Mobile learning – is it really all that?

We started out on our mobile journey about a year ago when I got my first smart phone. Immediately the power of what you could do with such a device was obvious to me; emails, calendar appointments, web browsing and so on. It wasn’t just about the convenience of not having to wait for a computer to turn on and log into a network, it was the flexibility and portability as well.

Browsing around the internet, it became obvious that the best websites were the ones which offered tailored versions for mobiles. Not so much cut-down, but streamlined, all the information and graphics were there, just presented in a portable view.  Sites like Amazon and Gizmodo do this really well, sites like Gamespot not so much.  The next step was obvious:  build a mobile version of our VLE which would work as well as Amazon mobile.

Experimenting

Trying things out inside Frog is easy and a quick search found some code which automatically resizes the browser.

<meta name = “viewport” content = “width = device-width, height = device-height” /> 

That’s all it is. It sits in an HTML brick at the top of each mobile page. I’ve built a separate set of pages for our mobile platform which I think works better than redirecting users (Gamespot I’m looking at you). From our VLE login screen, there’s a separate button set up to take a user to a mobile login page. The site is built entirely in Frog bricks, we use ‘IF’ statements to separate content and provide a link back to our main Frog site.

Some of the little features we’ve included are:

  • An ‘App Store’, which has direct links to recommended apps.
  • A Tinyurl address for the mobile site, which shortens the url to something memorable.
  • Everyone’s timetable on the front page, providing information as quickly as we can.
  • A mobile version of our blogs.

Play time’s over

The site went live without any formal training, simply one day the link was visible. What followed took me by surprise!

After a few weeks of the mobile site being live, I’d been trying out different things, such as links to our rewards system, our staff search and similar things. I wasn’t that happy with the display of the rewards system on my phone, so I removed the link until I would have a chance to reconfigure it.  Within 30 minutes, I had emails, phone calls and teachers knocking on the door. So many of our staff were using the mobile site they had come to rely on it!  The fact they could no longer add rewards during break duty was a major issue for them.

As one teacher explained to me “In the morning before registration I’m waiting for the computer to turn on, so I deal with my emails using my phone – I used to have to wait until I had a free period. It’s saved me so much time.”

We conducted an informal survey on Frog to find out what type of phones everyone had.  The results were quite surprising. Half of our teachers and about two thirds of our students had their own smart phone.

Another bit of informal research was also being carried out. Our assistant head with responsibility for parental involvement had noticed that the vast majority of emails he was getting ended in “Sent from my…”  Our parents had gone 3G too!!

Where next?

The mobile site is now firmly part of our VLE at Cramlington.  I’m left in no doubt it will continue to grow. We’re building our own apps, although it will only be for things that work better as an app, as the cross-platform publishing issues are a nightmare.  We’re also experimenting with Google Docs for collaborating through these devices.

What the mobile site has done for us is make teaching and learning portable.  Laptops offer flexibility, not portability.  You can’t walk down a corridor with a laptop while accessing the internet.  Alright you can, but it’s very awkward.

With students able to access our VLE via a mobile device, they can be in any part of the school (or at home).  They can record or photograph their work and instantly upload it.  They can be assigned work, access materials and respond to questions.  They can listen to podcasts, view video tutorials and make even their own – and they can do all of this without needing a PC.

About Graham Quince

Frog's Technical Customer Advocate
This entry was posted in Cramlington Learning Village, Teacher posts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Mobile learning – is it really all that?

  1. Pingback: First Guest Frog Blog « Gareth Davies’ Blog

  2. VERY interested indeed, and something that we are turning our attention too at STAHS. If only there was an (easy) way of getting the webfiles components to work well in phone browsers and on the iPad. One option would be to have a separate ‘mobile’ version of the page with the webfiles components set to open on single-click, but I’m yet to try this and not sure how mobile browsers would handle the files we use (mostly PDF’s and Word Docs)

    You have inspired me to take a further look at this though, and to commission a similar survey (with the permission of the powers that be) as I think we too could see some interesting results. Great post!

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    • Graham Quince says:

      Glad you liked my post.

      We’re going down the Android route so can’t give you much advice about ipads, but I did have similar issues with phone browsers regarding web files. It is compounded by the fact that my phone, an HTC Desire handled the interaction without any problems. This turned out to be because HTC have improved in the native browser. The basic Android browser does ok, except with web files. I’m sure we tried web files set to one click, but aren’t using any at the moment. Instead we’ve just got text links. Can’t remember why though.

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  3. Andrew Deamer says:

    Does the simple modification you suggest need to be done by a developer, an administrator, or by a bog standard Frog user?
    Thx

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    • Graham Quince says:

      It can be done by any Frog user with access to the HTML brick*. Just paste the code into a page. The beauty is it doesn’t screw up browsing on a desktop, so you could in theory have that code on every page.

      * Technically, even if you don’t have the HTML brick you can still use the code or any HTML code. Paste it into a Text&Pictures box, then click the “Strip Formatting” button.

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  4. We have created an iPhone app for our school, named iDHSB and we are planning to launch packages for schools to have their own iPhone and iPad apps. Email me if you wish to learn more at james@pixelbitapps.com

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  5. Hi

    very interested to know how you have got such good functionality with mobile devices with Frog. We are about to go whole school iPad. Before making tis decision I tried out numerous devices to try and find one that would work with Frog but none really do when you want to do anything beyond browing a basic page.

    Thanks

    Steve

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    • Interesting that you’re going with iPad which is a premium tablet. We also looked at all mobile devices, including iPod Touch and iPad. Eventually, we’ve settled on Samsung Galaxy Tabs (which are being purchased using parental contributions through the e-learning foundation). And has the advantage of being much cheaper.
      The Tabs runs Froyo and works with almost every aspect of Frog with the native apps (with the exception of web files components)

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