ALT-C 2009 I: Mobile technology – proximity push and voting/polling on Android



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Just back from ALT-C 2009 having been asked to present a session with colleagues on EduApps (this resulted from JISC RSC UK’s donation of an EduApps stick to all conference delegates and ALT members). Over the next couple of days I’ll be making a series of posts to highlight some of the best bits.

For my first post in this series I’m going to highlight some of the ideas presented by my colleague Adam Blackwood at RSC South East. Adam, amongst other things, is a mobile guru and in his session he highlighted some interesting tools [Click here for a copy of Adam’s slides and his Mobile Technology Summary Sheet].

Proximity push using TextBlue

First there is TextBlue.This company specialises in ‘proximity marketing’, using Bluetooth to push information primarily to mobile devices. This company has a range of products from plugin dongles for your laptop to ‘broadcasters’ which can push content out for up to 1000 meters.

Adam demonstrated how this technology could be used to push learning content to student owned phones (or any Bluetooth enabled device). The only restriction you have on the file types you can use is what is viewable on the student’s device. You probably also want to keep file sizes down because of the transfer time so the 30 minute podcast might be out of the question, but this technology could be ideal for distributing quizzes etc (something you could easily create with Mobile Study, which is free).

There is nothing stopping you transfer files via bluetooth without TextBlue. Doing it this way is very cumbersome and the TextBlue software turns it into a one click solution. A demo version of TextBlue software is available on request – Contact TextBlue

SMS polling/voting

I’ve been aware of SMS polling/voting services for sometime. All the examples I’ve previously looked at use the model where the hosting/collation of votes has been handled by a 3rd party site. Adam highlighted a new model which puts the editing/collation software on your own phone, students responding to your mobile number, not one provided by a 3rd party.

The software to do this currently only seems to be available for Android mobile devices. There are a couple of software applications that can do this but Adam was highlighting ‘Polls’ by Pollimath:

The concept is simple; draft the opinion poll on your phone, add your voters and open your poll. Your list of voters would receive an SMS and/or E-Mail notification. They vote via the Web or SMS Reply as per the options selected by the pollster. The pollster can see the poll statistics and the voting details (who voted for what choice).  

Polling Concept
Pollimath Concept Diagram

There is a free ‘Lite’ version of Pollimath which is limited to 10 voters per poll, but at $3.95 the full version is very reasonably priced. Pollimath has some nice features like being able to send vote invitations via email as well as SMS, allowing you to use multiple input methods, and being able to view the results online. This is a relatively new application and some more work needs to be done to graphically represent poll results as well as an easier way to distribute polls links but so far it looks very promising.

An alternative to Pollimath is ‘Handy Poll’s’ by Marc Tan. This has a better graphical results view, but doesn’t have as many of the features of Pollimath.

Augmented reality

The final thing Adam showed us was some ‘augmented reality’. With this the camera on your phone is combined with your location and direction information so that additional information can be overlaid. One of the most popular working examples is Layar for Android, but the video below shows where the next generation of augmented reality is going: