Learning, technology and collaboration in mobile environments

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This talk identifies the methodological challenges of trying to satisfy multiple stakeholders when evaluating learning and technology use in informal settings. A method for achieving this is proposed based on the specification of a semiotic and a technological space, and referring to Engesgtrom's (1987) extended model of human activity.

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Learning, technology and collaboration in mobile environments

  1. 1. Methods for studying learning,collaboration and technologyuse in mobile environments Josie Taylor, Professor of Learning Technology Centre for Research in Computing Institute of Educational Technology The Open University Zurich July 2006
  2. 2. Aim of talk• Key issue: – methodological challenges of trying to satisfy various stakeholders when evaluating learning and technology use in informal settings.• A method – for representing user activity (practices, strategies and conflicts) that emerge when interacting with technological systems in an informal mobile learning setting (learning?) – semiotic and technological space. – cultural historical activity theory, and develops Engestroms (1987) extended model of human activity. – Task Models Zurich July 2006
  3. 3. Acknowledgements• Mike Sharples• Patrick McAndrew• Giasemi Vavoula• Claire O’Malley Zurich July 2006
  4. 4. Model of Mobile Learning:Researchfrom MOBIlearn• Sharples, Taylor & Vavoula (in press) propose a theory of learning in the mobile age as:‘the processes of coming to know through conversations across multiple contexts amongst people and personal interactive technologies’ Zurich July 2006
  5. 5. A theory of learning in the mobile age• “Conversation and context are essential constructs for understanding mobile learning, and offering implications for the ownership of learning and the integration of mobile learning with conventional education.”• Draws on Pask’s (1976) Conversation Theory, as does Laurillard (2002) Zurich July 2006
  6. 6. Conversational Framework, Laurillard 2002 Partner provides facility for mediating agreements Level of Descriptions Offers theories and ideas Re-describes theories Partner demonstrates or elicits Learner demonstrates models and problem solutions Why questions and responses understanding of models and problem solutions Offers conceptions and explanations Re-describes conceptions Sets goals Adjusts model Partner acts to build models Learner acts to build models and solve problems How questions and responses and solve problems Acts Modifies actions Level of Actions Partner provides facility for practical model building and problem solving Zurich July 2006
  7. 7. A theory of learning in the mobile age• The focus of our investigation is not the learner, nor their technology, but the communicative interaction between these to advance knowing.• Conversation is the driving process of learning. It is the means by which we negotiate differences, understand each other’s experiences and form transiently stable interpretations of the world.• Sharples, M., Taylor, J., and Vavoula, G., (in press) A Theory of Learning for the Mobile Age, in R. Andrews and C. Haythornthwaite, Handbook of e-learning Research, Sage Publications. Zurich July 2006
  8. 8. Research in progress  Ways of capturing and analysing this learning – Based in activity theory – Use scenarios to develop mobile learning activities – Run trials to test both the activity and the technology Zurich July 2006
  9. 9. Additional Issues• Communication in large multi-site, multi- national projects building systems (Carroll: 1995 – Scenarios; Taylor & Evans, 2005)• Evaluators need to move between stakeholders, responding appropriately to each, as well as serving the needs of the end users• Stakeholders: funders, system designers, system builders, educators, domain specialists, curators, teachers, companies, end users… Zurich July 2006
  10. 10. MOBIlearn Project• Project Info: – 33 month EU-funded with 15+ partners – Circa 8m Euros – 200+ members of SIG• Goals: – Designing an architecture for pedagogically sound mobile learning environments – Implementing an instantiation of the architecture with current technologies – Evaluate Zurich July 2006
  11. 11. 3 MOBIlearn Scenarios:3 types of learning • Museum – visitors to Art Gallery (informal) • MBA – professionals in full time work engaged in study (formal curriculum, work based) • First Aid Training – volunteers in full time work needing training in situ (voluntary, curriculum, work-based) Zurich July 2006
  12. 12. Externally initiated Formal MBA learning - not Resource within scope for based learning MOBIlearnExternally Internallystructured structured First Aid Museum Voluntary Informal learning learning Internally initiatedAdapted from Livingstone 2001 Zurich July 2006
  13. 13. Scenario DevelopmentProcess Zurich July 2006
  14. 14. Software Development Process •Pilot studies Literature •Qnr studies review Scenarios •Interviews •Diary studies Guidelines Functional Non functional Requirements requirements UML System Design Trials Zurich July 2006
  15. 15. Development of Task Model• Based in AT – a tool to: – Represent learning in mobile settings – Capture the complexity of the setting and situation – Capture aspects of the dialectical process of appropriation both technical and semiotic – Communicate with various stakeholders as part of evaluation Zurich July 2006
