Royal College of Art Interviews Next Week

Royal College of Art Interview Next WeekWe spent a thoroughly stimulating day at the press opening of the Royal College of Art yesterday for their end of year show.

What was shown tickled the brain but many of the conversations explored ideas beyond those addressed by what was on offer.

We’ll be concentrating on just the RCA interviews next week, so be sure to tune back. It will be well worth it.

Unlimited Learning Report: Video Games In Learning Released

Unlimited Learning Report: Video Games In Learning ReleasedA new report examining the role computer and video games can play in education was released today by ELSPA (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association), in association with the UK Department for Education and Skills’.

Entitled ‘Unlimited Learning: The role of computer and video games in the learning landscape’ it uses a number of exclusive case studies on the benefits of games when used in learning. An example is a college in Nottinghamshire who results appear to be near unbelievable. They’ve seen key skills increase to a 94% success rate, compared to the national benchmark of 22%. They attribute much of this to incorporating the commercial game ‘Neverwinter Nights’ into its teaching plan.

Lord Puttnam of Queensgate CBE summarised, all be it at length, the major points, highlighting the strengths of the method, “Increasingly video games are being recognised as a powerful tool for learning. Yes of course they are entertaining and a lot of fun, but they’ve also the ability to inspire and motivate. They hold out the tantalising prospect of personalised, responsive and thoroughly enjoyable learning experiences, irrespective of age, or ability. They can promote ideas, they can stimulate conversation, challenge thinking and, critically for the future of our highly skills-dependent economy, they can encourage problem solving.”

Unlimited Learning Report: Video Games In Learning ReleasedSome will find it surprising that it’s not just young joystick twitchers that are benefiting from learning through games. E-learning expert, Professor Stephen Heppell, who has been studying this area for years explained, “The curious thing is that we’re seeing people playing games and challenging themselves with their computers right across the age range, literally womb to tomb. (We take our hat off to him for being the first person to use the ‘Womb to Tomb’ phrase, which, from this point forward, we will never tire of using.)

Of course there will be many cries of education being dumbed down, but I clearly remember chatting to friends at school about how much easier it would be if what we needed to learn could be set to music – given that we knew the lyric of every song that we liked.

Report: ‘Unlimited Learning: The role of computer and video games in the learning landscape’(PDF)

Mobile Devices To Dominate: EIEF06

Desktop computing will be dead by the end of the decade and laptops will be following shortly after. That was the view of Graham Brown-Martin of Handheld Learning in an entertaining presentation at day two of the EIEF.

Brown-Martin’s vision is that computing will migrate to a new breed of portable, hand held devices that make use of cheap, high-bandwidth Internet connections to access data stored remotely on Net-based servers.

The drivers behind this change include the impracticality of desktop-based computers for our changing lifestyles and the rise of home entertainment technology, which will include many of the functions now present in computers.

The coming of HDTV coupled with the rapid uptake of digital TV and the growth of alternative modes of accessing TV (there are on average, 4-5 screens capable of accessing TV in every UK home) mean that the uptake of high-bandwidth broadband services could be extremely quick bringing access to an userbase well beyond just computer users.

The other side of the proposition is high capacity storage. We all create gigabytes of digital stuff with our collections of MP3’s, pictures and games but not everyone is at the cutting edge of data backups and archiving. Enter online data warehousing services such as, who are providing gigabytes of cheap (and in some cases free) online storage where you can dump your data and access it from any Internet device.

Brown-Martin’s position is that we are no longer 20th century factory workers. We are mobile. All our stuff can be accessed in one location in cyberspace, assuming the media is scalable and interoperable. This model is the backbone of successful Web 2.0 companies such as Mp3 tunes, Skype, MySpace and YouTube.

As an illustration of this, and of his extremely cool mobile phone, Brown-Martin demonstrated a home made remix of the Snakes on a Plane teaser, edited with a mobile and a Macbook. The result was uploaded directly to YouTube from the phone then downloaded again (wirelessly) using a Nokia Internet tablet.

Readers of Digital-Lifestyles are no strangers to this kind of digital dabbling but there are issues to be overcome. As Brown-Martin conceded, there are privacy issues, what happens when the government comes along and demands to access all Streamload’s stored data?

