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Mobile Teaching and Learning Good Practice: 2008-2009 Case Study

Title of Case Study: Mobile Works Institution: National Star College Author: Dr. Fern Faux Date: 07-07-09 Keywords: Learning difficulties/disabilities, autonomy, travel training, confidence Learning context: Various classroom settings, journeys, work based learning Technologies used: Samsung Q1 Ultra Mobile PCs; Flip video cameras Introduction/overview: The National Star College is an independent specialist college providing for learners who have physical disabilities and/or acquired brain injuries alongside associated learning, behavioural, sensory and medical difficulties. This project aimed to support travel training, focussing on accessibility for these learners. The Project involved feedback from both learners and staff, collected via video and audio recordings, interviews and staff focus groups. The four participant students (three male, one female) were in the 16 – 18 years age group, with moderate learning difficulties. There were four participant staff (1 male, 3 female). Intended outcomes: To trial whether using mobile technology with learning objects focussing on specific tasks would allow learners to carry out travel routines with increasing autonomy. It sought evidence of transferrable skills, and increased student confidence and initiation of tasks. Addressing the challenge: Participants were equipped with a Samsung Q1 ULMPC and a Flip Ultra Video Camera. Students were encouraged to video record their journeys, both for learning purposes and also to facilitate the collection of personalised data for module 1. The software was capable of providing back-end data which held all recorded sound files as well as offering visual representation of student module activity. Modules focussed on: 1 Journey Review – personalised to each student, with photographs (taken by them) showing their individual travel routes 2 Personal Safety Plan – paper resource converted to electronic format, focusing on safety aspects of travel 3 ‘Stranger danger game’ - simulated ‘phone call to the non-emergency service, requiring correct dialling of authentic ‘phone number and voice recorded responses to pre-set spoken questions (please click on Audio.wma on Figure 1 below) The ILT Team worked closely with the Learning Information for Travel (LIFT) Team, supporting them to develop an interventionist approach which built on existing lesson materials and methodologies to design the modules which were added to a software application, Audio.wav pre-loaded onto the Q1s. All modules provided sound icons so that the text could be read and two of the three modules required answers Figure 1 Module 3 'Stranger to be voice recorded, thus supporting learners with poor literacy. A Danger' Game touch screen provided access and the resulting modules, which offered a range of multimedia use, were therefore very specifically designed to meet the learning needs of the students, as defined by the Team Leaders. The ILT Team continued to work with the participants, providing training in situ, to support the implementation of the scheme of work. Outcomes and Benefits: Learner motivation and staff attitudes played key roles in supporting the applications and devices utilised throughout the project. Overall, the devices were felt to be most appropiately used as a classroom resource. Use of the journey planner facilitated student


rehearsal of journeys, reinforcing key landmarks and acting as a memory prompt. This increased student confidence in undertaking journeys but use of the device also increased confidence in using technology outside of formal teaching areas. As the students became more familiar with the technology, they were increasingly able to initiate use of the modules and tasks and were keen to use the technology more often than was scheduled, wanting to explore the Internet, and paint and music programs, but teaching constraints limited this possibility. Learners’ reactions: Students were enthusiastic about both the device itself and the modules provided by the application. The simulated ‘phone call was the activity which they all enjoyed most, even though one student disliked speaking, and recording, his answers. However, other students claimed that: “The sound on it is quite helpful. Yeh, it helps you learn on your own cos it speaks to you.” Students had a tendency to speak answers to questions before the record function was active and to stop the record function slightly before the end of their sentences, but this did improve over time. Figure 2 Student Teachers’ reactions: Teaching staff were nervous of using the new working with mobile technology and even though it was integrated into existing teaching plans, technology it remained something of a ‘bolt-on’ activity which, in addition to the use of paper resources, was difficult to manage. More time was needed, both for training and implementation, but as staff became more familiar with the device their confidence increased. Nonetheless, carrying the devices was problematic, both because of their weight and concerns about security. Staff observations were that Module 1 provided useful rehearsal and reinforcement of students’ journeys: “I think students have enjoyed learning about the technology and have found it helpful to see pictures of their bus journey to prompt them on key points of their route. The device has picture and audio support and has touch screen and recordable answers to make it as accessible as possible”. Module 2 was felt to be too long yet, interestingly, this same resource, in paper format, is used as a core teaching resource. Module 3 was perceived as the most successful of the modules. This activity could not have been achieved in the same way with paper resources: “It reinforces learning in an exciting way in the classroom compared to written task sheets.” “A different resource, interesting for learners who don’t like written tasks instructions etc.” All staff felt that the project had been a positive experience for the students: “It worked because it was specific to the learner”. “Varied and interesting technology, could help students with reading problems etc” Managers’ reactions: ‘Student autonomy has improved, greater responsibility is engendered and students love using this type of technology. Evidence is easily recorded and progress can be measured in electronic format which can be transferred to students’ ePortfolios. Brilliant! Key messages and lessons learned: The research team worked closely with the participant staff group to jointly establish exactly what was wanted from the applications. With one exception, who remained resistant throughout the project, the participants were enthusiastic and this may have been because of their authentic involvement from the outset. Nonetheless, it remained difficult to move them away from their paper-based resources and teaching methods. Next steps: Staff felt that both the device and application have potential, aiming to continue with its use but more carefully incorporating that use within schemes of work. Additionally, the team will learn how to use the back-end data, which has not been utilised to date, so that consideration can then be given to how the electronic applications can be integrated within the Edexcel requirements and accreditation. Whilst the journey plan and simulated ‘phone call modules will continue to be used, the Safety Plan activity module will probably be dropped as a teaching resource. However, in the future, the Team would like to develop further interactive modules, allowing learners, for example, to rehearse conversations with bus drivers, asking for tickets etc.


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