Arif thesis-dec15'08(final version)

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My MA thesis on a framework for mobile devices in education.

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Arif thesis-dec15'08(final version)

  1. 1. TOWARDS A ROLE FRAMEWORK FORMOBILE DEVICES IN EDUCATIONAL CONTEXTS by Kazi Arif Anwar A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto © Copyright by Kazi Arif Anwar (2009)
  2. 2. TOWARDS A ROLE FRAMEWORK FOR MOBILE DEVICES IN EDUCATIONAL CONTEXTS Master of Arts, 2009 Kazi Arif Anwar Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning University of Toronto AbstractWhat is the role of mobile devices in education?Mobile phone ownership has proliferated at an explosive rate over the last decade. Theentrenchment of this technology in everyday life necessitates a critical examination of the roles itcan play in education. A varied cross-section of case studies in mobile education was selectedand analyzed with the primary aim of providing a critical landscape of mobile education and thesecondary aim of extrapolating frameworks from usage patterns. Exemplar case studies werereviewed for insight into mobile education and synthesized into a framework using meta-ethnography. The framework consists of three usage categories: Accessing Learning, EnhancingLearning, and Managing Learning. ii
  3. 3. Acknowledgements I would like to acknowledge the help and guidance provided by my thesis supervisor,Professor Jim Slotta as well as the feedback provided by Professor Sarfaroz Niyozov, my thesiscommittee member. iii
  4. 4. ContentsAbstract ........................................................................................................................................... iiAcknowledgements........................................................................................................................ iiiChapter 1: Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1 Tools ....................................................................................................................................... 1 Mobile Devices ....................................................................................................................... 2 Mobile Phones ........................................................................................................................ 2 Youth appeal. ...................................................................................................................... 4 Challenge for educators. ..................................................................................................... 5 Research Question .................................................................................................................. 6 Definitions........................................................................................................................... 6Chapter 2: Literature Review.......................................................................................................... 8 Frameworks of Mobile Learning ............................................................................................ 8Chapter 3: Methodology ............................................................................................................... 13 Meta-Ethnography ................................................................................................................ 13 Initial selection and review. .............................................................................................. 14 Expressing the synthesis. .................................................................................................. 16 Limitations ............................................................................................................................ 16Chapter 4: Analyses of Case Studies: Accessing Learning .......................................................... 19 Accessing Learning............................................................................................................... 19 Informal health and legal rights education........................................................................ 20 The M-Learning project.................................................................................................... 22 Distance learning through SMS. ....................................................................................... 25 Didactic profiling. ............................................................................................................. 28 Deaf students and SMS..................................................................................................... 30 Discussion. ........................................................................................................................ 32Chapter 5: Analyses of Case Studies: Enhancing Learning......................................................... 34 Mobile Devices to Enhance Learning................................................................................... 34 Lessons Based on Geo-Referenced Information................................................................... 35 iTree ...................................................................................................................................... 37 Mobile Computer Supported Collaborative Learning .......................................................... 39 ORD-CL............................................................................................................................ 41 High schools...................................................................................................................... 42 Results............................................................................................................................... 44 Participatory Simulations...................................................................................................... 45 Renwick Gallery’s Handheld Education Project .................................................................. 48 Discussion: How is Learning Enhanced? ............................................................................. 50Chapter 6: Analyses of Case Studies: Managing Learning .......................................................... 54 Managing Learning ............................................................................................................... 54 Mobile Technology in Education Services ........................................................................... 55 Mobile Scaffolding ............................................................................................................... 58 Mobile Organizer for University Students............................................................................ 60 StudyText .............................................................................................................................. 62 Mobile Phones for Assessment ............................................................................................. 63 Discussion. ........................................................................................................................ 65 iv
  5. 5. Chapter 7: Conclusion................................................................................................................... 67 Towards a Role Framework.................................................................................................. 67 The Clear and Present Future................................................................................................ 68References..................................................................................................................................... 71 TablesTable 1 Summary of Frameworks................................................................................................. 12Table 2 Accessing Learning.......................................................................................................... 17Table 3 Enhancing Learning......................................................................................................... 18Table 4 Managing Learning.......................................................................................................... 18 FiguresFigure 1. Seven steps of Noblit and Hare’s meta-ethnography.................................................... 13 AppendicesAppendix Glossary........................................................................................................................ 75 v
  6. 6. Chapter 1: Introduction The inventor of the system deserves to be ranked among the best contributors to learning and science, if not the greatest benefactors of mankind. Bumstead (1941), on the newly invented blackboard.Tools The invention and intervention of tools in our daily lives are what sparked the headlongrush of humanity towards what is called modern civilization. The navigation of most aspects ofour lives are eased or enhanced by tools ranging from the rudimentary and functional, to thesophisticated and convergent. The fields of architecture, agriculture, war and transport have seenexponential gains thanks to the advances made to their respective tools from developmentalresearch, trial and error, or simple iterative improvements that come from the passage of time.Disessa (2001) notes the emblematic role played by tools in society: They [tools] carry traces of the fundamental values and goals of the community. They accomplish the jobs that define and justify the very existence of the community. Tools are badges of membership, symbols of commitment and accomplishment, frequently tinged with affects such as pride and (for beginners) embarrassment. (p. 39) Education is the anomaly; that aspect of our lives that is meant to prepare us to becomemodel citizens in our tool-enhanced, modern lives, has been relatively non-reliant, even aloof toincreasing technological sophistication for its core tools. A reason for this may be that theeducational dialectic, with the exception of certain technical and vocational sub-categories,requires only rudimentary tools with limited functionality to fulfill its primary objective, that of 1
  7. 7. 2the transfer, creation and retention of knowledge. Hence the chalkboard, the pencil, the pen andthe notebook, which, while having seen moderate evolution, would be instantly recognizable to astudent from the 19th century even in their modern forms. However, with the increasinglydifferent needs of a diverse learner body world-wide, as well as the emerging opportunitiesprovided by data-rich global information networks, the time has come core tools of education toundergo revolutionary, rather than evolutionary changes.Mobile Devices Handheld devices of varying technical capabilities have been a part of the classroom forat least the last 35 years, when the portable, electronic calculator made its first appearance inclassrooms. The increasing complexity of transistors in modern integrated circuits meant thatmore and more power could be expressed in smaller and smaller form factors, leading toincreasingly complex portable electronics. In the last two decades, calculators have beenfollowed by a range of new mobile devices, notably Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), PortableMedia Players (PMPs, such as the iPod) and of course, mobile phones. Still, the calculator hasremained the most common mobile, electronic device in educational use, perhaps because of itsrelatively low cost, as well as its ease of use.Mobile Phones Of the above, the mobile phone in particular has exploded into the mainstream, becomingperhaps one of the most commonly encountered technologies in daily life. Current estimates putthe number of mobile phones in the world at more than 2 billion and daily sales at about 1million (Shiffler III, 2008). Even accounting for ownership of multiple phones, these figuresindicate that sooner rather than later, a quarter of the world’s population will possess a mobile
  8. 8. 3phone. Following suit, ownership of personal computers recently hit 1 billion, and with strongpresence in emerging markets this number is expected to double by the year 2014 (Milanesi,2008). Using this estimation, current sales rates of personal computers come out to about 166million a year, approximately half of the estimated sales rate for mobile phones. Increasingly, high-end mobile phones, or Smartphones, possess capabilities comparableto personal computers such as reading Office documents, email, storing and accessing digitalmedia, and browsing the Internet (Lee S., Park H. I. 2007). Whether it was a case of theincreasing computational power of mobile phones enabling the expanded capabilities or a needfor greater computational power arising from increased capabilities is an interesting ‘chicken orthe egg’ scenario. It is likely that smart phones arose from a combination of the communicatedneeds of the user and a prescience of a market for converged devices on the part of themanufacturers. Jenkins (2006) describes Convergence as ‘the flow of content across multiplemedia platforms’(p. 2), I am extending that definition to include Converged Devices as devicesthat subsume the functionalities of multiples devices into them. Some of the better knownconverged devices or smart-phones are Apple Inc.’s iPhone and Nokia Corporation’s Nokia N96,with the latter device combining a 5 mega-pixel camera, a portable media player (PMP) with amemory capacity of 16 gigabytes, personal productivity and organizer capabilities, a GlobalPositioning System, and mobile Internet browsing into a single package. Given that these cellphones can be prohibitively expensive, ranging from US $ 200 to 1000, not including the cost ofa contract it is not surprising that when having to choose between upgrading their computers andmobile phones, some users choose the latter.
