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35(1) 3-30, 2006-2007
MAKING mLEARNING WORK: UTILIZING MOBILE TECHNOLOGY FOR ACTIVE EXPLORATION, COLLABORATION, ASSESSMENT, AND REFLECTION IN HIGHER EDUCATION
MERCEDES FISHER, PH.D. National College of Ireland, Dublin DEREK E. BAIRD, M.A. Yahoo! USA, San Francisco, California
The convergence of mobile technologies into student-centered learning environments requires academic institutions to design new and more effective learning, teaching, and user experience strategies. In this article we share results from an mLearning design experiment and analysis from a student survey conducted at the National College of Ireland. Quantitative data support our hypothesis that mLearning technologies can provide a platform for active learning, collaboration, and innovation in higher education. In addition, we review mobile interface and user-experience design considerations, and mLearning theory. Finally, we provide an overview of mLearning applications being developed in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland including, Virtual Graffiti, BuddyBuzz, Flickr, and RAMBLE.
INTRODUCTION The Internet has revolutionized the way in which we teach, learn, and retrieve information. The rapid spread of mobile and social media technologies has deeply influenced the thinking, communicating, and working of entire generations. And more and more, as the “Web 2.0” or social software movement continues to unfold, our digital lifestyles are becoming increasingly mobile.
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The current generation of students, dubbed the “Net Generation,” has grown up in a world that has always had the Internet, multimedia, and on-demand access to information. As a result, today’s students have adapted to the onslaught of digital information by media-multitasking and are open to discovering new ways of integrating their digital reality into learning (see Table 1). At the same time, increasing pressure has been placed on higher education to teach masses of diverse students expecting both a quality education combined with highly interactive multimedia. As a result, educating this Web-centric generation has become increasingly more challenging. In this article, we illustrate how mLearning technologies can support and provide a platform for active learning, collaboration, and innovation in higher education. For the most part, colleges and universities are just beginning to realize the potential of mobile technology to improve the quality of student learning. In order to meet their students changing expectations and digital learning styles, instructors need to be provided with professional development opportunities to experiment with current and emergingWeb-based technologies. Another key indicator that the Internet is trending toward a mobile experience is the move by media giants such as Yahoo!, Google, Disney Internet Group, Apple Computer, and Sony to provide more and more of their content on mobile devices. Moreover, a 2005 study conducted by the United States-based Kaiser Family Foundation found that, although 90% of teen online access occurs in the home,
Table 1. What Are the Key Attributes of Web 2.0 Technology? Foundation attributes •User-contributed value: Users make substantive contributions to enhance the overall value of a service. •Network effect: For users, the value of a network substantially increases with the addition of each new user. Experience attributes •Decentralization: Users experience learning on their terms, not those of a centralized authority, such as a teacher. •Co-creation: Users participate in the creation and delivery of the learning content. •Re-mixability: Experiences are created and tailored to user needs, learning style, and multiple intelligences by integrating the capabilities of multiple types of social media. •Emergent systems: Cumulative actions at the lowest levels of the system drive the form and value of the overall system. Users derive value not only from the service itself, but also the overall shape that a service inherits from user behaviors.
Note: Refer to Schauer (2005).
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most students also have Web access via mobile devices such as a mobile phone (39%), portable game (55%), or other Web-enabled handheld device (13%). The convergence of mobile and social technologies, on-demand content delivery, and early adoption of portable media devices by students provides academia with an opportunity to leverage these tools into design learning environments which seem authentic to the digital natives filling the 21st century college campus (Prensky, 2005). Clearly, the spread of Web-based technology into both the cognitive and social spheres requires educators to reexamine and redefine our teaching and learning methods. STUDENT-CENTERED LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS Whether in a traditional, computer, or mobile-based learning environment, communication rests at the heart of the human experience. Academic institutions need to recognize the growing and important role Information Communication Technology (ICT) plays in students’ lives and design instructional strategies based on these digital learning styles. Meeting the rapidly changing needs of different student groups and utilizing new content delivery channels creates real challenges as we search for new pedagogical solutions. As students use social media to collaborate with others, they shape their own identities, find, create, and join communities, set goals, and negotiate ways to reach them and learn (Hall, cited in Phillips & Terry, 1999). Education in the 21st century can no longer be defined by static guidelines but rather by growing, changing, and evolving sets of opportunities, projects, technology, and communities. In order to educate and train students to become highly competent lifelong members of a learning community, we need to provide an environment that aids retention and development of high quality thinking and reflection. Social-constructivist theory views learning as a socially situated, collaborative, and task-based procedure that occurs through interaction with others (Brown & Duguid, 2000; Schwienhorst, 2000). As we strive to identify, test, implement, and improve delivery of a range of effective learning technologies, including new applications and capabilities, we need to keep in mind that students learn by becoming actively involved and making meaning out of the content. Social-constructivists recognize an important role for technology in learning. For learners, this approach provides an unrivaled intellectual laboratory and vehicle for self-expression and exploration using a new wave of highly collaborative Web-based communication technologies. A recent study conducted by the UK-based NESTA FutureLabs (BBC, 2005) concluded that the educational model needs to be “reversed to conform to the learner, rather than the learner to the system. Moreover, the NESTA study found that social media should be used to enable learners to study and be assessed
