A couple of days ago my sister-in-law sent me email about KenKen, a math puzzle game modeled after Sudoku. This NY Times piece is a good read on it (with a link to the kenken.com site), particularly on the teaching approach embedded in KenKen - teaching without teaching. The students learn by working the puzzles, first simple four by by puzzles, then more complex puzzles as they improve. I've played it a lot the last couple of days, getting as good as an eight by eight puzzle. The nine by nine seemed overwhelming. I don't know if most kids would get hooked on something like this. But if they did, they'd learn a lot - about logic, algebra and factoring numbers. For the student who does get hooked, it's all very sweet, learning without studying, getting smart through play.
The design is extremely clever. I wonder if we could come up with this sort of thing in other domains, economics for example.
A few days ago I got a Blackberry Storm. I was thinking of getting an iPhone, but the rest of the family has Verizon as the provider so the incremental cost was just too great. I probably shouldn't admit this, but I've always hated cellphones and PDAs, though I've had a variety of them over time. Hearing on the connection, reading the screen, manipulating the buttons, all have been issues for me over time. The Storm is a step up. I could get to like it. The audio, both for listening and speaking (it has a voice annotation function) is very good. The navigation is fairly intuitive. The camera is excellent; it produces very high quality images. Reading email on it is quite good, very good clarity of the font and the scrolling is smooth. The touch screen typing in landscape mode - I've seen reviews where others have raved about it - is ok for me. It is still clunky and occassionally I put too much pressure on the screen, but I feel less of a ditz doing that than I did with my old Treo, tapping at it with my stylus and squinting to make sure I was getting the right letter.
At this point I have lots of portable devices: a Kindle, iPod, Tablet PC, and the Storm, for recreation as much as for work. Each either does a unique function or does its function so much better than the alternative that so far I wouldn't give any of them up in the name of convergence. There is, of course, also the matter of cost - of the device, of connectivity, and of content. The connectivity part is the one I least understand in terms of relating what we pay for wireless broadband versus the cost to the providers. If this is to truly become a learning instrument, the connection charges for the student have to come way down.
My sense is that m-learning is like candy. The idea is appealing, but it's still short of a real meal. At least now as compared to a few years ago, it melts in your mouth, not in your hands.