I just got back yesterday from a weeks trip to Mallorca with the caving club. We had a really great trip, 12 of us from the caving club rented a house in Santanyi and we spent most days either caving, canyoning or on the beach. Mallorca has some really fantastic caves and canyons. We were lucky to get permits to visit Vallgornera – it’s a protected cave and only a handful of permits are issued each year (more people climb Everest each year than get permits to visit Vallgornera) and has some really fantastic formations. More info about Vallgornera and photos of the formations. After we landed in Palma last Saturday, we headed straight to the cave, arriving at about 7pm and got out of the cave at around 6am the following morning, so we had the next day relaxing.
As we were such a large group it wasn’t really feasible for all of us to do the same activities each day, so usually we split into different groups to do different activities.
On Monday we’d planned to do two caves, but ended up spending most of the afternoon wandering the fields in the fog and drizzle looking for the entrance to one, which we didn’t end up finding, so we only did L’Avenc de S’Embut
Tuesday we spent canyoning at Mortitx, it was quite a walk (2 hours) just to get to the start point, but then even longer for the return journey, it took us around 5 hours to walk/climb back from the end point, up cliffs and along via ferratas with some really impressive views of the canyons and sea.
Wednesday was a day at the beach in Cala Falco, then Thursday was a long day canyoning at Sa Fosca (Torrent des Gorg Blau). It’s a really impressive canyon, very narrow in parts and walls 300m high, with one section of about 2-3 hours through a cave, with over 30 rappels in all. The walk at the end leads to Sa Calobra beach. Sa Fosca is reckoned to be one of the best canyoning trips in Europe.
Friday was spent being a tourist, visiting Cuevas del Drach and having lunch on the beach.
Many people have asked us about how to run the videos we’ve demonstrated in the OppiaMobile app on standard mobile phones (not Android smartphones), so this afternoon I had a go at converting the Basic Skills video from Global Health Media Project to run on my old Nokia 6230i (I’m not sure exactly how old this phone is as I got it second hand over 6 years ago). The original low-res version I downloaded from the GHMP website was 33Mb, which is too large to fit on the 32Mb MMC card my phone has, but with a bit of conversion I was able to get this down to just over 5Mb and still be good enough quality to watch on the small screen. For those interested the full technical details of how I converted the videos is below. If you’d like to download the final 5Mb version you can get it here.
Here’s a video of the video running on my Nokia, I’ve also show the basic skills video running on the HTC sensation – just to give a comparison with screen sizes and video/audio quality:
There are lots of reasons why we’ve focused on using Android phones for OppiaMobile – but I’ll leave them for another posting.
The technical details for converting the videos:
For my first attempts at converting the videos I used WinFF (note that I use Ubuntu on my desktop so all the details below is specific to this OS), this converted the videos fine and they played well on my laptop, but when I copied over to my phone I wasn’t getting any sound. Turns out that my phone doesn’t support the AAC audio encoding format, but AMR encoding. To get WinFF or other video conversion tools to process the video with AMR as the audio encoding, I needed to compile ffmpeg with the opencore-amr library. Follow these instructions to do this on your machine.
I then also found this tool for converting videos: Mobile Media Convertor. My first attempts weren’t too successful, I kept getting the error message “Error while opening encoder for output stream #0:1 – maybe incorrect parameters such as bit_rate, rate, width or height” then when I finally got it to convert it still didn’t play on my mobile. Finally I got it figured out and the settings I needed to use in mobile media convertor were:
I’ve just uploaded an updated OppiaMobile preview video, showing some of the changes we’ve made over the last couple of months, especially with the updated interface design and with our platform name. I’ve also launched the OppiaMobile website, so has some extra information pages especially for course authors and for developers.
