Forget about SmartPhones use a SmartPen ;-)

LiveScribe SmartPen is an amazing technology built into a pen ( I saw comparable technology some years ago coupled with webcasting from Tegrity ( with Tegrity notes. Tegrity notes simply linked your personal notes written on special paper with the webcast of a live seminar, so basically after the lecture you have lots of possibilities to explore your notes, the online stream, and the slides shown. This basically gives you a variety of access cues to learning content. Interesting options developed from that can be seen now with Tegrity iPhone apps. This is basically a mix of instant feedback system and webcast annotation tool. As far as I get the idea one can whilst sitting in class annotate the lecture with a simple interface like a word track changes and annotation tool. This on the one hand can be used as a feedback instrument for educators where there presentation or talk was unclear on the other hand for learners also in combination with shared peer annotations.

I did not follow up this technology in the last two years and came across LiveScribe SmartPen today. To pack the functionality of a voice recorder, notes recorder into a pen is a smart idea but this seems to be much more as it makes your paper and your drawings interactive. A really nice example is the translation demo, so write a word on the paper and the pen translates it for you, or draw a piano keyboard on the paper to play some music. Some demos in the video here or a marketing one here.

Furthermore of course there is also an app store for SmartPen, so I think we can broaden the concept of the Apple App Store to other objects in your world, so whats about an app store for a pan (lots of cooking apps), an app store for a table, one for your cupboard, off course for your car …

LiveScribe also offers an SmartPen SDK ( development of Penlets is in Java and integrated with Eclipse.

The interesting thing about a pen is that it becomes multimodal and off course the preferred modality for the digital media is audio as you are already writing with the pen. I think in general lots of these kinds of apps built on the principles of reflection in action and reflection about action from Donald Schön. The important point is that the good technologies in this category offer well focused support for a dedicated forms of activity in a learning process.

So more to come of PenLets, CarLets, PlateLets, ForkLets, ShirtLets …

Reflections on an iPad week

 Since last week I am the proud owner of an iPad. So what luxury you may think ;-).

Nevertheless I think working with this thing and typing this blog entry on the virtual keyboard helps to develop a better sense for what these kind of devices might be good for and what are wrong assumptions. Definitely Apple has put a lot of time and brain into how this thing looks, feels and what it is good for. So here some of my personal insights:

– Reading: First of all it is a great thing for reading, taking your PDFs or docs with you on the train or the plain reading them is awesome. Nevertheless the immediate second thing you miss is: decent software for annotation of PDF and docs. Why not to have the possibility to add notes? THis is what I do a lot with reviews, interesting articles, with nearly everything I read. Secondly about reading: so I got myself pages on the iPad to read some docs and annotate them but what a disappointment no integration with MobileMe (document synching via USB … Hä?, come on). Luckily you have stuff as DropBox and GoodReader to help out getting document out of the cloud. The weird thing I found is that you can share docs via but you can not access them directly from pages. Naja .. iPad is great for reading RSS feeds, annotating them and instant sharing them via Twitter, saving them on delicious and so on. I am still not which RSS reader is my favourite one, NewsRack, NetNewsWire, …

:addition after watching keynote: in the next update of iBook you can PDFs to iBooks and annotate and bookmark pages, great so hopefully that with cloud integration 😉

– Gaming and collaborative apps, this is where the iPad is really great for. Having a marble app which you can play with 4 people, a shared experience where technology real does not feel in the way but like an enhanced gameboard, still a small one but hey! Driving a car by holding the augmented display before your face and listening to music, real immersive ;-). I think a lot of innovation will come up on the shared power of the display by probably also combining two or more iPads or just using one in the traditional ways of game boards. I think very soon these things become commodity and then you just take the iPad as a book, mail client, a chess board, a RSS reader of public news and scientific articles to the beach.

– Drawbacks:

a) so as announced today in iOS4 we will hopefully soon get multitasking. As this is even more important for a tool like iPad on which you have already some basic workflows in place and need personalized cross app functionality.

b) give me the cloud: Better integration with the cloud, I think this is also essential as it is a " take with me … care about my content later …" device. It is not about copying all you music or document via USB sync to the iPad … Then I will just get out my MacBook.

c) a full browser, why should I looked at trimmed pages made for small displays this thing has a real display. Off course you can get third party apps but why does one need workarounds that also use WebKit.  

More to come …


iPhone projects from RWTH on iTunes U

 Today I watched the project presentation of the iPhone programming course from the RWTH, all videos and materials are available on iTunes U. Quite nice projects that offer new services for students and educators for the RWTH campus. There is also a WIKI page for the final projects.