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according to their own learning style (BBC, 2005). One way to accomplish this goal is to allow students to utilize and integrate technology in an authentic context. The NESTA FutureLabs findings provide additional evidence to support how the learning focus should be on learners, not just technology. The amount of student learning and personal development associated with any educational program is directly proportional to the quality and quantity of student involvement in that program (Astin, 1985). Due to its ubiquitous adoption by the college-age student population, mobile technology is a particularly flexible, authentic, and intellectually-rich medium for scaffolding information. Digital Learning Styles The current college-age population are hardwired to simultaneously digest multiple information streams through various types of news and media. They have grown up with the Web, are always-on, and expect to utilize and integrate technology into their learning process. Students, especially on college campuses, are perpetually connected to their peers, professors, and course content through laptops, social networking, mobile phones, PDA’s, PSP, and audio/video iPods (Davidson, 2005). The net generation’s experience with Web-based resources, communities, and digital media encourages students to be open to more diverse experiences. Emerging digital learning styles include fluency in new media, communal learning, and experiential, guided mentoring and collective reflection via Weblogs, podcasting, moblogs, wiki, Flickr, and other types of mobile social media. As a result of the convengence of old and new media and increased use of mobile technology, there is a dissolving line between traditional and online education. Peer support and collaboration are hallmarks of a burgeoning digital pedagogy which current research on student motivation and retention in online learning environments has shown supports the digital learning styles of the Net Generation (Fisher & Baird, 2005). At the core of this new digital pedagogy is the ability of today’s student to work in both an individual as well as collaborative learning environment. And for a generation weaned on instant messaging (IM), text messaging (TM), and the Web, there is very little differentiation (if any) between a virtual or in-person collaborative meeting space. Evidence of this diminishing line between virtual and “real” environments can be seen in the rapid adoption and subsequent explosion of user-generated content on social networking sites such as YouTube, SelfCast, Facebook, blogs, Flickr, and MySpace. While on a positive note this trend shows that students are open to new technologies in the classroom, at the same time it also illustrates how many have jumped into social networking without evaluating the long-term consequences of how public digital artifacts may impact their future relationships, careers, or employment.
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As the first generation to be raised with the Internet, they have an intuitive ability to use ICT as a means to foster, support, discuss, and explore new ideas. As a result, a multifaceted approach that blends current learning theory, social technologies, and Web-enabled mobile devices are the most effective in designing online learning environments. For example, students can utilize mobile and/or social technologies to contribute using related stories, personal experiences, anecdotes, and questions to reflect and actively encourage others to contribute as well. The interactive, collaborative, engaging social activities, combined with the ability to self-publish and remix content on the Web, enable students to use technology as a vehicle for presenting and sharing their own work as well as provide feedback on contributions made by other students. Moreover, due to the wide variety and availability of social software, students are able to choose from multiple formats including text, video, audio, or photos to find the tools that best support their own learning style, interests, and goals. A recent study by the Irish National Teachers Organization (INTO) found that students are using their mobile phones for just about everything—except making phone calls. According to INTO, only 20% of the 671 students surveyed report using their mobiles to make phone calls, whereas 81% report using their mobile to communicate via text or IM messages (Eircom, 2006). The INTO survey seems to dovetail with the results of a 2005 Pew Internet and American Life study on teens and technology. Like their peers in Ireland, American youth prefer using IM or TM for everyday conversations with friends. Other key findings from the Irish National Teachers Organization survey: • • • • • 96% of 11- and 12-year-old students have a mobile phone 60% have a camera on it 72% say they use it to access the Internet 20% use it to make calls 81% use it to send texts
Recognizing the growing connection between mobile media and youth, the popular social networking community MySpace.com, announced that they will be launching a mobile version of MySpace in late 2006. The combination of social interaction with opportunities for peer support and collaboration creates an interesting, engaging, stimulating, and intuitive learning environment for students (Fisher & Baird, 2005). Effective course design will need to blend traditional pedagogy with the reality of the media multitasking learner. The results of the INTO survey are not surprising, given the characteristics of today’s learner. Clearly, the nearly ubiquitous use of portable media devices on the college campus has provided instructors with a unique opportunity to design mobile learning environments and new innovative pedagogical approaches built around the increasingly mobile landscape.
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mLearning Pedagogy A key tenet of social-constructivist learning theory is that drills have been replaced with the practice of real-world situations in groups where ICT is used to foster the exchange of ideas and materials. This combinabon of pedagogical and technological advancement has created an opportunity to develop a richer learning experience for many learners. Moreover, constructivists argue that learning is active and superior to pedagogy of learning by telling. They value a plurality of definitions, meanings, and ways of knowing. Moreover, constructivists believe that learning requires taking a stance, seeking and finding one’s intellectual identity, owning knowledge, owning the artifacts of learning, and finding your own voice (Harel, 1993). Researchers, however, are still discovering (and debating) how the various tools affect communication and learning. Much of the focus on electronic collaborative learning to date involves research on a specific tool; how people interact and learn using the specific tool, and how the unique features of the mode itself facilitate, or limit, the process. To be clear: the mobile environment is merely another platform in which interaction, collaboration, and knowledge transfer can occur. The use of mobile technology defines only the parameters and building blocks on which the interaction can take place, providing opportunities for the social exchange of information, interaction, and instruction. Moreover, the ability for students to reconcile their authentic use of technology in a learning context can motivate and persuade users to actively engage in the course content. Designing a student-centered learning environment, however, does not mitigate the instructor’s responsibility in helping students shape their learning experience. In a student-centered learning environment, the instructor can embed opportunities for “seeded serendipity,” or what learning theorists commonly refer to as constructivist-based learning. Engaging students in large classes, especially introductory level classes, can be difficult. Many students feel that due to their large size they can be lost in the crowd. Likewise, it may be difficult for the instructor to assess if the students understand and/or comprehend the course content. Providing opportunities for communal metadata creation and social interaction helps prevent students from being marginalized. Student participation stems from a perception of an information need and the emotional reactions of individuals in the learning community (Goodman, n.d.). The act of sharing with their community and receiving attention and/or feedback is a particularly simple example. Many students mention how these types of collaborative activities helped them evaluate their choices, motive them, and transformed their perceptions of learning. Moreover, if an instructor with large classes creates active demonstrations, especially ones that use technology to engage the students in interaction with one another, they become more involved, understand what they have learned
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better, and are more likely to interact further with other students or the instructor out of class, and also values the faculty member (Light, 2004). For example, instructors at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland are using the AmibSense system to transmit handouts, timetables, lecture notes, and other resources to student’s mobile phones (Gray, 2005). Additionally, because the mobile device is nearly ubiquitous among college age students, instructors can use mobile-based quizzes or public digital spaces for assessment. Additional content can be delivered on-demand via podcast, course blogs, PSP, Palm, or other portable computing device. The use of mobile devices as a tool for social interface and co-creation of communal metadata will reflect the priorities and norms of the community, as well as provide collaboration to spaces unreachable via desktop computer (Goodman, n.d.). The purpose of utilizing mobile technology is to invite students to think together, since a class is typically a new set of people with new ideas. They may challenge their own thinking around critical principles from the course material. Students may also find value in the ability to move between differing delivery systems of depending on the learning goal. Mobile learning is not only a new technology, is also an exponent of new modes of learning. Increasingly, members of the net generation are finding that the need is there to develop skills, access knowledge and understanding on the spot, just when it is needed, and mobilebased learning fills this need. This “on the go” learning style contrasts with previous generations who were taught to learn what they needed to pass a test, limited to resource materials in the library or textbook, and were limited by what they were able to memorize. Dede (2005) notes the influence of digital media on student learning, pointing to what he termed the Napsterization of education. In this model users have personally tailored learning paths, picking and choosing from multiple sources of media, resources, projects, or other curriculum content which they can then bundle together. mLearning User-Experience Design mLearning user design is different from desktop-based online environments. Due to the relatively small screen display on mobile phones, content has to be designed to fit on the mobile device. The mobile screen is smaller, and makes it more difficult to read-large amounts of text. As a result it is vital that mLearning course designers keep in mind the constraints and limitations of the platform they are designing for and develop educational content with a specific type of mobile device in mind. In addition to maintaining a simple, clean interface, other environmental design considerations to keep in mind include limited memory and battery life of most mobile devices (Kontio, 2004). Effective mLearning (mobile learning) design should provide engaging content which allows the pupil to draw connections between the contexts of the learning
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objectives while utilizing multiple sources of Web-based media. Another vital design element is the users’ ability to mediate their level of participation within a social network or virtual learning environment (VLE). What happens to student learning when a course is revised to incorporate self-directed learning opportunities? The learning that students achieve goes far beyond the boundaries of what they are taught because individuals create meaning for themselves beyond solely the intent of the teacher (see Table 2). Investing in understanding and making strategic investments in mobile learning environments will increase student motivation, provide fluency in distributed modes of communication and empower different types of expression and experiences. Collaborative work appears to be important to support motivation by giving a sense of active involvement within the group (Fisher & Baird, 2005). mContent and Interaction Design While millions of students in higher education today use mobile phones to extend and maintain their social lives, these tools are also headed rapidly into the learning and content delivery universe. For example, content being delivered onto a Palm or PSP will be able to handle more text, graphics, or other interactive features, whereas mLearning
Table 2. Digital Learning Experience Attributes •Interactive Interactive, engaging content and course material that motivates them to learn through challenging pedagogy, conceptual review, and learning style adaptation. Students expect to pick and use various types of media and create a "mash-up" of content. Shifts the learning responsibility to the student, and emphasizes teacher-guided instruction and modeling. Reconcile classroom use of social media to the authentic way teens are using outside of the classroom. Technology use should be tied to authentic/specific learning goal or activity. Learning is a social activity, and students learn best through observation, collaboration, and intrinsic motivation and from self-organizing social systems comprised of peers. This can take place in either a virtual or in-person environment. Ability to multitask and handle multiple streams of information and juggle both short- and long-term goals.
•Learner Centered •Authentic
Source: Baird (2006).
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environments based on mobile phone interface will require designers to reduce the amount of text and utilize mobile text reading tools such as the rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) interface which allow users to read more text. One key design tenet to keep in mind is that a learner’s level of participation will influence the design of content, pedagogy, and assessment based on the individual preferences and needs. The user-experience allows for a student centered and designed learning experience which the end user can personalize, share, collaborate, and find intrinsic value in completing (see Table 3). In terms of interaction design, when integrating social software into an mLearning platform, course designers need to be careful not to overwhelm the learner with too much content or software requirements. Most importantly, course designers need to keep in mind that social software (mobile or otherwise) is here to provide both the constraints and framework for social interaction. Research on mobile game design by Ermi and Mäyrä (2005) found that mLearning user design is not just about minimizing the cognitive load of the user and making the software as simple as possible, instead it’s about designing learning experiences that engage the student in the content, community, and provide the architecture for meaningful exchange of knowledge. mLEARNING AT THE NATIONAL COLLEGE OF IRELAND (NCI) The National College of Ireland provides multiple resources to assist students to articulate their underlying needs and has developed an integrated collection
Table 3. Elements of Mobile Interface Design Mobile Real Estate The small keypads on most mobile devices can make it difficult for users to navigate a mVLE and can also effect how students use or don't use mLearning environments. Limit text centric learning content. Designers should limit the number and types of actions required on the keypad. In addition, limited memory on most standard mobile devices prevents users from handling too many graphics, large files, or multiple actions on the keypad. Include only the content which is the most important and required in the mLearning environment. Provide expanded versions of content and/or offer multiple versions, mobile, Web, iPod, or PSP.
Source: Kontio (2004).
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of technologies and training to address those needs. NCI recognizes that often student technology needs to relate to simplicity of operation and enhanced effectiveness. To achieve these objectives, we view the overall solution holistically for appropriate points of integration, separation, and simplification. Most importantly, NCI does not just integrate technologies strategies because it can; instead it takes advantage of integration points when they result in tangible benefits for learners. One of NCI’s earliest attempts to create a viable mLearning platform was the integration of Macromedia Flash and the open source CMS Claroline platform into a mobile virtual learning environment (mVLE). In addition, the Claroline platform allowed faculty to create and administer courses through browsers running on both computers and advanced mobile phones (Bergwall, 2004). This Flash-based mobile Virtual Learning Environment (mVLE) has several interactive features, including: • • • • • • • • Course materials Agenda Chat Exercises User Profiles Educational Flash Movies User/Course Statistics Links
Traditionally, a majority of college-level educators have focused on providing content instruction rather than promoting learning. Most classes still have a teacher-to-learner knowledge transfer process, and the present way of teaching does not stimulate active learning (Barr & Tagg, 1995; Chen, Lawler, & Venso, 2003; Lord, 1994). Currently, the college has difficulty measuring how students would apply these business communication skills beyond exams at the end of the course. Despite much debate among educators over teaching and learning strategies to improve student achievement, very little has been directed toward eliciting feedback from students. NCI: DESIGNING THE mLEARNING EXPERIENCE The National College of Ireland identified a need in its large classes to meet the needs within a tech-savvy group of learners where there is a diversity of digital learning styles. In large classes, NCI started with the question of how student learning can be enhanced or improved through the use of mobile and social software. NCI concluded that reconfiguring course content and activities to meet a variety of digital learning styles, by utilizing the Web-based tools that students were exposed to in their formative years, should result in enhanced learning
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outcomes and user-experience. One aim was to utilize the student’s use of mobile phones along with a collaborative dialog presentation tool to create a dynamic learning environment for simultaneous use in the classroom and on the Web. In addition, NCI sought ways to provide students with interactive opportunities to explore and integrate other’s thinking in their own learning experience. In short: NCI wanted to leverage mobile and wireless Internet for educational potential. NCI felt that student’s nearly ubiquitous use of portable technology usage provided an opportunity to conduct an innovative experiment on using mobile technologies in a learning context. Mobile phones are readily accessible for the majority of Irish college students. NCI also felt that these new methods to integrate mobile technology into the higher education curriculum are likely to promote a better balance because it gives students autonomy, flexibility, and freedom as students add their knowledge in a community-based learning model. This progressive mobile learning environment was designed to encompass the best aspects of the traditional classroom along with real time technology for posting into a class collaborative mural, interacting with peers and sharing user and community generated content. Moreover, a mobile platform provided members of the class with on-demand opportunities for further participation and reflection via the Web. This approach also provided students with the freedom to utilize technology in a way that best fits their individual learning styles, and support current research which shows that students process knowledge in various ways. Members of the mLearning community were able to generate feedback, as well as create, share, and utilize community generated content, knowledge, or artifacts (images, video, diagrams, etc.) in diverse and creative ways. Virtual Reflective Mural (VRM) The Virtual Reflective Mural (VRM) was used on a large sample of first- and second-year students at the National College of Ireland. The class met in a large public lecture theater. The lecturer’s laptop computer was linked to a digital projector for demonstration purposes of the Web-board tool virtual reflective mural. Due to its ease of use, VRM is suitable for people at all skill levels, and students readily adopted the mLearning concept (Table 4). The students were in a module on teaching and learning within the Business Communications course and mobile content delivery seemed well suited to mLearning. The mobile presentation of content shows how a learner can choose between alternative instructional approaches. The freedom of choice encouraged studentcentered learning and made for a more effective and enjoyable experience. Instructors were able to use mobile phones to take polls, check student comprehension, and foster interactivity in what otherwise might have been “down time” in a large lecture class. It could be used as a model for interactive learning;
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Table 4. Virtual Reflective Mural Commands Send Reply •Send your text/picture/video message to 086 861 2881 •To reply to a message, start your text with the number of that message (in white circle) •Add a caption to your picture message using the text or subject fields of the MMS
emphasizes a hands-on or learning by doing approach that focuses on what the student does, rather than on what the lecturer does. Benefits of this learning space for the students was threefold: potential for maximum participation (all can be posting simultaneously), increased motivation (authentic use of technology, so little technical advice or support is needed), and student motivation was noticeable and achieved possibly because of the increased peer feedback and collaboration. The goal was to use mobile ICT as a way to create and foster a more learnercentered environment. Another goal was to provide students with the ability to access content and collaborate in a manner that meets their needs beyond what the teacher is able to deliver in a standard class. This strategy was included in the course design as a means to nurture the potential of each individual based on their intrinsic motivation and learning goal(s). By creating such a diverse learning environment, this strategy allows users to learn through various kinds of resources enabling them to achieve a higher standard of results. The module raised awareness, promoted student reflection, self-assessment, and opportunites for a blended learning environment. The VRM activity also impacted students assessment of learning styles, exploring of learning options, guidance on improvement of learning and studying skill, and availability of social media resources that promote better understanding of learning. Throughout the VRM experience, faculty had been encouraged to undertake research that underpins change and innovation in the classroom. Virtual Graffiti Virtual Graffiti was created by David O’Loughlin, a student at Trinity College, while he was a student working on his degree in computer science. This is the first time the tool was utilized in an mLearning context. Virtual Graffiti has a very friendly user interface and as a result students are able to quickly utilize Virtual Graffiti to send text messages, photos, and video via their mobile phone. Students create links when they reply to posts.
