StudyCell

StudyCell Mobile Flashcards for Cell Phones: Make Your Own or Download. Study Languages, Math, Science, Social Studies, Test Prep, Etc.

This is cool.  However, I haven’t actually seen it on my phone (another Verizon service victim).  My initial thought is that this could be very helpful for some students.  One feature I like is that you can share your “Flash Card Decks” with a “Study Group” that you have established. I can also see teachers using this to provide students who need help questions to focus on.  What else can be done?  I’m not sure at this point, I need to schedule a meeting with Verizon.

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Keeping Mobile Phones in Context

Context Aware Cell Phone Project may provide a ray of hope to those that see the use of highly ubiquitous devices like cell phones in K-12 education. The Media Lab @ MIT has a project looking at designing cell phones (among various wearable technologies) with “context awareness”.

If it were possible to build a phone that could determine the user’s circumstances or context, this information could be used to change the phone’s behavior in useful ways. Such a context aware phone could automatically switch profiles when the user enters a restaurant, sits in the driver’s seat of a car, etc.

I think context awareness is just what K-12 education needs to open the gates for use within schools (students already use them out of school for many reasons). What this might look like is having your cell phone detect such things as your location to determine the appropriateness or context of use. For instance, if you were in a public library, a sensor  would recognize that the library was an area that cell phone use for conversations was not acceptable and not allowed. Where the sensors in the lobby or outside the library would detect acceptable use. If schools and classrooms were outfitted to somehow switch user profiles and only allow use during class for web browsing, texting, sharing data/photo/video with teachers or other students within the class, the cell phone could be a more plausible solution to 1-to-1 computing.

Of course, there will always be the human aspect of teaching the etiquette of use… but that’s for a later time.

3 Strikes for DELL?

I am most disappointed.  I haven’t had my new Dell AXIM x51v for 2 weeks yet and it’s out of commission.  Yesterday, in it’s case, it was accidentally knocked from the table (~24 inches high) and the screen cracked.  This is the third, count them, first, second, THIRD AXIM that has a cracked screen for me.  (I’ll share a photo soon) I understand the first, a AXIM x3i, it was my daughter’s playing that damaged the used device.  Whiff!  The second one, an AXIM x30, was and still is a mystery.  I had used it, placed it in my computer bag, and went to the office.  When I arrived, I pulled it out and found a crack in the lower left section of the screen.  Whiff!  This third Dell, a AXIM x51v, was functioning okay and I was just getting it to where I wanted it (apps and settings installed, etc.).  I had taken a note, put it in the cheesy slip cover that Dell provides and a minute later it fell the 2 feet to the floor.  I couldn’t believe it!  Worse yet, there is a district that is looking to purchase this very model anyday now, for student use!  I’m thinking this is going to be a big problem.  These things are handhelds, we all fumble from time to time, why are the AXIM’s so fragile?

On a related note, I still have my Palm Tungsten T2 that is now my old reliable.  I wasn’t wild about it at first, but it has served me well between AXIM’s.  Why have I missed this reliability?  Oh, and if you are thinking whether my T2 has taken it’s lickin’, the answer is yes.

Ubiquitous Use

This is a cameraphone shot of a Symbol device running Pocket PC (Windows Mobile) to take orders at Aja Noodle Company in Perinton, NY. The waitress takes orders on the device and they are wirelessly sent to the kitchen where the orders are processed immediately. I have to say, we didn’t wait too long for our dishes at this place. Which was a good thing, my stepson and I were headed to Eastview Mall to check out a few shops, including the Apple store.

We arrived at the mall and headed directly for the Apple store to check out the latest and greatest devices and to play with some of the new Macs there. When I inquired about a piece 0f software that contained some relevant history content for my stepsons, I noticed the worker had a mobile device in his hand. This was precisely the same device I had seen at the restaraunt not an hour before. Funny thing was when I asked him what operating system it was running (Windows Mobile) he promptly told me he hated it and it was a piece of junk. I find it funny that the Apple store would use a device running Windows. Maybe not, as their machines can now run both Mac and Windows.

If you have seen handhelds in action in places other than schools send me an e-mail (photos welcome and encouraged) at mobileminded@gmail.com.

