Monday, December 31, 2007

Copyright Wars

Canada seems to be fighting back against the government-sponsored, corporate-driven copyright digital copyright rules that already exist in the United States. This short video explains the issue to Canadians in a brilliant 5-minute mash-up of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and a compilation of science fiction movie and television standards by Galacticast.

As the recording industry sinks deeper and deeper into the DMCA quaqmire by now claiming that U.S. citizens cannot rip CD content onto your computer from legally purchased CDs, it seems clear that the downside of being an information economy is the push to lay legal claim to all sorts of information for the purpose of exacting a price for the use of that information. From a learning perspective this scares me to the bones.

Despite the best claims of businesses that their subject matter experts have all of the data necessary to develop the training they are buying, as an instructional designer who is often required to fast-track training development in the name of rapid instructional design, I and others like me often turn to the Internet to fill in gaps because the SME is not available and time constraints require us to produce content.

As information becomes more proprietary we run into another time hurdle in which we have to survey the site to determine if the information posted there is available for public consumption or is proprietary.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Electronic flash cards - wave of the future?

So I had a coworker send me a link to the video about the use of mobile phones for learning about a week ago. The first time I watched this something about it did not sit right with me. Take a look and see what you think.

I just re-watched it and it became more apparent what disturbed me. While the UCF Report attempts to position the use of testing via cellphones as something new and exciting it appears to me to be the same old "drill and kill" approach that traditionalists have been demanding a return to for years now; it's just dressed up in new clothing. Replace the cellphone with flash cards and you have the same approach to learning.

I guess the argument could be made that the cellphone approach makes it more appealing to the children and it engages them outside the classroom, but it bothers me that the cellphone delivery is also used during the class. Where is the teacher in all this? Primary engagement in the classroom should be between the teacher and his or her students? If the students are staring at their cellphone screen how does the teacher know they are engaged in learning and not IM'ing a friend?

While I think mobile learning via cellphones, PDAs, and other mobile devices have great possibilities, I'm a little leery about the approach put forward in this video. I think it is directing mobile learning initiatives down the same old path that education has traveled already. And if we have learned anything from the push towards learning on computers, once we start down that path it is extremely difficult to reverse course.

Another thing that bothers me about the UCF approach is the extension of the corporate concept that employees should be available 24-7 thanks to computers, cellphones, and blackberries to children and formal education. Parents already complain about their children being overburdened with homework and now they are going to receive more homework by way of cellphones? And their responses must be in by 6 p.m., not the next school day. This is a bit disconcerting.

Don't get me wrong I believe strongly that learning never stops, especially not once you walk out through the doors of the schoolhouse. But learning outside the schoolhouse is informal learning. It should not be about answering a cellphone and responding within a time frame dictated by a teacher.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Could this be the future of mobile learning?

After spending the past two days attending the eLearning Guild's mobile learning forums and listening to people wonder about the future of smart phone usage I came across this gadget this morning.

This is the Sony VAIO VGN-UX490N/C 4.5" Notebook PC. It is a personal computer packaged with Microsoft Vista Business edition, 1GB of RAM and a 48GB of Flash hard drive space. It offers both wifi and ethernet connectivity as well as bluetooth connectivity. It's price tag is only $2,400. This would be a great little package for mobile learning.