Wednesday, 1 April 2009

If they won't turn them off, we might as well use them

If they won't turn them off, we might as well use them - mobile phones. Andrew Walsh - University of Huddersfield.

Andrew has been experimenting with a number of ways of including the use of mobile phones in sessions that he runs for students as well as using mobile technology to enhance the ways in which students use the library catalogue.

One of the reasons behind this is that it is a good way of introducing active learning into sessions for large classes.  Other rationale includes the fact that it can tackle the problem of unresponsive students by making it interesting to participate.

So far, he has been most interested in the basic functionality of phones - e.g. texting rather than the high end functions of smartphones such as the iPhone.

He mentioned some interesting stats including one that suggests that there are "116.5 phones per 100 people in the UK" (Mintel, OCt 2007)

He moved on to talk about the use of texting in info skills sessions.  There are a number of services out there - some free, some paid for.  The current one that they use is paid for - but they trialled a number of free services.

Free services include

Free services - Moblog - - has been used for distance learner students, particularly for discussion around a topic - rather like a forum

Twitter - we all know this - good for voice, register for the service, call them up and talk over the phone, it is then recorded.  Also do conference calls easily - but bits and pieces are now charged.

One of the ways they sell the service to students is "Text a librarian" students can text a message to a special short number and it can go into t a shared group.  It acts as another way for students to contact the library and sits alongside the IM, email, and telephone options.

In sessions, texting has been used.  One particular example was for a group of business students.  They were asked to sign up for a service before they came to the session, and the service automatically sent the odd question during a class that they can respond to.  Or if they are working to a scenrio, updated to the scenario can be sent via text.

Andrew also talked about how mobile tech could be embedded in the way that students use the library and its services.  One example is QR Code - this is something I've been experimenting with at SHU, and was wondering about real life implementation.  QR Code is essentially a barcode, but has the ability to contain a lot more information that the ones that we would find on a packet of crisps.  Wikipedia has a fuller explanation - 

At Huddersfield, they have embedded it in the library catalogue, which I read about on Dave Patten's blog last week.  Students can look something up, take a photo of the QR code, which can contain information such as exact location, or a link to the electronic version if one was available.

(Actually, I wonder if you could also embed the citation you would need to use to reference the book properly?)

There are good and bad things about QR - 90% of students are able to access them, (in that they own camera phones) but only 30% know what they are.

The integration of mobile phones into librarian life has not proved that simple.  Problems include getting students to sign up to external services.

There are also data protection issues - although SI data may contain mobile numbers, would need permission to use them in this way.  And signal strength can be a problem.  

Fascinating talk, with real world examples which is always appreciated - and a lot of scope here - all very interesting.  


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