Mar 21, 2010

Which platform should I choose for Mobile Learning? iPhone vs Android

Out there, there is a war between iPhone (current champion), and Android (candidate) for the mobile market (where is Windows Mobile? what are they doing?). This war affect all of us that work with mobile devices in education, as we have to choose to develop the mobile app in one platform or another.

Recently I''ve read an interesting post in AboveTheCrowd about this war. The conclussion that I obtained reading it and some other good posts is that Google's Android is going to win the war for the majority of people. As they succesfully pointed: "Google is attempting to be the Microsoft of the smartphone market.  Perhaps ironically, Apple is well positioned to be the “Apple” of the smartphone market."

The reason is clear, Apple goes on with its Operating System mounted over its Hardware (as ocurred in PCs), while Android is an Open Source Operating System open to be mounted over any device of any company (e.g. currently I know at least Motorola, Samsung, and HTC).

These are two clear advantages: open source (millions of developers working for free to provide cool applications); and hardware independence (many manufacturers will use Android to reach the masses).

But, there is another good reason that will Google win the battle. While carriers have to pay a fee to Apple to sell its devices, Google gives them for free. Better than free! Google pays to the carriers an ad share! The reason is because Google don't need to earn money selling hardware or software, they want to control the device from where masses will make searches (and see its advertisment). In other case, if Apple would control the masses' device, it could ask an add fee to Google. And that's bad for Google's ad bussiness, which is its main bussiness.

And where is Microsoft in this war? I have no idea, but it's going to be very hard to compete against the Google's "Better that free". That's a bad deal for Microsoft.

So, my decision is clear, my next mobile learning projects will be over Android, obviously if I can't do it purely Web.

I hope to have helped you to clear your mind!

Mar 16, 2010

M2Learn Framework released! A framework to improve new mobile learning development

Recently I released the code of the framework where I've been working on during last months: M2Learn.
You can find the open collaborative platform here:

Please feel free to download, participate, collaborate, ask and suggest! Here you can find a brief summary:

The M2Learn framework is designed to address the requirements analysed in the previous chapter, regarding user-centric media (social networking; ubiquity; personalization; and interoperability); Future Internet; Education; and Digital Ecosystems. The framework offers an open API that helps developers to easily create new mobile applications with these features. From the scalability and reusability points of view, the framework supports plug-and-play configuration thanks to the use of standards, and definition of public interfaces. This feature allows adding new services to the environment without changing the software.

Regarding user-centric media, the framework is focused on user-driven collaboration and communication by supporting the inclusion of multimedia content in wikis, blogs, chats, and forums supported by existing e-learning platforms. It also supports participation in mobile social (learning-oriented) communities, thanks to its interaction with e-learning platforms and location technologies, promoting the called Internet by and for People and theP3 social networking (People-People-Place).

This concept is empowered by its ubiquity and pervasive features, which provide easy access to sensors and multi-modal interfaces (e.g. accelerometers), improving student engagement in content and activities; invisible management of location-based technologies (e.g. GPS, cell towers-triangulation, WiFi?); and support for the Internet of Things integrating a module that manages an RFID reader, All the data from these sensors and devices is gathered to compile the user’s context. This context is complemented by the access to services devoted to translate IDs or latitude and longitude coordinates into a name of area (e.g. room, building, street, city, and country), and associating it to services, or contents. All this contextual information can be also used to simplify the development of augmented reality applications, as a developer only needs to use the provided API (location+motion), and add the information that wants to mashup in the images from the camera.

All this contextual information (e.g. location, moment, profile, schedule, people around him/her, or preferences) is used to support the Internet of Services and the Internet of Knowledge, personalizing the access to content and services according to user’s context. Thus, the framework integrates modules for content and service discovery depending on spatial and temporal variables (associating resources to moments and places); personalized context-aware search results; and integration of mainstream and social media through the support of data feeds (RSS).

As a Future Internet cannot be conceived as an isolated application, but as a live ecosystem of both services and users, the framework is designed to serve as a leaven to the coexistence of multiple users that interact, collaborate and communicate with each other, giving rise to global value-added applications that mind the group’s context. In addition, the framework allows the creation of mashups by offering the users’ contextual information through an external service that.

Regarding educational requirements, the M2Learn framework gives support for some fundamental e-learning standards, such as LOM for Learning Objects, and IMS-QTI for assessment. In addition, it interacts with existing services in e-learning platforms (currently Moodle), such as calendar, chat, forum, blog, assignment, and wiki. It also supports integration of logs from external applications to put together in the e-learning platform the whole student’s e-portfolio, no matter if the educational experience comes from a mobile application, a game, or from the own e-learning platform.