Fast connections are only half the communications issue. For these to be effective enough to allow true access from anywhere, they have to be ubiquitous. We already have a plethora of mobile devices but most of our fast connections are fixed. Meaning that we are all still fighting over desk space, wall sockets and power points (as the general lack of power sockets at the EIEF venue amply illustrated). True mobile computing will require blanket wireless access in major towns and cities and on public transport, services that are still in their infancy just now.

On a more mundane level, what happens if we decide to shift our data from one provider to another, the digital equivalent of moving house? Even with a fast connection, downloading gigabytes of data and uploading to another provider is just too painful a process to contemplate.

Brown-Martin proposed that there must be some way to allow linking from one online provider to another so that we can allow access to our own content repositories without having to physically copy data. This kind of slick, server-based functionality is the kind of service that will be the killer app for Brown-Martin’s vision of mobile computing. With that, all your data shelved in secured and permanently accessible online storage and a permanent high-speed broadband link you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with all that grey box malarkey!

Handheld Learning

One Laptop Per Child Programme Claims 4 Million Orders

One Laptop Per Child Program Claims 4 Million OrdersYesterday, a spokesperson for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) programme revealed that Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina, and Thailand have all tendered commitments to purchase one million Linux laptops through the ambitious US-based programme.

As we reported back in November last year, OLPC aims to distribute millions of Linux-based laptop computers to needy children in developing countries around the world, all for free.

The Linux-based laptops come with their own power sources (including wind-up) and offer a dual-mode display, which gives users a full-colour, transmissive DVD mode and a secondary black and white reflective and sunlight-readable display at 3× the resolution.

The hard-disk free machines – still in the ‘concept’ stage – will be powered by a 500MHz processor and 128MB of DRAM, and come with 500MB of Flash memory.

Sporting four USB ports, the laptops will be fitted with wireless broadband that allows them to work as a mesh network.

One Laptop Per Child Program Claims 4 Million OrdersThis means that each laptop will be able to talk to its nearest neighbour and create ad hoc, local area networks for sharing data and connections.

The OLPC has stated that it will begin production when it has paid-for orders for between five million and 10m laptops, and plans to have units ready for shipment by the end of 2006 or early 2007.

Nicholas Negroponte, head of the OLPC project and former director of MIT Media Labs also sees the project as a means to promote the mass adoption of Linux.

One Laptop Per Child Program Claims 4 Million OrdersSo far, AMD, eBay, Google, Nortel, Red Hat, and a number of other technology companies have all signed up to help support the project

Not everyone is so enthusiastic about the project though, with India’s Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee describing it as “pedagogically suspect,” adding that the country needed to put teachers in classrooms before worrying about buying laptops for students.

(To be honest, we had to look up what ‘pedagogically’ meant, and can tell you that it means “In a didactic manner”)

One Laptop Per Child

Symbian Academy Launches: Free Teaching Aids For Universities

Symbian Academy Launches: Free Teaching Aids For UniversitiesSymbian, the smartphone OS company, are pulling a smart move (pun intended) by offering free assistance to Universities and their lecturers to have Symbian programming skills built into courses. Very clever.

They’re designed to make it easy for universities to create courses that teach Symbian software development and to integrate a Symbian component into existing computer science courses.

Those who sign up are showered with free course materials, training, technical support, development literature, expert Symbian lecturers.

It’s all part of the idea to “maintain the growth of the thriving Symbian ecosystem,” what ever that means in English.

Symbian Academy Launches: Free Teaching Aids For UniversitiesAs a sweetener to the lecturers to get involved, Symbian will provide “exposure to Symbian’s industry partners.” Pretty healthy if you fancy running a software development company and want to get exposure for your potential products, or you’re getting a little bored of Uni life and fancy impressing those in industry that you’re a bit of visionary.

Nokia are the dominant shareholder in Symbian (47.9% share holding) and you can see how seriously they’re taking getting their software into education, they’ve even got a Head of Academic Relations, a Harri Pennanen.

If you fancy getting involved, just drop a mail to and tell them that Digital-Lifestyles sent you.