  9. 9. 4 Youth appeal. A number of explanations have been put forward concerning why such devices,especially, mobile phones, are so appealing to youth. Rheingold (2002) suggests that the appealof mobile phones to youth lies in their ability of be a medium of communication with peersoutside the surveillance of parents and teachers “at the precise time of their lives when they areseparating from their families and asserting their identities as member of a peer group”. Anotherfactor offered by Rheinhold is the comfort felt by young people in using technology unavailablewhen their parents were growing up. Which is consistent the concept of the Digital Native,defined by Prensky to be the generation born in 1982 and after that are the first to grow up withdigital technology. By the time this generation had begun undergraduate studies (around the ageof 17/18) they would have spent less than 5,000 hour of their lives reading, compared to 10,000hours having played video-games and 20,000 hours watching TV, all the while surrounded byand using technology such computer games, email, the Internet, mobile phones and instantmessaging software (Prensky, 2001). But the innate enjoyment provided by cell phone ownership is not one restricted to digitalnatives. The features of being simultaneously available and mobile, two states that werepreviously mutually exclusive, provide a flavor of freedom that holds universal appeal. Roosexplains: The mobile phone allows for almost complete mobility with simultaneous availability, i.e. the person is in actual reality highly mobile and virtually fixed, this allows for simultaneous existence in the same person both modern, dynamic, being-on-the-move person and a very traditional, fixed, non-dynamic, open communication which used to be completely incompatible. When this is combined with constant connectedness to the Internet, one can really talk of being in the centre of a web, operating a communications centre wherever one is. (2001, p. 10)
  10. 10. 5 Challenge for educators. Given the popularity and pervasiveness of mobile phones in today’s world, how shouldeducators respond? There are several basic responses that they could take, including prohibitingthe use of mobile phones in schools, a move that is not likely to be received well by digitalnatives. A more productive move would be to embrace these technologies and adopt them intothe classroom and beyond. Thankfully, emerging trends in education indicate acceptance ratherthan rejection of mobile technologies in the classroom, at least by teachers and students(Roschelle, 2003). This acceptance of mobile technologies brings about its own set of challenges, as over-eager technologists pre-maturely herald the obsolescence of the traditional schooling model andeducationists rush to implement technologies in contexts that might not be best suited for themPrevious epochal technologies have been similarly heralded, from the radio, to television, to thepersonal computer, yet none have had the impact in the classroom or learning environments thatwas initially predicted or expected from them: The cycle of attempted change invariably began with extravagant claims of the revolutionary powers of film or instructional television to transform teaching and learning. Reformers, including public officials, vendors foundation executives and school administrators, fastened onto the new technology, promoting it as a solution for school problems. For example, in the 1950’s promoters of instructional television hailed that new technology as a solution to a teacher shortage at the time. (Cuban, 2001, p. 137) Although in the era of mobile communications it may seem that these previous fallaciesof unrealistic expectations are being repeated, mobile technology may prove an exception to therule because of two important factors that differentiate it from previous technologies such astelevision, radio and personal computers. The first is that mobile technologies, by definition, aremobile, and the second is that mobile technology is ubiquitous, and as likely to be owned by the
  11. 11. 6learners as opposed to the institutions. Mobile devices also integrate (with varying degrees ofsuccess) all of the main features of previous technologies: Radio is aural, but not visual,Television is aural and visual, but not interactive, personal computers are aural, visual andinteractive, but not portable. Mobile devices combine all of the above qualities into a small formfactor, while also ensuring through their ubiquity that the learning curve for new users isminimal. Mobile learning, we can conclude, has real potential to become an integral part of theeducational discourse.Research Question What patterns of usage are emerging for mobile devices in educational contexts? The line of inquiry that was employed to address this question was a two-step process ofcritical analyses of mobile learning case studies followed by a meta-ethnographical synthesis ofthe findings. The expected outcome is a clearer understanding, for the reader, of the direction ofmobile learning, in addition to its perceived and emergent strengths and challenges. It is alsohoped that the patterns of usage that are revealed will better inform efforts to establish acomprehensive and general framework for mobile devices in educational settings. Definitions. The term Mobile Learning, or M-learning has as many definitions as it has examples.Some definitions focus on the technology or medium of delivery, some focus on the mutabilityof the learning context, and some focus on the learning activities in question. Although acomprehensive definition would almost certainly comprise of all of the above criteriaproportionally, what remains constant is the medium of delivery. This medium may be ahardware or a software solution, or both, but it is constant, and it is integral to any definition of
  12. 12. 7m-learning. Although the instinctive conceptual association with the word ‘device’ is that of aphysical object, the definition of the word encompasses ideas and strategies as well. Thisafforded ambiguity needs to be extended to the usage of the words ‘mobile device’ in this paper.
  13. 13. Chapter 2: Literature Review What is evident…is the need for conceptual frameworks to guide the design of learning-centered educational environments that best exploit mobile and wireless devices. (Cobcroft, Towers, Smith, & Bruns, 2006)Frameworks of Mobile Learning The reasons behind the abundance of definitions and frameworks for mobile-learning (m-learning) lie more with the relative newness of the field rather than with confusion arising froman inherent complexity. Given that effective activities draw on a number of distinct theories andpractices, Naismith, Sharples & Ting (2005) argue the need for a blended approach. Thus, theirframework classifies m-learning into six broad theory-based categories of activity: 1. Behaviourist – Activities that promote learning as a change in the learner’s observable actions 2. Constructivist – Activities in which learners actively construct new ideas or concepts based on both their previous and current knowledge. 3. Situated – Activities that promote learning within an authentic context and culture. 4. Collaborative – Activities that promote learning through social interaction. 5. Informal and lifelong – Activities that support learning outside dedicated learning environment and curriculum. 6. Learning and Teaching support – Activities that assist in the coordination of learners 8
  14. 14. 9 and resources for learning activities. (Naismith, Sharples, & Ting, 2005) Frohberg (2006) discusses the problems with Naismith’s pedagogy-based framework: First, the pedagogy within a mobile learning project is not as stable as one would assume. Even small changes in the design might shift the project into another category without having changed anything significant. Second, the categories are not sufficiently distinct. A mobile learning project can for example be collaborative, situated, and informal at the same time, which makes it impossible to place a project clearly in one specific category. (p. 2) Frohberg (2006) suggests that context takes precedence over the specific activity beingperformed during the learning process, as it allows for better customization of technology. Hearrived at this conclusion from his analysis of 120 projects, which he sorted into five contextualcategories: Free, meaning activities where context is irrelevant, these comprise of non-traditionallearning contexts, examples include tour buses, public transportation, restaurants. Formalized,where learning occurs within a traditional curriculum characterized as structured and welldefined, as typically offered in most learning institutions. Digital or a virtual context set bycomputers that replace a physical context. Physical, where learning takes place in a realenvironment which is situated, cooperative and explorative, and Informal, which is bestdescribed as ‘everyday learning’, where the learning situation is not necessarily anticipated orstructured by pre-meditated or external curricula. Social skills and other ‘soft’ skills are includedin this category. Frohberg’s (2006) argument for a contextual framework for m-learning is compelling, aschange in context is, after all, an indicator of mobility. However, Frohberg’s framework isvulnerable to one of the same charges that he levels at the framework of Naismith et al. (2005),which is the instability of these categories. It can be argued that as a student goes about a schoolday, he or she moves across a number of learning contexts, from Formalized learning in the
  15. 15. 10History classroom to the social cues picked up in the school cafeteria. Frohberg thus appearshandicap his own framework by arguing that stability is a desirable trait in frameworks. Butperhaps stability is not as important as Frohberg has implied. After all, overlap in categorizationschemes is common, this holds even more so for education. Patten, Sánchez, & Tangney (2006) propose a framework that moves away from theconceptual end of the spectrum in favor of the pragmatic end. Patten et al. focus specifically onthe applications of handheld or mobile devices in education, and find seven functionalcategories: 1. Administrative – Generally focusing on information management tasks such as scheduling, calendars, and grading. 2. Reference – Office style tools such as dictionaries, translators and other e-books. 3. Interactive – Applications that engage the user through a ‘response and feedback’ approach. Includes drills and testing. 4. Micro worlds – Small-scale recreation of real-world domains to allow for the learner to experiment and construct their own knowledge. 5. Data collection – Applications that make use of the information recording and storage abilities of handheld devices. 6. Location Aware – Applications that allow for learners to contextualize their learning activities by recognizing their location, through use of technologies such as GPS.