  16. 16. Activity Theory (AT)• Cultural Historical Activity Theory (Leont’ev, 1978)• Grounded in Vygotsky’s (1978) theorising about the social-cultural development of human mind (developmental studies of higher mental functioning) Zurich July 2006
  17. 17. Extended model of human activity(Engeström, 1987) Tools Subject Object Outcome Rules Division Community of Labour Zurich July 2006
  18. 18. Community Division of Rules labourReflecting social Not just human Negotiating bothrules and control in community but with other humanstechnological also technological and technologysense setting Control Context Communication Zurich July 2006
  19. 19. Semiotic Layer – Human/task focused Zurich July 2006
  20. 20. Technological Layer –Implementation focused Zurich July 2006
  21. 21. Interaction between semioticand technological layers Zurich July 2006
  22. 22. A pretty version Zurich July 2006
  23. 23. Purpose:• To hold a very complex situation in tension – Looking for conflicts between layers – Looking for support between layers – Identifying relationships and interactions – Allowing systematic manipulation – Allowing multiple views to be represented Zurich July 2006
  24. 24. Example: First Aid Training • First aiders at the Open University • Need to keep training up to date and refreshed, but not many opportunities to practise skills • All are full-time workers, so training could take place in workplace • Communication/collaboration is as important as access to content of training Zurich July 2006
  25. 25. First Aid Training Scenario:players• Task leader: – Configures task – Interacts with participants – Provides guidance• Task participants – act singly and in pairs to complete task – Briefed and de-briefed as a whole group Zurich July 2006
  26. 26. Task: Participant view• Initial on-line chat (group)• On-line Quiz (individual)• Challenge is set (pairs)• G1: On-line Brainstorming (pairs)• G2: On-line Brainstorming (pairs)• Get together on-line and vote (group) Zurich July 2006
  27. 27. Agenda for the First Aid Trial Zurich July 2006
  28. 28. Task: Task Leader view• Set up content and direct participants to it• Construct on-line agenda• Oversee activity during chats• Set tools to appropriate states (e.g. close the vote at the end of voting) Zurich July 2006
  29. 29. Task Model for First Aid Scenario Technological Tool (PDA and mobile phones) Semiotic Tool (First Aid Training) Technological Object (access to information) Semiotic Object Technological Subject ( knowledge & skills) (User) Semiotic Subject Changed Object (First Aider) (revised knowledge & skills) Control Context Communication Technological Technological Technological (network facilities, wireless) (usability of device) Semiotic (texting, uploading pictures & text) (community of first aiders) Semiotic Semiotic(constraints & protocols in first aid) (conversation; support of co-workers) Zurich July 2006
  30. 30. Task: Evaluator view• Developing scenario, constructing task models and feeding into requirements or design• Designing evaluation instruments (e.g. observation schedules, questionnaires etc) Zurich July 2006
  31. 31. Iterative feedbackGenericRequirements Trials Scenario Semiotic Technical Model Model Design Feedback Zurich July 2006
  32. 32. Semiotic model for First Aid Scenario:brainstorming Semiotic Tool (Collaborative: Working together to assess situations) Semiotic Object (G1: online brainstorming) Semiotic Subject Changed Object (First Aider) (improved performance leading to G2) Control Context Communication Semiotic Semiotic Semiotic (partner for activity; larger group) (Share; don’t diss (conversation; discussion; other person’s pov; be Agreement; resolution of argument) constructive) Zurich July 2006
  33. 33. Technical Model for First Aid Trial Technological Tool Workspaces: agenda, brainstorm, chat, vote Technological Subject Technological Object User at work Work through agenda Control Context CommunicationModerated, user selections, Many Wireless, fixed location, group choices, different levels, work, divided groups Guided, group and moderator, chats task-based Zurich July 2006
  34. 34. Post Trial Findings• Technical: – Tool choice allows unified working – Usability issues are reduced by providing a task focus – Performance on MOBIlearn system is adequate when working on real tasks – Task-based control is available but does not ensure shared views Zurich July 2006
  35. 35. Post Trial Findings• Semiotic: – Moderating requires control information to and from other users – Alerting is needed to bring synchronicity – Mobility needs the user to be mobile not just the tools Zurich July 2006
  36. 36. From trial: Support from technology Technological Tool Workspaces: agenda, brainstorm, chat, vote Technological Subject Technological Object User at work Work through agenda Control Context CommunicationModerated, user selections, Many Wireless, fixed location, group choices, different levels, work, divided groups Guided, group and moderator, chats task-based Zurich July 2006
  37. 37. From trial: Conflicts in technology Technological Tool Workspaces: agenda, brainstorm, chat, vote Technological Subject Technological Object User at work Work through agenda Control Context CommunicationModerated, user selections, Many Wireless, fixed location, group choices, different levels, work, divided groups Guided, group and moderator, chats task-based Zurich July 2006