Symbian Academy

Pearson To Develop iPod Educational Material

Pearson To Develop iPod Educational MaterialAll of those children who have been struggling to get their parents to buy them the playground-must-have, an iPod, now have the ultimate excuse – “But it’s for my edukashon!”

Pearson Education are to develop educational content for teachers and students which will play on an iPod. What a perfect strong-arm tactic, one that I’d imagine parents will find hard to refuse.

Pearson will also be buying Apple’s PowerSchool, their student information systems division for an undisclosed amount. PowerSchool is a Web-based system that reports on the performance, grades, homework and attendance of many US school children.

Pearson To Develop iPod Educational MaterialDeja Vu
John Couch, Apple’s vice president of Education, gave forth, “Apple’s commitment to education has never been stronger, which is why we’re excited to broaden our relationship with Pearson. Our customers will love having Pearson’s education content on their iPods, and we’re confident that PowerSchool will continue to flourish and grow with Pearson.”

What to expect on the iPod
Both students and teachers will have great reason to become iPod owners.

Pearson To Develop iPod Educational MaterialStudents will be able to download study guides that work with Pearson’s educational texts and listen to review notes to prepare for exams.

They also hook in the teachers by giving access to podcasts on professional development, helping with lesson preparation and guidance in connecting with students struggling with specific content.

Pearson To Develop iPod Educational MaterialApple has used this approach previously. Many years ago Apple started selling their computers to school children at a discount, with the logic that if they were hooked early, they’d be in the Apple-way for the rest of their lives.

This latest iPod-driven move is genius – but we can’t help feeling it’s eering on the evil-genius side.

One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The Impact

One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The ImpactThe $100 laptop project launched by MIT Media Lab, gained a big boost yesterday when the labs Nicholas Negroponte met with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.

Kofi Annan opening address summed up the project and its hopes succinctly, “The true meaning of one laptop per child, is not a matter of just giving a laptop to a child, as if bestowing on them some magic charm. The magic lies within. Within each child there is a scientist, scholar, or just plain citizen in the making. This initiative is design to bring it forth into the light of day.”

No right thinking individual could possibly doubt the value of this project. There may be a lot of commercial concerns, but we’ll get to that later on.

The Specs
It will be Linux-based, full-colour laptop that uses a wind-up handle as a power source. Run at 500MHz, with 1GB of memory and a built in 1 Megapixel camera it should run most applications that could be required (remember Linux doesn’t suck up a lot of the processors power). Just the laptop screen alone is expected to cost around $35, pretty good when a screen on a laptop is normally $150 alone.

One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The Impact“USB ports galore” will be provided as will built-in WiFi. The only thing it will be missing is a hard drive. We’d imagine that this will be down to the additional power drain they have, and to try and maintain the necessary ruggedness. The networking will be via a wireless mesh.

The driving theory of the project is that Learning is seamless – not just something that you do at school. This has lead to the need for an adaptable design, enabling it to be used as an electronic book (with the fingers at the back controlling the cursor), a games machine, TV set and, of course, laptop.

One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The ImpactAll software will be open source as in Negroponte view “open source software is the key to innovation in software and learning technology.”

It’s been reported that Steve Jobs had offered Apple OSX for nothing for use in the project, but it was turned down as it wasn’t open source.

Availability and impact
The laptops will be financed though domestic resources (ie the countries government), donors, and what was rather mysteriously described as “other arrangements.” It will be at no cost to the recipients themselves.

The current plans call for producing five to ten million units near the start of late 2006 or early 2007, launching in six countries. Not bad considering that Negroponte first publicly announced it in January 2005. The promise is to bring the price down at each technical advance.

Negroponte spoke about “the same laptop being commercially available, at say $200″ for small businesses. They hope to announce the construction partners soon.

One Laptop per Child: The Machine, The ImpactThe impact of this project could be huge on many fronts – if it comes into being – and we’ve no reason to imagine that it won’t. Giving any and every child access to a computer, and teaching them to use it and inspiring them will be the start of a revolution bring free communication and equal learning to all citizens.

We don’t think that the impact will stop there. If the world is aware that there are laptops, perfectly able to carry out most daily required computing functions, that only cost $100, why would anyone want to pay for other ‘full price’ machines? The impact on the supply of hardware in the part of the world that already has computers will be huge.

