Reflections on PG class

So I just finished a 6 week (@ 6hours a week contact time) class teaching web app development. Why web apps you ask? Sure they are becoming less popular but with phone gap they can be ported to all the popular mobile platforms with ease, which is a nice feature. Also  HTML, CSS, & JavaScript are more common languages than the C variants that android and apple use. We have run  the assignment the year previous with a positive response from the class, with students even finding immediate real world application and employment opportunities – not bad for 6 weeks. With a solid background set, we decided to advance the class further this year. Thanks to a teaching grant we got a bunch of cool toys and tech and tried them out. The following is my reflection on these

MOAs

The moas are a simple idea – a big flat screen tv hooked to some speakers and an apple airplay TV. The construction of these devices is impressive; they can be moved around with ease and only require one power plug to be connected and a couple of on switches flicked to bring the whole system online. It allows students to share there iPhone or iPad screen with the TV anywhere there is a power socket. The idea of such a device that can share mobile devices sounded fantastic given the class was all about building web apps. In the first couple of classes the MOA saw good use as different apps were demonstrated for the students consumption by the lecturer. The lecturer also invited students to share via their own devices but a lack of appropriate student equipment limited the amount of students who could participate. The labs contain a Mac Pros with dual monitors, so sharing was often facilitated through these. The computer labs the classes were held in (and all the Digital Media labs) severely limited the ability of the MOA to be moved around, meaning it essentially became a fixed screen in the room. As there was already a projector in the room which was larger than the MOA and in a better viewing position, the MOA was rendered almost redundant. This was a sad realization for the device, though not a wasted exercise.

The MOAs I believe still to be valid, just in the right context. Rather than pout about the defeat we decided to think through the intended affordances of such devices and consider how to apply them in the context of the labs. Technology such Lanschool allows sharing of students computers and may allow us to share in much the way the MOA intended to. This could allow for students to use mobile devices connected to web based services outside the labs, then connect to these same services using a lab computer during class, as to share over the labs data shows. This software does run the risk of becoming “nanny ware”, used to monitor students. Careful consideration of its implementation would be needed to ensure it is used in the spirit of collaborative learning.

more thoughts to come, including google+, wordpress, and layar.

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