What is Mobile Learning?
A.E. Foundational Documents
Guides and Reports
Articles of Interest
Tablets/Smartphones - What You Need to Know
eReaders - What You Need to Know
Creativity and Innovation
Transformative Teaching Practices
What is Transformative Teaching?
Blooms Digital Taxonomy
Online Tools and Apps
How to choose an App
App Lists of Value
Online Tools Connect to Mobiles
Tablets/Smartphones - What You Need To Know
operating systems of tablet and smartphone devices are virtually identical, as are the core device features, connectivity to the Internet, and other functions
discussed in this section. Both portability and productivity are important factors for teachers to consider when selecting a device for use in the classroom, or when adapting student production activities to multiple personally-owned devices. By selecting a few features that are universally available to all tablets and smartphones, the selection of apps is simplified.
What is the device operating system and why does it matter?
Tablets and smartphone devices, like desktop computers and laptops, include operating systems that provide a graphical user interface [GUI] to run applications. Common mobile operating systems include
Android, Blackberry, iOS and Windows
. These operating systems are designed to accomodate touchscreen input.
An important feature of these operating systems is the ability to run third-party apps on a tablet/smartphone, as well as multiple apps at once.
Apps are developed to work within a particular operating system, but a developer may choose to make an app available in multiple operating systems. See the 'apps' section below for more information.
How much storage do I need?
The amount of hard drive storage on the device will either
enable or inhibit
your ability to maximize the use of your device.
Does the device enable
options? Does it have an SD card slot to add to the storage capacity?
You will want to purchase the device with the highest memory option to suit your budget. As you begin exploring the functions available with your device, you will not want to be limited by capacity.
How much RAM does the device have?
Tablet and smartphones vary greatly in the amount of RAM available.
Whereas hard drive storage enables the device user to download files and apps onto the device, RAM storage determines the speed at which the device will be able to run the apps, browse the internet, download emails, and other vital services.
To date, no device has been developed that will allow RAM to be increased. As a result, you may wish to select a device that has the largest RAM capacity to suit your budget.
What forms of input are available and how do they work?
All devices come with onscreen QWERTY keyboards. Some variations occur; toggling to a secondary keyboard for numbers and characters, and sometimes capital letters.
Other onscreen keyboard features:
is an input method for touchscreen devices where the user enters words by sliding a finger or stylus from letter to letter, lifting only between words. It employs algorithms to predict the intended word.
A split-screen keyboard
option is an iOS interface that allows the user to split the keyboard in half, and move the keyboard halves to the sides of the screen.
External keyboards come in a variety of configurations [size, foldability, ergonomic features, wireless], designed specifically to work with particular models of tablets or smartphones. External keyboards can attach wirelessly via Bluetooth, or via USB - which will require a USB adaptor. Ensure that the keyboard you have selected works with/attaches to your device model. External keyboards are often used to increase touchtyping speed functionality.
A number of apps are available that let you record your voice to convert it to text. This word-recognition technology has improved considerably since these apps first came on the market.
Built-in speech-to-text capabilities:
Some devices include this feature to provide an easy way to send and receive text messages by voice, without any keyboard input. In some devices, voice commands may also be used to browse the internet.
Note that external microphones can be attached via USB to increase the integrity of the speech-to-text function; useful if there is a lot of background noise.
Online Handwriting Recognition:
Some devices support online handwriting recognition software. This involves the automatic conversion of text as it is written on a device, as a sensor picks up the stylus movements. Known as "digital ink", the signal is converted into letter codes, to appear within text-processing applications.
What are the device's camera and video capabilities?
Cameras have become standard features in devices. Camera availability and location on the device is manufacturer-specific.
Cameras located on the back of the device enable the user to take pictures and video. Cameras located on the front of the device enable the user to communicate with others synchronously via web applications, to record or take images of oneself. Access to both cameras are very important to avoid limiting the device functionality . Before purchasing, note whether the device has one or two cameras, and where the cameras are located.
Camera resolution may vary between devices. Although camera and video resolution are highly regarded in mobile devices, the majority of users don't require full HD video production for their purposes. Remember: the larger the resolution, the more memory the file takes.
What can I attach to my mobile device?
