by Caryl Oliver
It is sometimes interesting to reflect on journey we are taking....
For the last 4 or 5 years I have been on an amazing journey into the fascinating world of mobile learning.
Yes, I know that we all hear and learn things while driving in the car or walking along the path with family and friends but what I am talking about is the delivery of training and lessons by means of mobile phones, pocket PCs and other portable devices.
In Australia there are 19.7million mobile phones - not bad for a country of 21 million people. I keep wondering how many babies are owners of mobile phones...
For the first couple of years I was interested in and distracted by the actual technology and what it could do. I had the most amazing time buying up all sorts of bits of equipment that offered various sorts of communication and mobility. What I learnt from that was that technology evolves at a rapid rate and you can safely assume that new technology is out of date within 90 days!
I presented the range of technology to many conferences and became known as the one who always has the newest "toy" to show off.
While this was fun and I now have a great deal of knowledge about mobile devices, it didn't actually give me a lot of progress in terms of developing ways in which teachers and students could use them to effectively connect with each other.
Text messaging was one obvious thing we looked at but it has limited value and the interesting this we found is that while it was OK for a student to text a teacher at any time that suited, that same student got quite annoyed if the teacher initiated a message at a time that the student felt was not appropriate!
Working with the multimedia team I was able to develop some interesting games as learning activities that were designed specifically for pocket PCs. You can have a look at these early learning games on my site at http://www.caryloliver.com to give you an idea of the sort of thing we developed.
The down side of this was that if a teacher wanted to develop a learning game it became a fairly cumbersome process of briefing the guys, testing and correcting etc... and then finally having to find a platform so that students could access it. Unlike making a computer choice between Apple and PCs, when it comes to mobile devices there are hundreds of platforms.
I needed a really simple way for teachers to take those first steps into preparing their material in a digital friendly format.....
To cut a long story short I finally tripped over Digital Story Telling! This was the breakthrough I had been looking for and I have hardly stopped for breath since.
Digital story telling is a means of taking a series of still photos, adding some motion and transitions to link them, recording a commentary in your own voice and ending up with a fantastic little movie! I use free software from Microsoft so there is no costly investment and within a very short space of time you can go from stutter to stunner!
The programme itself (Photostory 3) takes you through a step by step process to import the pictures you want, add effects, motion and transitions and then record what you want to say on each picture. It then folds it all together into a seamless movie. Then I transfer the finished movie to Movie Maker (also free) and add great looking titles, music and other effects to make it truly professional.
Once completed I can save these movies in a whole range of sizes so that they are able to be shown on mobile phones through to large screen TVs.
I labelled these as digi-lessons and started getting teachers to sit down beside me and tell their stories. One teacher talked about the devastation and silence as she showed us pictures of a recent bush-fire area; another teacher took pictures of a whole heap of hazards around a worksite and discussed them. We have some really interesting stories about growing and roasting coffee and more. And so the ideas started to flow....
The next step was, of course, that the students wanted to deliver their assignments in digital story telling format and, of course, the teachers thought this would be great: read 100 poorly written assignments or watch 100 enthusiastically produced movies? a no-brainer!
I found myself spending more and more time teaching people how to make their digital stories and how to maximise the way in which they used the software.
And this is what finally got me to the point of producing my digital story telling starter kit as more and more people were asking me to help them. I put together a sample story about my dog, I created a tutorial in digital story format and I also did the tutorial in written format. In addition to this I have also created a weekly tips e-mail that reflects some of the questions I am most frequently asked and the little things that make a big difference to the finished item.
My greatest buzz out of all of this to date was when I was showing a conference a movie about a project I had done with a group of disengaged students. One of the students had done their whole assignment in digital story format and after the presentation one guy came up to me and asked if he could have a copy of the movie. It turned out he was the uncle of this student and he wanted the show the family what the student had done - how many family members would bother to read a piece of written work?
I guess you can tell that I get pretty excited about this and I just hope that I can infect a few more people because digital story telling really is such fun and so simple. Has anyone tried and would you like to?