  38. 38. From trial: Conflicts in technology Technological Tool Workspaces: agenda, brainstorm, chat, vote Technological Subject Technological Object User at work Work through agenda Control Context CommunicationModerated, user selections, Many Wireless, fixed location, group choices, different levels, work, divided groups Guided, group and moderator, chats task-based Zurich July 2006
  39. 39. Task Issues for First Aid Scenario Semiotic Tool (First Aid Training) Semiotic Object ( knowledge & skills) Semiotic Subject Changed Object (First Aider) (revised knowledge & skills) Control Context Communication Mobility Alerting Moderator role Zurich July 2006
  40. 40. Museum Scenario• Uffizi museum in Florence• Groups of users looking at Botticelli paintings• Variety of handheld devices and phones – Tablet PCs; pocket PCs; phones; PDAs• Data collected by Italian partners – Observation studies – Videotape of movement through gallery – Pre/post questionnaires (satisfaction) 40 Zurich July 2006
  41. 41. Museum Scenario data• Good multimedia facilities and high levels of usability in the tablet computers facilitated the semiotic level: – associations with other personal ‘devices’ (i.e. diaries and calendars)• Semiotic context has within it relatively large numbers of young women – levels of communication and sharing increased Zurich July 2006
  42. 42. Task Model Example: Museum Scenario Technological Tool: (PDA and mobile phones, pocket PCs, tablet PCs) Semiotic Tool (Learning about paintings) Technological Object (access to information) Semiotic Object Technological Subject ( knowledge & skills) (User) Semiotic Subject Changed Object (Museum Visitor) (revised knowledge & skills) Control Context Communication Technological Technological Technological (network facilities, wireless) (usability of device) Semiotic (texting, uploading pictures & text) (community of visitors) Semiotic Zurich July 2006 Semiotic
  43. 43. Museum Scenario data• Younger participants were keen on the idea of using the Chat service to save, download and print conversations so that they had a textual photograph to remind them of their visit to the museum.• Technological aspects of the scenario were supporting and augmenting the semiotic activities, providing a much richer experience for visitors. Zurich July 2006
  44. 44. Support in the Museum Scenario Technological Tool (Pocket PC/ Notebook) Semiotic Tool (Learning about Technological Object paintings) (access to information) Technological Subject Semiotic Object (User) ( knowledge & skills) Semiotic Subject Changed Object (museum visitor) (revised knowledge & skills) Control Context Communication Technological Technological Technological (usability of device - good) (interesting content well (good comms facilities; chat) Semiotic presented) Semiotic (Social Rules: diary Semiotic (exchange of information/opinion)functions/increased sharing) (Young people/young women) Zurich July 2006
  45. 45. Conflict in the Museum Scenario• In the case of the other technologies (mobile telephones and PDA’s) we find that the relative lack of usability in the technological domain inhibits all these developments in the semiotic. Zurich July 2006
  46. 46. Conflict in the Museum Scenario Technological Tool (mobile phone/PDA) Semiotic Tool (Learning about Technological Object paintings) (access to information) Technological Subject Semiotic Object (User) ( knowledge & skills) Semiotic Subject Changed Object (museum visitor) (revised knowledge & skills) Control Context Communication Technological Technological Technological (usability of device -poor) (difficult interface, poor (good comms; chat) Semiotic search) Semiotic(Social Rules: little interaction Semiotic (communications not used)with exhibits, system or other (community: no engagement) visitors) Zurich July 2006
  47. 47. Conclusions• Work-in-progress• The task model helps to provide a structured space within which to investigate success or failure• Enables evaluators : – to disambiguate specific technology from functionality – to separate human issues from technological issues, and put them back together again – to try several different implementation solutions in comparable circumstances Zurich July 2006
  48. 48. Conclusions (2)• Understanding the dialectic is very important – Process level – appropriation and its impact on behaviour – Specific technology level – what the tools are offering in terms of functionalities and how the user makes the best use of them to achieve their goal (or not!)• Focus on the activity keeps the learner to the fore Zurich July 2006
  49. 49. Conclusions (3)• So far the task models are proving useful for evaluators• Enables us to say more about what might be going on in a given activity• Enables us to pinpoint potential sources of conflict within and between levels• Provides a way of representing learning and interaction with technology Zurich July 2006
  50. 50. Future Work• Computer support for diagrams• Drilling deeper into scenarios – How deep is deep enough? – Is more useful data yielded? – Are triangles the best representation? – If so, why exactly? Zurich July 2006

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