Writing, speaking, and translating the future

Peripateticware: Education for mobile devices

Peripateticware: Education for mobile devices 1

This was originally written in 2007.
Though it does not directly discuss ereaders the relationship is clear. The article is slanted towards Mcgraw-Hill since that was my employer at the time I wrote this.
Peripateticware or Mobile education
Peripateticware is a name I’ve coined to identify products designed for mobile devices. It points to the term that is used to identify Aristotle’s method of teaching as he walked with his students in the Lyceum. Other terms that might work for this type of software are Mobileware or Mobile education. It is merely a way to identify products specifically designed for handheld devices that leverage mobility and location as a unique design feature. The field of mobile software is relatively young. The advantages that this area might offer for education has limited studies and few (if any) of those studies are longitudinal studies that would serve as a basis for us to utilize as research to support new products. Having made that point clear from the outset I’d like to examine the potential of this emerging medium and explore some of the ways it is already being used in classrooms. I don’t believe that this field of “unleashed education” will ever replace the necessity and usefulness of online software or products, but I do believe that it will open new opportunities for learning and engaging students.
I will examine here the individualization these mobile products might provide, and the interactivity that they may make possible. First I would like to look at the user interface itself. Most technology products work like the books that have spawned them. They are designed to be presented in a stacked or integumental fashion. There is of course an important reason for this. One can’t read unless she can recognize the individual sounds that letters make and the meanings of words they represent. Nor can one do algebra without first knowing basic addition and subtraction.
But what if that were not tied to the book model? What if educational products allowed students to explore ideas and to follow their passions? What if a math product presented a discussion of the arch when a student stood inside a cathedral even though mathematically that student did not understand the math that created that arch? To go further, what if the student could learn the history of the church, the biography of the architect, and the role religion played in the founding of the United States of America. Wouldn’t this ignite their passions to learn more and begin to see that it was important to understand mathematics to better understand weight distribution, architecture, design, construction and many other subjects?
This type of learning would be completely individualized, but also somewhat chaotic. How would the student learn the mathematics of the arch if she was so busy following the tangents that were presented to her? My argument is that mobile products have the potential to be more like choose your own adventure books that textbooks. Rather than mandating instructional design and leading students kicking and screaming their way to knowledge, these products could prompt students to follow their passions and learn along the way.
The beauty of this “choose your own adventure method” is that the learner will almost always choose more than one path. This of course could also be maddening for a teacher who just needs to cover the mathematics of the arch. Needless to say these individualized educational products would require different types of instructional design, different types of programming and different types of assessment tools. But before I discuss those issues I’d like to look more closely at how these mobile products would affect interactivity.
Interactivity is mostly considered to be a program’s ability to interact with the user. Interactivity can be defined by many of the casual games that are created to explore educational concepts. But “mobileware” presents a new type of interactivity. It is essentially superimposing the virtual world over the physical world- an idea commonly referred to as “augmented reality”. The software will not only interact with the user, but also its location. This shift in interactivity opens up whole new realms to be utilized for educational purposes.
Hewlett-Packard has created authoring software that allows users to program mobile devices to play multimedia based on GPS locations. These “mediascapes” allow students and anyone else to create walking tours, historical backgrounds and even interactive games all based on a user’s physical location. This new interactivity could be a valuable tool for educators, but how do we introduce this into products in a way that allows the teacher to maintain control of the student’s learning outcomes and easily assess the student’s abilities in core curricula.
Assessment is clearly the most difficult part of “unleashed education”. The mathematics of an arch, a barrel and celestial navigation may all be based on geometry, algebra, and trigonometry, but how can we create products that focus on these core elements while still encouraging exploration.  Rather than creating a list of correct answers for each lesson the easiest way to create a valuable assessment tool here would be to empower the teacher to use their own reasoning skills. If a student could illustrate mathematically how celestial navigation is performed or why a barrel holds liquid then they clearly understand the concepts at work. And if they can support it with the core math skills that are necessary, then they truly understand these core concepts. So how do you make an assessment tool for a barrel, celestial navigation and an arch that will produce the type of assessments that are becoming such a large part of our online products.
Though there may be a shift on the horizon, the curriculum of schools is more interested in assessment than comprehensive education. A spreadsheet of numbers that can be mailed to the principal is much more desirable than a well drafted arch or an explanation of how a barrel holds water. I think that designing these assessment tools is clearly the biggest challenge in Unleashing education. Or put another way a quantitative analysis of qualitative education is the problem educational publishers will need to address. I can’t think of an easy answer but I do see this as a major obstacle.
Mobile education products will demand more engaging content than is found in desktop educational products. The students who use them will demand more control over the products than our current interfaces and products can provide. Some of these products may be GPS-enabled to display or begin content at specific locations or in some other way interact with the geography of the student’s physical learning space. This will force us to think of new ways to engage and teach with software. Many of the instructional design techniques currently used will have to be adopted or abandoned for wireless classrooms. Locational awareness and interactivity will add complexity to lesson plans and standard assessment methods.  Learning becomes kinesthetic and Instructional designers have to figure out how to adapt their learning techniques and assessments for this new product line.

