Learners and Mobile Devices

Implementation of Mobile Technology within the Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Therapy)

Kirk ReedKim FrenchmanVickel Narayan
Jenni MaceEllen NicholsonSandy Rutherford


This report will provide an overview of how mobile technology was introduced and implemented within specific papers of the Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Therapy) programme provided at Auckland University of Technology by the Department of Occupational Science and Therapy. The report is structured in three sections. The first section will provide an overview of the project including; the aim, putting the project in context of the programme, describing who was involved and what the process was over the period of the project.

The second section will provide four case studies. The case studies are based on the experiences of the paper co-ordinators who each implemented mobile technology in their paper. Each case study is based on a reflective cycle developed by Gibbs (1988), this 6 stage reflective cycle will be explained further in this section. Using the first stage of Gibbs reflective cycle each case study will provide a description of the process the paper co-coordinators used to implement mobile technology in their paper and what if any changes had to be made to ensure smooth implementation, their evaluation of implementation, and what the future holds in terms of ongoing use of mobile technology.

In section three the enablers and barriers to using mobile technology will be identified. These will be based on the real life experiences of the paper coordinators. Finally, a set of recommendations will be made in relation to how mobile technology will continue to be used within specific papers or across the broader programme based on the experiences of those involved in this project.

Aims of the project

This project falls under the umbrella of the wider Ako Aotearoa project ‘Learners and mobile devices (#NPF14LMD): A framework for enhanced learning and institutional change’. The key deliverable for this wider project is to explore a range of practical strategies for students, teachers and leaders to utilise the affordances of mobile devices for pedagogical transformation and empowering learners.

The project within the Department of Occupational Science and Therapy aimed to introduce a range of mobile technologies to teaching staff which could then be trialled in the teaching and learning environment. An additional aim was to consider the uptake by students when the technology was introduced, and how the mobile technology enhanced student engagement with the teaching material and overall learning experience. Engagement in this project arose out of a need identified by the Department to explore the use of flexible learning pedagogies in line with the University's and Faculty’s strategic direction.

The Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Therapy) programme

The BHSc (OT) programme is a three year, 360 point, level 7 degree which has an intake of approximately 100 students each year. The programme has a spiral curriculum which builds on personal experiences and understanding of occupation and the environmental and personal factors that impact on what people do (year one), to concepts of and strategies for occupational therapy practice with individuals and small groups (year two), to working with, and influencing communities and the macro practice context (year three). The programme includes 1000 hours of supervised clinical practice with a registered occupational therapist. On completion of the programme graduates are able to apply for registration as an Occupational Therapist with the Occupational Therapy Board of New Zealand. Occupational Therapy is a registered health profession under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 1992.  Occupational therapy is defined as “the art and science of enabling engagement in everyday living, through occupation; of enabling people to perform the occupations that foster health and well-being; and of enabling a just and inclusive society so that all people may participate to their potential in the daily occupations of life” (Townsend & Polatajko, 2013, p. 380). 

The structure of the project

In the first stage of the project a Community of Practice (CoP) (Lave & Wenger, 1998) was established. Expressions of interest were called from within the Department. Initially the CoP consisted of 6 lecturing staff (later reduced to 5) and a consultant from the AUT Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLAT) (Vickel Narayan) who acted as the expert guide on mobile technology and pedagogy or as a technology steward (Wenger, White, & Smith, 2009). The lecturing staff that were part of the CoP are all registered occupational therapists who have a range of experience in the tertiary education environment. The CoP met fortnightly from the beginning of 2014 to learn about mobile applications including: YouTube, Capture, Vine, Hangout, Google Groups, Google Drive, and WordPress. Each of these platforms were introduced and its potential use explained.

