Upwardly mobile technology

Like many visitor attractions, museums and art galleries are increasingly adapting new technologies into their traditional environment. Now the University of Wolverhampton is set to showcase the latest developments in mobile technology at a major conference.
The face of the modern museum is changing. The days of a paper quiz, or large headphones could become a thing of the past thanks to advances in technology. Visitors could soon be able to walk into a museum, turn on Bluetooth on their mobile and receive relevant information straight to their phone. Not only that, the system will be able to know which museums or art galleries people have already visited and provide information that relates back to that knowledge previously gained.
The University of Wolverhampton is at the forefront of developments in the field of elearning, and is now set to showcase this innovative technology at a major international conference. mLearn 2008 is hosted by the School of Computing and Information Technology (SCIT) and will take place at the Park Inn, Telford in October this year.
At the event, ‘context aware’ technology, developed by Dr Chris Dennett, will track delegates through the conference venues, sending interesting and relevant information to their mobile phones or devices and automatically generating an individualised website of their experiences over the three days. This will be the first time this technology, developed within SCIT, will be used on this scale. In addition, the 400 delegates will be able to see the context aware technology in use at RAF Cosford and Enginuity during the conference, and contribute as well as receive information.
Dr Dennett says: “Whilst these kinds of technologies have been used on a smallscale for fixed periods in earlier trials, our developments use people’s own mobiles. This means that this technology becomes far more economically attractive to museums since they will no longer bear the burden of buying and maintaining their own specialised devices. More importantly however it means that organisations like the Ironbridge Gorge, with several museums, or the National Trust or English Heritage, with many properties, can supply information to visitors based on their previous visits and a growing knowledge of their specific interests. This is a major development for delivering personalised informal learning.”
Mobile technology is used in a range of education fields, including universities, colleges and schools. Students can use mobile technology on field trips, cultural excursions, outdoor education and work placements. To reflect this, themes of the conference include
social, individual and cultural aspects of mobile learning; inclusion for all; devices, systems and standards and the landscape of mobile learning.
The University is delighted to bring this prestigious international event, now in its 7th
year, to the region from Wednesday, 8 to Friday 10 October 2008. The venues will include the Park Inn Telford, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Enginuity and the RAF Cosford Museum, and delegates will include researchers, academics, key decision makers and representatives from the mobile technology industry.
E-Learning expert John Traxler, Director of the University’s Learning Lab and Conference Chair, says: “We have been involved in the mLearn conference series since its earliest
days in Birmingham in 2002. Since then we have demonstrated that we can take learning to individuals and communities for whom it was previously inaccessible and we have demonstrated that we can enhance and enrich learning for everyone.
“The conference comes to the University of Wolverhampton just as this work gathers maturity and momentum, at a very exciting time.”
Keynote speakers include Marc Prensky, from the USA, who is acknowledged as a world renowned visionary in this field. The other internationally renowned speakers are Professor Diana Laurillard from London Knowledge Lab; Professor Mike Short, Vice President of Research & Development from O2; Dr Vanessa Pittard, E-Strategy from Becta (British Educational Communications Technology Agency) and Professor Yrjö Engeström, Director of the Centre for Activity Theory at the University of Helsinki.
Brendan Riordan, Vice Chair of the conference, adds: “The team who have been planning this conference for the last year are thrilled to have been chosen to host the event and to bring the world’s mobile learning community together in what promises to be a remarkable few days.
“It is in recognition of the research conducted within the UK, and the University of Wolverhampton in particular, that this region was chosen to host this event. We are looking forward to providing an opportunity for both theorists and practitioners from all strata of education. Early indications show a high standard of research will be presented to the delegates, which will be published in journals after the conference.”
Further information can be found at: www.mlearn2008.org  and for those with internet-enabled mobile devices visit: www.mlearn2008.mobi