A blog - where to begin?...An outline of our vision

So where to begin? - This is the blog for Luzia Research!. The thoughts behind this blog are to provide news on our upcoming products and post commentary and news about m-learning with a focus on mobile phones. As we have not yet agreed on content for our website - this blog is our first internet presence - we plan soon for a website also - www.luziaresearch.com.

Why only mobile phones? - We believe that mobile phones have changed their characteristics. For the first time students are now always carrying powerful computers that are capable of providing highly personal learning experiences.

It would be nice if we could say that this is the age of the “Personal Digital Assistant”, but John Sculley beat us to that 14 years ago. At that stage the PDA was a fairly small computer with handwriting recognition, not the intelligent assistant that today’s mobile phone is.

It is a shame that we can’t use that great label, the best we have at the moment is smartphone so lets stick with that!

So to the real nitty gritting, what’s so great about these smartphones? Well, they can run fairly complex programmes with good graphical capabilities. OK they are not fully functioning games consoles yet - but they have the power to manage adequate 2D and 3D graphics. Installing software on a smartphone is easy, in most cases, it is just a matter of sending a text message and getting the software as a reply.

If these smartphones have limitations, it is not really in computing power, the limitations are screen size and restricted input. However, when looked at carefully, these provide new opportunities.

The screen size means that software must be carefully designed to ensure that learning is enjoyable.This level of design can increase signficantly the challenges of designing for these platforms.

A consequence of the small screen is that only one person can review the content at a time, so learning is highly personal. For example, if a student makes a mistake whilst working on a problem, or takes longer to complete a problem than others, the mistakes are private, which can increase comfort for the student whilst learning. If a peers create stigma when studying, in this personal environment the student can keep their activities private, who knows what they are doing: revising, texting or playing a game. For this reason, as we’ll cover later, phones do not have a place in the classroom.

Restricted input means that input is restricted to numbers, movement and a few other buttons. For users, these restrictions mean usability is simple and this generally suits the environments in which the phone is used. It also means that existing or conventional software is not easily adaptable, but must be severely reworked or designed specifically for these devices. This is good as the restrictions cause the designer to really re-imagine and re-design how users interact with the software.

Completely new learning opportunities are created by these devices because they are with the student at all times. This allows mobile software to become pro-active in assisting the student, using artificial intelligence techniques our software assesses a student’s existing knowledge, the software can then provide optimised assistance at appropriate times to maximise the students ability to recall.

Ironically, the one place that the student will not have a mobile device available is probably the class room. In this setting mobile phone learning can be highly disruptive and the strengths of the personal learning environment are quickly eroded by the weaknesses. A problem for a tutor is to assess what a student is doing on their phone - even the most studious of students might prefer to respond to a message rather than complete an exercise on the phone. For these reasons it is our belief that educational tools on mobile phones will not have a place in the classroom, until there are methods that will allow tutors to overcome these issues.

Luzia Research was set up to discover ways to take the unique features of the modern mobile phone and create innovative software. We want our software to play to the strengths of these devices and allows us to compliment classroom learning in completely new ways.

We have much more to tell you about our vision for mobile educational tools, and that is what this blog is here to do.

Stay tuned!