Entries in mobile web (4)


Mobile Sites & Lesson Simulations

This guest post is written by Megan Iemma.

Last year I discovered www.wirenode.com. It's a website that lets you create up to 3 free websites (.mobi's) I had a presentation to do, so I created a wiki plus two mobi's for the session. The great thing about that it is viewable on any mobile device plus your laptop. It's like creating a website, however I would suggest you do some planning first as once you create a page you can't re-order it. There are some really good widgets you can add to these mobile sites.

I created a simulation for a recent Australian conference (ACEC2010) titled iPod, iLearn. This involved using a map (Australia with the States) marked in and then using the model of Chinese Whispers and passing it around the room to different tasks. The test/assessment of the task was to use Puzzle Palace (smaller puzzle) to put back the puzzle pieces.

The idea of these simulations is to simulate how these could be used in the classroom. It is also using one idea and connecting those apps together. This is instead of using lots of apps for lots of activities rather that linking them together.  For this simulation I used CropForFree (to get the pic the right size), EtchASketch Lite, Comic Touch Lite and Puzzle Palace (or Up in the Pieces).

Megan Iemma a Music Technology/Mobile Learning Consultant in Australia. Her website is web.me.com/meganaiemma.


Simulate Sites for Mobile Phones and iPods

Nowadays there seems to be three kinds of websites. There are the full websites that you are used to viewing on your desktop or laptop. Then there are mobile versions of sites for cell phones. Mobile sites are created with a minimum amount of graphics, don't require much bandwidth, and can be navigated with a keypad. Additionally, there are sites formatted for the Safari browser on iPhones and iPod touches. These sites are sometimes called web apps and are designed to be used by touching the screen with fingers. Below you can see that CBS News formats its site according to what kind of device you are using to view it.

2 Kinds of Sites

Phone EmulatorNot all sites are programmed to format themselves into these three types of sites. Chances are that the your website is static and does not change no matter what size of screen it is being viewed on. If you'd like to see what a site looks like on a cell phone, you can use the dotMobi Emulator. The emulator is useful for not only checking your own site, but for pages that you might want students to visit on a mobile device.

If you'd like to see what a site or web app looks like on an iPhone or iPod touch, you can use iPhone Tester. iPhone Tester gives you a preview of what the page will look like on a simulated iPhone.

If you'd like a make a site that will function well on a mobile phone, handheld, or iPhone, you should check out Wirenode. It's a free service that allows you to easily create a compact webpage or site that will format itself for the device that's used to access it. Here's a site I made with Wirenode for the 2008 NECC conference. As you can see, Wirenode support text, images, news feeds, and hyperlinks.

Why would you care what your site looks like on a mobile device? Research firm IDC says that 1.3 billion people will connect to the Internet using a mobile phone in 2008. According to the March 2008 Tween & Teen Lifestyle Report, 73% of teens and 26% of tweens own mobile phones. Besides mobile phones, youngsters also often have access to the Web on other portable platforms like Palm handhelds, Sony PSPs and Nintendo DSs. The bottom line is that the Internet isn't just for desktop computers anymore!


800-GOOG-411, Texting GOOGLE & CHACHA, and 800-2CHACHA

Text GoogleMobile phones can be useful tools for accessing information--even phones with no Internet access. There are some interesting free services for mobile phones I'd like to tell you about that don't require the Web on your phone.

First, search giant Google has a voice service at 1-800-GOOG-411. Dialing this number will give you a voice prompt to enter a city and state. Then you say a business name or category. Google's computer at the other end will verbally tell you some nearby businesses. It will give you a location and even offers to connect you to the business's phone number. GOOG-411 is really aimed at finding local companies, shops, and restaurants. You can't use this to get other information, like weather, definitions, or calculations. For those kinds of information, you'll need to text Google.

Google can be accessed by SMS. SMS is Short Messaging Service and is commonly referred to as text messaging or texting (or tex-mexing as an older friend of my calls it). Here's how it works: send a text to 466453 (GOOGLE spelled out on your keypad). For example, if you want current weather conditions in Phoenix, send weather phoenix. Additionally, you can use this service as a glossary. Send define typhoon and you will receive a text back with the definition of typhoon. Send convert 30,000 feet to miles will produce the message "30,000 feet = 5.681818 miles." To learn more about Google's SMS, check out this page. It has a chart listing the search features and sample queries.

