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Blackburn College Title: Use smart phone to facilitate and promote collaborative learning Author: Xiaoxia Wang and Vicky Ahmed Institution: Blackburn College Academic Year: 2009-2010 Keywords: key skills, Literacy, informal, engagement, motivation Technologies: smart phones, netbook, Mylearning software Main Subject Area: Key Skills Main Level: Level 1 Introduction and Overview: 40 learners in skills for life program were involved in Blackburn College MoLeNET project (2 groups on literacy course and 2 groups on numeracy course). This project used Mylearning Author software to design and develop mobile learning resources and quizzes to enhance and extend learners’ key skills learning experience. Learners participated in the project only attended college for 2 hours session each week. They used smart phones uploaded with mobile learning content as an informal learning method to consolidate their key skills knowledge in their own time. Based on the questionnaire, informal observation and feedback, mobile technology had positive impact on learners’ engagement, motivation and social skills in this mobile learning project. In this case study one learner was chosen as an example to represent the improvement through using mobile technology. This learner was a taxi driver who attended literacy skills course for two hours every week and had never used smart phones before participated in this project. He had big progress by using mobile learning content to practice literacy skills during work intervals. Aims: With limited two hours class time per week tutors were difficult to give feedback or track progress with individual learners. The paper-based worksheets could not effectively engage learners especially with informal learning setting. This project aims to design and develop interactive learning content for mobile device which can engage and motivate learners through interaction and immediate feedback. The project also aims to find a blended approach to enable learning with mobile technologies to complement traditional classroom/paper-based learning Addressing the challenge: Tutors received training on using netbooks and mylearning author software to design literacy and numeracy resources and upload resources to windows mobile (model: HTC Touch 3G, system version: mobile windows 6.0, screen resolution: 240×320). Learners were given mobile devices installed with learning content to use during 10 weeks course time to practice


their key skills in addition to paper based worksheets. The resources include different types of interactive learning objects such as multiple choice questions, paired words/pictures and short video lesson in flash. Learners can receive immediate feedback on their score after finish quiz questions. They were encouraged to send SMS to tutors about their progress, score and feedback on using mobile learning resources. Learners were asked to complete different quizzes according to different needs and weak areas. This facilitated personalized learning to engage learners. The resources were also exported as SCORM package and uploaded on course Moodle site as web-based resources. Learners can use different mobile devices and choose different option from the menu on the course site to make the resources fit in with the screen size of the mobile devices to achieve best display performance. The mobile learning content was used to complement classroom teaching. Outcomes and Challenge: •

Impact on teaching and learning The mobile device and m-learning resources offered easy access to learning content on the move. Compare to paper-based worksheets the interactive mobile learning objects make learning experience more enjoyable thus learners were more engaged with learning activities. The mini mobile learning objects also fit in well with the informal learning context so the learners can use short intervals in everyday life to practice key skills in weak areas. The immediate feedback of the quiz questions motivate learners in learning process without tutors’ input thus tutor can make more effective use of class time. To evidence the improvement made through mobile learning a learner was given a paper-based apostrophe assessment which he scored 0 out of 15 questions. He was given a smart phone installed with mobile learning resources to practice at home. He completed the learning activities and watched short video lesson on the mobile during his working intervals. After a week he took the assessment again without any input from the tutor and scored 9 out of 15.

Learner’s reaction Learners were very excited to take part in this mobile learning project and very curious to know how mobile device can be used to support their learning. The learner we discussed above in this case study was a taxi driver. He was thrilled that he could complete learning activities on a mobile phone whilst waiting for jobs to come through over the radio at work. He felt the games were fun and often competed with himself in order to improve his score. This whole experience engaged him and encouraged him to do additional work which definitely helped towards achieving his Level 1 Adult Literacy Certificate

Teacher’s reaction Teachers’ first reaction focused on the challenges of working with VLE system on small screens and large battery requirements. Tutors doubted the effectiveness of mobile learning approach at the beginning but during the process of designing mobile


learning resources they developed both technological and pedagogical knowledge by reflecting on the practice of breaking down existing teaching resources mini learning activities. Two numeracy tutors felt that mobile learning quiz can be developed to practice problem solving skills other than calculating skills. All tutors were excited in experiencing new technology in teaching practice and took this as an opportunity to widen their knowledge. •

Managers reaction Senior managers were very open to piloting new and emerging technology in teaching practice and carry out action research in this area. Managers were very supportive and helpful in locating resources, time and staffing for the project. Senior manager took great interest in the research progress and asked for a copy of the final report.

Lesson learned: It is very important to embed mobile technology into curriculum design other than only using it as an optional delivery method. Provide training and ongoing technical support to teachers so they can enable new teaching approaches with mobile technologies. Cross platform mobile learning content is crucial to move mobile learning forward from small pilot projects to institution-wide practice. Time to redesign sow and lesson plan to embed mobile technology can be a big constraint and this need senior manager’s support Next steps: The taxi driver learner discussed in this case study is going on to do a Level 1 ICT course and will be looking at doing a Level 2 adult literacy course. Tutors are going to reuse mobile learning resources developed during the project in next academic year’s teaching and continue to develop m-learning resources repository. 17 tutors received training on using Mylearning author software and were prepared to test this new technology in their teaching area Links: The interview clip was uploaded on MoLeTV http://www.moletv.org.uk/watch.aspx?v=J671S http://www.moletv.org.uk/watch.aspx?v=V4UM6


http://www.moleshare.org.uk/molehole/1DF8C95FBF/mol-blackburn_coll-case_study01-2010-TA