Archive for the 'Mobile learning' Category

The 2009 Horizon report

horizon2009The 2009 edition of the horizon report has just been published. Since I am curious of future trends in learning meeting technology, it is always a pleasure to read. In the report I have co-written, about the future of learning, we surveyed all the Horizon reports from 2004 and onwards, to find some of the trends that prevails. Now it’s interesting to see what they have come up with.

 

Six chapters as usual, and the same system of relevance, examples and further reading tips. A time-to-adoption-frame as usual, where some trends seem closer in time, and some seem further away.

 

The main subjects this year are:

Mobiles

Cloud computing

Geo-everything

The personal web

Semantic aware applications

Smart objects

 

Mobiles and cloud computing are already in full use at some campuses. Mobiles continue to develop rapidly and are starting to assume many tasks that were once the exclusive province of portable computers. Cloud computing – large clusters of networked servers are changing the way we think of computers, software and files.

 

Geo-Everything means easy access to geographical data, which recently required specialist knowledge. Many devices now record their own precise location, and can save data along with media like photographs or can transmit it to web-based applications. This technology for learning is a little further into the future, since this implication is still unfolding.

 

The personal web springs from the desire to reorganise content in customizable ways with increasing collections of widgets. Free and simple tools are available to form a personal web based environment, that supports ones social-, professional- and learning activities

 

Semantic aware applications, which find their own context without the need of additional tags, identifiers or other top-down methods. New ways to extract embedded meaning, or shape content are created.

 

Smart objects, sometimes called the “internet of things” is ordinary physical objects that can connect with other and information. They know something about themselves and something about their environment. The technology is not new, but new applications with more sets of functions are evolving.

 

To compare with earlier predictions, the mobile phone is something that keeps coming up as a powerful learning tool. In a developed form, the mobile is blurring the boundary between phone and computer (and even other devices I may add). Last years predictions about grassroots-video, collaboration webs and social operating systems are unified in the tern cloud computing.

 

Key trends they point out in the Horizon report are increasing globalization, the notion of collective intelligence, experience with games as learning tools, visualization tools. And again, the mobile phones.

 

Now I will read the details, look at the challenges and try to implement this at work. Here it is: http://www.nmc.org/horizon

Compressing Stephen Downes

downes_04_081Stephen Downes recently wrote a huuuuuge essay about the future of online learning. Ten years ago he predicted the ten years we just put behind us on the same subject. He writes that his visions then proved remarkably robust. Now he renews his predictions for the coming decade. The subject interests me a lot, since I try to put some visionary views into my work. Here, I will try to compress the essay in order to debate the subject.

Some of the predictions are quite simple to make, on the edge of being platitudes –  Teachers and students will have better access to technology, the pace of this change will accelerate. Bandwidth will continue to improve. A wireless mobile internet, with wireless broadband, will develop. Computer capacity is also rising. Portable, lightweight computers in all shapes and sizes will be readily available. More and more powerful tools come at low cost or at no cost at all. Interaction and online conferencing will become even cheaper and more effective. Storage will be cheaper. Processors will be more embedded in everyday devices. Digital tech is becoming part of our lives, embedded in everything. These predictions are obvious.

More interesting is the flexibility and freedom of choice implemented throughout the digital arena, leading to cultural change. This has already started to happen, but in the coming years this will accelerate. An individual will be freed from a certain computer, application or system. Students will also be freed from the classroom. True place independence will revolutionize education. Also, learning will be embedded in other activities.

Schools will be converted into meeting facilities, workrooms, laboratories and multimedia studios with specialized equipment. A diversity on schools will develop, with schools in every shape and form. Learning facilities will use internet to get access to traditional working environments like courtrooms, farms and town councils. We will see traditional forms of education receding gradually to a tide of self-directing and self-motivated learners. Education will be regarded more as a service. The student will be viewed more as a client than as an apprentice.

Personal access devices like mobile phones and lightweight laptops will change the behavior of people who use them, just as mobile phones have done over the last decade. Even more powerful media tools will be accessible through these devices. Learning will be more creative. Students engaged in learning will be seen throughout the community. In the future we should think of students ‘working at school’.

As students’ capacities increase and web resources gets available inside other sites, the place independence will increase also on the web. The student will not be locked to a certain online tool or LMS. These will be more adaptable to use in personal learning environments. Windows, Apple or Linux will not matter any more. The personal learning environment will be available on every machine connected to the web. Different resources on the web will be combined to form a learning environment of high quality learning resources. Multimedia presentations will become more modular and millions of combined resources will create complex and rich materials.

Learning resources should be regarded as words in a multimedia vocabulary used by students and teachers in an ongoing rich media conversation and not bound by copyright and reproduction. The use of learning resources becomes more dynamic. A resource of any kind will be part of multiple courses at once. Individual bits of content will be remixed and repurposed to form new objects. They will function autonomously, connected, interacting, but not joined. Technology of the future will consist almost exclusively of such autonomous objects.

