Virtual, Mobile Connections

New Hampshire H.S. students begin voter registration process via mobiles. Courtesy Mark Warner

New Hampshire H.S. students begin voter registration process via mobiles. Courtesy Mark Warner

I’m looking forward to this week’s session as we’ll have a chance to talk with Liz Kolb, whose book, Toys to Tools: Connecting Student Cell Phones to Education
has just been published by ISTE. We’ll be chatting with Liz via Skype and hope to be able to record the session for possible inclusion here on our blog.

You may remember from our review of the Horizon Report at the beginning of the semester, that the authors saw the timeline for adoption of mobile broadband as merely two to three years from now. They also provided some very intriguing examples of how mobiles are currently used in education. I’m sure as we talk with Liz, she’ll be able to share with us even more ideas about how we could use cells with our students.

In countries where the infrastructure for land-based broadband Internet access is lacking, mobile phones appear to have met that need in some very powerful and empowering ways as you can see from their use in various parts of Africa as described in this series of articles from ReadWriteWeb. You’ll find these articles listed in our diigo group bookmarks for handy reference.

This session won’t be solely devoted to mobile phones, however. We’ll also take a look at a variety of browser-based environments that support online collaboration that could be useful for distance learning, blended learning, conferences, research and projects, to name just a few examples.

As you complete the readings for this week, be sure to start formulating the questions you’d like to ask Liz. You can post them here if you’d like to start the discussion going.


11 Responses to “Virtual, Mobile Connections”

  1. Jessica McBride Says:

    Questions for Liz Kolb:

    We’ve talked a lot in our discussions about student aversion to mixing their personal/ social and academic lives (not wanting to receive Course Management System announcements via their Facebook accounts). On your wiki, you talk about cell phones as a means to communicate homework assignments with services like homeworknow. In your experience, is this something students appreciate or resent?

    In a post on your blog you mention that Dial2do has a translate feature and that this could be helpful in foreign language classes. In your opinion, what other features found in cell phones lend themselves to, or are particularly beneficial to, the teaching and acquisition of a foreign language?

    The issue of technological tools in exams: I agree that requiring them for learning and banning them for assessment diminishes their perceived value. Do you have any suggestions for how to allow them in exams without letting them be abused or turned into a crutch?

  2. wessam101 Says:

    I just would like to add something to what Jessica said. It is very important to put in mind whether students would appreciate or resent the tool. That made me go back to what Lonnie in his interview about From Distraction to Interaction: Incorporating Cell Phones into the Learning Environment. He said that the instructor should tell his students in the very first week about these technology tools, students responsibilities towards it, workshops to learn about it, and how he and the students want to be communicated with. It sounds fun and good by increasing their options, however, it puts more burden on both students and instructors. In that case, I think, they would appreciate it if they really enjoy it.

    If I go back to what Jessica said before a week ago about multi-tasking, that makes sense for me now. When students work on their cell phone, taking notes from the class, and interacting with the teacher and their peers, sounds crazy to do all that at the same time, I think it could be done if you have all these capabilities in just one tool. Using cell phones as data collection needs a lot of work to be useful in a class.

    And again, for using cell phones for both social and learning capabilities would mess with the privacy issue as mentioned before about Facebook. Some students don’t like having teachers in their friends list so would they like to have them on their Mobile device!?

  3. Jessica McBride Says:

    I agree with Wessam about setting up guidelines/ letting students have a say in how cell phones (and all the other Web 2.0 tools they use that could be for social and/or academic purposes) will be utilized in the class is essential. This seems to be a common concern in all of our discussions actually… I’d be interested to hear what Liz thinks about the separation between public and private and what role that plays in the classroom!

  4. wessam101 Says:

    Questions for Liz Kolb:

    In your presentation about “Cell Phones as Classroom Learning Tools” you mentioned some really interesting tools as surveys, slide shows, having a private cell phone number on the web, and even customizing your own T.shirt. My question is that will learners will be able to concentrate on the given task. A study done at Stanford University’s Language lab (Qingyang, 2003) which focused on foreign language teaching shows that learning requires concentration and reflection. However, being on the go can cause some distraction for learners if for example they receive a message related to their course. How do you think we can avoid that?

