Posts Tagged ‘mobile’
Greenbot led with an article about the fifteen things we seem to have forgotten to do because we now have smartphones.
How about fifteen things we can do or do better? I contrast their cannots with the cans in my own series on how they affect teaching or learning.
1. Cannot make phone calls. Can communicate in many other ways.
When is a phone no longer a phone? When it is too smart to be just a phone. It is a messenger, updater, tweeter, emailer, orderer, reminder-er, etc. Messages may be shorter, but they can be so much more efficient and no less meaningful.
And when you need to hear someone’s voice, you still can. Better still, you can see their faces too.
Instead of insisting there is just one way to communicate, teachers should take the smartphone cue and learn the other ways their learners have already adopted.
2. Cannot remember phone numbers. Prioritize your brain for better things.
Memorization might be one basis for learning, but it is not the only way.
Memorization is a case for just-in-case learning of stable information. We used to remember phone numbers in case we needed them for use later. Dumbed down memorization, rote, is one extreme path that many still take thinking that it leads to academic success.
Memorization does not prepare you for just-in-time and situational learning of volatile information. A smartphone, wearable device, or something similar can be used to collect, record, or process data, or provide performance support. The devices help us deal with more important things instead of fussing over trivial ones.
Educators might refer to important things such as higher order thinking skills (HOTS). Memorization has not gone away; it has simply been outsourced to the phone.
3. Cannot read a map. You can interact with one.
Maps attempt to put a three-dimensional space (actual world) into a two-dimensional one (flat world). Both paper and electronic maps suffer from this and place an unnecessary cognitive load on the user.
However, tools like Google Maps offer street views which are attempts to recreate the real world as seen by human eyes. Smartphone maps allow users to overlay useful information like traffic, restaurants, points of interest, etc. Tapping on these overlays might reveal more information in the form of user-provided photos or reviews.
Traditional maps are important to the cartographer. Smartphone maps are important to you.
Old maps, like schooling, are one-size-fits-all. Electronic maps, like education, serve the individual.
4. Cannot balance a checkbook (cheque book). You can learn to be financially literate.
The article is US-centric, hence the spelling and the antiquated reference. I have a cheque book that is about a decade old and looks as good as new.
Balancing your finances is as much a mindset as it is a skill. Neither bundled pieces of paper nor apps alone are going to make you fiscally responsible. That said, smartphones with the right apps allow users to keep track of finances, set up expenditure alerts, and manage funds quickly and safely. Paired with financial literacy programmes, these apps are powerful ways to teach self-management.
5 & 6. No need to write in cursive/Write legibly. You can write in other ways.
The premise is wrong. How many people actually wrote legibly in the days before the smartphone?
Schools, for the large part, still insist kids learn how to use pens and pencils over typing, so the writing persists.
I say this as one who was schooled with fountain pens and enjoyed the art of manuscript writing. If there is a need for writing, it might only to be to pen one’s signature. But advancements in biometrics should remove that some day.
When kids leave the schooling system (or when they step out of it each school day), they enter worlds where they can type, audio record, video record, draw, animate, and so on. These are so much more complex and richer than just writing.
7. No need to take good pictures because of Instagram filters. You can do and learn much more.
With smartphone photos, you can backup, tag, edit, share, comment, and tell a compelling story. You can get feedback, and if you heed it, then take better photos. You can do all these in a fraction of the time it took with film.
Doing all these requires an open and sharing mindset. There is nothing like doing to ingrain this system.
But I draw the line with obsessive selfie-taking if it becomes less about sharing and more about narcissism.
8. Cannot set an alarm clock. Yes, you can… and more.
You can still set not just one, but multiple alarms on your smartphone. You can let the the smartphone set the right time, keep track of time zones, or serve as a stopwatch, countdown/up timer.
Integrated into apps, smartphone clocks remind us to look up from our screens, stand up from our work desks, and cue any event in life. Paired with behavior modification, these can nurture better life habits.
9. Cannot do basic arithmetic. Why would you want to?
See point 2.
10. Cannot wait in line. Wait, you mean we can better wait in line.
We can while our time away by reading, gaming, chatting, listening to music, watching videos, working, ad nauseum. These do not replace full blown instances of entertainment or education, but they make use of what I like to call interstitial learning time  .
11. Cannot just use the toilet. You can do more business than you expect.
Seated relatively comfortably, you can extend your interstitial time (see point 10).
12. Cannot just read a book. You can read several.
You can carry hundreds of books in a device no heavier than just one book. You can have a book read to you. You can interact with media elements, learn to read non-linearly, and develop literacies beyond just text.
13. Cannot just turn on lights. You can have greater control.
You can monitor your home and access your computer remotely. You can schedule electricals to be switched on or off on schedule. You can be there without being there.
You can also be there without being there with online resources, mobile-friendly MOOCs, and video conferencing.