  16. 16. 11 7. Collaborative – Building on the previous categories, these applications aim to recreate a learning environment that are inspired by and encourage collaborative learning. The respective frameworks of Naismith et al. (2006), Frohberg (2006) and Patten et al.(2006) share a division of m-learning into at least 5 distinct categories. However, the questionneeds to be asked whether mobile learning design is better guided by relatively complex,categorical schemes or relatively simple ones? This paper will argue that there is a need for both.It is important to remember the relative infancy of the field of mobile learning as we explore thereasons behind the lack of any overarching frameworks. Kukulska-Hulme’s (2005) review of teninnovative case studies in mobile learning identified three general categories of usage for mobilelearning in the learning space, specifically that the categories of usage for mobile devices are toprovide access, to enable changes in teaching and learning, and to provide alignment withinstitutional or business aims. Although these three categories are not offered as the foundation of an overarchingframework for m-learning, they have the potential to be used as such. The first two categories,providing access and enabling innovation, may well be critical categories of usage that candescribe the field of mobile learning today. However, the third category, alignment withinstitutional of business aims, may be what prevents Kukulska-Hulme’s category scheme fromserving as a comprehensive, over-arching framework. Unlike the first two categories, it is notrequired to share any pedagogical objectives, and it nearly begs the question of whether a mobileproject should be sanctioned or disregarded if it is not alignment with institutional or businessaims. Assuming the answer is ‘no’, then Kukulska-Hulme’s third category of usage becomesredundant. Thus, there remains the need for a comprehensive and overarching framework for theusage of mobile-devices in learning contexts that can serve as a general guide for designers, a
  17. 17. 12planning tool for deployers and users, and as a classification scheme for scholars. Table 1provides a convenient summary of these frameworks of mobile learning.Table 1Summary of Frameworks Frameworks of mobile learning Framework Naismith Theory based categories of activity Frohberg Context based categories Patten Functional categories of usage Kukulska-Hulme General categories of usage
  18. 18. Chapter 3: MethodologyMeta-Ethnography1 Given that one of the goals of this paper was to provide an interpretive synthesis ofexisting research on m-learning, this raises a challenge in selecting a method of analysis –particularly given the wide range of quantitative and qualitative studies to be examined. Meta-analysis, or the analysis of combined quantitative findings, would be inapplicable given thepredominance of qualitative case studies. Thus, a qualitative synthesis, or meta-ethnography, is abetter alternative. This study followed the model established by Britten, Campbell, Pope,Donovan, Morgan, & Pill (2002), who applied the Noblit and Hare (1988) approach to meta-ethnography to create a qualitative synthesis of articles on Social Medicine. Figure 1 detailsNoblit & Hare’s (1988) 7-step meta-ethnographical approach. 1. Getting started 2. Deciding what is relevant to the initial interest 3. Reading the studies 4. Determining how the studies are related 5. Translating the studies into one another 6. Synthesizing translations 7. Expressing the synthesisFigure 1. Seven steps of Noblit and Hare’s meta-ethnography.1 The author understands that the long-standing association of the word ethnography with descriptive sociologicalstudies can create confusion for the reader. It should therefore be noted that the use of the term meta-ethnography inthis thesis refers to the methodology of synthesizing multiple, disparate qualitative studies sharing the same generalsubject matter, in this case, mobile-learning. 13
  19. 19. 14 Given the simplicity and redundancy of some of these steps the description of themethodology has been condensed into two sections, the first being an amalgamation of the first 6steps called Initial Selection and Review and the second being the 7th step: Expressing theSynthesis. Initial selection and review. The articles to be synthesized were selected from a variety of sources, ranging fromcommissioned studies to independent experimental undertaking. All of the articles cited, not onlyprojects but also the supporting references were obtained using Google Scholar, an online searchengine for scholarly literature provided as a service by Google Inc. Search results in GoogleScholar are ranked according to a number of factors, mainly, relevance of text content andcitations in other scholarly literature. These rankings were used in determining the relevance ofdifferent resources within the analysis. The query words were selected as they defined the three most important criteria forinclusion: that learning experience be on the move, that a certain level of technology beemployed and the experience itself relate to counterparts in traditional education. Thus, thearticles were selected from the first 600 results from the search query ‘mobile technologyeducation.’. Following the search results, the author selected articles based on the short blurbs oneach article provided by the search result page. The criteria for inclusion were that the paperwould have to describe a mobile learning project that involved the use of mobile devices. Out ofapproximately the first 600 results, 158 were selected for review. Subsequent review of thepapers by the author resulted in some papers being discarded for irrelevance or redundancy.Where possible, papers described but unavailable through Google Scholar were obtained bydirectly contacting the authors via electronic mail.
  20. 20. 15 The initial list of 600 results returned from Google Scholar were reduced to a pool of 158by reading the respective abstracts and determining whether the articles actually dealt with thetopic of mobile devices usage in educational contexts. This was necessary as even though thesearch query of ‘mobile, technology, education’ were sufficient to return a large number ofrelevant articles, there were a sufficient number of un-related articles that made a thoroughreview of each abstract necessary. The 158 studies selected for review were carefully read to first identify the mainconcepts. Following each reading, detailed notes identifying the main concepts as well as uniquefeatures were made. Papers were read with an effort to shift between different m-learningapproaches and research methodologies. Notes were taken during the reading, with an emphasison identifying central themes and with other papers. Not all of the 158 articles selected dealtspecifically with case studies of mobile device usage in educational contexts, many articles infact dealt with peripheral topics such as the history of technology in education or technicalmatters such as mobile software development for education. These papers, although not includedfor review, were nonetheless used to fill-in the author’s gaps in knowledge. Out of the pool of158, 86 articles dealt with case studies of mobile devices in education, the remaining 72 wereeither theoretical or technical papers that were nonetheless used as reference. From these 86 casestudies, 15 were selected for review in this paper. The criteria for selection were that the paperwould have to exemplify the emerging categories of usage (described below), and that it was aninnovative application of the use of mobile device in educational contexts. This was done in acompletely arbitrary manner. Three recurring roles for mobile devices emerged over the course of the reading:Accessing Learning, Enhancing Learning and Managing Learning. In order to relate the studies
  21. 21. 16to another, tables were created for each category using columns to represent targeted learners,technology used and learning contexts respectively. Each article falling into a particular categorywas represented by a row in the table. In order for key themes to emerge from each category, aset of common traits had to be established. These are key details that allowed for a profile ofeach study to be established. For each category, the common traits were fixed as targetedlearners, technology used and learning context. Expressing the synthesis. Comparing the studies across the set of commonalities was necessary to determine whatthe researchers were hoping to achieve with the use of the specific mobile devices they wereinvestigating. The following questions that were asked: What is the aim of the study? Is themobile device making a meaningful difference in the educational discourse, and if yes, whatspecific role is it playing? The roles identified for mobile devices were generalized, leading tothe articulation of three overarching categories: Accessing Learning, Enhancing Learning andManaging Learning. Table 2 provides an overview of the 15 papers that ultimately comprised thedataset used to articulate these categories, displaying the author names, targeted learners, specificmobile technologies employed and learning context.Limitations In retrospect the author feels that the initial stages of the article selection process couldhave been subjected a more disciplined and comprehensive approach. A greater pool of paperscould have been obtained by using alternative query strings such as ‘learning’, ‘handhelds’, and‘portable’. Search engines other than Google Scholar may also have been used to accessadditional sources of scholarly content. Ultimately, the factor that primarily limited the scope of