    The other issue you might have been asked about it before which is ‘high cost’ . I think it would be pretty expensive for learners to pay a bill using it for learning purposes. If you ask me what do you prefer receiving an sms from a friend or my teacher about the H.W., or even web time on these devices, the answer will be clear. Despite the fact that, as I read on your blog , there are toll free numbers, it would be kinda expensive for learners. Even trying to apply this to keep parents posted doesn’t makes sense for parents to cover all that and be aware of it as it needs a lot of effort. So, how do you think we can encourage learners to use it for educational purposes ?

    I have a question about the technical problems that we might face as learners have different devices. Do you think using any kind of cell wouldn’t affect by any means on the images or the structure of the web page being shown on such a small screen of the cell? I am sure there is a way out, but would that be a pricey solution?

    Actually, I really like the idea of the podcast through the cell phone using programs like gabcast which is free. It gives you options which can be send directly to the blog or save it in a certain space as mentioned in chapter 12 ‘ learning spaces’. Will we or learners be able to download it and listen to it as on the itunes or there is a process of transformation should be done?

  5. nmcclure17 Says:

    Two things – I’m wondering if a cell phone would be less invasive than facebook, etc. Facebook is definitely used as a social tool – it’s a place for friends, not really for much else. However – cell phones are much more multi-purposed. Cell phones are social tools, but they are also used for many other things including business, etc, so I wonder if students would be less anxious about using them in the classroom.
    On the other hand though – the mobile network in the US is not equipped to make this use easily adaptable to mandate things in the classroom. Cell phone plans that allow for a substantial use of data and texting can be quite expensive, not to mention that no plans are consistent across providers. To mandate that students use these tools in the classroom (and you would most certainly have to mandate it to be fair to all students) there would either have to be a university based system in place or an expectation that students would have access to a data plan that would work in the classroom.

  6. nmcclure17 Says:

    I had already posted this to our diigo group, but I think it’s worth mentioning now. I had received an email from the founders of Wiggio because I am the leader of a grad student organization. At first I didn’t really pay much attention to it, but in the context of this week’s conversation about using mobile technology, I took another look at it.
    Last week I had a change in venue for my class. We had the opportunity to use a computer lab in the library to work on the class wiki during class time. It was a last minute change (the day before class). I posted a notice on our wiki and also sent emails to all 20 students. Most of them received the email or noticed the announcement, but at least five of them had not checked their email all weekend! I was actually kind of stunned about this as I am a bit neurotic with my email, but it made me realize something about our students. They are NOT email-obsessed and in fact barely use it. They text and they post to Facebook. In fact, when one student was missing, the rest of the class suggested that we “Facebook” him to let him know where we were.
    Now – back to Wiggio. This service allows for mass communication for groups, particularly in sending group texts, etc. I definitely realized that if I had texted my students to alert them of the change, there would not have been any issue and it’s something I’ll look into for the future. However, it still raises the issue of the economics of such a tool….
    To put it more simply, this generation lacks two hands. Instead, they have one hand and a cell phone. As this phone is an extension of their body, we might as well use it!

  7. wessam101 Says:

    I like the what Nicole said about cell phones as the second hand for this generation and the coming ones. That reminds me with what Barbara said before about the students’ handwriting and how awful it is. It is a good idea to sms students to keep them updated with everything but again not all the students would agree receiving or having their teachers tracking them through the cell phones. I think a good thing to be done is to use the private phone tool which you can have an online number and receive voice messages which you can listen to it through the your personal cell or through the web. That is a wonderful tool for teachers who don’t prefer giving out their number to parents or students. The good thing about it is that it is an easy and free service with a toll free number. That enables the users of this tool to access it through landlines it they don’t have a cell phone which is pretty convenient.