Final Projects:

  • iL2Phone: A mobile client for the L2P System
  • iUConnect: A location based social interaction app.
  • iMensa: Check todays menu with recommenda
  • Flashcards: Learn for your exams alone or in multi-player mode.
  • uDay: Schedule your lectures, find your way to the lecture halls.
  • Hörsäle: Gives a survey of the RWTH lecture halls

Would be interesting what kind of apps and services would be relevant also for lifelong learners of OUNL type. For lifelong learners the daily environment becomes your campus. The project presentations show classical flashcards applications (with a nice tweak on collaborative flashcards), scheduling, location tracking, social networking, and others. Quite a broad use of frameworks and nice demos.


Contextual Advertising

 Apple is recently investigating the use of context and contextual sensors for contextual marketing (see report from AppleInsider ). This is doing a lot of stuff we have been exploring the Learning Media Lab about using barcode scanners, RFID readers, location tracking indoor and outdoor for filtering content for the current context of the user. The description includes also different aspects as personalisation and contextualisation. So I wonder if one could use the the iAd framework not only for selling advertisements but also learning nuggets ?


Understanding mobile and ubiquitous learning?

As I described in Specht (2009) technologies today are in rapid changing process influencing daily use of media, especially mobile and embedded use of media in real life situations.  The impact mobile and ubiquitous technologies is not only visible in every day life especially with the younger generation, but also in education as described in the Horizon resports (2005-2010). As such we are confronted with a rapidly changing technological environment offering new options and media related innovations enabling new educational support. Therefore necessary actions for a successful research on mobile and ubiquitous learning technologies is threefold

 Developing a theory of learning in technology enhanced environments: Understanding the effects of embedded and mobile media artefacts in the real world and their effects on learning has to consider a variety of cognitive science research, educational sciences, and psychology of learning, as also underlying research as mobile HCI, Internet of Things. These approaches and theories have to be considered and a theory about what is learning, performance, and education in such an technology enhanced world has to be developed.

Abstract modeling of technology enhanced learning process and environments: Understanding design options and possibilities of new technologies and defining an abstracted model that allows the specification of learning support of the future. The designed models can be seen independent from current technological developments but aligned with a future vision of what we expect technology to be able to support in the coming 10-15 years.

Evaluation with design oriented research practices: based on the theory, the abstract modeling of technology enhanced educational artefacts and the interaction with those specific implementation and instantiations of these have to be built and empirically evaluated.

Mobile technologies to monitor in 2010

 Read and Write Web discusses some technologies which should be monitored in 2010 and which are relevant for mobile learning. These include

Bluetooth 3.0, Mobile User Interfaces + Mobile Web/Widgets, Location Awareness, Near Field Communication (NFC). 802.11n & Cellular Broadband, Display Technologies


For more information on these above technologies, you can read through the full report available here on Gartner’s web site.


Mobile Learning in Modulair

CELSTEC’s Marcus Specht was interviewed by Modulair, the magazine for students of the Open Universiteit. Topic of the interview was mobile learning in education.

Read the interview (in Dutch) here.

Hoe kunnen we het mobieltje inzetten bij het leren? Daar gaat het om bij het onderzoek van prof. dr. Marcus Specht. Werd het mobieltje eerst als storende factor gezien in het klaslokaal, nu is het een sleutel tot een nieuwe, persoonlijke leerwereld.

Learning in a Technology Enhanced World

You can download my inaugural address aas PDF from at: in a Technology Enhanced World

As an abstract:

Technology pervades ever more and ever deeper the very fabric of our Life. Science fiction writers draw a vision of a world enhanced with sensor grids and nano-bots in which we live surrounded by ubiquitous technology embedded in everyday objects. For some of us this vision of the future might be scaring, for others bright. Here I would like to discuss the impact this change has on learning and the research necessary to create the available technological options and choices for supporting learning. This address tries to take a broad perspective on learning in a technology enhanced world and define the road to a better understanding of context in ubiquitous learning support.
On the one hand ubiquitous technology nowadays changes the way we communicate and it enhances our capabilities to connect with others or interact with our augmented environment. These media are by no means neutral, interchangeable instruments that just support human needs, but instead they are assumed to actively enable new modes of human behaviour and human learning: people change by their tools (Feenberg, 1991).
On the other hand instructional and learning sciences rarely have had an impact on the design of new technologies. In this address I will describe some evidence that we are in the middle of a qualitative change for the role of technology for learning and that there is an important contribution from the learning sciences to define future technology for learning. 
A key claim is that technological innovation and educational paradigms have to develop side-by-side, connecting technology innovation, educational models, and theories for contextual learning.
A key question in this work is: how can we unleash the power of contextual effects when we design ubiquitous learning support?