The purpose of these sessions was to see how each platform worked and how it might be applied to the teaching and learning environment for individual papers. In parallel the CfLAT Consultant was provided with the paper booklets from each of the lecturing staff who were part of the CoP, the consultant reviewed the paper descriptors, learning outcomes, content, teaching and learning methods and assessment process for each paper and he made recommendations regarding which applications might be most suitable for each specific paper. This was followed up with 1:1 meetings with members the CoP to discuss ideas and what might work best for a specific paper.

When the most suitable application(s) were chosen that best suited a paper, these were trialled and the CfLAT consultant provided support and guidance to both lecturing staff and students regarding the introduction and use of the particular application. The CoP continued to meet fortnightly (face-to-face or online) as a vehicle to share experiences, problem solve issues and reflect on what had worked well or what could be done differently. The CoP provided the opportunity for members to continue to learn, to troubleshoot, gain support from each other, and gain expert advice and guidance from the consultant. A closed Google Community was established for the CoP called ‘TechnOTes’ to facilitate information sharing and discussion.

Members of the CoP were provided with mobile devices to be used as part of the project. Support from the programmes academic quality committee ensured that members of the CoP were able to introduce mobile technology into the design and delivery of paper content, regular feedback was made to this committee on the project's progress.

Case Studies

The four case studies presented below were developed using the Gibbs’ Reflective Cycle (1988). Built from Kolb’s experiential learning cycle Gibbs’ cycle proposes that theory and practice enrich each other in a never-ending circle. Originally conceived as a “de-briefing sequence”, Gibbs’ cycle has been adopted in a range of health professional education programmes as a way to facilitate reflection for both students and staff. Gibb’s reflective cycle involves 6 stages, taking into account a description of the event, feelings encountered, the positive and negative aspects of the experience, an analysis of the event, and a conclusion of the overall experience. In addition there is opportunity for an action plan for future practice to be developed, Figure 1 gives an overview of the of Gibbs’ cycle.

1. Rehabilitation and Participation - Sandy Rutherford

Sandy Rutherford
Introduction to the paper:
Rehabilitation and Participation is a Level 7 elective paper open to students from a range of health science degrees in the Faculty, however only occupational therapy and physiotherapy students tend to enrol in the paper. This paper teaches undergraduate students about the processes necessary for health professionals to enable people after injury or illness to achieve their desired participation in society and life. It aims to support students to acquire knowledge and clinical decision making skills in order to provide person centred services. Rehabilitation theories and models are taught to underpin emerging health professionals practice in terms of rehabilitation.

Mobile Technologies introduced: Google+, Screencast-o-matic, Youtube, Google forms
How the mobile technologies were implemented:
Rehabilitation and Participation is a largely theoretical paper which students have difficulty connecting with and seeing the relevance to practice so we are always looking for ways to enable them to see theory in the literature and practice but also around them in the media and society in general. We also wanted to try and encourage a sense of community and teamwork in the paper as this reflects the practice environment. 

I have used Google+ for the last 2 years.   Google+ was used to answer students’ questions, especially around the assignment. In the past the discussion board on the university platform was used to do this but it was difficult to use – it is easy to miss questions and the students seemed to get lost in the different threads and lecturers also seemed to be answering the same question many times.  On Google+ the students know when a question has been asked and it is easy to see all of the questions and answers.  
Google+ was also used to help students understand concepts and ideas that were difficult for them to get their heads around.  Inspired by other projects and with a lot of help from the CfLAT Consultant we have come up with a new element which we hope will help them see theory in action and theory applied to the real world and themselves.  Students were encouraged to post on the page to demonstrate theory in action both out of the classroom and during class time. I created a tab for each theme or week of the paper. 

In week two we showed a documentary about brain injury during the lecture.  This was a new addition to the paper and we wanted to survey the students to gather feedback in an anonymous way. We used google forms to evaluate the movie ‘Crash Reel’ to see if the students liked it and if they got the concepts we were trying to demonstrate.  I gave them time in the lecture to fill in the survey and I left it open for a couple of weeks. It also puts all of the qualitative responses for each question into a spreadsheet.  These are anonymous.

