Tag Archives: Mobile Learning

traveling without a laptop

I’m considering traveling to the UK for a month without a laptop – just (ha!) an iPad and an iPhone with data roaming off. The rationale is weight and accumulation – and fear of fanaticism.

Both my wife and I traveling with MacBooks and iPhones makes a kind of embarrassing middle-class sense. Compatibility. Shared chargers. Facetime. It does come close to twinning – those matching floral shirts some old farts wear to signify “We’re on vacation.” We don’t do that.

And we can explain our over-devicing professionally. This isn’t a holiday, not really. We’re both working on projects that require technology, V on Lakes to Lakes, and me on sabbatical stuff. While traveling, I need to do some interviews, draft a chapter of a book, monitor a wiki, post to my blog and to Twitter (Yeah, I wrote tweeting into the sabbatical. I teach with social media – gotta practice my chops), keep up with some blogs, check mail – and in October, I’m skyping in to present at a conference in Fargo. Carrying computers is what we do now. No apologies there.

But a laptop, smartphone, and tablet seems like overkill. Bravura. Fanaticism. Indecision. Weight. So, if I leave my MacBook at home, we travel lighter in a lot of ways.

Question is, can I get the work done on an iPad, using my wife’s laptop only when absolutely necessary?

I’ve been trying it for a day now. I started Friday morning. I’ve been able to get everything done that I needed to – which was not a lot, I admit. I did have to move a set of PDFs from my desktop to Dropbox so I could read and annotate them. And I’ve been struggling with getting this post to show up on my blog: something’s up with BlogPress. But other than that, it’s been good.

Some added benefits:

  • All the files I’m working on are in one place. I don’t have to think about moving a PDF that I annotated on the iPad to the desktop, or muck around with emailing myself a draft of a proposal I started in Pages. Less is more.
  • I’m in a position to Twitter more – ok, that’s a mixed blessing.

Some matters to work through:

  • How to handle a synch with using V’s laptop during the month for system updates or crashes.
  • How to get past the lack of smooth multitasking. Stop – switch app – copy – switch app – paste is driving me nuts.
  • How to streamline blogging. BlogPress had a glitch in uploading to WP, the WP app is awkward to use, and blogging through Safari is back to hand coding. [update: BlogPress uploaded fine. I had set the incorrect date on the post and it was lost in June.

Most of the changes are changes in workflow rather than technical issues. Those are the issues I want to uncover.

What I’ve found so far:

  • I need to move all the files I might need to Dropbox, with copies just in case on a flash drive that I can get to via V’s laptop if necessary. That might require an update to Dropbox. But now that more apps (eg iAnnotate) support Dropbox, cloud access with the iPad is becoming feasible – with the exception that
  • Dropbox will save an annotated file only back to the account from which it was downloaded.
  • I need to bring a Bluetooth keyboard. I’m typing this longish post on the iPad’s keyboard, which suits me just fine, but it does get wearing after a while. No penalty for a keyboard.

And just in case this post and iPadding around looks like self-indulgence: The material grounds and the physical and social situations of reading and writing – which is what I do when I’m not teaching reading and writing – are significant matters. They afford and constrain the resources readers and writers use to construct meaning. That is, finding that it’s not possible (yet) to copy and paste a passage from an iBook into a draft limits what I can do – and it means that I have to figure out how to get around the constraint either technologically or rhetorically. So do students. As literacy is an interaction between writer and the technologies of consumption and production (pencil, paper, book, iPad, keyboard, ebook) (see Kress), this post is a consideration of a situation of literacy.

If I decide to take on a month of travel and work without a laptop – a device that I’ve become pretty adept at – then the whole affair will be an experiment in digital literacy.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Afterthought: Check 18th and 19th century novels for incidents of traveling and writing: tools (portable letter desks), where writing was done. Richardson, Sterne, Defoe, Fielding, Smollett, Thackeray, Austin.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Grange Rd NW,Bemidji,United States

bookmarks for July 25th, 2009 through July 30th, 2009

notes on collecting with Brightkite

I’m down for the count today – something upper respiratory – so I’m working from home. But in keeping with my project while staying within the bounds of dry mouth and fatigue caused by the [unnamed maker of cetirizine HCI here], I’m doing something simple, and even simpleminded: reviewing my use of Brightkite as a way into using it for composing and teaching composing.

So: Some Observational Notes

Bemidji State UniversityBrightkite
A few weeks ago I made a mental observation: Keeping up in Brightkite is work. It isn’t really as simple as checking in – and even that takes a few moments. Using Brightkite – and so Twitter or any of the microblogging stuff – means stopping what I’m doing for a few moments to do something else. I can talk and walk, but I can’t easily walk and post to Brightkite.

