Moving EdTech Into The Paperback Era

A really interesting skype enabled chat with Alex Hayes last week about his work and mine as well led to an invitation to contribute to a new group blog with a focus on mobile educational technologies. When I look at the blogroll of contributors there, I certainly feel that I'm in a place where I can learn a lot more than I can contribute. Some of my posts there are probably going to reek of naivety, but mixing it with high level thinkers can help me to clarify ideas better to my colleagues at the local primary school level. I certainly want to expand the ideas I started in my On The Wall Or The Go post, with the goal being to publish a better researched, in depth article in our local professional association's (CEGSA) publication.

Personally, one of the best things I have done this year was to buy a wireless router for my home broadband connection. That in combination with a new wireless Acer Tablet PC from work has really freed me from being chained to my desktop each night or from having to sync my iPaq to constantly download my blog reading and learning. The analogy of where mobile learning (and working) seems to be heading in my eyes is much like the shift from hardcover to paperback books. When the paperback book became a popular "technology", then were two things that gave it an edge over its more traditional rival. It was lighter and more portable. Instead of binding and stitching, it used inexpensive glue. The old dustcover was given the heave ho and and a thinner, flexible glossier cover made it very attractive to the consumer. Now it was practical to read a book or two on the bus into work or in the staffroom on lunch break. I was a big science fiction fan at high school and borrowing three or four Asimov or Andre Norton paperbacks was preferable to only getting one hardcover edition. But the thing that gave the paperback its big advantage was its vastly reduced cost - here in Australia, about half the retail value of its older sibling. So that made buying books much less of a luxurious indulgence and the consumer could afford more books more often. Of course, the publishers still like to release all new titles in hardcover some time ahead of any paperback release - much like big budget Hollywood movies going to the cinema a few months before they make onto DVD. Of course, downloading movies off the internet has probably reduced the gap between the movie theatre and you owning your own legal copy. So how does this relate to the use of mobile technologies?

Well, we are still in an era where the vast majority of online content is geared towards the monitor size of a desktop or notebook computer. Some formats are capable of reshaping themselves for a mobile phone or PDA screen but wireless mobile users still need to use web services like Skweezer, Mobile Leap, Google Mobile or the mobile version of Bloglines to assist in comfortable reading. The read/write web may well be in full swing on the regular sized screen but there are far less choices for the Web 2.0 mobile user. So, the change will have to gain momentum (and it will be driven by consumer demand) until the paperback version of the web is in place. Moblogging is proof that people want the capability to publish to the web anyplace, anytime. So just like one of my class's simple pleasures might be to relax under the trees on a beautiful day reading our very portable paperbacks, there might be soon a day when they can write a hypertexted report on their mobile wireless device, publishing it to the web on the fly and downloading criteria for a set task in voice, word and/or screencast format in the same shady spot. Maybe then the education sector might be with grudgingly accept that power of learning is indeed in the hands of its students.

Photo credits: bookshelf by kathy s Flickr Creative Commons Image.

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