I had chosen this topic because lately discussions have been around the use of smartphones and tablets with Mahara but also a general trend at schools (at least in New Zealand) can be seen to go down the road of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Schools let go of a lot of control when they allow their students to bring any device to school to connect to the Internet and use it for classroom work. There is no uniformity anymore in technology and in some ways it becomes more difficult to manage because there are now multiple operating systems in play, different sizes of the devices, some or touch devices while others aren’t, there is no uniformity in software that is installed and so on. However, it also gives the students the freedom to choose with which device they want to work with. They do not have to buy the latest, most expensive tablet or laptop computer out there but can go with a more affordable option and also their preferred software / work environment.
I prepared my presentation working with my two Android devices: a small mid-range smartphone and a 10″ tablet. Because I only had about 20 minutes time, I decided not to do a live demo, but use slides run on my computer instead to avoid any glitches. In the end, I did have a couple of minutes time for a quick demo and hooked up my tablet to my computer to be able to show its screen on the projector easily. All this went very smoothly until it came to logging into the demo site on the computer. Typing my password in front of an audience is not the best thing to do. So next time, I’ll make sure that I am logged in with the correct account before taking the stage. I have yet to try to connect my tablet directly to a projector.
<musing>Maybe one day I will just take my tablet to a conference instead of my computer and work just off it. I did use only my tablet for note taking during other sessions because my tablet comes with a pen which makes writing very easy. Then I don’t need to have my computer open and type. However, I still like typing and being able to use my shortcuts to copy and paste and search online quickly. I’m still quite clumsy on my tablet I think, partly also because I’m reduced to typing with fewer fingers. But adding an external keyboard would not make much sense because then I might as well just use my laptop.</musing>
There are three ways to enhance the use of Mahara on a mobile device:
- Use a responsive design theme
- Use MaharaDroid (sorry iOS users, you are out of luck)
- Use PortfolioUp (for iOS users)
The apps can be installed from their respective stores. MaharaDroid is the more powerful and feature-rich one because it doesn’t just allow you to upload photos and videos, but pretty much anything that you can share on your Android device. Furthermore, you will also be able to sync notifications and content from your Mahara instance with your device and write a journal entry directly from within MaharaDroid in version 2.1 which is currently in beta.
For MaharaDroid, developed by Catalyst as open source software, you can add your feature wishes directly in the issue tracker.
And what about the responsive design: Mahara’s default theme is responsive and can be copied and adapted to your institution’s needs. In my presentation I show off the theme our design team created for Catalyst. It sports a very custom dashboard image instead of the standard table that you see on the dashboard to make the theme our own. This part of Mahara is not responsive, but it adds a great deal to the customization for an institution because you can highlight Mahara functionality that is important to your institution and bring in your culture.
Below is the presentation I gave including the audio recording.