Stopping to post is probably less an issue when at a desktop or laptop than it is when mobile. What it means is that asking someone to post means giving them time and space to make the post. A tweet or Brightkite post may be short but that doesn’t mean it’s quickly composed, or composed while multitasking.

[I’d guess that a lot of mobile posts are made on the train or bus, or while waiting for a train or bus or something else to happen. To fill time. In public.] That’s often how I use it: as a waiting game. It’s as much a habit as anything because I could simply snap a pic to my phone and work with it later. Instead, I use Brightkite. Perhaps there’s something in the communicative possibility. But this use of Brightkite isn’t really extensive. Others are.

Occasions of use: purpose driven

  • to capture a low-res pic of something interesting and fleeting
  • to capture ditto something I’m figuring others might find curious
  • to signal to others where I’m located
  • to take a visual note I’ll want to use later

Much of this use is also driven by collateral posting of the images to flickr. I don’t simply send to Brightkite for others to see; I also send the image to my own collections to use later. Again, I don’t have to use Brightkite for image collection; I have other apps that upload to flickr. Again, it’s habit more than intentional selection of the right app. Brightkite – and the communicative drive it includes – has been my pencil of choice lately.

I don’t seem to use Brightkite to take or send textual notes. I lean towards the image with Brightkite, but I don’t have to restrict myself to this.

Target Stores: Store InformationCollecting
Part of working with mobile apps is sending local data to the cloud so the sender and others can use it. Images taken with a phone are far more useful, and easier to work with, when they are moved off the phone. On the phone, they can be viewed by the owner and others physically near the owner. Off the phone, they can be manipulated, edited, reused, distributed.

Collecting doesn’t need to be purpose-driven. It can be loosely driven from behind: Just gathering up stuff that might come in handy later. But it helps if collecting is spurred on, driven extrinsically. Grades or fulfilling assignments are the usual way, but not very good for really getting interesting stuff. So, try another way.

Purposes, and Leveraging the Communicative for Collecting
Posting images and notes to a common space (flickr, a wiki, Evernote) serves (as least) two immediate purposes. The post signals that something has happened: it’s a check in, a communicative gesture of bird here or task done. The post also places the image or text in play for other uses. (This is what I’m doing when I post to Brightkite.) The communicative gesture can be a pretty strong motivator; it’s immediate, anyway – especially if the context is set up to allow others in a group (nearby or following) to respond. That is, seeing what others are up to may spur more collection.

What’s next
Try collecting stuff using alternatives to Brightkite. One of the tasks I’m skirting around is the nature of the collecting: immediate or mediated. I’ve been going straight to immediate:

  • immediate: posting directly to flickr, Brightkite
  • mediated: saving to the phone, then vetting and uploading later

Debategraph homeGathering
After that, look gathering the stuff collected. Examples:

  • gathering stuff in a notebook with annotations, decorations, commentary. Get out the moleskines, the PoGo and the ink pens. Individual. A variation this would be creating a place note book or using Diffusion Generator to frame the gathering.
  • gathering stuff in a set (flickr) or group (flickr), on a map (flickr), and by tagging (flickr). Collective. As a set of favorites.
  • how to handle notebook-like gathering on computer or online (Curio is my current fave. Can be posted to web.)
  • and draw distinctions between varieties of gathering: like a scrapbook, like a map, like a categorized list, by tagging or key content word, by time, like a mashup, like a wiki or concept map.

And then, after that, start looking at other apps and materials for mashup gathering in multiple media: concept maps, Wordle, and delicious tag clouds.

yancey and writing in the 21st century

studio photoKathleen Black Yancey in her recent NCTE report Writing in the 21st Century (pdf) touched a chord for mobile teaching of writing.

Yancey sketches a 19th and 20th century history of writing in America, and mentions the changing spaces of composing, from pen and ink, to pencil, to ballpoint, to typewriter, to stand-alone PC, to networked PC/camera.

Here, she centers on a few observations that take me into mobile learning and mobile learning software.

  • Our current model(s) of composing are located largely in print, and it’s a model that culminates in publication. When composers blog as a form of invention or prewriting, rather than as a form of publication (which I did in composing this text: see kbyancey@wordpress.org ), what does that do to our print-based model(s) of composing that universally culminate in publication?
  • […]
  • How do we define a composing practice that is interlaced and interwoven with email, text-messaging, and web-browsing? As Mark Poster observes, composing at the screen today isn’t composing alone: it’s composing in the company of others. How does that change our model(s) of composing?
  • How does access to the vast amount and kinds of resources on the web alter our model(s)?