Unfortunately, Google's texting service is limited in the kinds of information it can send back to you. Suppose you want to know which fruit has the most calories? Google's text service can't answer that question. But, ChaCha can. ChaCha employs actual human beings, so you can send all sorts of questions. In response to my fruit question, ChaCha replied with this text message: "The avocado is the fruit highest in calories with 276 per fruit, and 27.6 g. of fat. http://chacha.com/u/jxr5zexi". That link directs me to a webpage where I can view the source of the information, which happens to be http://www.calorie-count.com/calories/item/69480.html.

ChaChaOnce I send a text to CHACHA (242242), it usually takes about 5 minutes for answer to arrive on my phone. Unfortunately, ChaCha's human guides have not always provided me with accurate answers. When I asked "Who won Big Brother 9?" ChaCha replied, "Adam won the show and 25,000 bucks." While Adam did win the show, he won $500,000, not $25,000. I asked ChaCha to tell me about the training the guides receive. The reply was, "Guides are given very little formal training. We prove ourselves as information gatherers before being hired."

Since ChaCha is actually paying people each time I use the service, I wondered how long ChaCha will remain free of charge. When asked how long the service will remain free, ChaCha replied, "Umm... FOREVER!" That's good news because I am really enjoying ChaCha and I can see many classroom uses. (Note that standard text messaging fees apply to texts to and from ChaCha.)

Obviously, ChaCha would be a great field trip resource. I know when I go places like the zoo, I have tons of questions. For instance, why do flamingos stand on one leg? It would be wonderful to get an answer on the spot from ChaCha. And then, it would be great to verify the answer as part of the post-field trip activities. Oh, and if someone isn't so good at sending a text message, he or she can call 1-800-2CHACHA. The toll-free number allows you to say your question and then the answer will be texted back to your phone.

Verifying ChaCha's answers could be an activity in itself. Try asking ChaCha questions that you don't think it can find the answer to...or maybe something that has more than one answer. When asked to name the planets in our solar system, the ChaCha guide was thorough enough to inform me that Pluto was recently denounced as planet.

With Google and ChaCha, even Internet-challenged mobile phones can be a link to all that information the World Wide Web holds. Keep in mind that text messages can be up to 160 characters long, which can limit how much information can be sent back to you.


Directory of Web Apps for iPod touch & iPhone

Apple has launched its official directory of Web apps for iPod touch and iPhone. Web apps are websites that are designed to "extend the functionality of iPhone and iPod touch." Apple does not allow software applications to be loaded on iPod touch and iPhone, forcing developers to use Web apps instead. Note: You can hack an iPhone to run native applications, but I do not recommend hacking. Although Web apps follow the latest web programming guidelines, I've found that many Web apps designed for iPod touch and iPhone often do not render properly on other devices like Palm handhelds and Pocket PCs. A definite disadvantage to Web apps is that they require a wireless Internet connection. No connection = no access to the Web app site.

Over 200 Web apps are currently listed in the directory. Categories include Calculate, Entertainment, Games, News, Productivity, Search Tools, Social Networking, Sports, Travel, Utilities, and Weather. About half of the Web apps are in the Games category. Perhaps we'll see an Education category in the future.

If you don't have an iPod touch or iPhone but want to give these apps a try, many will load right in your current browser. Mac users can download the free iPhoney application. iPhoney shows you exactly what a site will look like on a iPod touch/iPhone, matching the devices' 320 x 480 resolution. All desktop Web users can go to iphonetester.com and to see how a site will look on an iPod touch or iPhone.

There are other directories of Web apps. Two places to find them are everythingiPhone and iLounge. But, Apple's directory is my favorite.

Feeling really geeky or have advanced Web programming students? Apple has resources for developing your own Web apps.

Web apps

Update: Apple has announced they will allow developers to make software programs for iPod touch and iPhone. This is great news as native software applications are far better than web applications. We'll have to wait a while as the kit for software developers won't be ready until February 2008. With useful software applications, iPod touch will turn out to be a very useful handheld computer.

Update #2: Kathy Schrock has posted a nice list of educational web apps she has tried out.