Unleashing Education

A case for developing software to be used with 3G and 4G mobile devices

Problem/opportunity • MH should devote some resources to developing

software for mobile devices. As mobile devices become cheaper,

ubiquitous, and more reliable they will become important tools in




To rethink MH educational products and develop products for both

desktop and mobile devices .

Objectives • Spur discussions for a new line of products that will not

be dependent on laptops and/or desktop computers. • These products

should take advantage of the mobility wireless handhelds will



Success Criteria

Assumptions Risks, Obstacles • Cellular phones will adopt many of the

features right now only available in PDAs and laptop computers

including: more memory, faster internet connections and creation

tools. • Due to the recent acquisition of the 700 Mhz bandwidth and

the Wimax mobile phone initiative cellular phones will be adopted into

education as 3G and 4G services are expanded on these new networks. •

New technology has permanently altered the way students learn.

Students have multiple attention spans and education tools must do

more-or allow students to do more- to keep them engaged in their

education. Mobile educational software (peripateticware if you will)

will need to engender active participation that engages these multiple

attention spans rather than prompt students to passively absorb their




• Mobile devices will make even the most remote and

isolated regions classrooms in physical settings. • Virtual learning

can take place anywhere without the need for traditional laptop and

desktop computers. • Adoption of cell phones and other mobile devices

will make the educational goal of 1 for 1 (one computing device for

every student possible) • Lower costs to schools and more actively

engaged students will be a result of this . • The lower cost and

ubiquity of cell phones with PDA-like features will open new avenues

of revenue for MH. There will be opportunities for govt. contracts to

develop walking tours, and educational products that are virtual

overlays on physical spaces.



• 3G has not been fully rolled out or standardized in the

U.S. • 4G has not been deployed or standardized so the products we

envision must be flexible enough to adapt to this changing

environment. • Mobile wireless devices will force MH to develop tools

as well as content-based learning products thus shifting our business

focus. Students will become the developers of their own knowledge with

the assistance of tools and content that MH provides.


Path Forward Recommendations

: • Conduct preliminary planning and

research for a new line of mobile education products that will allow

virtual lessons to be taught in physical locations. • Utilize MHPedia

to compile research for planning and sharing of information to prepare

for this new line of mobile products. • This discussion should focus

on ways of adapting current products and adding a uniquely mobile

design that leverages the value that can be gained from wireless

on-demand access to MH products and services.


Links for Further information:

PDA’s already being used in UK for student learning and Virtual

Cityscapes that are triggered by GPS locations

http://hpmobility.com/mscape.php http://www.mscapers.com/

UK educational organization that has produced many studies on ICT and

education. This page includes many tools and experiments on the use of

PDA’s and handhelds in Classrooms. http://www.futurelab.org.uk

Mark Anderson’s (http://www.stratnews.com founder) initiative to adapt

1 for 1 computing including his drive to use cell phones for

educational purposes. http://projectinkwell.com/

IEEE Standards for 802.16 -Broadband Wireless Access Standards-

802.16e is traditionally seen as 3G (up to 1Mbps speeds)


IEEE standards for 802.20 Mobile wireless Mobile Broadband Wireless

Access (potentially the standard of 4G cell phones) above 1 Mbps.

“Specification of physical and medium access control layers of an air

interface for interoperable mobile broadband wireless access systems,

operating in licensed bands below 3.5 GHz, optimized for IP-data

transport, with peak data rates per user in excess of 1 Mbps. It

supports various vehicular mobility classes up to 250 Km/h in a MAN

environment and targets spectral efficiencies, sustained user data

rates and numbers of active users that are all significantly higher

than achieved by existing mobile systems.” http://ieee802.org/20/

The Wall Street Journal covers Nintendo’s push into education and

reference materials in Japan. The article covers the uses of the

Nintendo DS device in Japanese classrooms.


The New York Times (6/25/07) reports on Kaplan testing entering the

handheld market for test preparation by devising SAT testing software

for the iPod. These prep. tools are being sold in the iTunes store for

($4.99) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/25/technology/25kaplan.html

Itunes U has come on line where students can download lectures as

podcasts from professors and K-12 educators from all over the country.

At last count there were thousands of lectures for download.

Palm has a page where it highlights the uses of their handhelds in

classroom settings. This is a valuable page to see how handheld

devices are already being used in academia.


North Carolina School district utilizes mobile smartphones for

improving math skills. The project is sponsored by Qualcomm and all

the phones are equipped with Ace-Comm software Parent Patrol to

control student access to web and telephone features on the

telephones. http://www.projectknect.org/Project%20K-Nect/Home.html


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