Composing is ubiquitous, Yancey claims in a statement designed to redefine the teaching of composing from K – 12 on. And so sites of composing are open for teaching and learning on the fly. But on the fly doesn’t mean without pedagogy. It means that because we can’t control the environment for composing or teaching composing, we need a strong, well-grounded pedagogy

I’m all for saying goodbye to the print-based aims and means of composing, but people are still heavily invested in it. It’s safe, known, bounded, academic. I watch students draft and edit in Word then paste a finished version into the wiki for presentation. They love that grammar checker, spelling checker, and word count; they love that double spacing; they love that paper. They love it because they have developed writing practices suited to paper from working with paper – like interlinear editing – and have yet to become deft at online and networked versions of those practices.

Anyway, a few points for mobile teaching and learning, starting from Yancey:

  • Where in a composing process based on paper (the model students bring with them) would a second or third person enter – and how? By IM, txt, email, comment? a look over the shoulder? Where in the process is the trial balloon of posting ideas and chunks to a blog or wiki for feedback from others? What does the text look like at that point? It might be ThreadMode on a wiki, or something less structured, or (yikes) something more structured. (Going to articulated sentences too early in the process make it difficult to rip them down to restructure.)
  • What has to be unlearned or challenged as the site of composing changes?
  • Look to how txt poetry has been composed for a start, and look to how people compose txts. The other morning, I watched a woman compose and send a 3 line txt msg on her qwerty phone between ordering, paying for, waiting for a coffee. On other mornings, when the coffee line was long, I composed and snapped a pic, annotated it with a note – about waiting in line – and posted it to Brightkite for whoever was looking in. What’s the process engaged there? What’s the exigence?
  • Composing goes on between other activites in the same composing space. Even as I compose this blog post, I’m doing some directory maintenance on a server, flipping between composing in ecto and deleting files in Transmit – and still having time on my hands while wait. Not two writing tasks, but two tasks. Walking and chewing gum.
  • To teach composing open to mobile learning, we may have to start with writing that stays online, that is not meant for print. Change the ends – the delivery – and the means might have to change.
  • Look at the physical, social, and cognitive activities that people engage and draw on when composing in the interlaced social space – composing in the company of others – to develop a model of composing. Start with the environs.

And then consider what a mobile course in 21st century composing might look like.

three educational uses for Brightkite: some notes

If you have to look for uses for an app, is it really useful? Or are you just making it up? We have to make it up at first to see the possibilities.

Back when the web was just getting going, early users had a sense of what it could be used for, a sense of the potential, even while the actual use at the time struck others as trivial.

You can link to anything. Anything. Like text to an image.

So? What’s the point of that?

You can connect chunk of text to other chunks. Read along paths.

And so?

So go read Vannevar Bush.


Brightkite allows users to send a notification of where the user is geographically and post a note that can be read by friends, or by people nearby, or by anyone on a public feed. With a mobile camera phone, the user can send an image along with the note.

So, outside of locating people or being located, what’s the point of that? What’s the educational point of that?

Brightkite casts its primary affordance as placestreaming:

Placestreaming, as in the stream of content originating from a specific place. We think this really captures what Brightkite is all about. We enable location based conversations. And location based conversations, in aggregate, are placestreams.

While there’s something of the buzzword in placestreaming (along with Eventstreaming and Lifestreaming), its a useful concept to start with.

A list of three

– As on twitter, Brightkite users can follow each other, seeing where others are physically, as well as what each other is doing. That can build community between users. That’s can not will. The quality of the posting is going to be a variable. But there’s something of the game of tag or geocaching in checking in on Brightkite and monitoring who’s nearby.

– The Brightkite.com site runs a web app called The Wall. The Wall can be set up to see who’s in a vicinity, and lets non-Brightkite users post using their mobiles. See How the Mattress Factory Art Museum uses the Brightkite Wall. At the Mattress Factory, the Wall itself becomes a performance as people come and go – a little like Flickervision and Twittervision. But run The Wall in a classroom, or as a teacher, or as a member of a Brightkite-linked group. Members can see what others are doing, whenever they choose to check in. So, a professor can send students into the field, monitor The Wall, and gain periodical updates on what’s happening. All the students can see what others in the group are doing. If they are nearby, they can meet up. If they need help, they can ask anyone in the group. As they work, they can post results as notes or images.

