Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Designing a Self-Contained Group Area Network for Ubiquitous Learning

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Designing a Self-Contained Group Area Network for Ubiquitous Learning

Article excerpt


The recent advancements in electronics engineering and manufacturing technology have resulted in handheld devices, such as cellular smart phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), pocket personal computers and tablet personal computers, getting wireless enabled, cheaper and more powerful. The characteristics of small size, light weight and easy operation allow users to take their most important data and software applications with them almost everywhere. Thus handheld devices are becoming increasingly popular. Meanwhile these appliances have also been used for educational purposes and a number of studies have focused on related issues (Liu, 2007; Massey, Ramesh & Khatri, 2006; Peters & ben Allouch, 2005; Pownell & Bailey, 2000).

Let us consider the situation where four Bridge lovers meet together on a special occasion. They want to play Bridge, but nobody has playing cards. However, they do have handheld devices with themselves. Thus they could somehow interconnect these handheld devices and play Bridge immediately. They may have several choices for connecting to each other: 2G, 3G or wireless local area networks (WLAN). In many places, these services are usually provided for a charge, but even then, they are not always available everywhere, for example, field trip to rural areas, higher up in mountains or sailing on the sea. Some places still lack sufficient information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure. In such scenario (or in any scenario, for that matter), it would be good to play Bridge without paying any costs for network connections, if their handheld devices could be connected through peer-to-peer (P2P) wireless network connection. In a P2P wireless network, each peer's handheld device can act both as a client and as a server, and allow peers to interact with each other directly (Morikawa & Aoyama, 2004). In this study, Group Area Network, called GroupNet for short, is proposed based on P2P wireless network connection to fit with this type of mobile scenario. GroupNet consists of a set of interconnecting handheld devices with wireless access, carried by a group of people within proximity.

GroupNet works with wireless modules of the handheld devices to achieve the best of ubiquitous networking. Ubiquitous networks enable secure access to data from everywhere on multiple devices (Tarasewich & Warkentin, 2002; Weiser, 1994) to achieve the ubiquitous learning environment. The ubiquitous learning environment can connect, integrate and share learning resources in the right place at the right time by an interoperable, pervasive and seamless learning architecture (Yang, 2006). P2P networking used in GroupNet is one approach of creating ubiquitous networks (Morikawa & Aoyama, 2004) for supporting ubiquitous learning. The main advantages of GroupNet are as follows:

* Additional infrastructure such as cables, wireless access point and hubs are not necessary for creating a GroupNet, making it possible to create GroupNet dynamically.

* It supports a small number of group members who meet at the same time and at the same place to communicate and collaborate with each other smoothly using handheld devices.

* It can ensure both the privacy and security of information because there is no need to connect to Internet for establishing interconnection among all handheld devices in a GroupNet.

GroupNet can be applied widely in many areas such as learning, training, communication, teamwork and entertainment. Various applications can be developed based on GroupNet for specific purposes. This paper first reviews the related works on using handheld devices for learning, and then describes the basic concepts and the architecture of GroupNet. Moreover, the functionality is demonstrated in the specific area of mobile learning. Finally, two scenarios are also described in detail to explain the benefits of GroupNet. …

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