  22. 22. 17the author’s search efforts was time. It would of course be preferable that the case studiesreviewed here are ‘best of breed’, but a pool of ‘best of breed’ studies is not necessarily a by-product of a methodology focused on identification of themes from a random cross-section ofstudies. Although it is interesting to speculate about the results from an alternative pool ofpapers, the universality of the themes that emerged from this exercise provide the author withconfidence that he would have arrived at the same conclusion.Overview of Studies Tables 2, 3, and 4 provide overviews of the final pool of studies selected for analysis andcritique in subsequent chapters.Table 2Accessing Learning Authors Targeted learners Technology used Learning context Sandhu, 2005 Migrant workers Mobile phones Health and legal rights Attewell, 2005 Disaffected youth, young Mobile phones (SMS, Literacy, numeracy and life- vulnerable learners web) skills modules Islam, 2005 Geographically remote Mobile phones (SMS) Mathematics students Becking, 2005 Working students PDA General Akamatsu, 2006 Deaf students Mobile phones (SMS) Communications
  23. 23. 18Table 3Enhancing Learning Authors Targeted learners Technology used Learning context Giroux, 2002 K-7, 12-13 years old Mobile phones, GPS On-site archeology, history units Nakahara, 2005 Undergraduate Mobile phones BBS forums postings Zurita, 2004 K-2, K-11, K-12 Mobile phones, PDA Word-learning, number ordering and natural sciences Klopfer, 2005 Diverse PDA (Palm) Simulation of complex, dynamic systems Boehner, 2005 Diverse PDA (Compaq) Museum guideTable 4Managing Learning Authors Targeted learners Technology used Learning contextChen, 2005 Undergraduate and post- Mobile phones Educational services graduate (Web)Stone, 2002 Undergraduate Phones (SMS) Mobile educational support (scaffolding)Corlett, 2005 Post-graduate PDA (Compaq) Calendars, concept- mapping toolsMellow, 2005 Mobile phones Digital flash cardsWhattanarong, 2004 Undergraduate Mobile phones (voice Assessment and SMS)
  24. 24. Chapter 4: Analyses of Case Studies: Accessing Learning The justification of mobile learning and a solid foundation for this new sector of provision comes from the ‘law’ of distance research which states that ‘It is not technologies with inherent pedagogical qualities that are successful in distance education, but technologies that are generally available to citizens’. (Keegan, 2005)Accessing Learning The mobile device is used as a tool that lowers the barrier of entry to education for alearner who faces constraints due to limitations such as physical ability, monetary resources, orgeographical distance. We live in a world that simultaneously more connected and isolated than ever. Jet travelhas reduced a trip around the world to only 24 hours, cable news networks report on eventshappening around the world as it happens, telecommunications satellites mean instantcommunications with anyone on the planet with access to a phone, the Internet providesuniversal information access regardless of location. Yet, the gap between the rich and the poor isincreasing, ethnic tensions, even in countries with stable and democratic governments such asBelgium are rising, and steady migration to cities means rural dwellers are being left even furtherbehind in terms of economic development and technological infrastructure. With expandingpopulations in developing countries and increased immigration to developed countries demandfor basic services such as education is rising. 19
  25. 25. 20 Especially in the case of education, the ability, scope and desire for customization ofcurricula is inversely related to demand. Administrators often find themselves choosing betweena more flexible learning experience to one that is comparatively rigid but able to address theneeds of a larger student body. However, increased student populations also means increasedstudent diversity, including those that face challenges in terms of learning ability, physicalability, geographical distance, and of course, socio-economic background. These students areoften the ones whose quality of life is affected more significantly by access to education. Clearly,a bridge is required to connect these learners to educational resources available to the wider, andmore homogenous, student body. This role can by played strongly by technology. In particular,the technology represented by mobile phones, which is unlike any other introduced in the lasthundred years in that, through its ubiquity, it has become the most democratic technologyplatform in the world. In other words, in terms of accessibility to technology, the mobile phone isthe lowest common denominator. Informal health and legal rights education. Mobile devices enable targeting of non-traditional learner groups and dissemination ofnon-traditional curricula, as exemplified by Sandhu, Hey, & Agogino (2005). The researchersaddressed the needs of migrant workers in the western and southern United States in terms ofawareness of their informal legal and health rights, and sought to address the issue by firststudying the demographic composition of migrant workers in the United States. The findingsconveyed that despite conventional wisdom, this group is not homogenous: Approximately 80% of farm workers are foreign-born and the overwhelming majority of these (95%) were born in Mexico. Still, many other populations participate in agricultural work, including Native Americans, Jamaicans, Laotians, Filipinos, Haitians, Puerto Ricans, and Hmongs [8]. Spanish is the native tongue for 84% of this population, English represents 12% and Tagalog, Ilocano, Creole, and Mixtec comprising most of the rest.2 Literacy is decidedly low as 85% of
  26. 26. 21 farmworkers are unable to decode printed information in either their native or adopted language. Tremendous income inequalities distinguish this group from the rest of the U.S. population; compared to the per capita GDP of more than US$37,000, half of all farmworker families earn less than US$10,000 annually. (p. 1) Given the challenges in terms of language, immigration status and general obstaclesfaced by migrant workers (with many not having legal residence status), it is not surprising thatthis population is often deprived of the legal and health rights that are ensured to them. Sandhu etal. sought to utilize this community’s access to and use of cell phones to conduct a preliminaryneeds assessment for health and legal rights education. The project was based on the concept ofthe sharing of ICT resources, and the authors point out similar endeavours that have been inplace in South Asia for some time now. Including the Grameen Phone project in Bangladesh,which allowed for (mostly) women entrepreneurs operating cell phone services in rural contextsand India Tobacco Company’s (ITC) e-choupals, which provided a virtual marketplace for ruralfarmers (p. 2). Given that sharing of community resources was an imperative in this design, theresearchers took care to involve the community in the design of the project. Migrant workercommunity members from the town of Earlimart, California were chosen to conduct an initial,‘innovation workshop’, this workshop consisted of needs assessment, brainstorming and conceptdevelopment sessions (Sandhu et al., 2005, p. 3). The main needs that emerged from thedevelopment session were focused around health and information. Among others, main concernscentered around pesticides and water contamination. It was the findings to this session thatconfirmed to the researchers the effectiveness of a solution based around mobile technology. Theresearchers make a number of suggestions in terms of design for a mobile solution for the needs
  27. 27. 22of the migrant worker community. Sandhu et al. also add the caveat that mobile technology isonly one of the solutions that were being investigated. The economics of any proposed system are critical to its successful adoption and continued use. Any system level research in the area of technology and education must have a viable, sustainable business model. A stronger claim is that there must be some market-driven need for the technology in order for it to have a chance at long-term viability. This is not a central focus of our work at this stage, but it is a consideration. This is the reason for leveraging existing mobile telephone networks and for examining a technology that has already found footing in the community. (Sandhu et al., 2005 p. 4) Upon contacting the primary researcher, the author was informed that the work on theproject had not progressed further, presumably due to a lack of funding. While thediscontinuation of the project is unfortunate, Sandhu et al. (2005) do raise a valid scenario wherethe effective utilization of a community resource makes a meaningful difference in the quality ofcommunity members’ lives. In this case the resource is ICT, specifically mobile phones. This study provides a good illustration and anchor point in our analysis of the accesscategory. It demonstrates the potential of mobile technologies for providing resources to a groupthat is traditionally on the wrong side of the digital divide. This potential seems most connectedto the attribute of mobile phones that they are the lowest common denominator in terms ofaccessible technology. Hope remains that future projects deploying a similar design will be moresuccessful in terms of attracting the necessary funding to see them through to completion. The M-Learning project. Attewell (2005) describes the M-Learning project as one that takes advantage of acommon technology available to the overwhelming majority of European Union youth in the 16-20 age group: the mobile phone. The researchers assert that this age group is the most vulnerableto disengagement from learning. The authors also cite the International Adult Literacy Survey