– Landscape marking. I’m interested in how we can virtually annotate or tag the physical world, layering virtual observations. On the marketing / daily grind side, it can work like this:

So, I can be visiting a place like St. Petersburg, Florida, and I can check in. I might take a snap of the hotel where I’m staying, and I might add a note like “the coffee here is horrible, but there’s a Dunkin Donuts a few blocks west.”

Someone else in the area who is using the same application might now see this update and realize two things (depending on my privacy settings): 1.) I’m nearby. 2.) That the coffee at the hotel stinks. In both cases, this information is only available through the use of this software.

On the extensive side, Brightkite is an input for place tagging, but (as far as I can tell) the tags aren’t persistent to the geo-location of the place. If you’re not listening in when a place note is posted, you’ll miss it. What’s needed is a way of posting checkins, notes, and images to a more permanent, centralized space on a wiki or blog, or something delicious-like. (The iPhone app graffiti does this, but it’s a mess). This mashup might already exist. I’ll have look for it.

Other links along the way

Why I Use Brightkite, Amanita.net.
5 Uses For Brightkite, andrew hyde
The BrightKite That I Hope To See…, SheGeeks
Using Social Media to Get Out of Your House, SheGeeks

Next or soon: the misery of using Brightkite. Checking in takes effort.

weblog projects starting up

Mr Blue Sky.jpgProjects for Weblogs and Wikis will be starting up this coming weekend. Proposals are due today, approved Friday, with any requested revisions due Monday. And in keeping with student projects, I need to start one of my own.

I’ll post regularly for the next eight weeks on Twitter, Brightkite, Tumblr, Flickr and mobile learning. There are a few blogs to monitor, blogs that have posted and are regularly posting on micro-blogging, virtual learning environments, and mobile learning

I also have a set of notes in a courses database to draw on and bring in. But one of the first steps is going to be a more thorough search of Twitter/Brightkite projects and VLEs..

Interest in Twitter is a no-brainer. But I’m also interested in the way Brightkite ties micro-blogging to physical place and how it encourages posting images of place. In a similar vein, Tumblr facilitates quick collections of images, quotes, sound, and video without the drive to comment on the material; it also allows following of friends . Flckr, too, is a collection pool that, with tagging and following, becomes a resource.

Move access to these platforms to mobile phones and we have the possibility of mobile learning.

I’m not interested in Facebook. As it become more ridden with apps and advertising, it loses its focus for teaching and learning. A messy VLE.

A title for this project? Try Hunting and Gathering Materials for Mobile Teaching and Learning. Staid? Yep. But here’s a video. A little slow paced, but it makes a solid point in the final shot, and the soundtrack is ELO. ELO on VLE. WTF. Jeff Lind and ex-partner.

e-planning planning for spring

E-rhetoric textsIt might snow Sunday, and that means it’s time to start to select texts for spring classes.

Our campus bookstore wanted selections by mid-October, and while I’d like to accommodate the corporate giant, it will have to wait. Two courses I’m teaching in spring, E-Rhetoric and Weblogs and Wikis, benefit from using the most recent texts and addressing some of the most current ideas. And I’m still looking for the right texts, and will be right through the US Thanksgiving.

For E-Rhetoric, I’m considering a look at digital and new media poetics. Our Creative and Pro Writing BFA students don’t get much exposure to the work that’s going on in poetry and short prose in the electronic world. While an e-literature course might be best, E-Rhetoric can take a look at current electronic modes and productions. A new literature brings with it a new rhetoric: a new set of affordances, a new way of making and articulating meaning. The difficulty in this section of the course might be keeping a focus on the rhetorical dynamics of the object rather than the object as an expressive artifact. But digital products tend to be collaborative ventures, which moves us away from self-expression and towards semiotics.

In the same vein, I want to look at digital- print hybrids and social- digital mapping. There are projects possible. I’m thinking of having students annotate a journey or two through the campus or sections of downtown. Students from the visual arts department have done a little of the preliminary work for this, chalking some of the academic buildings, and annotating the doors.

While it would be nice to have everyone with an iPhone or a laptop post to geo-located walls using something like graffitio, we might be able to do this as a mapping hybrid along the line of the proboscis projects. The idea of leaving text annotations at the particular site is interesting. The next move is a rhetoric of geo-cacheing.

The rhetorical angle: Look at the places students choose to define as noteworthy, the contexts they place those places in, the language they use to give them importance. If rhetoric is calling attention to something, then inscribing it with a building name or sticking a 3X5 card on it is a starting point. Annotating makes the campus into a campuscape, a gallery, a narrative, an argument.

