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Mobile Ramblings


While attending the 2011 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Philadelphia, I was interviewed by Jennifer Sparrow, Director of Emerging Technologies and New Ventures at Virginia Tech. The following audio clips from that interview cover a range of topics that interest me and projects in which I am involved.

What is the MIT Center for Mobile Learning? (2:09 minutes)

Key Points:

  • The new center combines three programs to make something more of them.
  • App Inventor for Android from Google, which I helped start when a visiting faculty member at Google in 2010, asks the question, Why not begin programming using your tablet or smart phone? MIT will make this open source in the future.
  • Education Arcade, run by Eric Klopfer, explores augmented reality gaming.
  • MIT Scratch Project is an environment on a web browser where children can create things. Mitch Resnick wants to move this more to the web and mobility.

How does the center address open educational resources and open source? (0:48 minutes)

Key Points:

  • Google Android Apps are more open than the Apple iOS, which has the market share.
  • This is not supposed to be a Google center, it's an MIT center. Starting with Android was the easiest way to get going.
  • We’d like to talk to Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, for example.
  • We plan to develop App Inventor in all sorts of places.

What kinds of successful educational uses of mobile technologies have you observed? (2:55 minutes)

Key Points:

  • Location-based data collection interest me most.
  • With App Inventor, students can collect data. For example, collecting rainfall data in Haiti.
  • First ones were social — where are all the good parties? Potential for individual apps.
  • Medical data are the most interesting. For example, in Nicaragua, a project is collecting data in the back country using the mobile phone as a mobile laboratory. In this case, a smart phone can serve as an inexpensive microscope, with your eye as the lens.

How will mobile technology influence teaching and learning in the next few years? (2:04 minutes)

Key Points:

  • There is now an emphasis on community communication.
  • I just started using a videocam, which changes your perception of what it means to collaborate.
  • Years ago, I gave the TAs cell phones. Everyone hated it — it was so out of the culture. Today, everyone wants to do that to get help.
  • Research has shown advantages to using a mobile phone for quick reading. For example, if I want to do drill, such as learning a language, using a mobile phone is useful. There’s a lot of potential for that kind of change.

What are the cultural challenges to open content adoption? (1:34 minutes)

Key Points:

  • Open educational resources are finally becoming appreciated, but culturally, powerful interests oppose this openness, which allows students to share and remix and build on materials.
  • A lot of the opposition is coming from producers of closed educational technology systems. Putting OER in closed learning management systems conflicts with the idea of sharing.
  • What is the university actually about? If you buy into the language of “content” meant to be licensed, marketed, and packaged, the weaker the university becomes as an idea.

How can we support those interested in using OER in their instruction? (0:50 minute)

Key Points:

  • We need to make curated places of OER to make them easier to find.
  • That will make a big difference because you won’t have to scour the web for these resources.

Will the university ever recognize peer review of OER in repositories as valid? (1:39 minutes)

Key Points:

  • In faculty promotion and tenure decisions, the question is, Have you influenced the world?
  • This idea is orthogonal to whether something is open or not. You hope that in the long run, that if you create something and make it open, people will find what you’ve done valuable and build on it.
  • The issue for universities is that people get promoted for their educational contributions. Even universities without a strong research component feel they must beef up their research partly for prestige and partly for research funding. The issue is not OER per se.


Thanks go to Gerry Bayne of EDUCAUSE for editing these audio clips for publication in this issue of EQ.

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