  28. 28. 23from 1997 which indicated that 20% of adults in the UK had a literacy level less than thatexpected of an 11 year old, and that 6% of students who left school at the age of 16 do not go onto subsequent training or work. Compelled by these rather grim statistics, the authors partneredwith 14 other organizations working with vulnerable youth in the UK to study the best ways ofreaching them through the advent of mobile phones. The collaborating institutions worked withthe following groups: 1. Homeless 2. Modern Apprentices 3. Afro-Caribbean young people not interested in learning 4. Family learning including young fathers 5. Unemployed, disadvantaged 6. Travelers, homeless, young mothers 7. Reluctant students 8. Unemployed, young offenders 9. School pupils including potential drop-outs 10. Disadvantaged youth 11. Immigrants and dialect speakers. (Attewell, 2005, p. 3) The authors worked with the collaborating partners to find the best approaches todeveloping mobile learning modules that would take into account delivery options, technologyplatform (operating systems), programming language and media and transport options(Bluetooth, Wi-fi). The underlying hypothesis behind this project was the assumption thathandheld devices could be used for learning and that it was an avenue of attracting young people
  29. 29. 24who did not enjoy traditional education. Based on this hypothesis, a number of mobile learningmaterials were developed for the target groups: 1. Smaller-than-bite-sized literacy, numeracy and life skills modules available both offline or online via the web browser and the learning management system (LMS) 2. Driving theory test quizzes (JAVA based and downloadable) 3. SMS quizzes linked to text-based materials and Mini-SMS language course (basic Italian) 4. Mini web-page builder. (Attewell, 2005, p. 4)While no formal findings were available at the time this paper was written, anecdotal accountsfrom mentors implementing the project indicated individuals who were more confident ingraduating to more complex technology and more engaged and confident in learning as a resultof the study. The authors warn that the period of engagement provided to the 300 learners bytheir collaborating organizations was only between 3-9 weeks, a period of time insufficient toinvestigate long-term effects on numeracy and literacy of the target groups. However, as is oftenthe case with broad studies, it is the unanticipated results that are the more interesting, includingthe one here that highlights the complex psycho-social impact of democratic technologicalaccess: Some positive outcomes not directly related to learning have also been reported. Some of the learners were surprised and proud to be trusted with such expensive and sophisticated technology; for example, one project mentor noted: ‘He took really good care of it. He pointed out that because of his background, no one else would have ever trusted him with a mobile. This has meant more to him than the actual device itself as he feels respected. (Attewell, 2005, p. 6)
  30. 30. 25 Disaffected youth and disadvantaged migrant populations are not solely a developingworld phenomenon, and the m-learning project makes an admirable attempt to reach thesesectors of the population. Although mobile phones are a good bridge to these populations, moreemphasis should be placed on what life-skills are actually in the best interests of thestakeholders. What work have the researchers done to ensure that appropriate and relevant life-skills are being made available? Were there surveys to gauge what topics the target groupinterest? The project is frustratingly vague on this very important topic. With the establishmentof the appropriate tools for this project let’s hope appropriate goals follow not far behind. Distance learning through SMS. One of the challenges in terms of education for developing countries is ensuring accessfor all learners. These learners may be considered disadvantaged not only by socio-economicstatus but by geographical location as well. Bangladesh, which is still in the process ofdeveloping a comprehensive nation-wide transportation system, is all too aware of thesechallenges. Although traditional correspondence-distance education is available in Bangladesh,Islam, Ashraf, Rahman, & Rahman (2004) point out that the list of shortcomings with thistraditional model is extensive, for one, they are not live, there is a lack of interaction between thepresenter and the student, there is no feedback or monitoring, and most importantly, there is noevaluation of teaching quality. According to the authors, the missing link or the crucial advantage that traditionaleducation holds over distance education is interactivity. With recent advances in technology,these issues have been resolved to a degree. Distance education classes in many universities nowwebcast classes and allow for students to video-conference with the teacher in real-time.However, the high-bandwidth networks and expensive equipment required for these formats
  31. 31. 26preclude their use in developing countries, which often have low bandwidth or unreliableInternet connections, and limited budgets to invest in expensive computer equipment. As aremedy, Islam et al. (2004) point out that the rapidly expanding mobile phone user-base inBangladesh can be used as an alternative: The phenomenal growth of mobile phones is expected to continue with each mobile company setting their targets in terms of millions. With new companies like BTTB and Alcatel joining competition, the unit prices of calls and sending messages are also expected to drop. The companies now cover all districts of Bangladesh. If mobile phone technology could be used as a tool, it would be much more technologically suitable for Bangladesh in terms of the reach it would provide. (p. 2) Here is where the authors create a marriage that seems to have a unique potential of beinga model for distance education that is effective in terms of both cost and pedagogy. They proposeusing the traditional Open University format, which is used by the Bangladesh Government tobroadcast traditional educational programs over the national television channel. They then add aninnovative use of m-learning in the form of an SMS (Short Messaging Service), a termsometimes used to refer to text messages or IM) channel where students can provide immediateresponses to questions from a live, televised class. The idea here is to provide a more visceral,engaging educational experience for students who have traditionally been more passiveconsumers of such educational content. and the impact of this added innovation would beevaluated, as would the students’ achievement in the educational courses, through tests takensubsequently at examination centers. Islam claims that the rapid growth of cell phones and SMSusers in Bangladesh bolsters the mediums promise as a distance learning tool that will supportdistributed learning by enabling the following: 1. Delivery of contents, 2. Regular communications,
  32. 32. 27 3. Continuous feedback and 4. Interactions between learners and instructors. (Islam et al., 2004, p. 2) To test the effectiveness of cell phones as distance learning tools, Islam et al. (2004) setup two classrooms side by side, one with an instructor present and the other receiving a livevideo broadcast from the instructors classroom. Each classroom had 26 students, and theclassroom with no instructor used cell phones and text messages (SMSs) instead of pen andpencil to answers the same questions in a mathematics context of quadratic functions. The marksachieved in both classrooms were compared statistically, and it was found that the mobile groupin general scored significantly higher than the f2f (face to face) group. Islam speculates that thismay be due to the initial flurry of excitement over the new method being used, and that this maywear off after the initial few classes. Although Islam et al. (2004) propose a creative and viable solution for distance educationin developing countries such as Bangladesh, their specific use scenarios could be more flexible.For example, they suggest a number of uses of SMS connectivity for remote students, includingreminding the student when he or she has not participated for some time, or establishing amandatory number of questions that need to be answered per class. This, in the author’s view, isan application of SMS technology in the traditional, transmissional mode of teaching oftenencountered in developing settings. The question that needs to be asked is if there is scope fordiscursive models of teaching with cell phone based education? Using SMSs also limits the typesof subjects that can be taught, how are essay type questions going to be handled in this model?This scenario of a new technology replicating the mode of consumption of its predecessor is notnew, after all, with the initial introduction of televisions most channels simply broadcast pre-
