Thursday, 24 September 2009

Smart phones to overtake PCs by 2011... School use to follow?

Becta's TechNews service (which is excellent by the way; digestible and just technical enough) recently commented that recent trend analyses indicate that more smart phones than PCs will by sold in 2011.

This is staggering, but quite believeable once you consider all the people you know who have iPhones* who, to be fair, aren't exactly members of the technorati. OK, so my mum may still be clinging onto her Nokia 3210 ("It makes phone calls, why would I change it?"), but in every meeting I attend there are at least 3 iPhone-toting ladies and gentlemen of *ahem* advancing years whose interest in technology seemingly plataued with Pong, happily sharing photos of various grandchildren.

Smart Phones are probably best understood as miniature computers with the additional capacity to make telephone calls. Mine has wi-fi for the internet (and has thus become the weapon of choice in settling arguments over obscure TV actors) as well as 3.5g access to mobile data when I'm out and about. It checks my emails and synchronises with my calendar and tasks. I runs downloaded programmes (it comes with Word and Excel already). It's got a bunch of videos from BBC iPlayer of Charlie Brooker getting angry about stuff for when I'm stuck on the tube. It plays music and could replace my iPod touch if I could be bothered. The GPS is fantastic too - I was in Paris this Summer and it enabled me to navigate my way around, checking Wikipedia entries wherever I went (Coco Chanel was a collaborator? Zut alors!) and see photos of the street view to help me recognise things I was looking for. In short, it's a thing of beauty and joy and just 2 years ago, did not exist.

Education would be mad to ignore this. Once virtually every learner has in their pocket a device which can access the internet at high speed, run programmes, display video and audio, the posibilities for how this could impact in schools are incredible. I'm working with several new build schools at the moment and it's amazing to think that the laptops they are planning to purchase are really just an interim solution to bridge the gap between the ICT suites of yesteryear and tomorrow's student-owned device promise.

The challenges are considerable however. Inappropriate use of phones is a real and constant issue for schools now and technical solutions are needed to help mitigate this risk before schools can be realistically expected to embrace the technology. This can be partially addressed at the policy/ sanctions level but it would be interesting to see if management software for phones could be created to automate this, just as exists to control the use of the school's PCs currently.

For me, the real hurdle to overcome is that of input; yes, the iPhone has a touch-interface keyboard, but you really wouldn't want to have to enter your rambling blog entries using it. Equally, my E71 has an ultra small form-factor querty keyboard. It's my normal form-factor fingers which are the problem. Unless this issue can be solved (projected keyboards?), Smart phone use will probably remain nomadic and ad hoc, but useful none the less.

I'd give my E71 to my mum when I next upgrade if it wasn't for her response to my request to upgrade the family TV to colour in 1986; "I'm just waiting to see if they've got it right before I try it out".

*other smart phones are available

The National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services –Formerly the National College for School Leadership

The National College for School Leadership has an expanded remit and has become the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services.
This evolution of the responsibilities of the college should provide a really useful catalyst to continue the evolution of thinking and action around the Every Child Matters agenda.

Joined up thinking and services are a key aspiration to ensure that each young person gets the support they need, when they need it. Some youngsters require more from support services than others, some for short periods and some for long periods of time.

Advances in ICT integration and infrastructure provides the opportunity for up to date key information to be available 24/7 to the professionals involved with each child. But how joined up are systems and how joined up are the decisions made by professionals when dealing with youngsters and their very individual issues?

Within the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, consideration of the Wider Children’s Services is a key strand of the new Partnership for School’s ICT Output Specification. School priorities and Local Authority Priorities for this strand require articulation to ensure that a prospective ICT Partner who will be providing the ICT services, will deliver a system to do exactly what is required.

Why wait for BSF though? Our engagements require clear Strategic Thinking around the use of ICT in schools and its integration with the Wider Children’s services. Much of this thinking can take place early within existing organisational reporting structures on policy and practice. A well thought out Educational ICT Strategy will ease the path to progress through the BSF programme and help to ensure that the right support gets to young people when they need it.

To learn about the work of the National College visit;

Brendan Geoghegan

Friday, 18 September 2009

iPod Touch - enhancing learning for all

Following on from my post about the latest iPod Touch’s screen reading capability, the very size of this device offers a lot to schools. We often talk about the affordability and functionality of devices when selecting technology to enhance learning. What about the ergonomics of the device or the size and bulkiness of devices in particular in relation to portability?

I think about this in relation to the use of technology in a crowded classroom setting and all youngsters wanting to use devices at the same time and in many cases wanting to use them as they move around the classroom or around the school.

