive feedback, reading for inspiration before writing, thinking about timing and story structure through the gestures.

Above all, though, it's about the written word, not the graphic, the design or the picture.

If anything, the lack of features is what makes this app special, what's going to make it work well. Children will, lo and behold, have to think about how to describe what's in their mind's eye, not just photograph it with the cellphone camera or Google it, right-click it, save it and insert it. Stripping all that away is, if anything, at least one educational advance we'll have made.

TapTale iTunes Graphic Taptale stories are free to view on the website throughout the pilot. The app is free in the UK from the iTunes store.

Pic from Anthony

January 15, 2010

And who are you again? Augmented Reality helps you 'see' a person's social networks

This is mind-bending stuff from the clever Swedes at TAT, and I want one now. Point your mobile phone at the person speaking at the lectern, the cute person in the bar or that potential recruit and see, hovering around their head, all their social networks, tastes in music and books, and dodgy photos from last night. In a schools context this could be seen as lethal.

But there are some amazing potential side effects - what would yours be?

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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