handhelds

Terrain, and Responsive Design

Like many folks who build web sites, we're seeing increased traffic from people with mobile devices.

In addition to building web sites, we're also geeks, and based on our experience working and playing on the web using mobile devices, we know that people using handhelds want the same information as people browsing the web using a laptop, netbook, or a desktop. Believe it or not, our interests as end users do not shrink or grow in proportion to our screen resolution. As a result, we favor the principles of responsive design as a means to meet the needs of mobile users.

The terrain mole!

We've been using Hexagon as our base theme for the last few years. Hex is insanely flexible, designed to work smoothly with Context, designed to eliminate the pain of building subthemes, and has an architecture that supports functional plugins within the theme. Currently, Hex ships with plugin support for accordion regions, vertical tabs, and horizontal tabs. If you want to get a sense of how Hex works with subthemes, grab a copy of VoiceBox and look at how the Dispatch theme interacts with contexts.

But, because Hex is designed to be extensible (did I mention that Hex is insanely flexible?) it can support other types of plugins.

For example, a Hex subtheme can use a plugin that supports the 960 grid system with a custom fluid width grid. Along with some other modifications, which we'll discuss in another post, this is the basis for our responsive hex starter theme. A development release of Terrain is now available for download on drupal.org. Get it while it's hot!

You can also access this video directly on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/27829604

Because we believe that one's own dog food is the tastiest, http://funnymonkey.com is now running on a Terrain-based theme.

Cell Phone Policy

This is the general cell phone policy I'd love to see schools adopt - short, simple, and sweet.

Mobile/Cell Phone Policy

During the school day, cell phones can be used. During class time, cell phones can be used in ways that support the teaching and learning process.

Cell phones may not be used in any way that detracts from the learning environment of the school. For more details on these expectations, see the "Classroom Expectations and Maintaining a Healthy Learning" environment section of the handbook on page X.

Cell phones may not be used to harass, intimidate, or bully anyone, at any time. Our school does not support harassment, intimidation, or bullying of any person for any reason. For more details on school expectations, see the "We Do Not Tolerate Bullying" section of the handbook on page Y.

And...

On a semi-related note, if a school is looking for a good resource on bullying, check out Bullied from Teaching Tolerance.

Mailhandler and MIME Router

The combination of Mailhandler and MIME Router allows you to set up your site to take posts via email, and to route attachments into filefields.

MIME Router integrates cleanly with Filefield, Imagefield and SWF Tools. File paths can be set via the Token module. To use MIME Router, just upload it into your modules directory and enable it; the module uses the allowed filetypes in Filefield's user interface. Aside from adding fields to your content types, no additional config is needed to use MIME Router.

Using this setup, images, video, and audio can be sent to your site via email. This also supports posting to the site from handheld devices that support emailing files. So, if you have ever been in a situation where you used a handheld device to take a picture, video, or audio recording, and wanted to post it to your own (or your organization's) web presence, this functionality is for you. This functionality can also be used to support eyewitness information on local news sites, real-time reporting for school newspapers, and other situations where you want to get fresh information live quickly.

The MIME Router module was written and released as part of our work for the Knight Drupal Initiative.

Notes

Mailhandler settings

  • Defaults: admin/settings/mailhandler
  • Adding mailboxes: admin/content/mailhandler

MIME Router config

  • Nothing!: it uses CCK/Filefield admin settings. Nothing to see here.

Other modules used in the screencast

A Book On Handhelds I'd Like To See

Earlier today, Lisa Nielsen asked a question about a book on mobile phones. Her question got me to thinking about a book I'd like to see that addressed the use of handhelds and phones in education.

Section 1: Getting Started

  • Chapter 1: A Brief History of Handheld and Mobile Devices. This chapter would be look at how this space has developed. Possibly, it could attempt to draw an existential distinction between the tablet, the laptop, the handheld, the PDA, and the smartphone.
  • Chapter 2: What's What? A breakdown of the differences between different phones and handhelds that are currently available. How are these devices different from one another? How do these differences support different types of learning activities?
  • Chapter 3: Operating Systems. This doesn't need to be too technical; rather, it just needs to provide an overview of the relative strengths and weaknesses between the iPhone/iPad, Android, Blackberry, Linux, and Windows based operating systems.
  • Chapter 4: Handheld Devices and Connecting To The Internet. Part of this chapter should be devoted to data plans, and how the wrong data plan can trigger surprising costs.

Section 2: Approaches To Learning

  • Chapter 5: Project-Based Learning. This chapter would explore how handhelds can be used to support project-based learning. This chapter would introduce high-level concepts.
  • Chapter 6: Handhelds and Storytelling. This chapter would outline strategies for digital storytelling and community media that can be supported/enhanced via mobile devices.
  • Chapter 7: Portfolios. This chapter would examine methods of using handhelds to support portfolio-based assessment/portfolio-based discussions of learning. This chapter would address strategies for teacher and student collected artifacts.

Section 3: Strategies and Lessons You Can Use

This section would provide strategies that could be implemented in classrooms. It would build off the theoretical base presented in the initial two sections to give people tools they can use, immediately. Ideally, many of these lessons/units would work across traditional curricular boundaries.

  • Chapter 8: Early grades (K-2).
  • Chapter 9: Elementary (3-5).
  • Chapter 10: Middle School (6-8).
  • Chapter 11: High School (9-12).
  • Chapter 12: Adult Learning and Ongoing Professional Development.

And, at the risk of stating the obvious, this book would need to have an accompanying web site. Without this, much of the information in it would become obsolete quickly; while this would benefit publishers, it wouldn't benefit actual readers. Having this information freely available as open content on a web site would also allow this content to be accessed via the same handhelds described in the actual book; this would be both symmetrical and useful.

As I clean up this post, I actually wonder how much of this information already exists on the internet. If someone actually wants to write this book, that would be awesome! But I suspect that much of this content is already created and dispersed on the web; if that is the case, and you know where it is, feel free to throw links in the comments. I'll gladly rework this post to include links to any relevant information, and will give credit to both the people who passed on the link, and the original source of the content.

As an aside, I read Lisa's original post on my phone as I returned home from the office. As I prepared dinner (grilled shrimp marinated in lemon juice/olive oil/white wine/garlic/dill; over pasta, with a salad), I broke away periodically to read sections of this post into voice recognition software on my phone. Before lighting the grill (an old-school Weber, since you asked) I emailed it to myself. As the coals heated, I cleaned up the formatting, and did a final spell-check. In other words, before I had a phone, I probably wouldn't have written this, but a handheld device lowered the convenience threshold just enough to make it possible for me to write this out.

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