mlearn project

Charles Sturt University's Mobile Learning Project


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iPads are GO!

Last Thursday saw the delivery of 22 wifi-iPads into the hands of excited Education students. Believe me, they were excited — with the experience more akin to Christmas than a university device trial.

iPads Yeah!The session was not quite what I expected, in short it was absolute bedlam! The spectrum of ability with the device ranged from experts to those who had never used one, had not much experience with Apple products and didn’t have an iTunes account right through to those students who brought their own iPads!

At one extreme I had students who whooped, ripped the plastic off the devices and had run through the setup and was downloading apps while I was still handing the last device out. At the other end of the spectrum, I went step by step through setting up the iPad, and in several cases, guided students through the process of getting an Apple ID.

Working with the tech savvy spectrum

It was definitely a good lesson for me. I’m a qualified trainer, but I have never had to work with such a wide range of technical abilities before. Students have usually come to me with a good grounding in computing and an aptitude for technology. It will be interesting watching how the class manages with the exercises that have been designed specifically for the use of the iPad. All of these students know how to use a pen and paper, but the iPad may pose a challenge in thinking and doing for some of the less technically savvy ones.

Overall the class went well, although we ran out of time to show them how to use the primary app that the lecturer and I had selected for them. In the end I was left uncertain about how prepared they’d be for the next assignment which would be prepared exclusively on the iPad. I have some thinking to do about how much the new technology will impact their ability to get through the subject material in the time available, but that is a discussion for another week.


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The New iPad

So the new iPad has arrived. Its been met with mixed reactions in the media and a lot of “meh” from the tech blogs (like this one). Rather than be revolutionary the new iPad (oh yeah, that’s its name – the New iPad) is evolutionary. But the kind of evolution we are talking about is quite dramatic, in the sense that we are skipping stages. We are talking something similar to television going from black and white to colour, that sort of evolutionary step. Two years ago Apple created the tablet market, this time they are changing the we see it.

The big feature of the new iPad is the arrival of what Apple calls a “Retina Display” – where the pixels have been made smaller and many many more pixels are able to fit into a smaller space so that they are almost indistinguishable. This creates a crispness and clarity that rivals the printed page.

In real world terms the new iPad has more pixels in its 10.1″ screen than in your 50″ plasma. Its almost twice as high definition as blu-ray and HD TV. The only way to truly see how crisp and clear the new iPad to see it with your own eyes, because nothing out there can actually replicate it.

The new iPad represents a leap in display technology that Apple have been working on for close to a decade and it puts Apple way ahead of the competition. Other manufacturers have been obsessing over the chips inside, how fast and powerful they can make them, but most people don’t care about that. They want functionality, not a spec sheet. Apple have gone and developed something that makes a difference every day and every time you use it.

The Retina Display and the recent iBooks announcement puts Apple in the drivers seat when it comes to education. One of the key complaints by many people (quite often not iPad users) is that they don’t like reading of a screen. But now when the screen is as crisp and as clear as a printed page does that excuse still wear? Apple have just made reading on a tablet a much better experience, actually no – they have made reading on an iPad much better.

Looking for a recommendation on buying the new iPad? Well … I think it depends.

  • If you’re looking to upgrade from an iPad 1 – then yes it makes sense. The performance improvements alone will justify the spend.
  • If you’re a new tablet user – then you won’t get a choice. The next model will replace the current iPad 2 line.
  • If you currently have an iPad 2… thats a harder choice. When it’s released, I think you will know just by looking and playing with it if you want to upgrade. So head to you local store and see it for yourself.

What Apple have signalled is that the new iPad is the future and each new device is an increment and an evolution.They’ve even dumped the numbering scheme to prove this. They might not blow the tech writers away every time they come out, but what other product gets so much hype for a new model?  You don’t see a MacBook 11 or Sony TV 5 and you certainly don’t see this much coverage for any other piece of technology!

The iPad is consistently resetting the benchmark for the tablet, and the bar just got a little higher.


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New toys for mLearn

Hello, my name is Tyswan, and I’m one of the new Graphic and User Interface designers on the project. In the coming months I’ll be doing some work on ePub formats, student instructional materials and supporting the Bathurst device trials. You can read all about me on the Team page.

Let me start off by saying that I didn’t accept this job because of all the cool iOS and mac toys I’d get to play with… but I’m definitely not complaining!

With the device trials starting up at the beginning of the session I have had 21 shiny wifi iPads and cases land on my desk, along with a very slick macbook air. I have already set up three of the iPads, and lent two of them out to the academics in the School of Education who will be running the Bathurst device trials. Another 63 iPads with cases have arrived in Wagga.

new macbook air and iPadI probably shouldn’t admit how much of a learning curve it’s been for me as I have never owned an iPad (and have only just bought an iPhone), and I’ve had to quickly become familiar with wireless settings, synching with iTunes, storing documents in the cloud and the plethora of apps out there, not to mention writing with my finger.

Fortunately my experiences mirror many of the issues that the students involved in the trial will face as they get used to a (possibly) new way of working in a predominately electronic space.

The next step is to look at how the iPads will be used in the specific courses. Here at Bathurst, we are currently now assessing a range of apps that will be used in a multi-modal writing course.

I’ve learnt very quickly that although there are plenty of apps out there, each is designed with a slightly different focus, and the real work is looking at integration of the apps, and designing how they will work together to meet the teaching needs of the lecturers, rather than a straight out comparison of features.

I love the lateral thinking that is required to see what the lecturers are trying to achieve and then finding the software, apps and processes that can help them to make the learning experience as fun and seamless as possible. And if playing with a shiny new iPad all day is part of my job, then so much the better!


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2012: The Year of the iPad!

So far 2012 has been a fantastic year! We now have the development team all on board – Tyswan, Jared and Rod! All our equipment has arrived or is enroute – which includes over 80 iPads. At the moment I am surrounded by them! We have a mix of WiFi and 3G models that we will be rolling out at the end of the month. So development and testing will be in full swing from next week!