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The instructor referred to the Virtual Graffiti environment as a “Co-laboratory or collaboratory” where students meet to make their shared reflections on learning visible, or leave traces of their experience for others on the learning community virtual mural. It provides an on-demand artifact for students to look into afterwards. This gives them the potential to engage in reflective practice and reasoning as they look at their work and see others commenting on their refections. Posts that were not replied to were non-linear and showed up in an open space on the board that was both visible in the class and on the Web. There are various reasons why some of the posts remained in the “open space” and failed to elicit feedback from the learning community. First, the question may have been inappropriate, off-topic, or already posed. More often, posts may go unanswered because students may have difficulty understanding the question and will prompt their peers to restake or clarify the question. Social capital in an online learning community is based on reputation and the value that each member contributes to the learning eco-system. Students who have not effectively negotiated their social standing, alienated, or offended the community may find the value of their posts negotiated by the community (see Table 5). Virtual Graffiti manages the content on the board and archives the older post to allow room for newer posts. The older posts can still be replied and linked too, so the tool saves screen shots in layers with all linked posts. The tool connects replies to the same artifact, which allows the student to analyze, organize, see relationships and interrelationships, identify parts, and compare ideas and events. As a result, students can better narrow down the focus to understanding as much as possible about the topic under study. In the past, online and class board discussions were limited to primarily text-based forms of interaction. However, with the Virtual Graffiti tool many students posted photos, diagrams, and short video clips. Virtual Graffiti may provide a possible long-term solution because the data is very clean; no need tidying up after as users and other tools link comments and functions are available. Students can design their learning path by determining which comment to reply to, and can participate through both the classroom large lecture/dialog and the Internet, enabling real-time, instantaneous communication. The students may interact with and manipulate the posts, or they may simply “talk” with each other in the created threads. The critical issue in a knowledge society is that there is parity of esteem among all the learners and that there is freedom for learners to move into and out of learning environments irrespective of learning style (Light, 2004). Moreover, mLearning tools like Virtual Graffiti allow learning and interaction to be carried out in both individual and community level.
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Table 5. Overview of Virtual Graffiti What is Virtual Graffiti? Virtual Graffiti is a new concept in interactive displays and entertainment. Making use of commonplace technologies, such as mobile phones, PDA's, and laptop computers; Virtual Graffiti allows the general public to contribute to, manipulate, and control a large digital display. The Digital Public Space is our term for the large display which is the main interface to Virtual Graffiti. Anyone near this large screen or projection can read the messages and contributions that others have left on the display; as well as add their own message. Contributing to the Public Space The general public can use their mobile phones to send SMS (text) and MMS (picture, video) messages to the space by merely sending their message to a particular phone number associated with the display. It is possible for the users to associate a new message with a one already on the display, thus allowing replies to and annotations of messages. PDA and laptop users can connect to a wireless (WiFi) network in the vicinity of the public space, and are then provided with a Web interface to allow them to view messages on and post messages to the public display; as well as a host of other features. Replies, conversations, and threads in the Digital Public Space Users can link their message to existing messages on the display, thereby providing the facility to annotate and reply to the postings of others. Replies are graphically linked to the original on the display, which permits threaded conversations to take place that are easy for a viewer to follow.
What is Digital Public Space?
Source: O'Loughlin (2005).
Virtual Graffiti at NCI The collaborative mural allows learners to see more and do more. It gives the learner the ability to easily see and act up vital posts or contributions to the dialog at more places than any other strategy at NCI today. It provides additional Web accessibility beyond just the instructor supervisory level to view information at the
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individual user level or across the entire mural network. This visibility means you can: resolve problems faster, maintain user comfort better, minimize deviations from course content strategies, posts are used faster, less need for changes, and the lowest cost of operation. It could be integrated in most college classrooms in the market today. Ideally, future versions of Virtual Graffiti would enable the user to have the post read to them via an audio option, or speak into their phone and it would write/post their audio comment in text. Ideally, on the Web view you would be able to pan and zoom very easily, also to zoom up in on areas they want to—i.e., diagrams posted. Also, maybe an auto-generated podcast of the threads from each class session, and a slow motion option when viewing video clips posted. NCI did adjust the font size on the Web-board tool so it could be read easily from the large pubilc theater classroom and adjusted the color for yellow font on black background for easiest reading. We also tried out ahead of class several mobile phones on different plans to make sure they could get and send calls effectively inside the building as some classrooms surrounded by cement slabs may not have good calling signals. The content students shared in class was accessible during class on the screen and available later on the Web as well which allows for subsequent discussion. It also allowed additional time for students to process comments and digest their reflections. Moreover, interaction analysis and discourse analysis could be used to understand if some innovative activities foster student achievement better than others. Overall, Virtual Graffiti provided students with multiple paths they could take to contribute or elaborate on. The classroom takes on a life of its own. We can reuse the content in future applications of reflection. Students become enthusiastic about the work, and NCI strongly believes this strategy will continue to grow and prosper.
