Mobile Learning: Telling Tales, 09 July 2009 – Event Review

This event explored developments in mobile learning to exploit their potential for the delivery of the services which Mimas offers. We brought together renowned experts in mobile learning to find out how the mobile phone and other handheld devices are changing the way teachers are teaching, and how students are learning.

" What a great bunch of innovative, radical thinkers! The day was excellent."
Colin Hawksworth


Presentations from the day are available, along with photos and the many Twitter postings with the event tag '#mimasmob09'. The event was filmed, and videos will be online shortly. To keep up to date with Mimas Mobile and other news, follow our 'Mimas News' Twitter RSS Feed.

Photo of Lorraine EstelleLorraine Estelle, CEO of JISC Collections, welcomed the participants. She was reminded of something Lyn Brindley of the British Library said, "The environment has arguably changed more in the last two decades than in two centuries".

Her key message was that we all have a mobile device of some sort, and delivery of e-learning is an important part of education. We must embrace new technologies.

Keynote 1: Telling Tales, Graham Brown-Martin

Not so long ago at a talk at the Edinburgh Festival, Graham shocked the audience by predicting that the desktop PC would be dead by 2012, and that the laptop was on its way out. Today, this prediction looks prescient.

Photo of GrahamGraham challenged the acceptance of learning being classroom-based.

"We got classrooms when we had workhouses," he said (a point which John Cook emphasised later in the day when he showed us pictures of some dour Victorian schools).

Graham showed us some great games: Spore, Little Big Planet, and Endless Ocean. He encouraged us to try them out, to experience the discovery, decision-making and information gathering that well-constructed games exercise. He also explored the impact that the consumer electronics industry will have on learning.

Keynote 2: The Reality of Learning, John Traxler

Photo of John Traxler John talked about the Mlearning project, which aimed to take learning to the homeless.

John talked of "Proximity", which was a theme that several speakers mentioned during the day. He mentioned that there are different types of proximity – not just geographical, but also in learning, time and social and economic.

The Hare and the Tortoise

Stuart Smith (3Sheep, formerly of Mimas)

Stuart started with the assertion that the classification of users into the categories "Technological natives" and "Technological immigrants" as nonsense – "Tech is easy," he said. Stuart pointed out that mobile learning has been around for a while, in a variety of formats.

He mentioned that MoLeNET 3 funding has been announced. Stuart ended by saying there was too much money spent on infrastructure, and consequently not enough on content.

Andy Ramsden (Bath University)

"not even there and been able to learn what a QR code is, create one and scan and view a site on a Nokia E71."


Andy talked about QR codes. There was a good awareness of QR codes in the room. Andy explained what the University of Bath was doing with QR codes, including in the library and using them for improving feedback at poster events.

Andy mentioned this useful resource, showing how to bookmark resources using QR codes at Bath University.

Two final points Andy made were that students' awareness of QR codes was not high, and that these codes were an interim step and would become obsolete once near field communication comes on stream.

Simon Ball (JISC TechDis)

"Enjoying the positive view of tech & accessibility coming from dr simon ball."


Simon provided some fascinating examples of how mobiles can enable inclusivity, and lots of examples of how TechDis wants to stay ahead of the game in inclusive practice, rather than comment on what already exists.

Simon provided a useful link to a Web2.0 evaluation tool, and mentioned Xerte, an accessible learning resource creation tool.

New Lamps for Old

Geoff Butters (MMU)

Geoff reiterated some of the points made in the keynote by Graham about how school children are different now, and about the role of games and mobile technology in learning.

Children today:

The Project stands for 'Motivating Active Participation of Primary Schoolchildren in Digital Online Technologies for Creative Opportunities through Multimedia'. The project started in 2005, and has been run in 17 schools in new EU Member States. It is a map-based game for primary school children to motivate active participation in digital online technologies. It also helps children to learn about the area in which they live.

Presentation and Resources (University of Sussex and London Knowledge Lab)

View Geoff Butter's presentation.

Hilary Smith and Kevin Walker

Note: This session was not videoed.

The 'e-Science Usability Project'

The idea of the 'e-Science Usability Project' was to use technology that kids already use to make them reflect and report on experiments. They use Shozu software to set up mobiles for uploads and use Google spreadsheets to input readings from the tests they perform.

A demonstration was done during the session of an experiment that the children would do. Kevin Walker assisted two members of the audience with creating the experiment and uploading the results.

Windmill-getting started Constructing the windmill
Creating the windmill

'How much energy from a windmill?' Experiment

The challenge was to create a windmill, using the various arts and crafts materials available, then test it, take a photo of it and upload the results to the web for the rest of the room to see.

Windmill-uploading photo
Take a photo and upload

Presentation and Resources

View Hilary Smith's presentation.

"Enjoyed #mimasmob09 today. Enjoyed presentations from Hilary Smith, @johnnigelcook and @jamesclay."

Spatial Literacy

Gary Priestnall (SPLINT, University of Nottingham)

"Fascinating work being discussed @ #mimasmob09."


Gary showcased innovations that are transforming how Geography is being taught in a very engaging and informative way. He talked of the work which the SPLINT Centre is doing and showcased how GPS and handheld devices are being used on field trips. Gary also demonstrated how enthusiastic the students are when they use these devices.

"Wishing i had done geography a-level now."

Presentation and Resources

View Gary Priestnall's presentation.

John Cook (London Metropolitan University)

To illustrate the use of mobile learning, and proximity, John talked about a very successful Education Studies project at London Metropolitan University. Using Ring Cross (an area of great deprivation north of Kings Cross in London) as their territory, students looked at how the area had changed (using photographs and video from Pathé News), and, in particular at the changing architecture of schools and the principles that they embodied.

The GPS-enabled phone provided information about the the physical location of the students, and prompted an historical dimension and an emotional dimension – what is the relationship between the physical environment, how does it affect pupils and teachers?

The satisfaction rate for this course was "massive", confirming John's assertion that blended learning enhances learning beyond other means.

Presentation and Resources

Open Session

There was an interactive session on what is enabling mobile learning, and what are the barriers to it. A full list of conclusions is available on the Presentations page.

The key enablers and barriers included:



Final Speaker: James Clay (Gloucestershire College)

'The Future of Learning'

James gave an entertaining and informative talk, which looked at the history of learning and how mobile devices might free us from geographical constraints in the future.

He showcased a number of devices and sites which benefit learners. He also asked intriguing questions about where we go from here. James recorded his talk, and you can watch the video on his blog.

Wordle image showing words which sum up the dayImage courtesy of Wordle.

Images of Wordles are licensed by a Creative Commons LogoCreative Commons License.

Photo Credits

The photos used in this review were either taken by Mimas staff members or used with kind permission of speakers and delegates.