  33. 33. 28recorded stage-plays. However, there are unique opportunities that SMS-based distance learningopens up, and they should be explored and embraced with imagination. Didactic profiling. Correspondence or distance education does not exclusively cater to the needs of learnerswho are geographically distant. Professionals and other individuals who are dependent on hourlysalaries often have to choose between continuing education and continuing their livelihoods.Becking, Betermieux, Bomsdorf,, Feldman, Heuel, Langer, & Schlageter (2005) describe aproject to bring such learners into the educational fold of the Virtual University, a subsidiary ofthe University of Hagen in Denmark. The idea is to utilize effectively the blocks of ‘nothing’time that we all encounter in our daily lives, such as waiting for a flight, commuting, or a lunchhour that ends early. The authors state their goal as making available learning materials to thestudents during these open but unanticipated blocks of time so that they can more effectivelyleverage their spare time. To make clear the differences between mobile learning in distance education and in on campus education one has to bear the difficult situations of our learners in mind. Our students frequently get into situations where they could learn if only they had learning material at hand. Mothers who bring up children have to wait in a paediatrists waiting room or spend hours sitting on a park bench keeping an eye on their children in the playground. Part-time students working as salesmen spend a lot of time driving from one customer to another either on a train or in their own car. (p. 2) Becking et al. (2005) take care to delineate both the advantages as well as the challengesfacing mobile learning. Although mobile learning gives learners flexibility in terms of locationindependence and self-management of learning, it also introduces new challenges that makecurriculum development difficult. One is that despite the exciting learning opportunities openedup by mobile learning, they lack the predictability, stability and guaranteed access to learning
  34. 34. 29materials that characterize traditional learning environments. A remedy for this is to providestudents access to learning resources through the advent of a mobile device, which, in this case,is a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). However, while this allows for the learner to becomelocation independent, the effect of the environment remains. Becking et al. note that both themobile device being used and the learner using it are constrained by their context. The mobiledevice may have varying access to network bandwidth and response times based on its location,and the learner, among other things, may or may not be able to concentrate fully on the learningmaterials at hand depending on the context. These factors, the Becking et al. contend, need to be considered so that the learningmanagement system they propose can optimize the learning experience. To this end, the authorspropose the development of a two-pronged profiling software model for these experiences:Technical profiling and Didactic profiling, with the former dealing with the technical resourcesavailable to the device and the latter with the learning context of the learner. Of the two, it isdidactic profiling that is innovative and deserving of further investigation. According to Beckinget al., didactic profiling takes into the ‘strong’ impact of environmental conditions on mobilelearning. The aspects of mobile learning taken into consideration include: 1. Learners qualifications and requirements, 2. Taxonomy of instructional/learning goals 3. Methodology of teaching 4. Communication/collaboration settings 5. Learner’s progress and learning history
  35. 35. 30 Becking et al. further expand this didactic profiling system into four main clusters, which,when combined with the technical profile, allows the learning management system to create adynamic profile of the learning environment in terms of both device and learner needs. The fourclusters identified by the authors are, situation, learner, learning objects and participation. Afurther subdivision of these clusters reveals more factors affecting the learning situation as being,frequency of interference, level of concentration/distraction, instruction goals and sessionidentification (individual/partner/group). This project is one that takes an indirect approach to providing access, the researchersrecognized that simply providing the tools to allow for mobile learning is not sufficient, it iscritical to consider the context and the environmental impact on the learner and the mobiledevice. At the time of writing this project was still in development as a software project.Although it might not directly affect learning mobile learning, the incorporation of this modelinto other mobile learning solution is worth exploring for mobile learning developers. Deaf students and SMS. One dramatic impact of mobile devices in terms of providing access can be seen in thosestruggling with physical disabilities, especially in school settings, where peer interaction iscritical in social development. Mobile devices, with their availability and general socialfamiliarity, can be an ideal tool to bridge these students to their non-disabled peers. Akamatsu,Mayer, & Farrelly (2006) decided to investigate one such group, deaf students in secondaryschool in Toronto Canada. According to the authors, while deaf students raised by deaf parentsexhibit better social development given their parents’ advantage in sign languagecommunications, these students are in the minority, at about 5% of the total deaf population.Because many of the modern communications systems pre-suppose that the users are hearing
  36. 36. 31enabled, new challenges are introduced for parents with deaf children in terms of keeping intouch. One of the stated factors behind the researchers choice of two-way text messaging as thetechnology solution was the number of anecdotal reports citing the rise in text messaging in deafpopulations, thus “it would be reasonable to expect that the same positive benefits would accrueto students at the secondary level” (Akamatsu et al., 2006, p. 5). The researchers proposed usingtwo-way text messaging as a way to bridge deaf students to their parents as well as peers, byframing the usage in terms of three main research questions: 1. Will the students use two-way text messagers and to what extent? 2. Is the students’ independence affected by text-messaging use? 3. What is the level of satisfaction with two-way messaging for students and parents? The study itself took place at two large inner-city public schools under the jurisdiction ofthe Toronto District School Board, both schools featured deaf education departments that werestaffed by specialist teachers, interpreters and educational assistants, with an average studentbody of 30-40 students throughout the school year. These students reflected the cultural varietyof Toronto in that they represented a number of different communities. Adding to the challengefor the children in question were that in many of the homes English was not the spoken language,and the parents were often inadequately trained in sign language. The communication methodsused by the students ranged from sign language, oral to a combination of both. The participantsincluded “all deaf or hard-of-hearing students in the two programs at the two high school (n 1/448; 21 girls, 27 boys), (b) the staff of the deaf departments at these two schools, and (c) theparents/guardians of the students. The students in this program ranged in age from 13 to 19(Grades 9–12). Following a pre-use survey designed to glean thoughts on how students could use
  37. 37. 32the messagers before actually experiencing them, the students and their families were given two-way text messagers. After 4 to 9 months of text-messager use, the users filled out a post-usesurvey in order to compare predicted usage to actual usage. The satisfaction with the technologywas ‘overwhelmingly positive’, additionally, peripheral functionalities of the devices were used. Students mentioned that they used their two-way text messagers not only to communicate with their parents, school staff, and each other but also for other things as well. For example, one student mentioned that the alarm function helped him remember to take his medication. Many students reported that homework assignments could be recorded. Others used their two-way text messagers to remind them of significant dates (birthdays, appointments with doctor, dentist, etc.) or to type out messages so that other hearing people could read them (e.g., restaurant orders, to call emergency services). This provided an incentive to improve their English. (Akamatsu et al., 2006, p. 7) This research from Akamatsu et al. (2005) is of interest, not only because increasingaccessibility is a priority in developing nations such as Canada, but also because of the simplicityand affordability of the resources that were used to provide accessibility. Mobile phones arefamiliar and available to youth the world over, and they are a resource that is ready to exploitedby schools that choose to embrace them. The low barrier of entry in terms of cost and learningcurve mean that schools in developing countries-often lacking in accessibility provisions-willneed to invest less in procurement and training, which can only encourage adoption. Discussion. The target populations for access oriented mobile learning vary in terms of backgrounds,needs as well as physical and financial abilities, but share the need for educational access thatwas not being served by traditional educational institutes or pedagogy. As previously stated, thetraditional educational institutions apply a strategy of knowledge dissemination that assumes alevel of homogeneity in terms of student body composition, while this strategy is often effectivein addressing large swathes of the overall student body, there are those that are inevitably left off
  38. 38. 33the conversation. These populations, as we have seen in the case studies, can be diverse, rangingfrom migrant workers, students with physical disabilities, students who cannot commit pre-determined hours for education, to students who are geographically remote. In the studiesreviewed the dissemination of education to these populations was done primarily through theadvent of mobile devices, especially mobile phones. The familiarity, ease of use and low-cost ofthese devices means that these devices are readily available to these populations, and theincreasing need for constant communications in the modern world means that they are morelikely to own this technology than not. Of course, issues of pedagogy and technologicallimitations exist with mobile devices, but they are outweighed by advantages such as low costand familiarity.