For those interested, I used an Android screen recording app to create the video – was easy to use and could record my voice at the same time (though it requires a rooted phone to work). With the previous demo videos I’ve made of apps running the mobile, it’s always been tricky to get my digital camera to focus on the screen properly and also so there aren’t reflections from the mobile screen. Although I think it looks good, I think I still prefer videos where you can see the whole phone and it being manipulated. One issue I found was that when I was demonstrating the videos running, they automatically play in landscape mode, but the rest of the video is in portrait, so I needed to cut and rotate this part of the demo. I’d be interested to hear if you think a video of the full phone (and my hands) or a screencast recording is preferable as a demo of the app.
Since we’ve been working on our mobile learning app, we’ve not really had a good name for it, and have just been referring to it as ‘our mobile learning app’, and we really wanted to come up with a nice name for the platform. Selecting and finding a good name is pretty tough, especially a short one that isn’t some convoluted acronym. We also didn’t want the name to be specific to a particular field (such as health), as although most of our current content is health related, we can also use the platform for other subject areas (such as the Open Education MOOC).
So… the name we have settled on is “Oppia Mobile”, for info ‘oppia’ means ‘to learn’ in Finnish, and as far as we can tell it doesn’t mean anything strange or bad in any other language – but please let us know if it does.
We’ve registered the domain http://oppia-mobile.org, but currently this just redirects to the app download page in Google Play. I’ll get a proper site set up in the coming weeks. It feels good that we now have a name we can use to refer to the platform.
This week one of my ex-colleagues from the OU, Martin Weller, started a MOOC about openness in education. I think it officially starts at the end of this week and runs for 7 weeks, but all the content is already available. The course (H817) forms part of an OU masters course.
I thought it may be a good test to create an offline mobile version of the course (it’s been released under a creative commons license) using the mobile learning application I’ve been working on – so for anyone who is interested in having a mobile version of the course running on their Android phone which can be accessed even when you have no mobile internet connection – you can get the app here. Once you’ve installed the app and logged in, go to “manage modules” and “Open education” is one of the courses available to download.
A few notes/comments:
you will need to register/login to the app – this is for me to help track usage of the app and the different modules/activities used – I won’t share your details or email addresses with anyone else
you’ll need an active internet connection to install the app, login and download the module, but once it’s on your phone you no longer need a connection.
so far, I’ve just uploaded the first couple of weeks of the course, if people start to use it I’ll upload the rest of the course, the app should automatically notify you when a new version of the course is available (e.g. when I add extra weeks content). I’ve also not yet added the video content again I’ll see how much interest there is before I embed the videos into the mobile version
almost all the activities in the course require you to have an internet connection (e.g. for reading articles, posing to blogs etc), also for the forums – for all these activities, you’ll still need to go to the relevant site – this offline version is just so you can reference the content easily from your mobile.
I hope that me creating this offline version is an example of the “openness” that the course is all about. I’d really welcome any feedback etc, especially on the app itself and how it works for you.
Update (7pm 12/03/2013): Have just added weeks 3 and 4 , plus rearranged the first 2 weeks slightly to split the activities into separate pages. Hope to add the videos and some images too.
Update (5pm 15/03/2013): Have just added the remaining weeks and added the videos
I’ve noticed this for some time now, but a quick ctrl-h confirmed it for me…. basically I don’t actually visit very many websites through my browser (desktop or mobile) anymore. My web history for the last month shows that I’ve regularly visited only about 4 sites:
stackoverflow – for all those programming issues I get stuck with
Obviously that’s not to say I don’t use the internet, I certainly do, through using email (thunderbird on my laptop and K9 for mobile email), twitter app on my mobile (ok, I don’t post to twitter that much, but I do follow and read what others have to say), github, my RSS reader (using TT-RSS running on my laptop), youtube (either via youtube android app or through my media server), and various work-related sites/apps (usually that I’ve developed myself), but I find it interesting that there are very few websites I now access directly via my desktop web browser.
I now assume that most people reading this will be doing so either via an RSS reader, or a link from twitter or facebook.
Is this just me, or is it a general trend for everyone?