early mobile learning projects

In the very earliest days of "mobile" phones (cell phones, as they were then) we were lucky enough to have a number of live projects where we might explore the power of a phone that went with you, rather than one bolted to a wall, fixed in a booth, or tied to a desk. My own first phone was this one - heaven knows what the power output was, but it never dropped its signal, even in the Welsh mountains. Most of the body was battery of course, but note the "traditional" handset on top. It ran on 12v and was a "car phone":


Not surprisingly, the very first time we ran phones with children in school (for example with Carole Chapman's ground breaking Learning in the New Millennium project) they offered fresh ideas as to how they might be harnessed in the classroom. For example the very first child we asked suggested she might phone school students in France to practice her spoken French. Of course, none of them suggested that the technology might be inappropriate for learning...

ull banner

Our first big Ultralab project with smart phones, the Ultra Language Lab, really got going in 1998 but began in 1997; it was project managed by Alice Mitchell and looked at building a series of "just in time" narratives for business folk needing a quick fix for their language needs in German, French and so on.

In those days Apple's QuickTime supported a variety of text tracks so that textual clues and cues, as well as a full transcript, were enabled to scaffold the language learning. The key insight was that the smart phone could hold and run little applications to deliver very specific learning needs with multimedia resources - animation, sound, text tracks etc. By linking these resources into little business related narratives - which a quite interesting sub plot - the learning was entertaining, and quite compelling. The pedagogy was thought through and effective:


A decade later of course iPhones and apps took all this further - although to date not necessarily better (!).

There was also a website to add another perspective to the story and to the language learning - the website and smartphone based applications were different and complemented each other, rather than just being the same content replicated for differing formats.

Anyway, here is a link to the website that accompanied the original smart phone based app. Apple have pulled the proprietary text tracks from Quicktime today, which if I get a minute I will re-implement.

Anyway - all in all, not bad for 1997.


this page last updated by professor stephen heppell: Monday, January 30, 2012 15:19