Friday, 18 April 2008

Reflections on the 3rd IADIS International Conference on Mobile learning.

This was a small conference held on 11-13 April 2008 in a lovely setting in the Algarve, Portugal. Ninety six papers were submitted, of which 49 were accepted.

The keynote speakers were Graham Brown-Martin (GB-M) from Handheld Learning Ltd and David Cavallo (DC) from the MIT Media Lab, USA.

The thrust of the first keynote by GB-M was exploring the idea of using gaming consoles, such as Nintendo-DS, for e-learning since such devices were all pervasive. With the plethora of devices he feels we are transfixed by the technology, rather than the learning.

The second keynote concerned the “one laptop per child” project and DC gave examples of how it has transformed the education of children in a number of countries, including Ecuador and Rwanda. He showed the $100 laptops being used, with their adjustable brightness screens to cater for children learning in very bright conditions, such as outdoors.

Mobile phone technology was much in evidence with suggestions for using them (and PDAs) for creating interactive lectures (whereby the students text questions to the lecturer during the lecture; Oulu University, Finland) to using them for exam preparation (University of Cape Town) and for supporting student nurses in the clinical setting (University of Massachusetts).

Several papers concerned various uses of podcasts, including use for augmenting lectures and producing city guides for students and tourists. My own presentation on the use of podcasts to augment lectures in pharmaceutical microbiology was well attended, well received and attracted a number of questions and comments afterwards. My findings that few students watched my podcasts on mobile devices, preferring to use PCs/laptops, were replicated by work of another presenter from AndrĂ© Caron (University of Montreal, Canada). When commenting on the high quality of my own podcasts (a demo of which I showed in my presentation) he referred to one of his colleagues who had won “Best professor” award three years running and had produced podcasts in Pharmacology which were not liked by his students. When asked why, the students said that whilst he was truly dynamic in the lecture room, this did not come across in his bland podcasts and so they did not listen to them! This reinforced my own stance of trying to aim for high quality video podcasts. Other members of the audience from the Royal Veterinary College, London commented that they liked my voice which, because I had attempted to make it BBC-ish added authority to the material. I found this interesting because I have often debated whether to adopt this kind of performance or whether to try for a more chatty approach (which I think I would find more difficult to do). These people also said the lesser quality of the sound recordings of students that I played in my PowerPoint presentation gave the student comments more authenticity. Andrew Litchfield (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia) complimented me on the quality of my podcasts and suggested that I might add some interactive tasks at the end of each podcast, which I shall certainly consider doing.

I have been encouraged by all the positive feedback I received from delegates at this conference on my presentation. It has helped to convince me that I am on the right podcasting track and near the forefront of using this technology.

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