Sometimes we took photos of work done in the tutorials to upload. There are 5 groups in each tutorial. They read an article and answer some questions and then tell each other the main points and apply them to theory or a case study.  I talked about the learning pyramid (developed by the National Training Laboratories in the USA, which is an image that maps a range of teaching methods and learning activities onto a triangular image in proportion to their effectiveness in promoting student retention of the material taught) in the first lecture so they would hopefully understand why we were getting them to do this. 
In the tutorials we showed 5 minute videos of staff from different disciplines talking about their personal and professional response to the movie – to try and demonstrate the need to work together as a team and that each team member has something important to contribute. 

A compulsory element was added in 2015 requiring students to upload an image which symbolised a role which is important to them. We created an event for each tutorial group and students spoke in class outlining why the role is important.  
In addition 3 mini lectures using screencast-o-matic were created and posted to my private YouTube channel so students could watch them prior to coming to class. They were given time to do this, so that the tutorial time was entirely devoted to the application of the principles in a workshop format. Unfortunately less than half of the class watched the videos prior to the tutorial.  While this material was not directly assessed in the assignment it is an essential skill in rehabilitation (goal planning). 
Evaluation and analysis of the implementation:
It is difficult to make the most of technology for enhancing students' learning in a traditionally structured paper. One of the barriers is that students expect and like the traditional format. I think our students may be different to those in design for example in that they do not readily embrace mobile technology as a way of enhancing their learning.  I suspect that quite a few of their papers are traditional i.e., a lecture, where they are passive recipients of large volumes of information to be rote learnt and then tutorials/labs where they practice hands on techniques. This primes them to feel that they are not getting their money’s worth when we do it another way. 

For approximately 2/3rd of the class the paper is a very different way of thinking and working and some students did not engage in the paper therefore it impacted on their engagement with the technology we used. There are few compulsory elements and class discussion/teamwork is not assessed and therefore there are few consequences/incentives to take part.  
Ideas for the future in terms of mobile technology and this paper:
  • I think next year we will try to increase student participation by having them work in small groups on a joint project which has a grade attached to it
  • Create folders in Google Drive for articles so there is less on the page – this was also explored in 2015 and students commented that the page had too much on it and students were not able to easily find things.  It appears that they did not find the search function at the top of the Google+ page.
  • Spend more time in class discussing what we will use the community for and how
  • Mobile devices could be used to work on problems/case studies in small groups where students research potential solutions and work in a more self-directed way with the teacher available to guide and prompt thinking with specific questions.

2. Experiencing Occupation - Kim Frenchman

Kim Frenchman
Introduction to the paper:
Experiencing Occupation is a Level 6 paper open to occupational therapy students. The notion of occupation is introduced in this paper as it is central to the practice. Students are provided with opportunities to explore and reflect on what occupation is, using experiential learning and the introduction of key concepts about occupation. In addition to regular lectures and tutorials students are divided into smaller supervision groups in order to facilitate deeper reflection of themselves from an occupational perspective. The paper also involves a two day camp off site which has teaching content and aims to build a sense of community between the student and staff group.

Mobile Technologies introduced: Google Community and Google docs
How the mobile technologies were implemented:
Google Community was introduced to Experiencing Occupation in 2014 and again in 2015. Prior to implementing Google Community I met with Vickel and together we discussed the nature and aim of the paper and any concerns I had about the teaching and learning. I had a few concerns namely;
  • There was a lack of cohesiveness and connectedness between students and myself, and equally between students themselves
  • A mechanism was needed for getting more feedback from students and vice versa, as the paper progressed
  • Students were creating their own Facebook pages to facilitate communication between themselves within the paper. I was not able to access this, so I could not respond or monitor the information or engage in a conversation with students. In some instances students were giving each other incorrect messages/information about the concepts or assessment on the Facebook page.

