• Dave Foord
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Changing attitudes towards learner owned devices

Last week I presented at an ‘Arts and Media’ Conference in Chester organised by Sector Training.

I presented at the same conference last year, running a session on Mobile Learning (amongst other things), and in the session mentioned (in passing) that at some point in the future the norm would be that learners would turn up to lectures with their own devices – a suggestion which caused a bit of a stir amongst the delegates as they identified all sorts of reasons why this wouldn’t happen, and why it would be a bad thing if it did happen, and how I was such a heretic for suggesting something so completely outrageous…..anyway…..

….fast forward 12 months, an at the same conference with a similar set of attendees, I run another session alongside Ian Wilson. Ian was introducing the use of the iPad within this area of work, and the discussion moved onto the logistics of equipping every learner with an iPad, and the attendees completely bought into this idea – amazing the magnitude of the attitude shift in just 12 months.
Meet Junior.

I think embracing learner owned devices is the only viable option for organisations for the future. A large college may spend many hundreds of thousands of pounds per year to update the computers that are more than 3 years old – this is a huge expense just to stand still, and when you look at the stats in terms of usage – you cannot find an empty IT suite on the room booking system for love nor money, yet the computers are used for probably less than 10% of the time – so we have a huge investment in technology that sits idle for most of the day.

Embracing learner owned devices does present some problems, but all of which can be managed. The single biggest issue (and in my opinion where investment should be going) is getting a good, reliable and robust wireless network that students can connect into. A few years ago I was saying that electricity was going to be a big issue as people power up their laptops etc. But if the iPad does prevail, then this has ample battery to get through the day negating this problem.


Which technologies do learners use?

Today I have been at the JISC RSC-EM summer conference where the focus was ‘the learners voice’. In the opening presentation by Chris Hill, he played various video clips of different learners voices, and one set of such clips asked the learners what technologies they used.

The responses were along the lines of facebook, MSN (although a few said this was declining), mobile phones and games consols.

Although not a suprising set of responses it does raise a few thoughts;

All of the listed technologies are victims of institutional banning!

Interesting that none mentioned a VLE or eportfolio, tools that many claim are at the heart of learning!

All of these technologies are not complicated, or expensive for a college to use.

So have we in education tried to be too clever with our use of technology developing overly complex solutions to problems that didn’t exist? should we take a few steps back and focus on basics (like using the existing technologies well)?

In another video clip where the learner was asked what they wanted from their teachers the answer was ‘to learn how to use PowerPoint and Word properly’ -which has been my arguement for years.

Sending online learners chocolate muffins

Chocolate Muffin

Originally uploaded by vivido

I am currently working on the eCPD programme and am supporting/facilitating 11 people around the country through predominantly distance support means (phone, email, Skype, Discussion forum etc)

Using an idea borrowed from Lilian Soon of xlearn is when someone has completed a task is to send them a chocolate muffin or similar as a reward – now because these things don’t post very well, we have to do this virtually – e.g. send them a picture of a muffin. This is very easy to do nowadays, you could go and buy a really nice muffin, photograph it and then eat it, or (if like me) you treat your body like a temple (yeah right!) then there are thousands of images on Flickr (like the one that I have used here).

When using Flickr, I always do an advanced search and select to only choose ones that are released under ‘creative commons’ – this means that I can use the images within copyright law. I can then send the image to a blog (e.g. here) – and then by going into the edit mode within my blog, I can find and copy the html code that Flickr has put there and then paste this into something like a discussion thread with a VLE.

Although this may seem a lot of effort for some people, when you are supporting people (staff or learners) via online techniques, these little techniques can make a huge difference and overcome the isolating nature that you often find in this area of work.

A vision of students today

Whilst researching for something else, I came across the video below on YouTube. I quite like this video, as it shows a few interesting facts that are often missed, and using the environment of a video without any spoken words to portray the point.

What is very interesting is this video has been viewed (at the time of writing) nearly 3 million times, and there have been nearly 8,000 comments on YouTube against this video and even though this video was added a year ago, there is still an active discussion raging on this video. Its a powerful medium is YouTube. Enjoy!