14. Cannot be productive. Yes, you can.
by Will Lion
The device that many like to call distracting is simultaneously an enabler. You can install apps that are time and/or location aware to limit use when not appropriate.
Distractions are not problems. They are opportunities to develop discipline and self-management.
15. Cannot stand up straight.
It is hard to argue against this one. Fear-mongerers like to mention problems with eyesight, ignoring people in social situations, and other ills. How about the danger of not looking where you are going or driving?
So where does this leave us?
The original article suggested fifteen things we no longer seem to be able to do thanks to the adoption of smartphones. Perhaps some of these things we should no longer be doing because they are no longer relevant or because they hold us back.
This part of my reflection on my visit to London for Bett focuses on travel tips.
As with any trip, I brought a power pack for my iPhone. The iPhone was a thirsty beast when I was getting directions, taking photos, and surfing for information, so it helped to have a portable oasis.
Local prepaid SIM
Before leaving for London, I asked around and did my research online for a suitable prepaid SIM. This wiki was a good start, but its information might not be current.
I settled on Three’s PAYG All In One 15. It might cost GBP15 if you live in the UK and can get a free SIM, but it will cost you GBP20 if you buy it over the counter or from a vending machine like the one below.
The SIMs from the vending machine come in a three-in-one pack (normal, mini, nano sizes). The SIM is set to go; there is no need to activate them by calling a number, scratching top up cards, or typing in codes. Take out your old SIM, put the new one in, restart your phone, and start surfing/using your new number.
This prepaid plan gave me 3000 SMS, 300 minutes of calls, and unlimited data over a month. You cannot tether the phone and thus share your Internet connection. However, you can if you have a jailbroken phone like mine.
The 3G and 4G signal was relatively poor in East London where I stayed and also where the ExCeL Centre was located. I would often get only a 3G, one dot/bar signal. This was often not enough bandwidth to tether. Fortunately, there were lots of free wifi spots at the Centre, museums, libraries, etc.
Finding your way around
Google Maps might be your best friend. It was mine.
The Travel for London (TfL) site’s journey planner is mobile-friendly and fast, but I got more mileage out of Google Maps. It not only provided different options, travel times, and congestion warnings, it also provided greater details like walking directions and which exits to head for.
There is no 3G/4G service underground, so it is important to cache information beforehand. The eastern train lines are over ground so that might buy you some surfing time.
The Tube map and signs underground might look confusing. But they are clear when you realize that you must have TWO pieces of information: Your destination and the terminating point of your train (this also applies to the bus services).
If you are taking a more than 30-minute train journey, it is rare that you stay on one train. You train hop to get from one point to another. When underground, you might lose your sense of direction especially when moving from one platform to another. Often one platform might serve trains going to two or three end points. Make sure you get on a train whose terminating point allows you to travel to your destination.
I opted to go for an Airbnb place because hotels around the conference centre were expensive and filled up quickly.
I stayed in someone’s home for a week and used that as my base of operations and travel. Not only was the deal cheaper, I was able to live like a local and get tips from the couple that hosted the stay.
The following were added after publishing due to a revisioning problem.
These grocery stores are great for buying bottled water, snacks, and cheap meals. If you really have to eat on the cheap, Pret A Manger is a chain that seems to be everywhere.
Cash or card
While it is useful to have cash on hand, a credit card that supports wireless payment is fast and convenient. I used my MasterCard’s PayPass at the prepaid SIM vending machine, Oyster PAYG travel card kiosks, and grocery self-checkouts.
There are numerous rules for designing web pages for consumption and interaction on mobile devices. Just as important as the DOs are the DO NOTs.
Do not simply transfer a desktop page to a mobile device. Rationale: There is less screen real estate and readability drops on smaller mobile screens.
Do not embed superfluous media. Rationale: Animations, video, and even audio are resource hogs, consume extra data, and might have unexpected results.
Take what happens when STcom embeds links in its tweets.
If you click a link on desktop browser (say via TweetDeck), Android Twitter, or iOS Twitter, the desktop version of the news article attempts to load.
On a laptop or desktop computer, you expect to get a full desktop page whether or not you are a subscriber. You can get less ad-filled reading by installing an adblocker in a browser like Chrome. My current favourite is uBlock as it has the effectiveness of the open source AdBlock Plus but with a smaller memory footprint.
Besides the old school banner ads (top) and column ads (right side), video ads or video “value adds” load on the upper right, but do not play automatically. Thankfully!
On Android Twitter, the URL causes mobile Chrome to launch, the desktop version of the page to load, and the videos do not auto play.
But I rarely use an Android. I am on iOS and consume local news via an iPhone or an iPad mini.
On both iOS devices, Twitter will load the desktop version of the page in the Twitter app itself. On the iPhone, the desktop pages make reading very difficult, but at least the videos do not play automatically. However, on the iPad mini, the embedded videos play automatically nine out of ten times I view a page.
If I did not mind STcom using up my data allocation, I certainly mind that the videos play without my asking.