Firstly I had to become familiar with Google Community and its functions before I could implement it. Secondly, since the use of Google Community required students to have access to a device, have a Gmail account and know how to use the application, Vickel and I did a survey with students about their attitudes, skill and resources prior to the start of the paper. He then came along to the first lecture in 2014 and helped sign up most of the students to the EXO2014 Google community. I was more confident in 2015, so I facilitated this first session on my own. We had decided it would be good to start small and become familiar with one application first, so as not to overwhelm me and allow for proper evaluation of the method in teaching and learning.

The Google Community facilitated students knowing each other’s names. It allowed me to get feedback from students and for me to give them feedback about the topics and assessment, in a more accurate and efficient way. I was able to put recap quizzes up weekly about the key concepts. Coincidently I noticed an increase in assessment questions in comparison to the 2013 year group. I was able to incorporate reflections, feedback and photos of the Spirituality camp, sharing of reflections from worksheets between students and was able to see if students were on the right track. I was able to see student ideas and thinking evolving in relation to the key concepts.  

Google Form was used to host quizzes. Creating the quizzes in Google Form was quick and easy. I had to generate a separate document to record answers and post these for students.
Evaluation and analysis of the implementation:
As an educator this project helped develop my skill and gain some experience in using mobile technology, so it allayed my apprehension and helped me to develop in the following ways;
  • It provided me with a safe place to learn, test out and ask questions that supported and informed my own learning and development and I enjoyed responding to and setting up the Google Community. 
  • This experience changed my attitude and anticipation of technology in teaching and learning to a more positive one. I am now more excited about learning about other technologies.
  • I enjoyed the interactions with students, I felt more connected to them and I felt as if they we were generally more cohesive than groups in the past.
  • Doing the survey with students before the paper started opened my eyes to the fact that students expect there to be a technological component in theory learning, most had or were familiar with a technological device (a laptop, phone etc.).
  • Getting the students on board as a whole group in the beginning of the paper is good and it allows you to get most of them signed up.
  • Ideas for the future in terms of mobile technology and this paper:
  • Continue to use Google Community – potentially replace Blackboard as a main communication portal for the paper. Use Google Community in a more creative way rather than replicate Blackboard.
  • Continue to explore other applications of specific use for tutorials and reflections.
  • Try to facilitate a shift in thinking about technology in teaching and learning, in the first instance for me and then for other staff and students.

3. Promoting Occupational Justice and Participation - Jenni Mace

Jenni Mace
Introduction to the paper:
Promoting Occupational Justice and Participation is a Level 7 paper open to occupational therapy students. In this paper students are given the opportunity to partner with a community organisation working with people who experience barriers to occupational performance and participation. Students apply the skills necessary to analyse the barriers to everyday activities (occupations) for a particular population group and explore and develop plans and resources their partner organisation can use to enable occupational participation in the community. The paper uses problem based learning (PBL), with large group PBL sessions instead of lectures and small group PBL sessions. Lecturers act as a guide using critical consciousness theories to extend and challenge thinking and self-directed learning.

Mobile Technologies introduced: Google Groups, Google docs, Youtube, WordPress websites, stop motion video (Vine or similar), hyperlapse (for timelapse) and videoscribe.
How the mobile technologies were implemented:
Vickel attended a number of the large group sessions to introduce the use of Google Community groups and other tools that students could use to develop their resources.  Brief written instructions on how to start a Google Community and how to share Google Docs were placed on a whole class Google Community along with examples of other online tools they could use. Vickel never stayed for more than 10 to 15 minutes and only introduced ideas to students who then were encouraged to follow up.  
By the end of the paper all students enrolled were a part of a small group of the Google Community.
Evaluation and analysis of the implementation:
The whole class Google Community was set up by myself as the paper leader with the CfLAT consultant's help and this allowed me to learn how to use the tools before they were suggested to students. Putting shared documents onto the group meant the students could work on the document all at the same time increasing flexibility and timeliness that the previous wikis had not had.
In the lead up to the students' first assessment, use of their Google Community became not only more frequent but more organised and sophisticated. Most used separate folders for different information e.g. literature, minutes of meetings. Others used mind mapping tools to come up with themes for their literature reviews or photos of brainstorming they had done together.
In developing their group presentations Vickel gave the students a number of ideas and students chose and developed the online tools that best suited them.  Although most still used PowerPoint the majority embedded other methods of communicating that community groups were then able to take with them and continue to use and develop.

