Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Converged world

It's been a while since I wrote a piece called 'It's a 3G/4G World'. Looking at how the mobile phone/phablet ownership model could be leveraged for education.

I've just spent a day in Frankfurt looking at the future potential of 'Cloud' and arrived back at the airport with time on my hands so thought I'd pull together a couple of threads into a coherent piece.

The threads are these:

1. 4G/5G technologies are fast, data throughputs are high and access points can deal with client device density.

2. The trend for mobile device ownership does not appear to be slowing, in fact at a recent Gartner briefing it was clear that the trend is accelerating.

3. The whole BYO - Bring your own - debate shows no sign of slowing

4. I've just upgraded my own mobile device after two years - now have latest and greatest device AND paying less per month.

Now, tip into the mix the ongoing pressures on public sector budgets in every country I visit and I end up here:

Why don't education institutions do deals with mobile operators. The mobile operator could provide the onsite 'wireless' network via 4G/5G - infrastructure costs go away for the institution and in the 'Cloud' data can be managed, routed and users can be 'controlled'. Users could move to a Use My Own Device (UMOD) model if they have a device already or the institution could do a deal with the mobile operator - either way the refresh problem goes away because the mobile model is built on a two year refresh cycle. Add in a willing device manufacturer for a range of devices and you've got a completely new paradigm for device ownership and management that moves costs to a commercial model that already exists so needs no reinvention of any wheels.

In one move you solve several issues from infrastructure management to device refresh to device management to connectivity costs. All  makes perfect sense to me, but then it has been a very long day - with a 4.30 am start and still a good five hours to go before I get home.....so I may well be over simplifying things! But then.........

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Rich data - It's All About Learning

I am continually fascinated by the discussion around data at the moment. Big data is the watch word but in a recent talk by Tim Berners-Lee I was taken by his view on big data - he said 'Think Rich Data'. The focus being that the richer the data the more you can learn about what people are doing. Watching what people are doing raises all kinds of concerns but in the right context the richer the better. Dominic Norrish wrote about an excellent piece on this recently and it has been one of my personal fascinations for a very long time.

In the past people have commented that if you dropped into a hospital operating theatre 100 years ago  and compared it to today the differences are stark. Technology has pervaded. One of the most potent things technology has done has enabled the real time monitoring of data about the condition of the patient. Better monitoring equals better outcomes as the ability to predict and act accordingly to avoid complications is critical. All that is about to become very personal with the explosion in wearable tech that monitors heart rate, activity and very shortly critical data like blood glucose will be measured in real time bringing about a revolution in diabetes care, something that costs large amounts of money to treat. So, in that context the richer the data the better.

The same folk say that is you drop into a classroom 100 years ago and compare to today you will see very little difference. I don't actually agree with that except on the level that learning has always been, and will continue to be, about people interacting with each other, teachers challenging and guiding to help learners learn. At that level you could fast forward a thousand years and a classroom would look the same. But data is going to change learning, no two ways about it. the focus on personal devices provides the opportunity for learners to share data about what they are doing, how they learn, when they learn and how effective the interactions with teachers are in supporting their learning. So, just as in health, the ability to monitor what is going on improves outcomes, helps predict where issues might lay and therefore supports positive interventions.

I end back with Tim Berners-Lee and his insistence that rich data is important. Let's make learning data as rich as possible, share it, analyse it and act on it. You still might think that a modern classroom looks the same as it did 100 years ago but underneath the rich data flows that learners share will have immense benefits for everyone.