Mar 9, 2010

In the Google age, what is the point of teaching memorization?

"In the Google age, what is the point of teaching memorization?" Jeff Jarvis' sentence makes me thing about why we, as teachers, focus our efforts on memorization instead of fostering our students on learning how to get and learn new information by themselves, although we, at UNED (Open University of Spain), are in that line. There is also a very good German movie that talks about it. Have a look at the preview.

Actually, my thoughts about it are that students must have some theoretical basics to be able to use their creativity and imagination to create new solutions, and solve new problems by learning by themselves, and collaborating with others to create new knowledge, not just using the one that we think they must know and use. According with Jeff Jarvis, "we must stop looking at education as a product – in which we turn out every student giving the same answer – to a process, in which every student looks for new answers. Life is a beta." 

Thus, probably one of the first pillars to throw down are the exams. Have a look to this blog where some Master students in Stockholm protest about they shouldn't be evaluated through a test exam, but by showing their portfolio, the things they have done, and not just from the things they are able to temporarily learn and forget within the 4 hours after the exam. 

Many of us share the same feelings, probably that's why we work in learning-enhanced technologies, trying to add our sand-grain to the improvement/evolution of education.

I'd like to finish this post with a quote from Albert Einstein: "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Mar 2, 2010

Design your mobile app for tomorrow, not for yesterday!

Recently reading one of my favourite blogs about e- and m- learning (Upside Learning) I found a post describing five tips for implementing mobile learning applications.

As a summary, you can find the full entry in Upside Learning, they give these tips:
1. Keep it short and simple
2. Low Information Density
3. Easy with the Multimedia
4. Include Elements of Collaboration
5. Provide Tools (Applications) and Not Just Content

I agree this tips, and I encourage you to follow them. But from my experience in mobile learning implementation (in my PhD), I'd like to add some own tips to create something useful and innovative:
6. A mobile device is, first of all, "mobile", so use it on the move! In out of the classroom activities, such as in a botanic garden to teach about flowers, etc.
7. Geolocation: Take advantage of where the student/teacher is in each moment, so you can better personalize the offered services. In the example of the botanic garden, if the student is near a Sequoya give him/her (multimedia) content about it, let them discuss about it in a forum for this particular Sequoya, create a chat around this particular location, etc.
7. Take advantage of the existing services and knowledge in your e-learning platform. Re-use! Don't create everything again from scratch!
8. Design your application supposing full connectivity, although you don't have it now, not restrict your functionality just because you are afraid of the fee for connecting to the Internet. Mobile broadbands are getting cheaper and more spread everyday, so design your app for tomorrow, not for yesterday.
9. Be social! Provide social mechanisms to engage students in your application, e.g., give awards to the student that send most messages to others, build more knowledge or know more answers. This is the key to keep your application alive!

I have some other ideas, but no more time, so I'll post them other day.

Future e-books will not be electronic, will be Augmented!

I'm still impacted with the BMW video of Augmented Reality in their service:

And thinking about other uses in education, besides offering guidance, I think books are going to be one of the places where AR best suits. Have a look to this video about an Augmented Book:

Although this technology is a fact, it exists, actually it exists for desktop computers with a webcam. The real power of AR comes together to mobile devices. There are some good applications of AR in mobile devices (mainly iPhones, Android and Windows Mobile), such as

Currently Layar is focused on geolocation-based AR, and not to signs in books. I want to find some spare time to research in some Open framework to support this integration with traditional books. Any idea?

I really think it would be more useful than current e-books (which are nothing really new, just text).

Augmented Reality is here! and is here to stay!

BMW is ahead in may fields of technology and marketing, and now they show us again their innovation engine.

When I first saw this video I though that I don't think professionals in BMW needs this guidance, but it could be very useful as an applicaton within education. Can you imagine a googles that tell the teacher what he/she have to say or do? I wish we never got there!

Maybe it should be seen from the other side. From the student point of view this system could be a very assistive and supportive method for practice-oriented learning. Imagine, in an engineering school, how useful it could be for mechanical, electrical, or electronics students! And surely it could easily moved to other fields such as medical surgery, or even to primary and secundary school, helping students to do their practices.

Actually, I think Augmented Reality is going to change the way we see education. AR is in fact a very powerful tool, but obviously it needs of some creativity from teachers, that has to be our work!