  39. 39. Chapter 5: Analyses of Case Studies: Enhancing Learning The Mobile device is used in a manner that provides a meaningful difference in learning achievement when compared to non-use scenarios. Any introduction in an educational setting of a technology that exceeds the complexity ofa writing instrument or surface has a very good reason for being there. Education in itself needsvery little in terms of physical tools in order to fulfill its primary function, the dissemination orcreation of knowledge. There is no fundamental difference in the quality of knowledge beingdisseminated or created whether it is under a tree in an African village, or in a smart-roomoutfitted class in Taiwan. There is no doubt however that the learning experience can beenhanced through the intervention and introduction of learning aids that go beyond paper andpencil. Complex concepts, such as the solar system, can be better understood through the use ofthree-dimensional foam models, geography through maps, chemistry through chemicals, biologythrough fetuses to operate on, medical science through cadavers, film class through projectorsand so on. Theory can only go so far.Mobile Devices to Enhance Learning The case studies presented in this category share the theme of mobile devices being usedto enhance the learning experience. Mobile devices place an immediate availability ofcomputational power at the fingertips of the users. This computational power can be used toenhance the learning experience through the use of the aural, visual, or interactive nature of thesedevices. There are also a number of increasingly complex functionalities provided by more 34
  40. 40. 35modern mobile devices. These enhanced functionalities include: location awareness through theuse of Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) chips, storage of media such as pod casts in memorycards, picture taking through integrated mobile phone cameras, among others. Educators havebeen able to use these functionalities in creative ways to both enhance comprehension ofcomplex topics, as well as accelerate mastery of simpler ones. The following case studies reviewsome of the more innovative uses of mobile devices to enhance learning.Lessons Based on Geo-Referenced Information The mobility provided by mobile devices such as cell phones allows for previously staticeducational experiences to become dynamic in terms of location. If the necessary study materialsand resources are available on the mobile device then the learner is no longer restricted to aclassroom setting. This opens up opportunities for in-situ learning across a number ofdisciplines, including, Biology, History, Geography and Art History among others. Even beyondthe basic mobile device there are a number of assistive technologies that can meaningfullyenhance these in situ learning experiences, ranging from digital cameras, audio note taking andGlobal Positioning Systems (GPS). GPSs in particular, have come a long way towards making ameaningful impact on education. GPS devices use an embedded chip that use satellite data todetermine the user’s location in terms of longitude and latitude, often overlaying this informationon meta-data such as maps or other useful information. Giroux, Moulin, Sanna, & Pintus (2002)discusses the potential of one such case study where ‘geo-referenced’ data was used tomeaningfully enhance a field trip to Roman ruins in Italy. In 2001, the teachers of a High School in Italy used the e-mate platform to develop amobile lesson for the archeological site called Nora for a group of 12-13 year old students. E-
  41. 41. 36mate is described as ‘…a framework for delivery of mobile personalized geo-referenced servicesover many channels (PCs, personal digital assistants (PDAs), cellular phones…_ and usingmulti-modality (text, image, sound…)’ (Giroux et al., 2002; p. 2). Using this Internet distributedframework, the teachers identified Zones of Interest at the site, following which they created ‘hotspots’, or precise locations that will correspond to relevant data on the students’ mobile devices.It is the job of the students to physically locate these ‘hot spots’ at the actual sites, and thendetermine why the teachers actually chose these spots. Students used laptop computersconnected to GPS devices to locate hot spots such ‘Roman Theatre’. The students had to locatethe hot spot based on the physical characteristics of the particular hot spot implied by the name,i.e. looking for the characteristics of structure that resembles a theatre for the Roman Theatre hotspot. The system provided hints and encouragement when students were having difficultylocating particular spots. Once students were close enough to an identified hot spot, the devicesasked questions relating to that particular spot that were predetermined by the teachers. The datagathered from the site was later collated in the classroom and used as springboards for classdiscussion and reports. The e-mate example is one of the earliest of using geo-referenced data in field lessons, itis also one that demonstrates the power mobile devices and assistive technologies have toenhance the learning experience. A traditional version of this lesson would most likely involvethe teacher guiding the students around the sites pointing out sites of interest and providing eitherprepared notes or lectures or both, which, while effective, lacks the independent investigationand analysis required by the GPS assisted lesson described above. The advantages provided by aGPS assisted lesson needs to be balanced with the inevitable ‘technological burden’ that isintroduced by technology introduced to any environment for the first time. The equipment
  42. 42. 37described by the project state that students were required to carry both a laptop computer as wellas the GPS device. The question then arises as to how much the students were restricted by theseobviously cumbersome loads in a field setting. Additionally, this study took place in 2001, whicha very long time in terms of mobile device development. In the seven years since this study, thefunctionalities of both laptops and GPS devices can now be found in mobile phones that are quitesmall and portable. The use of these devices goes quite a long way towards lowering thetechnology burden introduced by bulky electronic devices in field settings.iTree The iTree project represents a truly innovative use of mobile phones in education, in thiscase, to encourage participation. The author’s motivation for this project lay in the growth ofBulletin Boards Systems (BBSs) in class discussions online. Bulletin Board Systems are onlinediscussion boards where users can post thoughts, start discussions and analyze course contentsand other materials. However, a BBS is highly dependent on a number of factors, such as studentparticipation, in order to be an effective discussion tool. Nakahara, Hisamatsu, Yaegashi, &Yamauchi (2005) discuss the shortcomings of the BBS: One pressing concern the medium faces is learners need encouragement to browse and respond to BBS postings. Effective collaborative learning will not occur unless learners make an effort to read posts and respond to them. The situation is exacerbated when a learner does not keep up with the forum, when it becomes extremely difficult to catch up with the backlog of information and volumes of new posts .In order to address this issue, learners would benefit from a convenient system to inform them of BBS postings in a timely manner. (p. 2) To encourage participation in these BBS forums, the researchers tested a unique solutionthat is well suited for the technology-centric culture in Japan: a visual rewards system that isreminiscent of Japanese gaming phenomena such as Tamagotchi, where players raised an
  43. 43. 38electronic ‘pet’ that needed to be fed and walked just like its real-life counterparts. The iTreeprogram needs to be installed in the mobile phones of the users, following which the programcommunicates with web servers that track the users’ rate of participation in relevant BBSforums. Upon opening (flip phones) or unlocking the mobile phone, the user is immediatelygreeted with the image of a fruit-bearing tree as the background wallpaper. The health of this treedirectly corresponds to the rate of participation by the user in the BBS forums, thus, the greaterthe rate of participation, the healthier the tree. Nakahara et al. explain that the image of a treewas selected because it was ideal: The choice of image needed to meet two requirements: (1) BBS forum information had to be available at a glance, and (2) the image itself had to be appealing. A tree which grows and changes was chosen to fulfill these requirements. The metaphor of a growing tree was chosen as (1) the tree itself comes to symbolize the learner and (2) the growth of the tree expresses growth in forum participation. The image of the tree is fixed in the middle of the mobile phone screen. The growth of the tree is affected by four variables: (1) your number of posts, (2) the number of times your posts are read, (3) the number of replies to your posts, and (4) your ratio of total forum posts to replies. These variable factors make up an individual users BBS participation profile. (2005, p. 4) A study was conducted on the effect of iTree on BBS postings with 9 students from acourse on Information Policy at the University of Tokyo. Despite the intriguing approach, theresults from the study indicated that iTree did not encourage readers to post more. However, theresults did indicate that iTree encouraged users to read more postings online. This result is apuzzling one, why would iTree encourage posters to read online posting but not to participate?Especially since the participants themselves later revealed in a subjective evaluation that theywere ‘worried about growth of tree’? The problem may lie in the low number of participants forthe iTree group, at 9. Such a number is not sufficient to derive meaningful conclusions,especially when compared to the large number subjects in the control group, which stood at 53.