Focus will become more on the individual learner. Networking will be more and more important with learning embedded in other activities. Communities are grown from networks of friends and interest groups. Learners will create their own communities and environments. These can not be constructed by educational institutions, but rather these will support community enabling, with tools and channels available. This is also simpler and more cost effective for the schools.

When online, the emphasis will not be on time, place or formal learning, but meeting individual needs. The Personal Learning Environment will be the central hub for the individual learner to immerse oneself in the flow of communications. Institutions will – reluctantly – develop methods to deliver information to other systems.

The debate over standards and testing will increase. The domains of ‘learning’ and ‘testing’ will separate. Independent testing agencies, as is the norm in some industries, will be a growing trend in learning. There will be greater demand for a formalized system of recognition to demonstrate ones competence without having to go through a formal program of study. What a degree stands for will change. As more and more of a person’s life becomes available online, grades will fade into the background as it becomes easy too see what the student can accomplish directly. Students will demand that there is a human element to evaluation, because they wont be measured accurately by a machine.

The expected diversity of educational providers requires governmental oversight. Economic pressures will prevail. Consequently, educators will focus on providing educational services into self-directed networks of learners. Lawsuits with publishers seeking greater control over the distribution will continue. Innovation will halt as a result of patents and lawsuits. Over time, non-encumbered initiatives will come to dominate. Free standards and not proprietary enclosing of systems will win the fight for the customers. That process will be interrupted, as commercial developers are capable of considerable innovation themselves. Free and open source products will have a bright future. Scientific research and educational content produced through government investments ought to be freely available. The free content movement will continue. Content producers are beginning to understand that it is better to allow their content to circulate freely, as it offers unequalled marketing and promotional opportunities.

While large commercial players will remain in the field of education, volunteer contributions and small enterprise will play an increasing role. Through content distribution networks, those who create work may be compensated – if they desire. The bulk of educational content online will be free to access and reuse, created by governments, foundations, companies and individuals. Two trends prevail: The one about more expensive specialized systems and the one about reuse. Simulations and advanced software will be expensive still and only justifiable by need. A model that puts much of the organization into the hand of students may prove to be much more cost-efficient. Teachers and instructors will be freed from time consuming tasks. Different educational professionals will fulfil different roles, like testing and evaluation specialists, coaches and advocates, content creators and presenters.

To obtain financial return, produced material cannot be digitally duplicated, for the effective value per unit approaches zero; and it cannot be something that the users could easily produce for themselves. Content providers will discover there are much larger markets to be had when they help people create their own content. This will be the basis for the educational marketplace of the future. In general, helping people provide for themselves will provide the best opportunities. Selling people cameras instead of pictures, for example. Course content creation kits instead of courses.

Online learning and conferencing will gain when fuel prices rise. The reason of relocating children to school computers from their own computers will be questioned. Buildings constructed for learning will serve the entire community and not just students. The enormous sums of money spent on books and wall maps will be reduced to a trickle. The need for physical libraries will be obliviated. Savings in staff costs will be realized when the traditional teacher-and-class model is abandoned. Content presentation will be done by computers, or by students for each other. Students will be able to begin working and earning early in their educational career, resulting in a longer period of productivity, and more wealth, opportunities and choices later in life.

As platforms depend more on external services, the question of management becomes more vague. The trend is toward licensing hardware in the same way as we have started licensing software. On the other hand, if the platform becomes an advertising vehicle or an instrument of censorship, it will be eschewed in favour of more useful technologies. Tracking and reporting will be major functions of educational systems. Text-based communication will merge into a single method that may be used either synchronously or asynchronously. The same will happen with video communication. Conferencing will increase in both size and flexibility with near-zero compression and latency. They will be used more like windows, always on, always connected, where you can see other people and chat with them on a casual basis.

Filtering technologies seem unable to block unwanted content as spam, viruses and phishing. So filtering of content by system administrators will remain, unfortunately blocking students access to the entire internet. Filtering may also be used to protect markets for vendors of content. Probably, the only way forward will be to enable people to select what they want, rather than to force them to block what they don’t want. Social networking is one example of this. People wanting safe community standards will use the community as a filter. As people become increasingly frustrated with unwanted content, the internet will resemble less a broadcast medium and more a person-to-person communications medium. Business models based on content distribution and especially advertising will have to take note.

This is my conception of the essay. Several interesting thoughts emerged, I will write a certain post about them soon. You can find the full text on Stephen Downes blog. Myself, I wrote a paper on the subject a few months ago, which is published on the National agency of education and of course here on the blog. Slowly I try to translate the six chapters to English.

Chapter 1 Technology for life or technology in change

Chapter 2 Competence, technology access and digital divide

Competence, technology access and digital divide

spindelWhen Internet had is big breakthrough in the end of the 1990:s, the view on competence, knowledge and education started to change. To read, write and count was the most important competences, but this is not longer enough to fulfil the needs that a changing society demands. To handle the high-tech, digital and global society new knowledge, competence and attitudes are needed. The words digital competence and digital gap are used. The phrase “Digital divide” often regards to the difference between groups of citizens when it comes to computer access and possibilities to handle information via internet.

