Wednesday, September 05, 2007

When is an ipod not an mLearning device?

There has been a debate over this for a while, but today’s new ipods seems to have started debate again! Especially because the new Touch model (here via engadget) will sport a browser allowing access to all kinds of extra functionality like the web and online document creation (such as google docs).

Not everyone is happy though - see this post by fellow Australian mLearn blogger Leonard Low AND the comments that follow. Why not get into the debate here or there as well (also features Tony Vincent from the excellent ‘Learning in Hand’) ?

My take (commented as jnxyz) is that “no one ever said the ipod was built as a ed device. I’m only aware of one portable digital device that ever truly has been (OLPC). All the rest we’re just adapting and working with it. We should never be dazzled Leonard, but why not take whatever advantage we can of the tools that are common. Until all schools get OLPC’s or similar, that’s our educator’s lot I’m afraid… Or is there another alternative device out there?”

What’s yours?

See also these previous articles here about ipod’s and education:

- Let’s get the ipod’s in schools debate started!
- Schools ditching technology


Anonymous said...

No, indeed, no-one ever said that the iPod was built as an ed device… but there certainly are some handheld devices that have been, such as the EDA (and there are others I’ve encountered over the last couple of years). I’m not saying I’d call the EDA the “ultimate” mobile learning device either, mind you; but I will say that it’s a great deal more functional that the iPod Touch!

As you say, educators interested in m-learning are adapting and working with what’s available. And using “the tools that are common” is one of the most compelling reasons to explore m-learning, with so many of our students carrying their own mobile phones.

But claiming a closed platform stripped of content creation facilities (such as audio, photo and video), with limited connectivity and no ability to expand (in terms of both applications and memory) as the “ultimate” m-learning tool can’t be allowed to go undebated.

And I certainly don’t know if the iPod Touch or the iPhone are going to become the most common platforms amongst our students. Both plaforms are expensive, and both are not perfect devices in their own rights - the Touch has a paltry 16GB on board and no email, while the iPhone has issues I’ve previously described.

There are some other up and coming platforms that hold much more promise for educators. The Neo1973 ( is a completely open platform which could well be customised for educational needs. It features GPS, Wi-Fi, camera, expandable memory, and the ability to connect to any telecommunications network (though it still misses out on 3G). Customised software can be run on it, and customised hardware can be added to it. It’s been designed that way.

That’s not a scenario we’ll ever see from Apple. Their iPhone was released as a closed system, restricted to a single network. Apple have threatened legal action against those who’ve taken steps to open this platform. And the Touch is no different.

If there’s going to be an “ultimate” platform for sharing, creating and learning, it won’t come from a company whose very business model is based on closedness, exclusivity, and restriction of development.

Matthew Nehrling said...

It looks like we have a good debate going. I've commented on this a lot. I believe looking at the iPod as being the savior of mLearning (or the iPhone, or the PDA, or any other device) is looking at the situation incorrectly.

A stick can be an mLearning device if it is used in the proper context for the learner. A lot of the debate is exactly what we are discussing, the problem with turning eLearning content into mLearning content. This is completey the wrong approach.

We instead should look at our users and say to ourselves, when are they mobile, how do they use XX technology when they are mobile, what information do they need when they are mobile that they don't have now.

Only when we answer those questions should we start looking at an mLearning solution. Even then, the solution shouldn't be repackaged eLearning.

The answer is not the platform, the answer is the information in the proper context at the proper time.

But that's just my opinion.