Handheld Learning 2008: Notes

Handheld Learning was held from 13-15 October 2008 in London, UK. In addition to my blog posts about the conference, notes about interesting presentations, papers and projects are below.

Putting Philosophy into Practice
At the Handheld Learning 2008 conference: Laurie O’Donnell, Director of Learning and Technology, Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), on Putting Philosophy into Practice.

Philosophy A Philosophy B
Education Broken but can be fixed (quickly) Long term investment in the future
Technology Drives change Enables, supports and accelerates change
Teachers Another problem that needs to be fixed Supported professionals
Learners The future workforce (so need to skill them up for that) More than just the future workforce
Innovation Let a thousand projects flourish Got to be scalable and sustainable
Success Input targets and attainment Wider long-term benefits
Curriculum Don’t trust the teachers Guidance and support for teachers

The problems that are constantly highlighted:

  • Teachers are insecure when considering bringing technology into the classroom. They mostly just prevent it from happening.
  • Learners know more about technology than their teachers.
  • Is today’s education really preparing learners for the future?
  • How to assess web 2.0 creations?

Keri Facer
There is general consensus on what 21st century learning skills are. To carry on thinking of what the list of skills might entail is becoming less and less productive. The big challenge is how to bring the development of those skills into the schools.

She believes that we need to stop designing curricula for young people and start designing with them.

David Whyley
Headteacher and consultant for learning technologies presented the Learning2Go project (blog):

2001: 14 devices BECTA trial
2007: Over 3,000 devices — all with wireless and imaging — in the hands of learners in Wolverhampton. Parents contribute to cost of devices. Learners generally look after the devices.

  • Truancy down
  • Maths and Science grades improved
  • Boys catching up on girls in English grades
  • Learners more motivated

My Mobiliser

Some learners, especially boys, will only read on screen: ebooks.

  • They can be annotated (notes, drawings).
  • Easily shared (with annotations and questions overlaid).
  • Dictionary lookup.
  • Are sometimes free, e.g. Shakespeare.
  • Can be added to with scanned images or text from the learners.

Because devices are wifi enabled:

  • The teacher can easily distribute files to everyone in a class.
  • The teacher can easily receive files (assignments) from the learners.


  • Sustainability
  • Giving teachers the space, time and permission to innovate
  • Defining what is “acceptable” digital work
  • Teacher PD
  • Blending personalised 24/7 access to the present school structures
  • Assessment needs to recognise different media submissions
  • Volatility of a “consumerised” hardware market
  • Connectivity costs (school wifi, 3G, GPRS, etc.)
  • Teachers reluctance to change
  • No models of effective integration of mlearning
  • No single solution for total mlearning integration

Have now added social networking: Gold Star Cafe (for 7-11 year olds, safe and secure space)

To use the mobile in the classroom, need:

  • Office suite
  • Way to collect assignments from learners

Focus on Scotland
One classroom uses Wii’s Endless Ocean, a game where the player is a scuba diver who explores the ocean. There is only one Wii console in the classroom. To workaround this constraint the teacher has created a number of activities that compliment actual Wiii game play, e.g.

  • Learners have to write a persuasive letter/essay on why they should be one of the key divers in the game.
  • Creative writing: learners have to keep a paper-based diver’s log. They create a diver and write an autobiography for him/her. Pieces also include drawings (art outcomes).

Thus, the writing meets the following curriculum outcomes:

  • Persuasive writing
  • Writing for information
  • Imaginative writing


  • Coherence of learning — NB to tie the game-based learning to offline activities, e.g. posters, discussions, etc.
  • Learners were asked to design their own Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training game. The design was in the form of a narrative, written on paper.
  • The game play can be done on one console by the whole class, but the curriculum learning outcomes are enabled around that. The game narrative sets the context for these learning activities. So, games enhance the learning experiences that the teachers have planned.

Matt Lock, Channel 4
When designing educational experiences, he is not interested in the technology but rather in the “spaces”. Each of these spaces have their own qualities and user expectations:

  • Secret spaces: Mobile, SMS, IM (transactional activities: stroking behaviour)
  • Group spaces: Bebo, Facebook, Tagged, etc.
  • Publishing spaces: LiveJournal, Blogger, Flickr, Photobucket, etc.
  • Performing spaces: Second Life, WoW, Home, etc.
  • Participation spaces: marches, meetings, markets, events, etc.
  • Watching spaces: TV, gigs, theatre, etc.

Example project: Battlefront (description of project)

  • 20 young people between 16-21 years old that are being tracked over 9 months about a change they want to make in their lives, e.g. campaign against Size Zero models.
  • Each person has their own Bebo profile and Flip video cameras.
  • The Battle Front project also has a profile on Bebo that aggregates the others’ content.
  • The participants were chosen through a competition.
  • Mentors who have experience with campaigning and social innovation help the participants.
  • Various media track the participants, e.g. TV.

How to get young peoples’ attention:

  • Distribute everywhere
  • Start at least 6 weeks before launch
  • Go to where your audience is
  • Competitions/virals can work, but need to be relevant
  • Make games!

Keeping attention:

  • Make it easy to find content
  • Repackage content as catch-ups
  • Make it easy to subscribe/sign-up
  • Tweak and redesign throughout the project
  • Bring the most popular stories to the top
  • Make games!

Turning attention into action:

  • Make it easy (not that many people actually make videos), e.g. get them to text in
  • Reward people constantly
  • Include audience activity in the story
  • Make games!

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