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Collaborative Portable App

Title: Grade 2 Backpack App:


A Parent-Teacher Collaborative Portable App
for Grade 2 Individualized Learning Support

A Paper Presented in Partial Fulfillment


Of the Requirements of
EDID 6512 Design Project
Term 1 (2018)

Student: Jabel Erica Odiamar-Bercasio

Project Advisor: Dr. Cathy James-Springer

University: University of the West Indies Open Campus

Course: EDID 6512 – Design Project

Design Prospectus

Due Date: September 2018


Design Project Concept Paper 1

Abstract

This paper provides a summary of a proposed design that aims to facilitate an after-

hours teaching and learning collaboration among parents, teachers and pupils, ages 5 to 8.

This is in response to the over crowdedness of Convent Preparatory School classrooms,

which makes knowledge absorption for beginning readers not wholly conducive if limited

to those learning spaces alone.

Their skills in reading will especially be targeted by the proposed solution as these

will help them cope with a classroom that has a 1:30 ratio. Supported by the theory of

constructivism, a collaborative app is being recommended by this paper. Moreover, the

proposed design on how the app can support after-hours learning is included in this

prospectus.

Keywords: primary school, mixed ability classes, parent-teacher collaboration, crowded

classrooms, supplementary lessons


Design Project Concept Paper 2

Introduction

Primary school classrooms in Convent Preparatory School tend to be full, with the

number of students attempting to get registered usually exceeding classroom capacity. The

capacity will be set aside at times to provide education to more students.

Background and Problem

While the practice of classroom overcrowding provides more students their

academic slots, it makes the learning environment unconducive to learning. A class of 20

will be adequately served, but recent enrollment has increased the class size to as much as

30 per class.

A packed classroom makes learning a challenge. Students generally perceive

smaller classes as more effective, not just in terms of the learning process but also in the

sense of belonging and cohesion in the classroom (Harfitt, 2011).

Often, two or three of the students per Grade 2 class at Convent Prep cannot even

read yet. This makes it difficult for them to work on their own. Unfortunately, they would

have to wait to be individually served by a teacher, who is performing other tasks aside

from teaching. The 1:30 ratio is even more apparent when placed against these instances of

multitasking. Even the children are prone to multitasking themselves: trying to understand

the teacher while zoning out disruptive classmates. After all, a hot and packed classroom

can result to restlessness, which further distances the children from effectively absorbing

the lesson (Jensen, 2008).

To further support the idea that overcrowding is detrimental, a Hong Kong case

study showed a marked difference between the same teacher instructing a big class (about

40) and a small class (closer to 20) (Harfitt, 2011). The students in the smaller classes,
Design Project Concept Paper 3

according to the interviews, were more eager to participate in class because of the

alleviation of social anxiety and improvement in their personal relationship with the

teacher. Shy children, especially, do not merely approach the teacher about problems in

understanding the lesson. The teacher would have to gauge this for herself and approach

the child. The class consists of primary school students, after all, not college students who

may stay back afterwards to ask questions.

Identification and Justification of Need

The packed classrooms in Convent Preparatory has resulted to situations that are

detrimental to the students’ learning process:

a) Lack of individualized attention

b) Exposure to stresses associated with a steep teacher-student ratio

c) A disruption to an age group that is crucial to becoming beginning readers

These problems will not be merely remedied by one-hour afternoon tutorials

because the same behaviors, interactions and environment will be involved. The students

are further agitated in the afternoon, after having eaten lunch and changed to their

ordinary clothes. Therefore, there is a need for an after-hours learning tool that will not be

affected by the same environmental factors and will inspire collaboration among the

parents, teachers, and students. A reading app, with a similar user-friendly format as

Bloomz, should be used as a supplementary learning tool.

Description of Target Group

The target group consists of the parents/guardians of Grade 2 students, as well as

their children/wards. The children’s ages range from 5 to 8 years . They are chosen for this
Design Project Concept Paper 4

study because most children learn how to read around the ages of 6 and 7, which is the

median age group for the Grade 2 students in Convent Preparatory School (Healthy

Children, 2018). This is a crucial age group. Teachers and, ideally, parents do not want to

advance children to the higher grades if they have not been able to learn how to read at this

stage.

The target students may not all be able to read fluently yet but they are all exposed

to the use of apps in devices such as phones and tablets. They rely on picture cues to make

their choices. Some games also have verbal instructions that allow them to follow what

needs to be done. On the other hand, their parents have been successfully getting around

the Bloomz app. The app is the most direct means of interaction, especially for the busier

parents.

Theoretical Foundation

Social Constructivism Theory


“Digital learning has allowed for more student-centered activities and enhanced,

innovative teaching practices” (Stork, 2017). With the possibility of an “interactivity loop”

(Huang, Liang, Su, & Chen, 2012), the students would be allowed to repeatedly go through a

concept they have not yet mastered. This focus may not be possible in a packed class. Such

a treatment will also challenge and excite the advanced members of the student body.

