Thursday, July 3, 2008

Some tests of m-learning tools

Yesterday we (a group at Mid Sweden University working with teacher education) had a seminar in which we looked at different products and systems possible to use for m-learning.

One application in m-learning is film clips and other material presented on PMP:s (portable media players) and mobile phones. As the screens on this type of devices are small, special considerations are necessary when selecting and producing material. We used the commercial product Camtasia together with PowerPoint. For PowerPoint presentations we used character size 44 to make the presentations readable on small screens.

To present these on PMP:s and mobile phones the most suitable formats are probably MPEG4 (3gp) and Flash.

To make a presentations and narrate them there are several choices, commercial and “free”/open source. In addition to the commercial product Camtasia we tried the open source program Camstudio. With Camstudio one can select a part of the screen (which can form a slide show), and add narration. QCIF, 320*240 pixels, can be handled be several mobile phones and PMP:s.

With Camstudio one can produce material in avi and/or swf format. The avi-file can be converted to 3gp, for example with the Open Source program SUPER C.

We tested some material on Nokia 6220 Classic which is a 3G phone with 2.2 inches display, 320 *240 pixels, 16 milj colors. In Sweden the price for a Nokia 6220 Classic is 2800 SEK, a 4 GB memory card is 120 SEK.

Good learning activities are one of the keys to success in distance learning (and other learning). Learning activities can be small projects at the work place, but it can also be a simple quiz on for example a mobile phone. We tested “Mobilestudy”, a free service on the net where one can produce Java programs. From the website ”Create quizzes that can be downloaded onto mobile phones, students can now study anywhere, anytime. Works with most modern mobile phones. Once the quiz is downloaded, an internet connection is not needed. Download directly to the phone or via a computer.”

We produced quizzes using the Mobilestudy site and tested them in our mobile phones with good results. We used the option where the students get direct feedback from their mobile phone, but it should also be possible to use SMS to send the results to a server. A connection to Moodle is mentioned on the web site but we didn’t have time to test this feature.

Interaction between the student and the teacher/tutor is one of the keys to success in distance learning. In m-learning SMS is an obvious tool for interaction. However, a great number of SMS:s is difficult to handle on a mobile phone; the teacher/tutors should have access to SMS:s from the students in some type of web environment. The company txttools in UK offer a service of this type. From their web site: ”World class message delivery in education and healthcare, Over 30% of UK Colleges & Universities send critical messages with edutxt® Our online applications allow you to send and receive SMS text messages, securely from your desktop to a large group or single mobile phone instantly, in a way that is proven to save time and money. These cutting edge applications are web based. They are also compatible with almost every major VLE and MIS”

The module for Moodle one can download from However the SMS’s are not, as far as I could find out, integrated with the Moodle forums/discussion groups. I have got a test account from txttools, will report my findings…

Reading text from small screen might be tiring.
There several products / websites available that converts text to voice. One of them is . Vocalfruits can convert text material on web sites to podcasts, possible to download to for example a mobile phone. Due to lack of time we did only a very easy test of the features but we will come back with more results.