NCI LEARNING WITH TECHNOLOGY SURVEY The following section analyzes the results of a student survey conducted to gather students perspective on the use of mobile technology in the curriculum at The National College of Ireland. In addition, NCI used the results of the survey to propose specific strategies that faculty can use to make mLearning environments engaging as well as informative, enhance student-centered learning, and meet the digital learning styles of the student population. In past the Business Communications Course at the National College of Ireland (NCI) was traditional teacher-centered lecture format to approximately 150 students per course in the public lecture theater. Instructors needed to get students to think critically, be engaged, and provide an experience utilizing authentic tools such as mobile phones, PDA’s, and laptops
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to assist and promote the development of critical thinking by posting to the live class discussion board, we used the Virtual Graffiti tool. Subjects In this study, a survey of student opinions regarding college teaching and learning was given in two sections of the course with 235 (137 first years, 98 second years) students completing the survey. All students had access to the Virtual Graffiti tool through a mobile phone number or the Web. Useful handheld remote technologies have been developed to allow for this individual voice customization and participation in posting. The NCI staff reported that 100% of the student population had access to a mobile-enabled device. The use of predictive text features on phones help learners who type slower. It allows quick and easy connectivity and lowers the duration of the interactions to more nugget-sized conversations. As recipients of information, knowledge, and skills, college students should have a strong voice about the teaching and learning process. Survey Results A short questionnaire was given to all students in the Business Communications course. Instead of just end-of-semester feedback, we wanted to capture student input early on in the course design process. The 235 students that participated are representative of the student body. The survey was given in class, was anonymous, and voluntary (see Tables 6 and 7).
Table 6. Student Learning Preferences 67% 17% 8% Group work and/or interact have discussions with peers and instructor Short informal lectures, embedded with professional experiences Straight teacher led lecture
Table 7. Learning and Technology 91% Instructors and students should use the latest technologies for learning 98% Students believe that they play the most responsible role in their learning
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Most students described the ideal components of a college level learning environment as interactive classes, choice in modules, smaller classes, rooms with up-to-date technology, informal environment, more visuals, and feedback. Other findings of overall pattern of student’s opinion include: • Two-thirds of the students surveyed identified similar characteristics of best lecturers. Characteristics such as passion, motivation, charisma, approachable, creative, interesting, interactive were cited more frequently than other characteristics, such as intelligent, knowledgeable, professionally experienced, strict, clarity, organized, and ability to control class. • Good communication skills seem highly valued among this group of learners above being informative. Finally, over half the students wanted feedback on how things can be made easier, written feedback, constructive criticism, direct answers, and continuous assessment. Generally speaking, both the first year and second year students expressed similar opinions on most of the survey. Class status did not appear to affect student perceptions of teaching and learning with one exception: • The second year students wanted more critical thinking learning activities other than group discussion to practice problem solving decision making and teamwork skills. While many first years still prefer homework. In addition, several participants were interviewed after the reflective mural building with mobile class activity which gave a more detailed picture of some of the participants’ experiences, motivations, and reflection on the process. Among the successes identified in these interviews were the flexibility of the content and format in the event, and the fact that this was teacher-led. High attendance and completion rates resulted from this approach. Motivation and support were central to the whole process. Good quality posts had been produced, which were an important outcome of the project as well as demonstrating participant-learners’ technical awareness. The return posts to the Website after the classroom event was another demonstration of its effectiveness, as well as indicating that they had positive experiences. There were many constructive suggestions made for future directions of the event. This included ideas for the project expansion to cover the whole course not just one dialog, refining the existing support in place for participating learners, and a potentially greater role for some of the group activities in the middle. Having students summarize themes and patterns in the dialog weekly or by topic. Key findings of the NCI mLearning project: • High levels of participation and completion from learners. • Realization and publication of student-initiated, learner produced content to the classroom mural and Web.
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• Creation of an expanding model suited to the Irish curriculum, tried and tested in the classroom. • Awareness-raising of the potential uses for mobile technologies in education, and encouragement of curricular use of the resources produced in class. • The creation of a community of learners. • Creation of user and community generated content. In light of the project’s key successes, the evaluation suggests that its flexible model of peer collaboration is responsive to students’ needs and interests remain at its core. Another hidden outcome of the project arises in the context of the “reusability” of the resources which is now receiving some considerable attention in educational technology research (D. Hernández-Leo et al., 2005). There is further evidence that working with students to self-publish on the Web also provides them with a better understanding of how to evaluate and use other usergenerated content resources in learning. Moreover, as the flow of user-generated content continues to grow, developing an awareness of how to evaluate content will continue to be a critical information literacy skill. This suggests an even greater need for widespread dissemination of the projects achievement and need for projects like this in years to come. Overall, the NCI mLearning experiment promoted and encouraged student-centered, discovery-based, group learning orchestrated via collaboration. Additionally, it helped improve the motivation of both lecturers and students by widening the traditional avenues of communication and encouraging participation. mLEARNING TOOLS AND APPLICATIONS Looking toward the future, it’s becoming increasingly evident that the next frontier of learning will take place in the mobile space. Already, teachers are using podcasting as a means to distribute content, provide customized on-demand opportunities for learning and collaboration. The rapid adoption of wireless, mobile, and other handheld computing devices will require educators to begin designing mLearning courses for delivery on multiple wireless, mobile, or other portable Web-enabled devices (video iPod, PSP, Palm). BuddyBuzz BuddyBuzz is an application that allows users to quickly read text on a mobile phone using a variation of the rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) interface. Instead of presenting large chunks of content on a mobile phone screen, BuddyBuzz shows one word at a time, creating an interface which allows users to read and comprehend text on mobiles. Users are able to control delivery via the arrow keys on the mobile phone to speed up, slow down, or repeat text.