  44. 44. 39In the author’s opinion, this number, although included in the paper, should have been identifiedas a limitation. This study is an example of a creative use of mobile phones in education, one thatdemonstrates the uniqueness of the medium. The iTree as described by the study is not aprogram that is resource intensive in terms of either hardware or software. Although a basicdata/internet connection is needed on the mobile phone, the representation of the tree requiresonly a color screen on the mobile device itself. The question remains as to the value added toeducation, since participation was not significantly increased and although the researchersdemonstrate an intriguing approach, they were unable to utilize it an effective way. The nextstudy, although not as visual an implementation, is nonetheless more effective in making actualuse of some mobile phones to enhance education.Mobile Computer Supported Collaborative Learning Zurita and Nussbaum (2004) looked to mobile phones as a potential solution forincorporating constructive environments in the pedagogical practice (p. 1). The firstimplementation introduced the concept of constructive environments for children 6-7 year olds inan elementary school in Chile. Focusing on Social Constructivism-where new knowledge iscreated from contributions from all members of a learning group (Vygotsky, 1964)-the projectaimed to develop communication and social skills that encouraged cooperation and dialoguebetween members of a learning group. The researchers explain their aims with the project usingRoschelle and Teasley’s (1995) principles of Social Constructivism: Constructive means that the students have to modify their current knowledge schemes to integrate new information and acquire new knowledge. Active indicates that total student participation is expected. Significant refers that learning has to be with a meaning, built from the conceptual structure the student
  45. 45. 40 already has. Based on consultation points out that the child has to formulate his/her own questions, from multiple interpretations and learning expressions. Reflexive shows that the student has to mirror his/her own experience on other students, making them experts in their own learning. Finally, to be Collaborative indicates that the child learns from others by working together on the same objective, where each group member is a potential source of information. (pp. 1-2) Given that the target group were mostly first grade students, Zurita & Nussbaum focusedon a common skill expected of that age group, comprehensive reading of brief texts, usuallycontaining all the alphabets and different types of syllables. Spanish is a language that lendsitself well to multiple word formation from a single group of syllables, so the researchers setupboth a traditional as well as a mobile phone version of this syllabic method of readingcomprehension for the students. The children participating were all from a public school inSantiago, Chile whose student body was from families of primarily low Socio-Economic Status(SES). All had basic knowledge of syllables and words and had been in school for eight and ahalf months at the time of the experiment. Each group consisted of 12 seven-year-old childreneach. The gender split was 7:5 boys to girls in the experimental group, and 1:1 in the controlgroup. Children were randomly placed in groups of 3 in both groups, and the group’scomposition was maintained. In the control group, each child received a syllable in an envelopewhich when combined with the syllables received by the other students could form words. Oncethe children have agreed on a word to spell, the child with the first token will place it on a board,followed by the correct placement of the other syllables required. Upon exhaustion of thepossible pool of words they were handed a new set of syllables to repeat the exercise. The experimental group was equipped with mobile phones that were loaded with asoftware version of the syllabic word formation game. On the screen of each mobile was one ofthe syllables, the children had to use the same negotiating and cooperative techniques as the
  46. 46. 41control group in order to agree on the word, however, once agreed, each child had to push thebutton in the mobile in the correct order in to spell the word, with each mobile sharing a commonview of the word about to be formed. Once the word was constructed, the mobiles requestedconfirmation of each user about their agreement on the final word, if all users confirmed ‘yes’,then the final word was displayed, and the process was repeated with more words. Following theexperiment, the authors noticed some intriguing results: The experiment lasted for 4 weeks with daily activities, totaling 20 sessions. Both experimental and control groups were given the same set of activities. Since it was experimentally discovered that the Syllable-MCSCL(experimental) group required 40% less time (on average) to complete the given assignment their sessions were shorter, i.e. 25-min sessions in the Syllable-CL(control) group and 15-min sessions in the Syllable-MCSCL group. The first two sessions were slightly longer (30 min for Syllable-CL and 20 min for Syllable- MCSCL) to allow the children to get used to the activity and technology. By the 12th session, some Syllable-CL groups were achieving their goal in 20 min, and some Syllable- MCSCL groups were achieving their goal in 10 min. In both groups, the children occasionally required teacher assistance, primarily with word-understanding problems. (Zurita & Nussbaum, 2004 p. 6)Clearly, the mobile mediated version of the syllable activity had a more positive impact on wordconstruction skills than its traditional counterpart. To investigate whether this phenomenon istransferable across disciplines, the researchers created a mathematics version of the sameactivity. ORD-CL. The MCSCL approach was also applied to mathematics (Zurita, Nussbaum, & Shaples,2003). A simple, Collaborative Learning (CL) activity called ORD-CL was chosen as the activityto be repeated across both a non-technological as well as technological space. The mainobjective of the activity is to practice number ordering skills, where ‘groups of three to fiveparticipants of both genders order seven series of three to five numbers (from 1 to 100) in either
  47. 47. 42an ascendant or descendent way.’ A control (traditional) and an experimental (mobile) groupincluded 24 children, each 7 years old, with a 1:1 gender ratio in the experimental group and 13boys and 11 girls in the control group. Similarly to the word activity described above, each groupwas given a set of envelopes containing, in this case, numbers which the group had to collaborateto arrange in the correct ascending or descending order on a board. A technological counterpartto this collaborative activity was setup, similar to the word activity described previously.Handheld Compaq PocketPC devices with wireless Internet connectivity were used to host anelectronic version of the ORD-CL activity. In each participant’s handheld screen the numberassigned to them would appear, with an up-arrow signifying ascending order while a down arrowsignified descending order. Upon discussion and agreement, the group would have to press theappropriate button on their handheld in order, when the entire sequence was ordered it appearedon the screens of each participant, following unanimous confirmation by the group that the orderwas correct, the sequence would be completed and group would move on to the next series ofnumbers. When a controlled experiment to test the effectiveness of the ORD-CL activity versusthe traditional versions was performed, clear differences between the groups began emerging:The four week duration of the experiment consisted of 20 daily session of 25 minutes each forthe control groups and the 15 minutes in the experimental groups. Although both groups weregiven the same set of activities and daily goal, the experimental group required 40% less time tocomplete the goal. By the 12th session, this number had improved to 100% for someexperimental groups. High schools. The researchers then extended the MCSCL concept further, to focus on science lessons.Cortez, Nussbaum, Santelices, Rodriguez, Zurita, Correa, & Cautivo (2004) arranged public high
  48. 48. 43school science students in groups of three equipped with PocketPC handheld devices. Thesestudents then had to answer multiple choice questions related to physics in a collaborativemanner similar to the syllabic experiment, meaning they had to collaborate, discuss, and agreeupon an answer until they could move to the next one. In this case, both the control as well as theexperimental groups worked with mobile devices to answer the questions, the difference betweenthe groups being that the experimental had the material related to the questions explained to thembeforehand by the teacher, while the control group received no such explanation. This wasbecause on this occasion, the goals of the researchers were slightly more complex, as theyexplain by the way of question selection. The selected questions were classified in the following manner: Type 1 Questions: Questions whose answers were explained to the experimental group by the teacher duringthe classes. Type 2 Questions: Questions whose answers were not directly explained to the experimental group by theteacher during the classes. Cortez et al. (2004) justify this classification as one necessary to compare the number ofattempts for each type of question and to observe what effect the classroom environment createdby the activity had on the students to answer Type 2 questions with success a rate comparable tothat of Type 1 questions. Basically, were the students able to independently construct and acquirenew knowledge that allowed them to correctly answer questions to which they were not taught
  49. 49. 44the answers? And were these questions answered in a similar number of attempts as to thequestions to which they were taught answers? Results. For the syllabic experiment, an analysis of covariance was run both pre-test and post-testin order to assess initial levels of ability. In both cases, the intervention showed a strong effect onthe post-test ability to construct words. While inter-group comparison showed ‘a significantdifference’ between the two groups, with the control group performing worse than theexperimental group. For the mathematics version of MCSCL an analysis of co-variance wasperformed in the post-test score with the pre-test score held as a co-variate between theexperimental and control groups. It showed ‘significant difference in means between participantsin the experimental versus control groups’ in favor of the experimental group (Zurita et al., 2003,p. 14). In the physics example, a Univariate Analysis of Variance showed that a statisticallysignificant difference existed for the number of attempts required to answer questions betweenthe groups, ‘That is to say, the students in the control group needed, on average, more attempts tocorrectly answer the questions on the test’ (Zurita et al., 2003, p. 5). The experimental group alsohad no statistically significant differences in terms of number of attempts to answer questions ofType 1 versus Type 2, while the control group did have differences, leading the researchers toconclude that a collaborative environment was successfully created in the experimental group. This MCSCL project is an important one in many ways, in both the syllabic and numberordering games, a traditional process was made more intuitive and accessible for the users,easing along the way social interactions that are essential in collaborative learning. The resultwas that beyond the simple novelty of performing a familiar task on a new technologicalmedium, the learning process was actually enhanced in terms of a student performance due to the

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