Constructivism, after all, according to Driscoll (2014), will involve “self-regulation” and

“multiple modes of learning”. It is in this additional awareness that both parent and child

will work on the level where the child is as a student, and work together to learn or to find

help if deeper problems are encountered. Constructivism, after all, stresses “the

importance of social interactions in the construction of knowledge” (IGI Global, 2018). It


Design Project Concept Paper 5

requires communication among the parties involved: the student, the parent, and the

teacher. Communication cannot “be replaced by technology, although technology may

facilitate it” (Bates, 2016). With a customized mode of learning, the true strengths and

weaknesses of the child can be highlighted. Educational games, which are technological,

constructive, and can be social, have been found to assist in the identification of

problematic learning and behaviors that may be normally missed (Liu, et al., 2017).

The project aims to not just provide supplementary work, but also to ensure

continuous parental support for the Grade 2 students involved. For Olmstead (2013),

social constructivism’s very core supports the idea of having positive collaboration in both

the home and school environments. For this reason, the app does not neglect parent

involvement.

An after-hours collaborative app will initially incorporate previous assessments,

while increasing the opportunities for external assessments. Denton (2012) believes that

limited assessments can be a problem as they may hinder urgent corrective measures. On

the other hand, students are not just expected to react and absorb, they are also expected

to create learning in the app. This is part of the social construct that they will be involved

in. Moreillon (2015) opines that creating a social construct online can be challenging but

also in the end, be a sign of success. Since children’s minds are “social in nature” (Amineh

& Asl, 2015), constructivism with collaboration appears to be an apt solution.

Existing Solutions
1. Mobile Game in Zambia

There had been attempts to implement an after-hours app that will aid in teaching

reading and other subjects to primary school age children. In Zambia, a mobile game had
Design Project Concept Paper 6

been developed to provide an enhanced and digital means of teaching reading. The game

was most effective when the teacher also played, because the teacher could incorporate a

similar teaching strategy in class. A study such as the one in Zambia aimed to see if the use

of the desktop computer or a portable device to play a reading enhancement game can

support school-based learning (Jere-Folotiya, et al., 2014).

The use of a game app to provide support to primary learning makes this example a

good precursor to what is being proposed by this paper. The portability and flexibility of

the game makes it easy to address the needs of more students. Each level should, however,

be supported by some face to face teaching for young children to fully understand how the

game is related to their lessons. It should not remain as merely a game.

The proposed app will feature more formal tests, made child-friendly with the use of

graphics and sound effects. It will focus mostly on reading, but can be upgraded to provide

test practice for other core subjects, such as Math.

2. Teacher and Student Device Usage Study in Mid-Atlantic USA

Varier, et. al. (2017), in their Mid-Atlantic American study, also promoted the idea of

21st century learning, where the use of devices to teach could support individualized

instruction. Again, teachers and their device use were also investigated. The results of

qualitative research had been promising, regarding teacher device usage, but limited

(Grant, Tamim, Brown, Sweeney, & Ferguson, 2015). However, teacher usage does support

the need to ensure that teachers can aid their students in learning through the proposed

app.

The similarity of the proposed app may be superficial as it is an extension of what the

Mid-Atlantic USA study is supporting: the use of devices to enhance learning. As with this
Design Project Concept Paper 7

study, the setup for the proposed app would require the teachers to be at the other end of

the device-to-device communication. This is necessary to enable successful evaluation.

3. Dutch Study on App Usage by Kindergartners to Promote Early Exposure to

Technology

In the Netherlands, a study was focused on the other end of the age spectrum –

kindergarteners. There was a move to create an app that flexed for each child’s

“competency levels, learning styles, or specific instructional preferences or requirements in

case of certain handicaps” (Mooij, 2002). The Dutch study highlighted individualization,

just as the Mid-Atlantic American did. This goal would be next to impossible in the case of a

class of 30, assisted by one class teacher, although the idea if properly applied certainly

would benefit the students.

The propose app will see some individualization, as well, in the sense that each child

can learn at his or her own pace through the app. Not all learning styles, however, can be

covered as the app provides a technology-heavy learning environment to support

traditional teaching.

Proposed Solution

Convent Preparatory School parents are currently using Bloomz to communicate

with the teachers after hours. The app is helpful for updates, announcements, and

feedbacks. However, as a parent has asked, “What else can I do with it?”. Since parents are

easily accessible via an app, a flexible, customizable app could be used to provide

customized worksheets for each child. Worksheets will be customized according to the

level of the students, similar to the gradual reading instruction for phonics via the SRA

mastery kit (Auburn University, 2018). The app-based assessment results will be recorded
Design Project Concept Paper 8

in the student’s account. Failed tests may be retaken, but the number of retakes will also be

recorded. Reading will be the primary subject incorporated into the app, since they can

jumpstart the student to the other subjects. A feedback section can provide the teachers,

parents, and students a means to communicate with each other. The games section will

allow the students to play educational games alone or with a friend. These details will,

hopefully, boost the social construct.

The Convent Preparatory School Grade 2 Backup App serves as an extension of the

classroom, to provide each student a sense of individualization. This individualization is

achieved through self-paced testing and feedback and through the teamwork the child

develops with his or her parents. Being able to work one-on-one will boost and enhance

whatever learning they are able to glean from the packed classroom.

A Glimpse of the Prototype Design


Design Project Concept Paper 9

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