Reorienting Ourselves

I borrowed the title of this post from Marc Prensky’s latest book, “Don’t Bother Me Mom — I’m Learning”. Reorienting ourselves refers to the section on cell phones in education. Yes, I have been a proponent for traditional handhelds, Palm and Pocket PC devices, specifically. However, I am now rethinking what we are missing by not using cell phones in education. Here is a thought provoking passage from Prensky’s book about providing our students with mobile or handheld devices for learning…

A number of researchers are experimenting with mobile devices for learning — but they typically use PDAs, not cell phones. The former are often donated by manufacturers eager to find a new market for their devices.
There are fewer than 50 million PDAs in the world but more than 1.5 billion cell phones. Of course PDA-based research will be useful, but we will not be on the right track until educators begin thinking of using the computing and communication device currently in the students’ pockets to support learning.

Inevitably…

…students are far ahead of their teachers on this. The first “educational” use students implemented for their cell phone was retreiving information on-demand during exams. Educators, of course, refer to this as “cheating.” They might better serve their students by redefining open book testing as an open-phone testing, for example, and by encouraging, rather than quashing, student innovation in this and other areas.

Prensky continues by stating that he is against cheating in schools. I don’t think I have to write that I am against cheating as well (but I did). I am for the celebration of the innovation that many students display in their schooling. Sadly, for the most part this innovation goes unnoticed by teachers, administrators and parents alike. Much of the argument against cell phones has been between distraction and safety. In June, the New York City Council banned cell phones in schools claiming they are a distraction to learning. Here’s what I got…

  1. NYPD officers are searching for cell phones in lockers – is this a productive use of tax dollars?
  2. 3000+ cell phones confiscated – That’s 3000 computers that are being taken out of schools.
  3. Students spending up to 4 hours traveling to and from school – Imagine these students on the subway train listening to lectures, podcasts, viewing videos or text messaging their responses to prompts or polls from teachers all related to school work on these commutes!
  4. No mention of cell phones for learning – If cell phones were welcomed into the school and the classroom as an additional tool to use for learning there might be, dare I say, more interest in student learning.

I think that what interests me most of all with cell phone use, and lack thereof in education, is the ubiquitousness of the cell phone. There are 1.5 billion cell phones in the world. In other countries, the cell phone out sells the desktop computer, not so in the “innovative and creative” USA. Let me wrap this up with another quote from Prensky’s book relating to new norms and ethics around emerging technologies:

Some people can remember how rapidly, in the 1970’s, the norm went from “It’s rude to have an answering machine” to “It’s rude not to have an answering machine,” or how quickly the world switched their search engine from Yahoo to Google.

As educators, we all can agree that learning happens all the time. So,
I wonder, why is it that when we teach we confine it to a building and the just
6.5 hours per day? Believe it or not our students are wondering as well.

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From Zero to Handhelds

This session was about how to implement handhelds in schools that have never thought of them before. Lynn Lair & Rob DeLilli from Wheelerville Union Free School a rural school in Upstate New York. Their introduction to handhelds was through the Magellan Foundation’s NY Talks Program several years ago.

They started with this question: How can handhelds be used by teachers and students? Seeking and landing a $35,000 grant from a state Senator they then brought in an expert to create a shopping list and sought out open-minded teachers.

What Worked:

  • Getting every teacher a handheld (~25 teachers)
  • Offering training
  • Provide teachers to play (teachers used them over the summer)
  • Modeling practical uses for handhelds (Rob modeled appropriate uses as an administrator as well as used them to communicate with teachers about pre-observation notes)
  • “Advertising” to Students and Parents
  • Gradual deployment to students
  • School Board support
  • Patience, Low pressure, Encouragement, Technical support & Financial commitment

What Didn’t:

  • Software glitch – Mac OS9 conflicts – (Mobilemind-ed Note: Be careful and read the hardware, software and networking requirements before purchasing)
  • Having full-time IT staff
  • Not enough training

This a example of another motivated administrator that gets it and is acting to get things going. Exposing students and teachers to handheld technology is important and to share experiences using handhelds. Students want and need to be plugged-in so accessibility to technology for students is very important. Wheelerville schools have experienced the bumps and successes and analyzed what can be done better and are moving forward with additional deployment, more training, software updates as well as adding wireless connectivity. It will be interesting to see how this implementation project grows within the schools as well as in neighboring schools as well as how they will sustain the project in the future.