Category Archives: Musing

The Design of meLearning



Recently I have been musing about the concept of meLearning: the amalgam of mLearning and eLearning to be a personalized experience with tablets. In this context of an Information Literacy resource, the concept is harder to put into practice.



meLearning is meant to have the student at heart with “the best” (or most approrpirate for the design) aspects of mLearning and eLearning used in the resource to “design the learning for me (the student)”. We had hoped to make the learning interactive through social learning pedagogy that includes other students and the person responsible for maintaining and facilitating the resource. However, it is likely that there won’t be anyone and the resource will instead take on more characteristics of autonomous learning of a typical eLearning resource. Still, we are able to present the illusion of personalization and interaction through the use of scenarios. Another area is learning preferences. The resource is mainly spoken text with optional subtitles and media is supplementary to this. Students who prefer to listen, read, watch and/or interact will have strong preferences for how they want to use the resource. This is good but we are missing out on interpersonal learning preference. All in all, this is ok but for now, the concept of meLearning will not be more developed.


Ubiquitous Learning

When considering a resource for tablets, I looked at the nature of ubiquitous learning that is often a part of using mobile devices. I wrote down that our resource needs to be available on and offline for students convenience. This way, they could access on the way to and from campus or while connected. This would involve planning ahead and downloading the specific module but it is a possibility. Our users, students, should also be able to access specific information and skills of information literacy. It would be important for students to be able to get this information within a short timeframe but while being engaged in the process. Bringing the conversation on this to a close, ideally the resource would become integrated into research and academia at our university in terms of teachers and learners. Just like BlackBoard is the LMS, the information literacy resource could be the tool that everyone uses for teaching and learning, remedial work, or a self-access resource.


Screen Real Estate

There is not as much real estate on the tablet screen for an eLearning resource. When designing our UX  persona outlining typical students (male and female here in the UAE!), we knew to picture them with a tablet in their hand. This made us focus even more so on reducing users’ extraneous cognitive load. We are “hiding” unessential back or sidestory information in buttons, which (hopefully) results in a cleaner look and a substantial space for media. This has helped us eliminate the “text” and include as audio with optional subtitles and the choice buttons reveal the scenario choices, something that cleans up the screen on entry and allows students to listen and then process this before moving on with the choices.


Chunking Content and How Students are Learning

Our SME has worked on projects before and is doing a good job in outlining content in quite good sized chunks for learning. But what we need to know more about is how students will interact with that chunk. I can’t wait to get to the alpha prototype of our pilot module where students will be able to go through the scenario. I want to film them and their interactions. I want to know what else they need in order to learn the content. It may be chunked appropriately but do students need paper and a pen too? What about a note taking feature in the resource? What about some social interaction to talk with others about the concepts? What about some form of feedback on skills? We are only just starting down this path…

Tagged , , , , , ,

Looking into Creativity

Would I be right when I think that creativity is easier to see than to measure? In English as a second language classes, this becomes even more problematic because you can see creativity but teachers wonder how much the language influences this, negatively. What I mean is that when using English text, are students able to express themselves creatively as they would in their first language?

I’ve tried to think about this and improve the use of creativity within the tasks, activities and projects that students complete in my class. Not only this, but I have been focusing on assessing it too.

Creativity in Tasks

I’ve found that breaking projects and lessons down into smaller, more manageable tasks of larger workflows better to see creativity in students. To me, creativity includes the process of making something new or original rather than an imitation. I also look at this from an individual basis as I look at the capabilities of the student and to what extent they have been creative.

I often use brainstorming and try to increase a student’s creativity. I try to use English and the student’s first language to promote further thinking of new words they wouldn’t have thought of before. I try to use pair or group work as well as online resources; all to act as stimulus for further thought. This is a launch pad for other tasks so I include this as creative thinking. The iPad’s apps allow for easier communication and brainstorming both in and out of class.

Students are also encouraged to think from different perspectives. It is important for my students, who are a little one-track minded, to broaden their view to promote further knowledge growth and to develop acquisition of language that they may not necessarily come across.  I give students different characters or perspectives of a problem and they need to think as that person. For a unit on interior design, students took photos of rooms or some even did video walkthroughs from their houses and posted them on our learning management system. Stemming from this stimulus, students had to think about interior design aspects from the perspective of, say, their brother or father, their maid (a common person in the house in the Middle East), a teacher, an interior designer etc… Students are using the language we’ve learnt but applying it from a different person. If students are having trouble, I ask them to visit a teacher or a brother and interview them about this interior design photo or video. We owe the iPad as it affords us to bring the outside into the classroom and to document this and interviews all on one device.

Assessing Creativity

So if we look at a project and are trying to assess creativity, I would advocate for the teacher to look at each task of the project. For instance, how much new and original language has been generated within the brainstorm? Often I can see the key unit vocabulary being recycled in a brainstorm, which is obviously good to promote acquisition, but how much was new and created by the activity? When looking at different perspectives, students need to demonstrate using different language and incorporating different ideas from their own into the creation.

Tagged , , , , , ,

iPad: All-in-One and Workflows

I Love Milwaukee

I Love Milwaukee

I had two initial thoughts back in March when I first heard we were getting iPads. The first was PURE GOLD. iPads are fun. I had read a little about them in education and they seemed to be transforming classrooms. At that time, typically the classrooms that had them were elementary (primary) education classes and they were showcasing their use of apps to help with early childhood literacy, science or numeracy and maths. I began reflecting on applying this into the university ESL foundation classes that I teach and my next thought was WAIT A MINUTE. We have a curriculum in place and our students need to obtain a certain benchmark on the standardized IELTS test. With limited knowledge of the iPad, I wasn’t fully aware of how to integrate the iPad with the curriculum and learning objectives that I had for my lessons. Initially these institutional were parameters that didn’t seem as flexible, that is, until I realized the value of two things: the iPad as an All-in-One device and workflows.

Our university decided to implement iPads and based on my experience and knowledge of teaching and learning with educational technology, I applied and was successful in teaching a pilot class with only iPads (instead of laptops). I had earned my wings! I started reading feverishly and realized like a lot of people out there that the iPad is an All-in-One device. I realized the potential of integrating their real lives into their learning. If we’re doing a grammar tense or structure, then we can personalize it with their content. If we’re doing small research projects, then apps like Notability or Evernote might be useful in their collation of resources. Students here drift towards rote learning before exams. Whilst I don’t condone it, I certainly see that our current assessments promote this and we’ll need to start talking about that. But after we learn the words and actively produce the language, I showed them the flashcards app. Students loved it and couldn’t get enough. I even have students pulling unknown vocabulary from reading and listenings and making personal lists. Students never had the motivation before to do that on their laptop.

In my opinion, the iPad’s true potential is only realized when you use the All-in-One iPad within workflows. To me the workflow is using two or more apps to complete a task (I use task liberally). Students want to personalize a paragraph they’ve written in Pages? Then they take the photos on their camera and retrieve them from the photo library. They’ve created a very small workflow between the camera, photo library and pages. Another time, students created videos to explain different aspects of humanitarian aid. Students researched using Safari, stored notes using Evernote, discussed and shared resources on Edmodo, took photos using their camera, and created a video using ExplainEverything or iMovie. This was possible because the iPad has it all and I was able to design the learning task to move between these apps.

I believe in the potential of iPads but it must be based on sound teaching and learning. GREAT POTENTIAL INDEED.

Tagged , , , , , ,