The rhetorical choices behind social scape annotation starts to stand out when we compare citizen annotation of the campuscape with the authorized labeling: building names (former faculty and presidents for academic buildings, tree species for student residences), the Deputy Arch, the names of scientists carved into stone on Sattgast, campus maps, advertising banners, even labels on some of the benches. There’s more going on than first seen.

Mobile Learning. A lot is just about to happen with mobile technologies and learning in the field. E-Rhetoric’s interest would involve how language is used and shaped to suit onthefly learning. Perhaps by annotating the urban landscape.

Persuasive Technologies. I get blank stares when I mention captology to students. How does your car persuade you to slow down? The E-Rhetoric students can benefit from a brief look at captology, less as a field of study and more as a way of thinking about technologies in the world.

For Weblogs and Wikis: Jill Walker Rettberg has a new text on blogging (Yes!) that addresses it as a social- and professional act. I’ve been making that up-hill argument for six years, and it’s good to have back up. Students tend to view blogging more as diversion than substance; faculty at large tend to see it more as daily diaries from amateurs. Faculty with a stake in print place it as a diversion from the Real Work of writing and publishing. No editors! Certainly second-rate writing.

I’m still waiting for / writing the similar text for wikis. But I reckon I’ll be able to slide laterally to apply Rettberg’s observations on weblogs to wikis. And I’d bet I can do the same with Wikipatterns: use it to apply to weblogs, especially collective weblogs.

What’s in my bookbag?

I wait until the snow flies to make the final choice, designing a syllabus around the texts I have in mind to see how it all might fit together.

Education doesn’t need to be driven by the self-serving deadlines of bookstores.

shopping with an iphone

buymilk.jpgI’ve been using an iPhone every day for almost two months now, checking and responding to mail, reading news, playing games, looking over a variety of apps.

High on my list are shopping apps. I’m interested in how they use different methods of invention to help generate and organize the list. Some let you select from a list, others demand that you input your own items. Some allow organization across stores, some create silos for each store. Some allow metadata of amount and have=true, others don’t. Essentially, these shopping apps are outliners that focus and constrain outlining in ways the designers reckon will facilitate making and using lists.

Here are a few I’ve been working with. There are others, but these are the ones on my phone right now, from a variety of countries.

I haven’t decided which are my list-making faves yet, but I will say this: None of them are as useful in the store as a scrap of paper – unless you have a partner handling the list (efficiency low but social interaction high).

In this, shopping apps are a lot like the Maps feature. Maps can be set to trace a route, even to give step by step directions, but while driving it’s not as easy to use the feature as it is a list of abbreviated instructions.

I expected this. I have been trying to use Palms as paper for eight years now, almost always with limited success. It always seems to come down to the physical manipulation of the device in certain circumstances: shopping and driving, for instance. All the data is there. And the device can make inputting data (a list) or getting data (driving instructions) easier, but the device does not make using the data easier.

Set aside looking like a pretentious geek, pulling out and firing up an iPhone while standing, basket over arm, in the coffee aisle. It’s a matter of needing two hands to handle the phone. It’s a matter of constantly finding your place, or of letting the screen time out and having to re-start it. It’s the potential of dropping the thing. All this makes fuss than is necessary.

On the other hand, I have no problem using a look-up app like Save Benjis while shopping for moderate priced gear at, say, Target or OfficeMax. Using the iPhone in this situation to look up information I need to make a more informed choice on what to buy is a dream. It saves a trip back to the laptop to do the kind of research I typically do. I still look like a pretentious geek, but not as pretentious and geeky as those who wear bluetooth headsets, especially those big, clunky Star Trek ones.

These observations about shopping lists and headsets aren’t trivial when it comes to mobile teaching and learning. Attempting uses like these tells me what might work and what probably won’t, and what else has to happen to make things work. For instance, following a list on the phone while doing something else detracts from the doing in a way following a list on paper does not. To address the problem, pair up: one person follows the list, the other performs the task. Seems obvious.

Or another: Looking stuff up while performing a task needs to be facilitated by a tightly focused app. A wide-ranging google search would be difficult while shopping, but one focused through selected sources works. As well, saving the results of the search – as a trail or just the endpoint – has to be possible and should not distract from the task itself.

More on all this later – especially when it comes to composing on the mobile device.

Gotta go write a to do list for the week. Pick up some cilantro and parsley on the way home, ok? I’m thinking lamb tagine for dinner.

bookmarks for September 12th through September 13th