July 2007 (vol. 8, no. 7), art. no.

0707-o7003 1541-4922 © 2007 IEEE Published by the IEEE Computer Society

Works in Progress

Mobile Learning
The following works in progress, based on selected papers presented at the IADIS (International Association for the Development of the Information Society) Mobile Learning 2006 International Conference, provide an overview of the diverse research being conducted in mobile learning.

Animation on Mobile Phones
Peter Byrne and Brendan Tangney • Trinity College Dublin A growing body of literature shows that digital-video production facilitates powerful learning experiences1 by enabling collaborative learning and encouraging creativity and self-expression. Unfortunately, despite decreasing costs, digital-video cameras remain relatively expensive. Filming and editing, which offer the most learning benefits, involve time-consuming classroom management, making DVP impractical as a whole-class activity, thus causing scheduling problems. Animation holds the same potential educational advantages but involves a much simpler, less expensive process. The Stop-Motion Animation and Reviewing Tool (SMART) supports a collaborative, contextual, and constructionist approach to creating animations. It lets individuals or groups create animations while collaborating face-to-face. In addition, it runs on a mobile phone, so it can exploit the ready-at-hand nature of mobile devices. Many argue that eventually every student will have a portable wireless device,2 and people feel comfortable using mobile phones—even those who don’t traditionally use computers. We used Java 2 Micro Edition to develop Smart and deployed it using a Sony-Ericsson K750 mobile phone, which has a camera plus Bluetooth and J2ME support. Using the phone’s camera, users capture still images representing one animation frame (see figure 1). Several frames form a scene, and an animated movie can contain numerous scenes. When users select a scene to edit, the application displays a filmstrip. Users can use this filmstrip view to add, reorder, or delete frames. They can also review their work by playing movies or previewing individual scenes on the phone.

Figure 1. The Stop-Motion Animation and Reviewing Tool’s application interface. The application helps users create models, images, and ultimately the animation itself. It fosters collaboration among users working on the same animation, and the device’s ready-at-hand nature fosters a spontaneous, contextualized approach throughout the whole process.

IEEE Distributed Systems Online (vol. 8, no. 7), art. no. 0707-o7003


The system’s principle limitations are its low processing power and lack of API support for multimedia editing on mobile phones. So, once a user finishes editing an animation, he or she must send it to a server via Bluetooth to generate the final movie in a format that’s compatible with most mobile phones. Users then transmit the animation back to the mobile phone, where they can view it or exchange it using multimedia messaging service. For more information, see www.cs.tcd.ie/Peter.A.Byrne/smart or contact Peter Byrne at peter.a.byrne@cs.tcd.ie or Brendan Tangney at tangney@tcd.ie.

1. M. Kearney and S. Schuck, “Students in the Director’s Seat: Teaching and Learning with Student-Generated Video,” World Conf. Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications, P. Kommers and G. Richards, eds., AACE, 2005, pp. 2864–2871. G. Bull et al., “Grand Challenges: Preparing for the Technological Tipping Point,” Learning and Leading with Technology, vol. 29, no. 8, 2002, pp. 6–12.


Accessibility in a Ubiquitous Collaborative Learning Environment
Pedro P. Sanchez-Villalon and Manuel Ortega • University of Castilla La Mancha AWLA (a writing elearning appliance) is a task-based online application for people who want to develop their writing skills in a foreign language. AWLA lets users write texts in a foreign language in a synchronous and asynchronous learning environment. It offers access to a series of language tools and textual and multimedia services from anywhere, anytime. The language tools are based on electronic dictionaries that users can easily access and that provide lexical information at all stages of the writing process—from brainstorming to drafts to the final copy. The system helps students write in a lifelike way, and they can publish their writings directly on the Web. We developed AWLA with the ubiquitous computing paradigm in mind, so students can • • • • use mobile electronic notebooks (laptops, PDAs, or TabletPCs); frequently view the interactive electronic whiteboard, which shows new information and the writing process the participants are working on; remain interconnected via a wireless network; and always have access to the system, which is connected to the Internet.

Additionally, the system integrates a search tool. It also offers a chat facility offering synchronous and asynchronous communication. Using a multimedia approach reinforces linguistic content and adds context to textual information. People can easily create multimedia materials using their mobile phones or digital cameras. With AWLA, a competent information and communication technology user can upload these materials to the server and link to them. Or, users can link to existing online multimedia files so that they can easily embed these files when publishing their writings online (see figure 2). Tutors can provide students with multimedia input as a motivating stimulus (see figure 3)—for example, users could take notes from a video (thus receiving visual and audio stimuli). Students add visual support to their compositions (for example, advertising tourist resorts with supporting pictures).

