Learners and Mobile Devices

Mobile supported field trips using a gxLearning model

Stephanie DayMichael Verhaart

Background

Digital Learning Technologies is a Level 7 Bachelor of Computing Systems course at the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) . This course aims to provide students with knowledge and practical experience of digital technologies and their application in education and training environments.  Students who attend this class are able to do so either face-to-face or remotely using the Adobe Connect web conferencing system. The final assessment in this course requires the students to develop a digital learning artefact that demonstrates good pedagogy and meets a defined learning outcome. The learning artefact is to include the use of a variety of digital tools and multimedia artefacts.
 
During the course, students investigated a wide range of technologies suitable for the education and training environment and  explored the relationship between various technologies, pedagogies and subject content knowledge (TPCK). One module in this course included inviting a guest lecturer from EIT’s Educational Development Centre (EDC) to talk about instructional design models and the processes involved in designing learning. The students were introduced to the ADDIE model and encouraged to explore the OTARA framework as part of their design processes.  This session not only covered the theoretical aspects of design but allowed time for  the students to experience the authentic application of technologies in teaching, outside of what they would experience as part of their normal class situation. To demonstrate the use of some technologies and experience how these may be integrated into teaching, the students were taken on a field trip. While on the field, the students explored how one lecturer used a class-room management system to manage and engage with his students.

The study

The field trip and its associated activities followed Kolbs (1984) experiential learning cycle as its theoretical model. The students participated in a field trip as a short term experiential learning activity (Higgins, Dewhurst, & Watkins, 2012). They were required to reflect and review their experience, make some conclusions about the use of the technologies and then given the opportunity to incorporate their learning when developing their assessed artefact. This field trip differed from those normally taken, in that mobile technologies were used to enable remote student participation and the reflective activities occurred in a shared class blog. This model of enabling remote student participation alongside a physical class, has been coined “gxLearning” by Verhaart and Hagen-Hall (2012). Those students who attended physically also used their own mobile devices to take photographs and video of the field trip to use as evidence within their blogs. Students were also encouraged to use a mobile blogging app to contribute to the blog.
 
A detailed analysis of this activity has been published in the paper, “Integrating Cloud and Mobile Technologies in Experiential learning: From Reality to Reflection (Day & Verhaart, 2015). The authors also reflected on the activity and published a short video summary on Youtube. The student reflections and analysis of the classroom management software are available for reading in the shared class blog.

Results

The results from this activity can be found in the published paper. However, these can be summarised briefly under several headings:
 
The use of Adobe Connect as a webinar technology: 
The use of mobile technologies in the field: 
Blogging as a reflective activity:

Personal Reflections

“your individual reflections as practitioners going through this process of pedagogical transformation and perhaps where your teaching perspectives and strategies shifted, how that experience was for you, what were the challenges, how did you overcome those challenges, and so on. The piece as it is describes what you did but we are also interested in how this has changed you.”

 
The geographically extended nature of the class and in particular the field trip activity in the context described can be viewed from two teaching perspectives. The first was as the lecturer responsible for the course (Michael) and the second from the lens of the guest lecturer (Stephanie).
 
From the course lecturer’s view (Michael) there were many risks allowing this approach to be taken. These included technology challenges, people challenges (as the “field trip” relied on a guest lecturer plus the availability and preparation of the lecturer who demonstrated the music classroom), coupled with this class being one run on the afternoon prior to a long weekend, it was not without some concern that we would not be able to pull it off. 
 
From the guest lecturer’s view (Stephanie), extending the class activities into the field was a bold move and deviated from the format previously used when delivering this guest lecture session on Instructional Design and Learning Technologies. The idea was to extend the students' horizons beyond the School of Computing and to create awareness on technologies used elsewhere. Although the field trip was organised and the activities prepared, there was a sense of nervousness that maybe the institutional wifi would let us down, the remote students may not engage, or that the various technologies would let us down.  What was good though, was knowing that this particular class were IT students learning about digital technologies, and any failures we had would also form part of the student learning and would therefore be a useful lesson regardless of how it panned out. What was also good, was working with a lecturer that was quite willing to throw everything at an activity and see how it went, it’s not a risk that all lecturers are prepared to take. The course lecturer basically handed over a week's worth of learning and activities to the hands of the guest lecturer, no doubt making him a bit nervous as well!
 
As it turned out, the trip was very successful, the students gave great feedback and gave confidence that a similar trip could be organised further afield. There were some minor technology issues, but generally this would be something that could be done again in similar or different settings with little risk as long as there was thorough planning and preparation. This experience has been shared, and the technologies introduced to others on campus who are thinking of ways to engage absentee students and extend learning beyond the classroom.

Summary 

The field trip showed that mobile devices can be used to support an experiential learning experience inclusive of remote students. However, careful consideration of the environment, the infrastructure and the technological capabilities of the participants needs to be taken. This includes investigating Wi-Fi (or 3g coverage) of both the facilitators and participants, the technology needs including the supporting webinar technology and student's mobile participation requirements.
 
As a result of this study and the challenges and successes experienced, further studies in this area are proposed. This includes investigating the use of higher specification hardware to improve audio and video quality and the use of a technology facilitator to manage the communications within the gxLearning environment. Further investigation into the success rates of students who chose to participate remotely is also proposed.

Links 

Eastern Institute of Technology: http://www.eit.ac.nz/
Adobe Connect: http://www.adobe.com/products/adobeconnect.html
TPCK Model: http://www.citejournal.org/articles/v9i1general1.pdf
ADDIE and OTARA Models: http://wikieducator.org/VirtualMV/Digital_Learning_Technologies/Pedagogies/Instructional_Design_Models
Faronics Classroom Management System: http://www.faronics.com/en-uk/products/insight/
Kolbs Cycle: http://www.simplypsychology.org/learning-kolb.html
Field trips as experiential Learning: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03069400.2012.681231
Blogger App: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/blogger/id459407288?mt=8
Integrating Cloud and Mobile Technologies Research paper: http://www.citrenz.ac.nz/conferences/2015/pdf/2015CITRENZ_1_Day_GxLearning_v5.pdf
Video Summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD7748nvomw
DLT students class blog: http://virtualmvblogger.blogspot.co.nz/2015_04_01_archive.html
 

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