Last weekend I was following Twitter and @lucybarrow asked for volunteers to comment on some student blog posts.  I’m a helpful type, one of the things I’ve quickly come to love about Twitter is the ease and willingness of tweeps to help someone out, so I clicked the link and found myself at the Year 10 agriculture class blog.  But this was no ordinary blog, here the posts were in the form of MP3 audio files and they had been posted by mobile phone using Utterli.

I was mightily impressed.  I listened to all the posts which revealed that the students had been on an excursion to the Geelong Show.  Their short posts discussed the finer points of sheep judging and the like, not my area of expertise (!!) but it wasn’t the content that was important to me.  How fabulous for these students to be able to instantly record their observations to a public environment.  How fabulous that they are using ICT while miles from their PCs, instead using technology that 99% of students have personal access to.  I had to investigate further.

On visiting the Utterli site I discovered that it is basically another social networking site for sharing news, pictures, video and audio but with the added feature of being able to use your mobile phone.  Here’s their front page:

From the site: Utterli: Talk amongst yourself, sign up now to start a discussion from your computer or phone. Utterli lets you share text, pics, video and audio with your friends, even from your mobile phone.

However, it is the cross-posting feature that makes this such an exciting tool.

I registered with an email, username, password, my mobile number (without the first 0) and indicated which country I’m in (most importantly, Utterli has local phone numbers for cities all over the world, including Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in Australia).  Then under APPS & WIDGETS selected cross-posting.  A range of blogs and other services to select from appeared:

So far so good.  I figured that as Globalteacher is based on Edublogs which is based on WordPress then selecting WordPress would do.  Unfortunately when I put in this blog’s address, username and password the site was not found.  Lucy Barrow told me she had selected WordPress for her Edublog and it had all worked fine.  I’ve had contact with @globalteachers who assure me that a globalteacher blog should do everything an edublog does, but clearly not!

Not one to give up easily I figured I’d just set up an edublog which I did.  This time selecting the WordPress option in Utterli worked first time.  So next step was to try it out.

Using my mobile I called the local Melbourne number available on the site and was instantly connected to a perky American digitised voice.  The instructions were easy to follow and it turned out not to matter when I hung up at the end instead of pressing 3(?) and waiting for further options.  Sure enough, within the advertised 10 minutes our first two audio posts appeared on my new Test blog.  When they appeared they were headed “Audiopost” but you can use the blogs editing features to change the title and to categorise and tag the post if you want.

When registering I was also given the option to include a 4 digit pin so I could post using any other phone.  This gets better and better I thought, so I tried it out – the third post recorded on the test blog came from our school phone – at the cost of a local call.

So this really can be a very cheap application to use.  It’s nice to know that using your mobile will not cost any more than calling any other local landline number and I think part of the value of using this with students would be to encourage succinctness – no one wants to listen to a ramble.  There is about 20 seconds of instruction when you call – it should be easy to record a worthwhile post within a minute of mobile time.

I’m still figuring out the ins and outs of using this with students.  Whether they have their own Utterli account and if so can more than one Utterli account cross-post to the same blog, or whether the teacher creates one account which all can use (the students would need to know and enter the mobile number and PIN for the account which would make the calls longer).  I imagine the solutions will depend on the situations but there is still much to explore.

I think there are all kinds of applications for schools to use Utterli to cross-post to blogs.  At my school our year 9’s spend a week at City School – this would be ideal for them to record their impressions of what they have seen and capture the immediacy of the situation.  In fact, any excursion, outdoor activity or event removed from computers could be enhanced with blog posting from Utterli.

How could your students benefit from using Utterli to post to their blogs?