Depending on the device manufacturer, your device may include four different types of inputs and ports:
SIM Card Reader:
[see "SIM Card" section]
SD Card Reader:
The SD Card reader options (including standard, mini, and micro SD card slots) enable the user to increase storage capacity for production purposes. They cannot be used to increase memory to add application storage capacity; applications must live on the device's hard drive. Rather, SD cards enable storage of files and creations, including video and photos. Depending upon the device formatting, the SD card may be able to transfer local data, such as images, saved documents of various formats, and video between the device and computer. Smaller SD cards can be quite fragile and costly; frequent movement between devices is not recommended.
USB Ports are available through some manufacturers in the form of standard USB, mini USB, and micro USB. Their function within the device varies greatly from input-only, output-only, to input/output-capable. USB ports may also be used as locations to read adaptors or dongles [hardware devices that allow the user to attach peripheral devices]. For example, a micro USB port may be formatted to function as the location to charge the device, to tether the device to external peripherals [tools that increase the functionality or enhance interaction with the device]. For example, projectors, USB keyboards and microphones are peripheral devices; they can all increase the function of a tablet device. Ports can be used to access a USB key for data storage/transfer. Check with the device manufacturer regarding ways in which your device's USB port may be used.
Different manufacturers may have proprietary ownership on ports and inputs, and different ways in which their devices are able to interact with peripherals and external storage. For example, iOS has lightning connectors and 30-pin connectors [depending on the model of tablet or iPhone]. Lightning and 30-pin adaptors are available to connect tablets to VGA projectors, USB keyboards and microphones, and read digital camera SD cards.
Is battery life an issue?
If you plan on travelling with your mobile device, where access to power is an issue, then battery life will be an important consideration for you.
It is important to note that battery life is highly dependent upon the number of apps open and running in the background. It is always a good idea to close apps as you are finished using them in order to extend battery life.
Apps are available to maintain and extend the life of your device's battery.
What can I do with a SIM card for my device?
Most manufacturers offer devices with a built-in SIM card-reading slot. This will enable the device to connect to the internet through a mobile service provider for a monthly fee.
With the purchase of a SIM card-enabled Android tablet, users also have the option to use their devices as personal/portable wireless hotspots for other devices, including laptop computers. A beta version of Windows 8 tablet also offers this function.
What tethering opportunities are there with the device?
Tethering shares the Internet connection of a phone or tablet with other devices.
Tethering tablets to smartphones:
Internet access on most devices need not be restricted to wifi-enabled locations. Tablets are able to connect to the internet outside of wifi networks by tethering to any brand of personal/portable wireless hotspot-enabled smartphone.
Tethering Blackberry devices:
The Blackberry Playbook tethers seamlessly with any corresponding Blackberry cell phone, offering the user enhanced options, including BB-Bridge, remote control and keyboard interaction between the Blackberry cell phone and the Playbook tablet.
What are apps and how do I acquire them?
An app[application] is a small,
specialized 'software' program
downloaded onto a device. Every device has a specific operating system. Software developers must create applications for that operating system with its unique application program interface [API]. Popular apps are often created for multiple operating systems. [see operating systems above]
include general productivity and information retrieval, educational explorations, curriculum-specific interactions, 'games', content creation, multimedia production, augmented reality, puzzles and more.
Apps for uploading to devices are available through:
application distribution platforms:
appear as online "stores" operated by the company/owner of the mobile operating system or device production. [see 'operating systems' above]
provide an 'app' downloadable on their web interface to diversify access to their services.
Some apps are free, while others must be purchased. Note that occasionally 'free' apps are actually 'limited use' apps, or have 'limited' functionality and are more of an opportunity to try an app, prior to purchase.
Because there are thousands of apps, blogs and online services are now providing a wide range of review, recommendation, and curation sources.
apps for use on multiple device platforms
, it is important to note that tablet-specific apps are created to optimize their display to the larger screen resolution of the tablet device. As such, some apps that require a larger screen size may not be available for use on smartphone devices.
Some apps have
two download types:
tablet and smartphone. Although the tablet may be able to run the smartphone app (depending upon the app developer's endpoint user allowance), the reverse is not the case.
Will I need to access FLASH-based objects?
