I recently attended the GESS / GEF conference at Dubai Airport Expo. While following my students around to encourage them to attend to their tasks, I stopped in three different booths and actually talked to people. The first was one of many interactive teaching hardware companies.
They gave an impressive display of hardware and software integration, but I quickly discovered two things.
- Their software was client based. Thus, it was not connected to the web or to a database. Consequently, the scores and data can not be shared with parents, or indeed, the students. There is no longitudinal process to retain the scores and content. If the computer crashes, there goes your data. Of course it can be backed up, but it cannot be readily shared.
- Their software was linked to their hardware. Consequently, students cannot use their favourite brand of laptop or phone, and you have to rely on their technicians and hope that the little clicker devices do not get lost. It seemed a little out of date. (Sorry to the very enthusiastic presenters). I should add that these comments apply to all such companies and their tools.
I then went to a company that supplied equipment for use with Apple products. My wife will tell you I am not impressed by their cool designs and funky swiping. They are expensive and do not actually work any better than a regular-joe laptop with the same specs... and they do crash ... spectacularly! Apple users, YOU know I am right.
Well, they had some lovely toys, but you need an Ipod Touch to use them. This is an expensive gadget and you can't even make a phone call with it. The presenter told me that most schools provide the ipods for the students. Two more things:
- Apple products, as I have mentioned, are expensive to purchase (here in the UAE a comparable Apple laptop costs more than double a similar matched pc laptop). They look great and are really cool, but double the price? C'mon.
- More importantly, their software products, including their websites and APPs are all based on, and generally only work on Apple products. I do love my 160GB Ipod Classic, but I find it really annoying that I cannot plug my Nokia phone_with_MP3player into Itunes. Do I really have to tell all my students, who already have at least one laptop and a Blackberry, Nokia, Samsung, (or perhaps an Iphone), that they have to go and spend more money?
Finally, I went to a company that specializes in designing learning spaces based on Moodle. The gentleman and I had a lovely talk. He confirmed what I suspected and have been pushing towards for some time.
- Learning is rapidly becoming dependent on mobile technology. Laptops will not go away (have you seen a PC tower lately...), but students and teachers will increasingly expect to access more content and communicate through their mobile devices. Typing for a discussion board? Just record a podcast. Not only is a podcast easier to record that to type a response on a mobile device, but the podcast is easier to listen to than to read a discussion board.
So, the lesson for today: don't get stuck with non-web-based devices or on platform dependent technology