All power to this project. Let’s help technology change the world for the better.

MIT Media Lab One Laptop Per Child
Watch the Launch video(Real video)

Ravensbourne College Publish Course Under Creative Commons

Ravensbourne College Publish Course Under Creative CommonsLondon’s Ravensbourne College is launching a new program called the School of Computing for the Creative Industries.

It’s quite hard to work out what it actually involves as their overview reads like a missive from a Hoxton style bar, babbling on about the “learner-practitioner” using the Internet “as an inspirational resource, drawing on that vast, interconnected meme-pool, but returning far more to it than s/he ever withdraws.”

We had to reach for the dictionary to make sense of this part:

“As the creative industries bifurcate into the twin realities of intellectual property businesses, and crafts-for-hire, the new creative has the skill, and panache, to exploit the opportunities of the new creative landscape.”

Apparently these new creatives are connected citizens, “whose passions and campaigns, ideas and innovations appear first on their blog.”

Ravensbourne College Publish Course Under Creative CommonsWe would have thought that most of the passion manifests itself in the student bar, but the School insists that the new creative “understands that s/he is defined by the impact and credibility of their online presence.”

Now, some of you may be rightly thinking that this sounds more like The School of Buzzword Bullsh*t, but there is some interesting stuff lurking within the industry-speak.

It seems that School will release its learning materials under a Creative Commons license in an attempt to maximise usage and dissemination.

Ravensbourne College Publish Course Under Creative CommonsAll the technical facilities in the School will be built on open source platforms, with support offered to students wishing to release projects under free and open source licenses.

Although it’s easy to scoff at their daft Nathan Barley airs, this looks to be a brave and innovative move by Ravensbourne College, which may prove a portent for colleges coming to terms with the impact of new technology on teaching.

Overview of the School of Computing for the Creative Industries
Creative Commons

Islington’s Free Wi-Fi ‘Technology Mile’ Goes Live

Islington's Free Wi-Fi Technology Mile Goes LiveWi-fi enabled North Londoners can now gorge their connectivity needs with the announcement by Islington Council that its ‘Technology Mile’ has gone live.

Located in Upper Street, Islington, the ‘Technology Mile’ runs from The Angel to Highbury Corner, providing one mile of unbroken free wireless broadband access to residents, businesses and any passing freeloader.

The service will be available to anyone with a suitably enabled Wi-Fi device, with surfers being directed to a customised council page featuring a comprehensive menu of council services, information and communication options including jobs, travel, e-Govt options, child care and advice services

Happily, there’s also direct access to the World Wide Web – all for nowt.

The second part of the project is to dish out computers to businesses in the area, so that customers can use these for free access.

Islington's Free Wi-fi Technology Mile Goes LiveThe council are anticipating that locals may use the free access to pay off council bills and are hopeful that the service may stimulate commercial activity in the area.

“As London’s largest ‘hotzone’ Islington’s Technology Mile is a landmark in providing wide reaching community services directly on the street,” says Cllr Bridget Fox. “By offering free access to important council services and to the internet, the project addresses social inclusion head on and supports our ambition to turn Islington into an A1 Borough for all.

“The technology mile builds on other schemes the council has in place to help everyone to gain the benefits of internet access. I’m especially pleased with the second phase of the project, when we hope to begin work with selected local businesses, supplying PCs along Upper St business so they can offer free access to their customers.”

We like this scheme. There’s not much point in having free community Wi-Fi if only well-heeled laptop-toters can use it, but by ensuring public access to computers in the area, the walls of the digital divide could come crashing down.

The scheme comes with a few commercial risks – if the service proves to be fast and reliable, locals may cancel their commercial subscriptions and this may result in ISPs fighting back – in America, several commercial providers have already managed to get legislation passed to prevent free or low-cost municipal broadband services arguing that they’re uncompetitive.

Marc Meyohas, Chief Executive of Cityspace, the company who built the network gave out his love for the borough: “Islington is a progressive council with great vision; the Technology Mile proves what can be achieved for the community by taking the internet out of the restrictive arenas of homes and offices and truly integrating it into people’s lives.”

Islington Council