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Developed in the Persuasive Technology Labs at Stanford University, BuddyBuzz delivers customized content directly to a mobile phone. Currently BuddyBuzz delivers mostly news (Reuters, CNET) and content from several leading Weblogs. But what makes BuddyBuzz unique is its ability to predict and deliver content users will find relevant and/or interesting based on their previous ratings. Because BuddyBuzz is mobile-based technology, it allows students to have anytime, anywhere, customized, on-demand learning opportunities. BuddyBuzz has several mLearning applications, including the ability to serve as a content delivery system. Instructors can upload articles directly to their BuzzBox and then share them with students in their BuddyBuzz community. Students can rate the articles from the instructor, and have BuddyBuzz fine tune future content to meet their needs. In this manner, BuddyBuzz is utilized as a techno-constructivist learning tool to support student’s intrinsic interests, motivations, and learning goals. As mobile technologies and mLearning become more ubiquitous, applications like BuddyBuzz, which provide opportunities for instructors to distribute content via mobile phones, may well indeed provide a huge opportunity toward bridging the digital divide in education. Mobile Blogging: RAMBLE, Yahoo!, and Google RAMBLE (Remote Authoring of Mobile Blogs for Learning Environments), a project of Oxford University, is investigating how students use handheld devices to reflect on their learning experiences and provide feedback on lectures, tutorials, practicals, and student life. Google’s Blogger Mobile allows users to send photos and text directly to their blog via their mobile phone. In addition, Blogger Mobile has audio capabilities. AudioBlogger lets users call Blogger and leave an audio message that is posted to your blog as an MP3 file. One of the key benefits of Yahoo! 360, in terms of educational blogging, is that it provides the user with the ability to manage who can view their personal information based, in part, on user-defined criteria. In other words, the user controls who has access to any and all parts of the content on their blog. Yahoo! 360 also allows users to upload content and photographs via their mobile phone, or via Yahoo Instant Messenger. FlickrEdu: Mobile Photo Social Networking While not originally developed as an education tool, Flickr and other mobile social networking technologies have the ability to play an important part in student motivation, retention, and learning, especially in distributed learning environments. Sharing photos is an inherently social activity and Flickr is the first Web-based photo hosting service to successfully translate this experience into the online
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space. The key element that makes Flickr so unique is that active exploration and community are interwoven as main components of the design. Flickr, a Yahoo! company, is important because its ease-of-use allows students to keep their focus on acquiring new skills, building on existing knowledge while at the same time developing writing, software, and strengthening social ties within their learning circle. This is especially important in geographically dispersed learning communities, where students may have limited face-to-face time to build a support network with their peers. One of the unique features of Flickr is the ability of users to use their camera phones to take and upload pictures directly to their photoblog. Since most students already have access to a camera phone enabled cell phone, students can integrate Flickr into a mLearning activity. For example, students can use their camera phone on a field trip to take pictures, and easily post them to their own Flickr photoblog. Later, students can write about their experiences on the field trip, reflect, and share their thoughts with their learning community (Baird, 2005). Flickr holds great potential as part of a multi-faceted approach that blends constructivist learning theory and mobile technologies in the curriculum. To be sure, Flickr and other mobile social media cannot, and should not, replace faceto-face communication between teachers and students; rather, it should be used as one of many digital tools that, when skillfully integrated into the curriculum, has the potential to open lines of dialogue, communication, and learning. PSP, Video iPod, and Mobile Devices A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation noted that 55% of American teenagers had access to a portable gaming device. In fact, other studies from the United Kingdom indicate that more young people have a Sony PSP than a handheld computer. Among its many features, the Sony PSP has an integrated multimedia player, video and audio capabilities, an e-book reading application, and an HTML compatible browser capability with WI-FI. In light of the high adoption of mobile gaming devices, instructors need to leverage the adoption of mobile gaming devices as an opportunity to aggregate educational content and provide active, authentic learning opportunities for students. In like manner, the video-enhanced Apple iPod provides yet another opportunity for instructors to distribute both audio and video content to students. This will provide students with the ability to learn on-demand based on their own learning styles. Content downloaded from Google’s Video Search can be downloaded in either a video iPod or Sony PSP compatible file. This makes it even easier for instructors to aggregate video-based content for use on mobile devices. In addition, Google Video and YouTube provide users with the HTML snippet required to easily embed video into a course blog, which in turn may be viewed by students on a Web-enabled mobile device.