Despite being a very slow and frustrated learner when it comes to using technology, I have enjoyed the fact that these online tools have enabled me to create new flexible learning spaces where students can share amazing ideas, collectively learn and share their creativity with community organizations. 

The really exciting finding is that now some of these organisations are now using the videos, websites and online information that students have created to make a difference in the population groups they serve. This is true learning through doing.
Ideas for the future in terms of mobile technology and this paper:
The plan for the future is to ensure sustainability of the tools introduced this year and not be dependent on support from CfLAT to teach the students. To do this we need to:
  • Become better at using the tools by ourselves e.g. continue to develop the occupational justice website.
  • Be able to advise students without as much CfLAT assistance on the tools they can use and how to implement them.
  • Develop further links on the paper's Google Community with information on helpful online tools and where they can go to get help on how to use them.
Another option for the future is to have an online portfolio or website which could be an additional assessment.

4. Enabling Affective Performance - Ellen Nicholson

Ellen Nicholson
Introduction to the paper:
Enabling Effective Performance is a level 6 paper open to occupational therapy students. This paper provides opportunities for students to learn about the ways that emotional performance affects peoples’ participation in everyday occupations (and vice versa). Students are introduced to a range of different assessments and interventions that can be used to evaluate and support changes in peoples’ affective and occupational performance.

Mobile Technologies introduced: Google Community, YouTube Capture, Vine
How the mobile technologies were implemented:
I worked with Vickel to select a number of technology solutions which were aimed at enhancing student engagement and experience in the paper. These solutions specifically included the development of a Google Community and the use of Capture and Vine (video app) to enable students to upload short video communications or a practice presentation to the community for feedback. While engagement with the Google Community took some time to gain momentum (partly due to how late in the paper I set up the Community), the way that the students engaged with the Community towards the end of the paper was very encouraging; the students began independently uploading resources and materials which they had found useful in preparing for practice and/or their assessments, and engaged with me and one another around clarification of content and the assessment requirements.
Evaluation and analysis of the implementation:
The challenges I experienced in relation to implementation of technology solutions, and completion of the project aim and objectives were principally twofold; firstly related to my competence and confidence with selecting and integrating appropriate technology choices to enhance learning and outcomes; secondly, around my perceptions about student interest and competence with technology solutions.

Anecdotally, a number of students reported feeling uncomfortable with uploading any video material to the Community, stating that they were unsure what other students might do with the video, and how feedback would be provided safely for them. Furthermore, I did not feel very confident with using the apps myself, or explaining how use of the apps would enhance engagement and outcomes, and this may have, in turn, influenced how students then interacted with the apps.

I have some evidence that implementation made a difference to the students' engagement/success, principally through student feedback on the Student Paper Experience Questionnaire (SPEQ) (where a percentage of students commented positively on their experience of the Google Community). Student performance may have been impacted on positively, due (in part) to the way that assessment requirements were able to be ‘publicly’ clarified in the Community (in previous years, assessment requirements have been discussed on the closed Facebook page, which the lecturer cannot access), this was reflected in lower alternative assessment opportunities being granted than in previous years.