Digital competence is a wide concept, containing several different parts, from knowledge on handling computers, mobile phones and several applications, to developing a critical and reflecting attitude to ICT. The EU-commission has listed eight key competences for life long learning. One of these competences is digital competence. In Sweden its mainly the National Agency for Education, the KK-foundation, the National Agency for School Development and the National Agency for Flexible Learning that has worked nationally to provide digital competence by initiating and financing different ICT-projects.

The whole society changes with the modern information technology, so schools and teacher programmes has to consider this change. Internet and the technical development puts new demands on the educational organisation and its strategies. The enormous development of the last years social and collaborative media is one example of this development. This can be used in much greater extent than it is today.

Many teachers feel they do not have enough knowledge to use ICT as a pedagogical tool in their education. A new teacher programme that focuses on a new teacher role can meet this and give teachers more knowledge and confidence. When the future teacher programme is planned, ICT, digital competence and internationalization should be regarded. Technology demands an open attitude by the teachers, as there is a steady stream of new tools and methods. This attitude will be met by a new teacher programme. A continuous development of competence is also necessary for a professional teacher trade.

The digital technology needs a developed, modern infrastructure. One of the main reasons that the school world has not aquired the benefits of modern technology is the lack of access. Education has never been regarded as equal to other parts of society when it comes to “IT-fication”. Teachers is one of few trades where its not a matter of course to have a working computer and in the school world, the computer is not always regarded as a tool for learning. This point of view needs to change.

Even the schools and classrooms infrastructure is a problem in many cases, as one has to do with outdated technology and equipment. But by building well designed environments and by using older computers as thin clients in combination with modern computers as work stations, the schools existing equipment would be used better.

There are two reasons for introducing ICT in schools. One is pedagogical. The computer is a good tool for education and ICT supports most subjects and learning situations. The other one is about the schools mission to bride the digital divide, since certain groups will not have access. They can not use a computer at home to work on learning matters, or they do not use a computer at all. Schools have a task to make sure everyone uses a computer as a natural tool. Several other measures are also necessary to bridge the digital divide and to reach the accessibility goal. Among others, support for broadband development.

Evaluating the Horizon Report

In the future project, A good source for what others think about the development in learning, is the Horizon report. A very good work indeed. I have tried to get a historical overview on the reports from 2004 to 2008. Its interesting how some of the ideas have continued and developed. For instance mobile learning. In 2005 it was called “Ubiquitous wireless”, 2006 it was “Phones in their pockets”, 2007 had just “Mobile Phones” and 2008 calls it “mobile broadband”. I think these are all pointing towards the potential and development of the mobile learning. Unfortunately, I have not seen any practical examples that are really good yet.

The social web is one trend that has been proven very true. In 2005, the Horizon report called this “Social networks and knowledge webs”. Then the idea continued as “Social computing” in 2006, “Social networking”, “User created content” and “Massive multiplayer Educational gaming” in 2007, while in 2008 almost all of the trends reported were about the social web, such as “collaboration webs”, “collective intelligence” and “social operating systems”.

 Educational games is one more of the trends that comes back every year. 2005: Augmented reality”, 2006: “Educational gaming” and 2007: “Massive Multiplayer Educational gaming”.

So these three trends will be very interesting to follow. There are pros and cons with them all, so I suppose I have to dig in to find the gems in all subjects.

More on mobile learning

I visited the Adult Education Conference in Stockholm on monday-tuesday. Among others, I saw a seminar on mobile learning, which was not very impressive. The lecturer, backed by five company representatives, confirmed my objections regarding quality and such. Also, the seminar was focused on technology, not the pedagogical issues. So we saw bad video quality and salesmen trying to sell technology. Also we saw the “intelligent, individually adapted language course”. Which meant a 1996 style word test.

I sat there watching and thought “Is there something I am missing out on? Or is this just an equivalent to a telephone call or a chat, with some simple tests attached to it?”. I can see the pros with a portable way to follow education, communication and all that. But we need larger screens, larger keyboard and more use of the voice among other issues for this to work satisfactory. A laptop computer seem to be a better toll, but a bi lless mobile I suppose. The future high speed connections is also an important development for this technology.

And where is the visions and innovations? Why use a mobile phone with its certain pros and cons, just as a computer with static learning resouces and a chat? Boring. So now you think “can he do it better?” Well, I will try to explore some visions I have, regarding the real advantages of mobile learning, which I think is the freedom of movement. I will come back on this subject with some content to show.


About this blog

Starting from a project about foreseeing the future of learning, this blog is an output of thoughts, ideas, comments and research. I am trying to be practical too, providning examples of the different aspects of the subject. My name is Pelle Filipsson and I work as a web pedagog.