The fantastic rate of growth of mobile technologies and the networks that support them will continue. Mobility clearly has repercussions for our students and our learning spaces.
It is important to consider mobile learning, the pedagogy, not just the device. Our detailed guide to mobile learning gives practical guidance to thinking through the issues relating to the institutional adoption of mobile learning.
Access to social software such as MySpace and YouTube has become widely available from devices other than computers such as mobile phones. This has enabled improved anytime anywhere access to a wide range of online applications and resources. In some circumstances, access to such resources has to be considered as part of an e-safety policy and the UK Department for Education has issued guidance on this.
Our video e-safety – what you need to know mainly aimed at colleges but it contains useful information for universities as well.
While there are obvious benefits to mobile technology, it can provide challenges for some disabled users who may struggle with touch screen devices, small screens and buttons and complex menu systems. Read our guidance on the benefits and barriers of mobile learning.
Serious search facilities have become available on handheld portable personal devices (see Search 2.0 below). The repercussions of this are greatest for ‘teaching’ space where holding the attention of students can become an issue. There are also repercussions for what we think we are doing with students. As all information is accessible the role of the educator changes drastically. The educator is no longer a delivery vehicle; they are a construction worker and scaffolder helping students to construct sound conceptual frameworks and deconstruct those misguided ones they have picked up earlier. This is a much more diagnostic and co-operative role.
Portable devices have given continuous access to Web 2.0 software and services. The brief introduction to social software includes applications such as MySpace. There is a parallel development described as Search 2.0.
Developments in the semantic web (defined by W3C as “an extension of the current Web better enabling computers and people to work in co-operation”) underpin the development of Search 2.0 which uses meaning-based search engines and (still in an early phase) intent-driven search tools. As these tools develop there will be more emphasis on search tools that treat not just text but also images, videos and other information formats as accessible resources and reportable results.
- meaning-based engines like hakia which do not use keywords to search but are based on the typing of direct questions into the search engine
- Yahoo mindset is an early example of an intent-based engine
All of this is likely to improve access to information for students and staff, making the research phase of the learning process even more accessible to all students. It will however make demands on your network and the network permeability of your building. The increasing numbers utilising online environments such as Second Life in their learning and teaching will also impact network use but it is important that this is viewed intelligently and that IT departments do not simply block such sites without first investigating their use and the learning and teaching implications of such action.
Video and TV
What video conferencing didn’t do, telepresence just might. Telepresence is an emerging technology that upstages video conferencing by providing a ‘real feel’ presence of people at remote sites such that body language and the nuances of facial expression become part of the meeting. It’s as if the remote participants are really in the room at the same meeting. Images of others are 3D and life size, movements are smooth and natural and detail is high quality. The use of video conferencing was always a challenge to the need for new spaces – will telepresence decrease the need for, or nature of, new spaces? The most likely scenario is that new spaces will incorporate telepresence facilities so that remote learners can really start to feel included.
Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), which has been quite slow to take off so far, may develop as bandwidth developments pave the way for more extensive use of it. IPTV could have enormous implications for the delivery side of the educational experience and making IPTV available in our modern learning facilities will be essential. This will of course be interactive TV and not passively consumed programmes of one-way instructional information.
Smaller and faster devices
Hardware continues on the up with faster and faster processors and will continue to do so. Moore’s law will have a finite limit but we are unlikely to reach it as organic and nano computing are rapidly becoming a reality. As more devices are developed at ever cheaper cost there will be billions of connected devices putting connectivity and community at the heart of its technology.