Monday, August 28, 2006

Turn on, tune in... send email!

I had an idea about cameraphones and live blogging at the end of last session, but the idea came too late to try it out properly. The idea came from a number of sources. One was David Warlick's Our Schools are Leaking post (a post that I blogged about some time ago) and another was Ollie Bray's mobile fieldwork idea (which I thought I'd blogged about, but can't find it if I did).

A third influence was my own experience of blogging. For example, I found the process of blogging eLive extremely helpful and I think I learned more effectively as a result of the blog posts I wrote. Extending this sort of on the hoof blogging to pupils and students though could be tricky because: a) not every student has a laptop and b) wi-fi access is not always available. However, it struck me that many have mobile phones and their phones are often very sophisticated pieces of kit with cameras, Internet access and email capabilities built in. I wondered how easy it would be to get students blogging with their mobile phones. Mobile phones have a number of advantages over laptops, for example, they are smaller so they can be used in places where laptops would be too intrusive or inappropriate ...and the students already have them!

I knew I could send email to an address set up in Blogger to post blog entries and I knew I could email from my phone. It took a bit of effort to set it up (I've complained about non-intuitive phone interfaces before) but eventually I found a step-by-step guide on my phone providers website. After bit of experimenting I discovered that I could email text from the phone straight to Blogger but that it ignored picture attachments. I also knew that I could email photographs to Flickr but what I didn't know (but discovered after a bit of fiddling around) was that Flickr can be set up to automatically forward photos, along with the text description, to a blog of your choice. Brilliant!

we want chocolate!
we want chocolate!,
originally uploaded by Unknown PGDE(S) student
So, after setting the scene for the students by talking about how the children they will be teaching are a connected and communicating generation, and inspired by Peter Ford's opening activity at Communicate.06, I told them to turn on their phones, take a picture and send it to a blog by email. I offered "Chocolate based prizes!" for the first and the best pictures sent. More or less 100% of the students had mobile phones and about 90% had camera-phones. Although a fair number thought their phones could send email, only around 15% of them thought they actually knew how to do it! Still, out of the 700+ students currently on the PGDE(S) course, that's still a good number of picture takers. Also, for those unable to email direct from their phone, I said I'd leave things open until early next week to give them time to transfer the image to a computer and email it from there.

You can see the results on the PGDE 2005/2006 moblog. The first post explains what I wanted to do and the post lecture post describes some of the difficulties we encountered. The problems seem to have arisen from too many people trying to send too many photos to Blogger via Flickr at more or less the same time! Otherwise, I think it worked very well. Taking photos and using the technology seemed to generate a buzz in the hall and there were a lot of smiling faces and excited chatter - activities not normally associated with my lectures. :-)

At least two questions come to mind:
  1. Would I do it again?
  2. How might it be used by pupils?
The answer to 1) is, "Yes!" It worked (mostly), it seemed to engage the learners and it was fun. Answering 2) is the trickier bit. If it was just a bit of fun, perhaps the answer to 1) should have been, "No!" However, I think more was going on this occasion, including giving the students a practical example of technology in use and making a point by using this technology at the start of their first formal ICT input on the course. I think mobile photo blogging activities in schools could also be justified educationally. For example, Ollie's mobile fieldwork could involve live photo blogging. Or a visit to a Science Centre could be blogged live complete with photos of the experiments. Or a visiting speaker's talk at school could be blogged from the assembly hall while it is happening (and if we were really smart, parts could be recorded on a mobile and podcast too). Or... do you get the mobile picture?

I am certainly going to experiment further. My texting is significantly poorer than most (every?) teenager's (see my photo post for example) but I think I'll have a go at a mobile post from SETT just to see how it goes. I've also got at least one more idea for the PGDE(S) mobile photo blog that I'll try out in the next few weeks.

As always, send me your own ideas and examples. Watch these spaces!


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10 comments:

Joe Dale said...

Hi David,

This is brilliant. I've just tried to upload an image to my own Flickr account via an email attachment and it worked! Do you know if it is possible to send cameraphone photos straight to your blog rather than to Flickr?

I found a link to a BBC article suggesting this was possible with Blogger, but it doesn't explain how. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4397899.stm
I have a Typepad blog. Any advice would be truly appreciated.

Best wishes

Joe

Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom - www.joedale.typepad.com

David said...

Hello Joe

You can send email to blogger, but when I tried sending an email with a photo attached, it just ignored the photo - that's why I was pleased to discover the auto-forward thing in Flickr. If it is possible to do it directly in Blogger, it is not obvious how. I'll do a bit of digging.

David said...

I've just had a lok at the link Joe gave and it looks like Darren had to do the same as me - send to Blogger via Flickr's auto forward facility. In the article, he mentions handheld devices as well as mobile phones and it just struck me that it should be possible to do it directly into Blogger if you have an internet capable device like a PDA. That made me wonder if Blogger posts could be made from a WAP enabled phone and if so, can photos be included? I'll need to have an experiment tonight to see what can be done.

David said...

Oops. Just noticed Joe also asked for advice on how to do this with a Typepad blog. Again, I don't
know if you can do it directly to Typepad, but you can set Flickr to forward automatically for you. (It supports a list of common blogging tools including Typepad and Blogger.) Log in to your Flickr account and go to the Upload by email page to set up the upload by email options (which Joe has already done) and then go to the To your blog page to connect Flickr to your blog and Flo's your auntie. :-)

Hope this helps.

john said...

Great post David, Great experiment, I almost missed my train reading it this morning.
I know that pivot the blog software I use has a moblog facility. Basically you send to a dedicated pop account and the blog checks that every so often. I think you can even use a spare gmail account. I now really want a camera phone.

alexanderhayes said...

Hi there,

I've been moblogging for three years now with moblog.co.uk within the context of teaching and learning.

My main blog is located at http://alexanderhayesblog.blogspot.com

My moblogs include;

http://www.moblog.co.uk/blog/aflf
http://www.moblog.co.uk/blog/mobdeadly
http://www.moblog.co.uk/blog/alexanderhayes

I'd like to explore more with you and the CLC Community as to whats occuring using moblogs and blogging in general. Drop me a line sometime.

David said...

Woah! I've just spent longer than I should have looking at a bundle of stuff from Alexander's blogs! Thanks Alexander! (Although maybe not thanks since I am now well behind in the work I meant to do this afternoon.)

Joe and John (and anyone else interested in trying this sort of thing) could do worse than have a look at the Introduction to Photoblogs and MoBlogs. You should also check out Moblog UK.

Joe Dale said...

Hi David,

I've worked out how to:

- email a photo to Flickr as an email attachment
- post a message to my blog as an email

When I tried to send a photo to my blog though using the special email generated, it just sent it to Flickr instead. I've emailed them to ask what I've done wrong.

Best wishes

Joe

Integrating ICT into the MFL classroom - www.joedale.typepad.com

David said...

Hello Joe

I found the Flickr to Blogger gateway slightly flaky. It does seem to work most of the time but every so often a picture doesn't get passed on. For example, out of the 56 photos sent by the students, abot 6 went AWOL between Flickr and Blogger (and I'm not sure which end had the problem).

Try it again and see if it works this time. In other words, follow standard computing practice - switch it off and back on again - that usually works! :-)

Joe Dale said...

Hi David,

I thought you'd like to know that I've just written a post about the potential of using mobile phones in education based on this post and one from Lynne Horn. Here is the link:

http://joedale.typepad.com/integrating_ict_into_the_/2006/09/mobile_phones_i.html

Best wishes

Joe