Youngsters grow at different rates and it could be rather challenging for a slightly built secondary school student to carry their personal device around all day and en route to and from school. Even more challenging for youngsters in the primary phase!
It is great to see the smaller devices extend and improve their offering in relation the technological functionality and also in relation to educational software that supports youngsters in their learning.

A school has recently used the iPod touch with a full class of youngsters in the primary phase and they have been really impressed by the way they were used.
The devices were configured to run through the school wireless system with appropriate filtering in place and pupils confidently and independently learned about elements of History and the demise of the wives of Henry VIII. Not only do the youngsters use the devices as instructed, they intuitively explore additional functionality and learn to select content from the internet and edit it in a word processing application.

The use of these devices would help all discussions with architects regarding heat generation and power consumption if they can accommodate the required educational needs in the many learning contexts.

The iPods have certainly captured the imagination of the youngsters, they learned to use them quickly and they clearly enjoyed their learning. Don’t take my word for it, have a look for yourself on the Learn 4 Life website.

Brendan Geoghegan

Monday, 14 September 2009

Latest iPods help the visually impared to access learning

Access to technology requires very careful consideration for many users and for many reasons. For some the reason may be a physical difficulty or a physical attribute that they as an individual do not possess.

I remember doing my Masters Degree in the late 90’s and feeling challenged myself when it came to using the keyboard quickly enough to get the 20,000 words of my thesis into the machine. I looked at voice recognition at this time and found it so ‘clunky’ that I realised my keyboard skills were perhaps more developed than I realised, even if some way short of a press correspondent or company secretary competence.

For many, Access considerations will require the purchase of additional hardware or additional software but for some, support can be provided through the configuration of the device in its standard form.

One such example is the iPod touch (3rd Generation) Voice Over. This device has a set up function that enables a blind person to hear about the part of the screen and the functionality they are engaging with. This feature, combined with additional user gestures, enables a blind person to access the device and its functionality. It does it in a way that enables the user to understand the context of their engagement rather than in a bland list of functions or commands enabling the blind person to build up a good mental picture of the electronic environment.

This feature is incredibly available in 21 languages currently too and the speed of the voice is adjustable to suit the listening capability of each individual.

So, when carrying out user assessments to improve accessibility, don’t forget to consider all of the functions that many providers include within products as standard features.

To read more visit

Brendan Geoghegan

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Nokia Booklet 3g - a breakthrough for anywhere anytime learning in (and out of) schools

‘Anytime Anywhere’ learning permeates many documents related to the visions of new Academies, within School Strategy for Changes and local Authority Strategy for Change 2 documents within the BSF programme but providing the technology to support this aspiration has always been a challenge.

Affordability and device functionality are key compromises within the battle to meet this ‘Anytime Anywhere’ aspiration and also to support sustainability through maintaining refresh levels in the ICT Managed Service provision.

Learners will use many types of device in their learning. In some contexts a small handheld device is sufficient to provide the information or functionality required. In other contexts, large screens and significant processing power is required and provided through a large desktop device.

Mobile phone functionality has increased significantly in recent years and I personally have got on really well with Mobile devices that run Windows Mobile Software (Versions 5 and 6) with synchronisation to Web based email and Outlook services a real asset.

My laptop use in the field is enhanced by the use of a 3G ‘Dongle’ to provide connectivity to web based services and resources. I have also had to enhance my laptop by adding a supplementary battery which replaces the CD/DVD drive when in use. This helps me to be productive for longer in the many situations where I am unable to plug into mains power.

Youngsters have these same difficulties and frustrations where technology is short of the mark in terms of connectivity and battery power. Functional Specifications go some way to ensuring that the right performance is provided during the procurement stages and it is good to see the many framework providers offering a comprehensive product range.

So it is combinations of technology that help us to be successful as a Professional and as a Student.

Other products developed to help us to select ‘fit for purpose’ devices included the netbook. Original designs offered cheap methods of browsing the internet, but less functionality than that offered by a laptop computer.

This product range is now developing further and will require additional decisions about the most appropriate combinations of technology to be selected. Personal preferences will play a big part along with functionality here.

A recent development soon to hit the market place is the new NOKIA BOOKLET 3G. The specifications have not been revealed to us yet but we do know that it is of notebook size and has some additional attractive features to influence our thinking and decisions.

One feature is integrated connectivity functionality to avoid the need for external dongles that I mentioned I used earlier. Another feature is significantly longer battery life reported to be in the order of 12 hours. Both of these features go a significant way to supporting the ‘Anytime Anywhere’ aspirations for learners in 21st Century Schools and I look forward to hearing more about this product when it arrives in the market place.

Follow the link to have a look at the promotional video but please note the small print that *specifications are subject to change.

Brendan Geoghegan