    I agree with Nicole’s question about the mobile network issue as it might be a problem in some places. The ultimate goal of using cell phones is networking, however, networks have some issues for their coverage in some areas. Second, Nicole said it would have been better if you send them a text message to their cell about that change which is a great idea. However, that might not be applicable to all the students as you might face a situation when one or two of them who don’t agree or don’t feel comfortable giving out his cell phone for educational purposes, shall we, teachers and university system, force them to do that.

  8. Jessica McBride Says:

    Nicole’s point about financial strain and uniformed provider plans is a really important one. I mean, at the beginning of the semester most of us probably give our students the bibliographic information for texts that we are using so that they can ILL the book for free or find it at a reduced rate on the internet rather than dishing out the big bucks at the co-op. Although most, if not all, of our students have cell phones, to make it mandatory that they have identical coverage seems like a plan headed for disaster. I don’t think that it’s something that couldn’t be overcome however. We’ve already read about students receiving lap tops from their universities (this was the case for my sister at Quinnipiac University), and even here at UCONN certain programs (like the Business program) are required to have identical laptops provided by the school. I don’t see any reason why this policy couldn’t eventually be extended to mobile phones.

    As for student aversion to Facebook vs. student aversion to cell phone use in the classroom, I’m going to check with my students today to see what they think about receiving text messages pertaining to class assignments, changes to the schedule, updates of our blog, etc. I’ll report back in class today!

  9. wltung Says:

    Since cell phones are such a ubiquitous tool for university students, I think it is a good idea and also a suitable time to think how the tool can help in higher education. Also I think it is worth teachers exploring if cell phones can engage and motivate students in learning. Since sell phones own some qualities as data collection tools–audio recorders, digital cameras, and digital camcorders, if a teacher can create or design appropriate assignments or curriculum that stay within the boundaries of the student’s basic cell phone plans without increase other expenses, I cannot see any harmful to apply cell phones as a tool to enhance students learning and organization. I know some people may doubt that cell phones are distracting and harmful to students in education, I feel that is just the reason we can apply it as a tool to engage students in learning. By using cell phones in educating curriculum, students will be taught how to use their cell phones appropriately and professionally as productivity tools.

    Actually it is the first time I learn that cell phone can be used as a tool in teaching and learning. After reading the articles for this week’s topic, I think it is acceptable for me to apply cell phones as a tool with classroom learning. Technology makes all things possible. Tools can be good for you as you can apply them well to reach your goal. Therefore, using cell phones as a learning tool is not an impossible dream. I still remember that as I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Thousand Years Solitude many years ago, he mentioned in his imaginative story that people can stay at home and link and see the world without any obstacles. At that time, nobody knows that means the Internet. To use cell phones as a teaching and learning tool may be a similar issue to Marquez’s imagination, yet the concepts of using cell phones as an effective classroom tools is not a dream. However, it is important for teachers to think how and why to use cell phones properly in class and not just do it as a gimmick.

  10. wltung Says:

    Though it is possible to apply mobile phones for education purpose, there are still some problems need to be clarified. First, are students feel comfortable about expose their personal phone numbers to others since cell phones for them are a private tool? Besides, some places may not have mobile network, which may cause some problems as using phones as a teaching tool. And some students’ cell phones may have limited devices, how can a teacher design suitable curriculum without causing their trouble to need expensive cell phones for the course. Also, what is Gobcast? I do not know how to use “Gobcast” in teaching?

  11. wltung Says:

    I feel it is such a smart idea to apply the “digital toy” in teaching, especially after we had a chat with Liz Kolb who answered and clarified lot of our questions and doubts about applying mobile phones appropriately in teaching. Actually cell phones own the features to engage students and they are available for most of the students. If we can take the advantages of the digital tools well by designing the suitable curriculum and create some possible activities to enhance students’ interest, mobile phones can be very good tools too. In addition, it is necessary and important for us, being educators, to teach students how to foster the good habit of using their phone efficiently and responsibly on the classroom.

    I would like to express my thankful for Liz’s examples and experience of how to design activities for a language class. Students can use their cell phones to record something for oral quizzes and they also can take photos during the field trips and edit their photos to tell stories. Her examples inspire me a lot and also change my concepts that cell phones really can play a role in learning.

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