I was honoured to be given the opportunity to deliver a training session for 24 PGCE post-14 students last week. The topic… Well it was mobile learning. After my recent post about learning technology I was determined that I was going to be sharing ideas that I believe genuinely support learning and that it would not just be a ‘free for all’ of ideas.
My session started with the obligatory ‘whizz bang’ welcome video which introduced the concept of embracing mobile learning, followed by a brief overview of the session:
- What is m-learning?
- Why should we embrace it?
- How can we do this effectively?
Following this, I asked the students to produce a visual representation of ‘m-learning’ in groups of 3/4 (5 mins). In doing so, they were asked to think about what they believe m-learning is and what it means to them. Of course, I provided them with some images to cut out, coloured pens, and A3 paper to use as they wished. Wait… This isn’t very ‘edtech’; using paper and pens I hear you ask? Hold fire as there was method to my madness…
After the 5 minutes, I stopped the task and explained that typically at this point in lessons, the learners would share their visual representations by standing up and speaking to the whole class. After which, another group would do the same and so on. This often results in learners feeling anxious whilst waiting for their turn and as a result, they’re not really listening to others – I’ve been that person!
Why not record themselves presenting it then? You don’t have to film faces, but could film the visual representation and students could point to areas that are being explained. So that’s what they did. Using the simple record function on a smart phone (only 1 needed in the group of 4), they were able to present and then share the video via email with me. It can also be added to a host like Padlet or the Virtual Learning Environment very simply and it is then available to revisit until removed. Simples…
I then provided a bit of information about what m-learning is using definitions from Crompton (2013) and JISC, making broad links to the social constructivist theory of learning. This in essence was what the students had done, co-constructed their own meaning of m-learning in their work to answer my first question – what is m-learning?
Following this we moved onto my second question – why should we embrace it? To open this, I provided access to a Go formative quiz in which they were required to answer questions relating to m-learning. This included:
- Approximately how many FE learners (16-19 year olds) own a smart device? Answer – 9/10
- What generation of learner joined FE for the first time this year? Answer – Generation Z
- What does this mean for FE providers? Answer – Who knows?
The group then took part in a brief discussion about each of the questions. It was interesting to hear that many had not considered the impact of increased technology use. It’s hard to ignore.
Finally, I introduced the students to how they might begin to integrate a little technology into their practice. I cautiously advised them that any technology must be simple to use, serve a purpose and be at least as equally as effective (preferably more) than conventional methods of teaching (that is in terms of input, time, access, inclusion, output). I introduced three apps that I have found useful in the past.
1. Padlet: I asked the students to identify the various technology that they have used by adding to a Padlet wall. I was surprised at how little they had used, and were even aware of. Together we explored a few uses of the technology. Around half of the group thought that it would be something they’d find useful in their context.
2. Thinglink: After a quick demo, I asked the group to peer assess one another’s visual representation (from the earlier activity) using this app. They went over to another group’s visual representation and took a picture. They then went back and added feedback in the form of comments and/or videos, before emailing it to me. We discussed other ways in which they may use this in practice and again, around half of the group thought they’d use this in their practice.
3. Aurasma: After a couple of demonstrations and allowing the students to explore its use, I realised that this element of the session was perhaps a little too complex and went against my whole ethos in using technology. I had planned to get the group to provide peer feedback on another’s work, but they were struggling to navigate the app and this created a bit of a lull in the session with me being in high demand to support them. I am really excited about augmented reality and have used it to good effect previously, but only a few of the group were as enthused by this as myself and wanting to explore it further.
I ended the session with a summary which asked the group to reflect on the various edtech tools that they had used in the session and consider how they might use any of them going forward. There was a catch. I wanted them to use the ‘talk to text’ feature on their devices to email the summary to themselves and copy me in.
At the end of the session, I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the students found it to be a positive experience with the vast majority clear with what they intended to try in their contexts and why. Upon returning home, I replied to each and every reflection summary that I was copied into to ensure that the reflective activity using talk to text served a real purpose for the students. I think in summary that is the key to using technology – keep it simple and ensure that it serves a purpose.