Today I was visiting the Polytechic University of Valencia (La Universidad Politécnica de Valencia) and got to see some of the interesting work they are doing there with mobile phones and learning.
Within the DISCA department they teach two courses on programming mobile phones which are project based courses. I met Juan-Carlos Ruiz-Garcia who leads both of these courses and got to see some of the work they have done and are in the process of doing.
One tool allows a PDA or Windows Mobile Phone to take over a PC and has a simple custom controller for Powerpoint. The software can also be used to take control of another PDA or allow the screen from a PDA to be shown on a projector. The software works on bluetooth or over WiFi (I think the bluetooth is too slow to be useful) and can be installed on any windows device (PDA, phone, tablet PC etc). This was impressive software and will be used in anger in a trial of Tablet PCs that they will start using next year.
The second project I saw was a mobile learning platform for languages with really impressive facilities for loading up multi-media clips (both audio and video). I was shown an example of how it worked with “We are the champions” from Queen - the audio was loaded with two text files with the English and Spanish lyrics. The lyrics were automatically matched up so that each line in English was associated with the line in Spanish - but this could be edited allowing for translations that only work for double lines etc. The audio was then played using a neat flash control and the use just has to press the spacebar each time a new line of lyrics started in English. In the end an xml file was generated that could be used with their authoring tool to make up learning objects.
Using the authoring tool - a small course module was built using music, video and text which contained many exercises focused on the needs of the student. This was then shown to be in a web browser.
Where is the mobile stuff? OK the cherry on all of this was the Windows mobile client that allows a user to take the work offline on their phone and complete the assessment. The content was synchronised with the device and then a student can continue to revise offline. At the moment they have a few problems with synchronisation time (20 minutes), but these will be ironed out and I think it will make a nice piece of project work.
The approach is very similar to the uHavePassed system we have built, although their system can take much richer audio and video clips, this is only possible on a Windows device with Wifi - uHavePassed can support any Java based phone on any internet connection and with any QTI formatted data so any authoring platform can be used.
We plan to do some more work with the university and I will be interested to see how these projects move forward.