Some devices are flash-enabled, which offers some specific advantages to access enhanced features of the internet. Many online interactives and Web 2.0 production tools, including thousands of 2Learn.ca resources, require the use of flash technology.
If your mobile device is not flash-enabled, you may access basic flash information by downloading a flash-reading internet browser, such as Puffin or iSwifter. Please note that these flash-enabled browsers are not a solution to a non-flash enabled device. Rather, these flash-reading browsers allow the user to access basic flash information; streaming video and layered information are not optimized.
Users of devices that are not flash-enabled will be more dependent upon using downloaded apps to perform similar functions currently available using online interactives and Web 2.0 tools.
Flash is rapidly being replaced by web developers with HTML5. HTML5 provides standardized interactive capabilities.
How do I save/transfer content created on my device?
Web 2.0 tools
- The mobile device app will often have
multiple export options
to 'save' to the Web 2.0 site. Popular export options include .JPG, .PNG, and .PDF. As mobile device apps and Web 2.0 tools use specific software, downloading a version for further editing is likely not possible. Once the creation has been converted to a readable file, sharing is available.
- Cloud computing apps include Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and online repositories such as LMS and CMS platforms allow for saving and transferring. Uploading files to the cloud is completed through the cloud computing app. For example, if students create mind maps using the MindMeister app, they can export the mind map to a .PDF version. Then, by signing in to Google Drive, they will be able to upload their .PDF directly to their account.
- Export using email to specific individuals, or to online accounts. For example the Web 2.0 note-taking tool, Evernote, allows for files to be emailed directly to the user's account.
- Use the device's screen capture tool to create a .JPG image of your creation. The image will be automatically saved in the device's photo library, and transferrable to cloud storage devices or email attachments from the photo library.
How do I print from my device?
Printing content directly from a mobile device to a school's printer will require the appropriate infrastructure already in place. If the school printer is able to print from email attachments, you will be able to email creations in a recognizable format from the device directly to the printer. Alternately, if the printer is wireless-enabled, then the file can be printed directly from the mobile device app.
In the event that the printer is not networked and requires computers attached to an ethernet connection, then the integration of the information provided in
will be required.
How can I project from my device?
There are three different ways to project your tablet's screen, including the use of adaptors, media streaming devices, and mirroring apps.
Connecting a tablet directly to an LCD projector is very simple, but requires the correct adaptor. Simply connect one end of the adaptor to the tablet, and the other end to the LCD RGB cable.
Media Streaming Devices:
Peripheral media streaming devices connect to your tablet through the local wifi network. Both the tablet and media streaming device must be logged in to the same network in order to function. Google TV Box is available for Android devices [made by Sony, Asus, and Vizio]. Apple TV is available for iOS devices and is made exclusively by Apple. XBox Gaming Console is available for Windows OS devices, made by Microsoft.
Mirroring Mobile Device on Computer:
Different operating systems have different requirements in order to stream your mobile device screen to your computer.
By installing an application on your computer, you can mirror your tablet's image directly to your computer. Both the tablet and the computer must share the same wifi network in order for the media streaming app to function. The iOS tablet will stream via the device's AirPlay function. Media streaming apps for iOS must be chosen based on your computer operating system: Windows or OSX. Some examples of media streaming apps for iOS devices include:
Reflection - $$ [www.reflectionapp.com]
Reflector - $$ [www.reflectorapp.com]
Air Server - $$ [www.airserver.com/]
Android and Window Products:
Android and Windows mobile devices do not currently include intuitive apps similar to their iOS counterpart. Media streaming/mirroring on the Android involves a multi-step process, starting with the computer's download of Android SDK.
How can I extend my desktop?
Did you know that you can use your tablet as a second computer monitor for your computer? Install the app on your tablet, and the corresponding computer program on your laptop; both tablet and laptop must be connected to the same WIFI network for desktop extension to function. Prior to purchasing an app for the purpose of desktop extension, reference each app's functionality with your laptop operating system. Some desktop extensions will have programs available uniquely for one platform [Mac, Windows, etc].
desktop extension apps
Splashtop XDisplay - $$ [iOS, Android]
Air Display - $$ [iOS, Android]
iDisplay - $$ [iOS, Android]
Redfly Screen Slider [Android]
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