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CONCLUSIONS Students no longer want to be passive recipients of information, but to be joint participants in the creation of knowledge with their instructor and peers. This new digital pedagogy occurs when the instructor creates expectations for their active participation and holds students to those expectations. The ways in which youth use the Web has also changed, from a static experience to a more active experience. An entire generation has now grown up building their own context, community, and user-generated content around communitybased learning environments. This architecture of participation model equips the learner for the information age and allows them to take advantage of their talents and abilities with the tools they grew up with in their formative years. We believe this approach to dialog, reflection, content delivery, and collaboration could apply to most courses. The use of mobile technologies is growing and represents the next great frontier for learning. Increasingly we will continue to see academic and corporate research invest, design, and launch new mobile applications, many of which can be used in learning context. At the 2006 International Consumer Electronic Show, Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel outlined the explosive growth of Web-based and mobile technology. According to Semel (2006), there are 900 million personal computers in the world. But this number pales in comparison to the 2 billion mobile phones currently being used in the world. Even more astounding is how mobile devices are increasingly being used as the primary way in which people connect to the Internet. In fact, Semel notes that 50% of the Internet users outside the United States will most likely never use a personal computer to connect to the Internet. Rather, they will access information, community, and create content on the Internet via a mobile device. In order to create a better learning environment for the digital learning styles of the Net Generation, there is a need to use strategies and methods that support authentic uses of technology to support and foster motivation, collaboration, and interaction. The use of mobile devices is directly connected with the personal experiences and authentic use of technology students bring to the classroom mLEARNING RESOURCES Table 8 provides a listing of mLearning resources and Table 9 an mLearning glossary. ACKNOWLEDGMENT The authors would like to thank David O’Loughlin for creation and use of the Virtual Graffiti tool.
Table 8. mLearning Resources Features Online Community, moblog, photo sharing. Camera phone, video/photo sharing. Mobile phone content delivery, reading community. Students use handheld devices to reflect on their learning experiences and provide feedback on lectures, tutorials, etc. Send text messages, photos, and video via their mobile phone. Mobile delivery of notes, articles, quizzes. Synchronize and download content to iPod and PSP mobile devices. Collaborative, Interactive, Authentic Authentic, Interactive Learner Centered Situated, Learner Centered, Authentic, On-Demand, Collaborative On-Demand Interactive, Collaborative, On-Demand http://www.flickr.com Digital learning experience attributes URL
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Learner Centered, Authentic, http://buddybuzz.net/rel/Web/index.htm On-Demand, Collaborative http://ramble.oucs.ox.ac.uk/
Learner Centered, Authentic, http://www.tivo.com/ On-Demand
Audio and text-based blogging.
On-Demand, Interactive, Collaborative Interactive, Authentic, On-Demand Interactive, Authentic, Collaborative, On-Demand Interactive, Authentic, On-Demand, Collaborative http://blip.tv/ http://www.go.yahoo.com/ http://360.yahoo.com/
Weblog, mobile photo sharing via Flickr, and mobile Yahoo IM. Wide variety of mobile products integrated to user Yahoo! account. Users can take video on mobile phone then send it to their blog (movblog). Student study guides delivered via mobile phone (SMS) or via audio for use on iPod. Delivery of content via audio, video, and/or text-based formats.
http://www.sparknotes.com/mobile/ Authentic, On-Demand, Interactive, Learner Centered
Interactive, Learner Centered, http://www.apple.com/ipod/ Authentic, Collaborative, On-Demand
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http://www.yourpsp.com/psp/locale.html Multimedia player, video and audio Authentic, On-Demand, Interactive, Learner Centered capabilities, an e-book reading application, and an HTML compatible browser.
Table 8. (Cont'd.) Features RSS feeds for groups, share photos, and files too big for e-mail. Access documents, photos, and files from any mobile device with a Web browser. Authentic, On-Demand, Learner Centered http://www.youtube.com/ http://www.selfcasttv.com/Selfcast/goto home.do Collaborative, On-Demand, Authentic http://www.box.net/ Digital learning experience attributes URL
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Video community; allows user to upload user-generated content onto the Web and view on video iPod, mobile phone, or PSP. Students can also form groups, receive peer feedback, and subscribe to specific video feeds. Provides user community feedback and HTML snippet to embed in other social software content.
Video community; allows user to upload user-generated content onto the Web. Commercial video also available. Video available for download in PSP, iPod, or desktop computer formats. Provides HTML snippet to embed video in other user generated content.
Authentic, On-Demand, Learner Centered
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Table 9. mLearning Glossary Term •Social Software Definition Social software enables people to connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication (wiki, weblog, podcasts) and form online communities. A blog, short for "weblog," is a Web site in which the author writes their opinions, impressions, etc., so as to make them public and receive reactions and comments about them. A site for posting blog content from a mobile device, usually a cellular phone. Most often refers to photo sharing via a camera phone.
•Moblog (mobile + blog)
•Vlog (video + blog) A weblog using video as its primary presentation format. •SMS (Short Message Service) •PSP (Play Station Portable) •Palm •Social Networks Written messages that you can send through a mobile phone. Mobile version of the Sony PlayStation gaming system. PSP has WiFi and browser connectivity. A handheld portable device or personal digital assistant. A term used to describe virtual or online communities of shared practice. Web 2.0 generally refers to a second generation of services available on the Web that lets people collaborate and share information online. Instant messaging is the act of instantly communicating between two or more people over a network such as the Web.
•Instant Messaging (IM)
•Text Messaging (IM) Another term used to describe SMS. •Really Simple Syndication (RSS) Really Simple Syndication feeds provide Web content or summaries of Web content together with links to the full versions of the content. RSS is used by news Websites, weblogs, and podcasting to synch and deliver content.
Source: Adapted from Wikipedia and Wiktionary (2006).
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