The videos come in at least two forms. Some are actual videos that can be paused. Others are ads that seem to have pause buttons, but when I tap on them, they open up full page ads that prevent me from reading the article.
Both types of videos somehow override the audio setting. I have my iPad mini on hardware controlled mute most of the time. But these videos auto play and blast their unwelcome noise late as night or when I am out in public.
I do not always have earphones or headphones plugged into my device. When I do, the videos are loud and jarring. When I do not, they annoy me and surprise those around me. I have to resort to manually turning down the volume even though the system is already on mute.
All this makes for a terrible user experience. Given that devices like the iPad mini are popular, it is surprising that STcom did not conduct better usability studies. If STcom cared about its readers and potential customers, it should.
The same thing could be said for designing mobile learning. The perspective to take should be that of the learner, i.e., learner-centric design. Not just in terms of interface usability, but also in terms of instructional strategy, content level, social learning opportunities, and more.
If you care, you do what it takes and it shows.
If you take this trouble, your learners will thank you for it. If m-learning or e-learning is your business, your learners will come back for more. If you ignore them, they will not only go elsewhere, they will also tell others to stay away.
Never mind that this is an Apple ad for the iPhone 5S. The examples could apply to any modern and current smartphone.
These (and more) are the possibilities and affordances that smartphones bring us. And yet some of us still try to limit it by banning it from classrooms or reluctantly using it like a small desktop computer.
I brought two cameras with me on my Scandinavian vacation, but I only had to use one, my iPhone.
I did not plan on this. My laptop suffered some water damage and I thought it had healed itself somehow. The display stopped working altogether on the first day so I did not have a place to transfer photos via SD card and edit them.
But I dare say that the photos I took with the phone were not half bad. I will still be adding to the galleries, but here is what I have online.
That said, I missed the laptop with its larger screen and more powerful editing tools. I also missed having simple features like captions in photos in the Google+ app. I actually had to use Teamviewer to access my home computer to add captions to the photos. Why not just wait till I got back? Simply because I would never get round to doing it.
I also had to approve transactions and sign work docs online. Our leave system is not mobile friendly and I normally have to log in twice to approve my staff members’ leave applications. Once in, I had to scroll about and zoom in/out unnecessarily so my staff could get the breaks they deserved.
I also used Teamviewer to access my work computer for intranet-only applications and to control my home computer to prepare documents for signing. I had previously used the Hello Sign app, but it accepted only PDFs and not docs. If you are mobile-only, there are not many apps that handle the file importing, converting, signing, and sending. So I did what had to be done.
But on to more positive mobile experiences.
Several hours before checking out of the hotel in Sweden, I received SMS and email notification that I could do so online. I did this and my key cards remained active for one hour after the automated checkout and I could leave the keys in the room or deposit them in a box. Convenient!
Most places in Denmark offer free wifi. There was access in cafes, hotels, buses, trains, museums, libraries, etc. I listed the places in order of ease of access (easiest to most difficult).
The cafes, hotels, and transport agencies seem to realize how many people need mobile-optimized access. Most hotels seem to realize people have more than one device. I found museums and libraries to be hit or miss because of the sheer number of people trying to access the shared resource.
I noticed more QR codes. There was one near the base of the Han Christian Andersen statue (to hear an audio story) and several at the Danish National Museum.
Before flying home, I received email from KLM to check-in. The problem at this stage of travel is not having convenient access to a printer. KLM solved that problem. The email led to a slick, pre-authenticated mobile website
which sent QR code boarding passes to my phone via email.
I eventually did not use the QR codes because there were many self-check in kiosks at Copenhagen airport. Unlike the airline-specific kiosks in airports like Changi, these were generic in that you could check in to any airline. There were several forms of authentication and I printed our boarding passes there.
I used a QR code boarding pass a few years ago in the USA and noted how the readers were not quite optimized for glass screens then. This time I noticed most people passing through the gates without delay, but there were one or two who had to pause and rescan.
Wanting to go mobile is one thing. Going mobile by circumstance and having a system ready for it is another. We just have to keep pushing for it and even demanding it. When people see how much better life can be with it, things will change.
by Remko Tanis
I would expect a headline like Are Touchscreens Melting Your Kid’s Brain? to originate from the local press. But I found this on Wired.
The quote that disturbed me the most was:
the ever-present touchscreens make me incredibly uneasy—probably because they make parenting so easy. There is always one at hand to make restaurants and long drives and air travel much more pleasant. The tablet is the new pacifier.
I think the author and I have different views on what it means to parent.
Leaving a child to play with or watch a video with a mobile device is not parenting. It is not even passive parenting. At best it is nannying.
Parenting is helping the child manage the use of mobile technologies. It is setting and maintaining rules. It is about knowing when to say yes and no as well as articulating why.
The harm is not in the mobile or touchscreen device. It is in parents or adults who do not manage its use.