IEEE Distributed Systems Online (vol. 8, no. 7), art. no. 0707-o7003


Figure 2. AWLA (a writing elearning appliance) writing tools in a PDA: (a) the AWLA homepage, which offers access to the different learning scenarios and tasks, (b) the text-reading screen, and (c) a chat tool so teachers and students can communicate.

Figure 3. Multimedia input (such as video) in AWLA can help motivate users.

For more information, see http://chico.inf-cr.uclm.es/ppsv/awla.html or contact Pedro P. SanchezVillalon at ppsanch@fimo-cr.uclm.es or Manuel Ortega at manuel.ortega@uclm.es.

IEEE Distributed Systems Online (vol. 8, no. 7), art. no. 0707-o7003


Constructing Mathematic Paths in a Mobile Learning Environment
Lin-Jung Wu, Kao-En Chang, Hsien-Sheng Hsiao, and Yao-Ting Sung • National Taiwan Normal University We use math-path learning to help students understand abstract mathematical concepts, and we use an interactive problem-solving discussion system in a mobile learning environment to help groups of students solve math problems. (Math-path is a scenario-based instructional technique for mathematical problem-solving.) Each student uses a tablet PC, building a meaningful foundation of knowledge using situated, online interactivity and scaffolding-aided learning environments. (The mobile math-path environment provides "scaffolds" that help students build on prior knowledge and internalize new information.) Real-time discussions let students learn from each other. We designed our mobile math-path system to have multiple points (that is, multiple learning zones) in a real environment—such as a classroom or lab that contains related teaching materials and offers suitable learning resources. Our system relies mainly on a group game that constitutes our collaboration learning model, which lets students exchange their thoughts on problem solving in math. The system uses RFID tags to let students receive problem-solving questions in math-path. Students then return the response via the Web (see figure 4).

Figure 4. Our system: (a) students return their responses via the Web; (b) the step-by-step process in which the RFID tag senses a tablet PC and sends a code to it, the PC sends the code to the server, the server finds the corresponding material from the instructional database and sends it to the PC, and the student receives the material. An RFID tag senses an approaching tablet PC and sends it a set of codes. The tablet PC decodes the message and sends it to the system over a wireless Internet connection, which tells the system to provide the corresponding topic and teaching materials. Group members must then cooperate using the resources they have on hand to solve the problem they received and to find the clue the instructor provided to get to the terminal point the system is showing on its screen. The system will point out the next step the group must take to solve the problem and get to the terminal point (see figure 5). Each student must solve a problem to produce his or her own finished product before moving on to the next problem. By going over all the solutions in the discussion room, the students find the best one and record it.

IEEE Distributed Systems Online (vol. 8, no. 7), art. no. 0707-o7003


Figure 5. Mathematics problem solving and interactive problem solving: (a) solving and uploading a problem; (b) solving a problem in the discussion room; (c) joining the problem-solving forum. Our experiment indicates that mobile learning improves students’ ability to connect the dots between mathematical theories and practical problem solving, as well as their attitude toward learning math. Using our system, • • • students can view their peers’ solutions, which reduces frustration and increases comprehension; students can better understand how others solve problems using the database’s accumulated problem-solving records; and educators can adjust the class pace after observing the solution explanations.

Further research and analysis will help us better determine the learning outcome of such systems. For more information, contact Lin-Jung Wu at ljungwu@gmail.com, Kuo-En Chang at kchang@ice.ntnu.edu.tw, Hsien-Sheng Hsiao at hssiu@ntnu.edu.tw, or Yao-Ting Sung at sungtc@ntnu.edu.tw.

Related Links
• • "A Comparison of Presentation Methods for Reading on Mobile Phones," DS Online (http://dsonline.computer.org/portal/site/dsonline/) DS Online's Mobile and Pervasive Community (http://dsonline.computer.org/portal/site/dsonline/)

Cite this article: Peter Byrne, Brendan Tangney, Pedro P. Sanchez-Villalon, Manuel Ortega, Lin-Jung Wu, Kao-En Chang, Hsien-Sheng Hsiao, and Yao-Ting Sung, "Works in Progress: Mobile Learning," IEEE Distributed Systems Online, vol. 8, no. 7, 2007, art. no. 0707-o7003.

IEEE Distributed Systems Online (vol. 8, no. 7), art. no. 0707-o7003


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