Friday, October 28, 2016

m-Learning in Sydney

The 15th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning (mLearn 2016), was held at the University of Technology in Sydney, 24 to 26 October. There were five parallel sessions in the MLearn2016 Program. The mLearn 2016 Proceedings are available as a PDF file. Here is a summary of my notes from the event:

UTS Bachelor of Technology and Innovation

Professor Shirley Alexander, UTS Deputy Vice-Chancellor, welcomed the delegates and talked about the UTS Bachelor of Technology and Innovation (BTI), being introduced next year. This is a general degree in technology, suitable for those going into business. I am skeptical of the idea of a BTI as the 21st Century replacement for the arts degree. BIT graduates may end up like arts graduates: well educated, but not qualified for any real job.

Mobile Learning and Indigenous People

Marguerite Koole Assistant Professor, Curriculum Studies at University of Saskatchewan described applying a frame model of learning (Koole & Ally, 2006).

Kevinwâsakâyâsiw Lewis, then talked about the teaching of teachers of indigenous languages in the University of Saskatchewan's Certificate in Indigenous Languages. Asked about the relevance of song in language learning, Kevin pointed out that chant and song enables the learner to stop worrying about how they pronounce. Also the repetition in the song helps learning, as well as being culturally significant. This reminded me of Dr McComas Taylor, at ANU's Teaching Sanskrit online with chanting.

mLearning for Aboriginal Pre-service Teachers in Remote Communities

Philip Townsend talked on "A Theory of Enhancement of Professional Learning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Pre-service Teachers in Very Remote Communities through Mobile Learning". He pointed out that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have a much lower completion rate than the general population. The Community Based ITE program, specifically for students in remote areas, has an even lower completion rate than other forms of education. Philip has devoted his PHD research to finding if mobile devices can improve completion rates. Also he mentioned the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation. I suggest that addressing the needs of remote students can assist all students. If we make courses flexible enough for the remote students, these courses will also be better for city and campus based students. Philip was awarded top paper at the conference.

Mobiles for TEQSA Regulatory Course Compliance

Anthony Chung from mobileLearning gave one of the more practical and less academic (in a good way) sessions on "How does a Mobile Platform Address TEQSA and Other Regulatory Compliance for Online Courses?". Anthony went through some of the TEQSA requirements and how these could be facilitated with mobile devices. What was interesting about mobileLearning's approach is that they provide  mobile interface to the institution's native educational applications, rather than replace them. The idea is to make it easier for students and staff to do what is educationally useful. One example is to encourage the student to engage with the learning. This can be difficult where a Learning Management System (LMS) design for static desktop pages is used. The mobile interface can make it easier to access the materials and interact.

IamLearn AGM

The AGM of the International Association for Mobile Learning (IamLearn), was held in conjunction with the conference. Because I registered for the conference I received a year's membership. One initiative is that a new website will allow members to add content directly, rather than emailed to an officeholder who then puts it up. This is something other organizations might like to try

Telstra on Personalised mEducation

 Susi Steigler-Peters, from Telstra Corporation talked on "Personalised Learning, mEducation and Partnerships". Susi spent most of the time describing research on education Telstra has funded over the last few years. This research sounds well designed, but does not tell us, as educators, anything new. So I asked Susi how Telstra could help improve education. In response she cited something called "Telstra Smart Learning" and presented a use case of a student named "Ferris" having an "enriched learning experience". Susi also mentioned a center to be established in Sydney for education. It might be useful for Telstra to instead showcase some of the work in their muru-D startup accelerator.

Online Tutorials for Higher Education

Norman Wildberger and Joshua Capel presented an excellent live demonstration of "Higher Education Practice Online Tutorials and GeoGebra as Mobile Learning Tools" used for teaching mathematics at UNSW. However,what seemed to be missing was a business model to support the high up-front investment to produce such material.

UNSW mLearning Physics

Elizabeth Angstmann talked on "Higher Education Practice Using a mobile Moodle app in an online physics course". This shows an approach to education which focuses on ensuring that e-quality education can provide quality education, backed up by solid research.

Identity and the Mobile Learner

Professor John Traxler, University of Wolverhampton gave the last keynote on "The Role of Education in Identity Transformation and Acculturation". Professor Traxler challenged the assumption that m-learning (and education in general) was a culturally neutral boon for developing nations. Rather than telling us a canned answer, this was a presentation asking questions, which was refreshing.

Professor Traxler is concerned about a Western European view of education and technology being culturally imposed on others. However, this might also be a product of that culture.

Online Education for Prisoners

Louise Patching, USQ, talked on "Using Offline Personal Devices to Enable Access to Higher Education in Prisons" for the Making the Connection Project. Louise pointed out that lack of Internet access is only one factor limiting e-learning in prisons; also there is limited access to hardware, limited prior education of the students. She explained that USQ had decades of experience in teaching prisoners. USQ has a special server for providing materials to prisons and a way for materials to be loaded to portable devices.

Some of what USQ has done would be useful, more generally for students. For example, a problem with webinars is where students have inadvertent left their microphones turned on. I suggest that the off-line features could be built into Moodle and the Linux operating system, allowing the approach taken by USQ to be made available world-wide at no cost.

Encouraging Faculty Development

 Lisa O’Neill, York University, talked on "Encouraging Faculty Development Through Micro-Credentialing". This presented a good overview of the mechanics of recognizing small units of learning with "badges". However, what is also needed is a way to motivate university academics to learn to teach and undertake activities which award such badges.

I suggest that university educators should follow the approach used by nurses and computer professionals in Australia to enhance their recognition of their profession. This could include draft policy for universities and government to require and recognize teaching qualifications of university academics. Also they could suggest changes to university ranking schemes to give teaching quality the same weighting as research output.


Koole, M., & Ally, M. (2006, April). Framework for the rational analysis of mobile education (FRAME) model: Revising the ABCs of educational practices. In International Conference on Networking, International Conference on Systems and International Conference on Mobile Communications and Learning Technologies (ICNICONSMCL'06) (pp. 216-216). IEEE. Retrieved from
Townsend, P., Halsey, J. R., & Guenther, J. (2016). Mobile Learning Congruencies with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Philosophies. In Publishing Higher Degree Research (pp. 25-32). SensePublishers. Retrieved from 

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