I believe that the lecturer needs to be very clear how and why the technology will enhance engagement and outcomes, and also needs to be very confident in both the use of the technology, and articulating the rationale and value for inclusion from engagement and outcomes perspectives,  neither of which I felt very confident with. I also believe that the perceived competence of the contemporary students with accessing and interacting with technology is perhaps less than the media might suggest; just because every student has access to a device, doesn’t mean that they feel competent and confident with using it to enhance their learning. Having said that, the inclusion of the Google Community has been successful (and significantly more so than a linear, discussion forum on AUTOnline),
Ideas for the future in terms of mobile technology and this paper:
  • I will continue to include a Google Community in this papers 
  • Enablers, barriers and recommendations to using mobile technology in the classroom

In this last section we will identify the enablers and barriers from the perspectives of the paper co-ordinators and the consultant from CfLAT based on their individual experiences of introducing the technology in the classroom and participation in the CoP. Finally we will make some recommendations in relation to successfully embedding mobile technology into the classroom and in terms of upskilling lecturers. 
The following enablers were identified:
  • Engaging with the community of practice was paramount to creating and making change happen
  • The support and resources provided by the CoP and CFLAT was key to advancing competence and subsequent use of mobile technology
  • Engaging in professional development opportunities related to mobile technology
  • Engaging with colleagues and the literature to better articulate the ‘added value’ of including mobile technologies to enhance engagement and outcomes
  • Planting ideas of resources for students was often enough. They grabbed opportunities with both hands and used online resources they were introduced to bring their ideas together.
  • Personal interest in and motivation to use mobile technology ie it is a ‘duty’ as an educator to become familiar with technology
  • Having the iPhone made communication easier and access to the technology far easier. A phone is smaller and easier to transport than other devices.
  • Having the time, space and support to experiment in a safe, supported way
  • Explaining to students how and why the technology was being introduced and providing support to the student group
 The following barriers were identified:
  • Time to participate in the community of practice
  • Time to get to know the technology and its potential
  • Knowledge of mobile technologies and how to use them in the classroom environment
  • Confidence in using mobile technologies
  • Assuming that students know how to use the technology
  • Students tend to be used to traditional delivery of material ie in a lecture, passively listening - it is important to communicate the way the technology will be used 
  • Concerned that students would not want to participate in the Google Community
For Lecturers
  • Prioritisation of participation in the Community of Practice
  • Working with CfLAT to explore mobile technologies which support student achievement of learning outcomes
  • Engaging further with colleagues and the literature around the evidence for how inclusion of mobile technology enhances students' engagement and outcomes
  • Focussing on one technology platform at a time when you’re a novice is a good strategy
  • Continue to explore other applications for specific use in tutorials
  • Continue to use Google Community – potentially replace Blackboard with this as main communication portal for paper
  • Using Google Community in a more creative way rather than replicate Blackboard
  • Facilitate a shift in thinking about technology in teaching and learning
  • Create a new separate Gmail address/account so work does not sneak into personal life
In the classroom
  • Setting up the Google Community before the paper commences
  • Clearly articulating the rationale for the inclusion of the Google Community in Week One
  • Spend more time in class discussing what, how and why the community will be used
  • Find out how confident/competent students are at using mobile technology (don’t assume they know)
  • Allocating more time to teach students how to use the different aspects of the platform(s) and its relevance to learning and teaching
  • Students working on a group assignment could create their own community/use Google drive to have a shared document which they can all see when they cannot meet face to face


In this report we have described the implementation of a project to introduce the use of mobile technology into the delivery of papers in the Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Therapy). Four case studies have been provided which outline how mobile technology was used in each paper including an evaluation of the implementation. To facilitate the actual implementation of the technology, a Community of Practice was established as a vehicle to upskill, problem solve and support teaching staff. A number of enablers were identified that supported the project including; the value of the Community of Practice to develop skills and confidence of teaching staff; being allocated a mobile device, and having the time to experiment and develop knowledge and build confidence in using the technology, and ensuring that students had a clear understanding of how and why the technology was being introduced.  On the other hand a number of barriers were also identified, these included; the time that it took to know about and understand how to use and apply the technology in the classroom, having time and prioritising attendance at the Community of Practice; and assuming that students knew how to use the technology in terms of their own learning. 

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