Tag Archives: mobile access

Connecting Learning: iPads and Field Trips

Mosque field trip iPads

I recently had a wonderful field trip with my ESL students. Within the unit of work on Design, we travelled to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to see the design features of the mosque. I take students twice a year and usually ask them to bring a camera (i.e. phone) with them to document what they see. However this only captures limited amounts of design features. What about notes from the tour guide? What about asking tourists for their impressions? As soon as we had implemented iPads into our classes, I knew what had to be done.


Going to the mosque is towards the end of the unit of work so students have already learned about design features. Students have come across videos and readings explaining terms and aspects. We also tie in Islamic aspect to design and features that are found in this region. Specifically, I ask students to take photos around their home, neighborhood or the university to capture what they’re learning and to visualize the term or concept. This can be problematic because female Emirati students may not be allowed away from their home without a male family chaperone.

On the day, students bring their iPad and start documenting the trip from the moment our buses arrive. They know they will be asked to present what they saw at the mosque so they start collecting resources to use. Typically they use photos but some create small videos giving a dynamic 3D perspective instead of the static 2D image. Students often walked around the design feature, like the design of a pillar, to capture all sides and views of it. But while on the tour this time I encouraged students to record (audio only due to tour guide’s rules) certain parts of the commentary. Usually we all just tag along and there is little interaction but since we’re recording, students want to get their voice heard and ask follow up questions. They also took photos and annotated on them in Skitch to remember what design feature they were documenting.


As soon as we arrived back to our class, I witnessed girls starting to incorporate their photos, videos and audio commentary into their presentations. They were keen (excited?) to relive that experience and start preparing in their chosen apps. Some chose Keynote to present face-to-face but others chose ExplainEverything or iMovie to make a movie to play for their audience. I was amazed at the connections they were making with the design features we had studied and they demonstrated this visually. They were also quite curious when reviewing the commentary.  The audio quality wasn’t great so I was listening and helping students a lot. But students sought clarification and explanation from me and the internet to understand more about the commentary. If we hadn’t recorded it, the learning opportunities would have been lost at the point of delivery. During our presentation Bazaar (MarketPlace styled presentation), half the class presented in a room at the one time (and then swapped) and other students and teachers went around to hear students present. Students who had movies stood next to their movie and played it on the iPad but others spoke live. This was very successful because at lots of points throughout the process, students interacted with the language and content in different forms and both virtually and in real life.

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Flipped Learning & Motivation

by Backratze

by Backratze

This buzz term has gained traction over recent years and with good reason. Rather than explain flipped learning again, see this infochart.

Language learning lends itself to being flipped quite well as students could complete the passive learning of the language structure before the active use and production of it. How easy is that?

One observation that I have made, as well as others, is that the premise of flipped learning fails if the learner does not complete the work outside the class. Whether it is used as pre-learning or a post review, language acquisition is promoted the more times learners are exposed to the language.

I have decided to selectively flip only certain lessons of language learning in my class as I believe in utilizing a variety of pedagogy to suit the learners, their needs and the goals of the lessons. However, students in my foundations ESL class in a Middle Eastern university have largely failed to complete the passive part of the flipped learning more often than not. I recently spoke informally with my students and noted some reflections on the teaching and learning that happens in my classes.

To generalize, students lack motivation to complete all tasks at home. There are of course students who see value to this and understand the rationale of why I set some passive work outside of class and more active work in class. Some don’t have the internet so most of these lack the drive to complete the work using campus wifi before or after class. Some lack motivation to work hard on activities with no direct relation to their grade. There’s always one or two of these students in the class and this means rigid assessments that haven’t caught up to our changing classrooms are hindering progress. There’s a number of students who just don’t like learning English and the passive, individual learning, whether it be a video, audio recording, or a reading all with basic ‘getting started’ information and questions, just isn’t interesting to them. Perhaps the last two are push backs from students and John Sowash acknowledges this.

Whilst I believe that intrinsic motivation is the key for successful independent learning, I am taking the steps to provide more extrinsic motivation to perhaps get the ball rolling. I have noted a few times that the carrot dangling in front of students does produce some short-term motivation.

Online merit lists and weekly report cards are two options I will employ soon to publically highlight good standards of attitude, motivation and behavior. Badges are one upcoming trend with a number of educators and Educational websites are slowly seeing this and incorporating badges into their design. Additionally I will also review the passive learning input I choose to use and see if I can add to it. Adding emphasis, highlights, extra inset video, supplementary materials, editing resources for only crucial information etc… may all be effective in capturing student interest. I am also thinking of more individual consultations to provide positive praise and constructive feedback (probably face-to-face, the shock!). Of course I reason with students as to why we are doing the work in the way we are doing it but it is difficult to assess understanding among non-native speakers as feedback for everything.

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A Reappropriation of Smart Phones

Singaporean students with a smart phone

Key Features

A Smartphone with Augmented Reality (AR) is predicted to be adopted within education in the near future (Johnson, Smith, Willis, Levine, & Haywood, 2011) and I would predict that it has a very real future. “Augmented reality refers to the addition of a computer-assisted contextual layer of information over the real world, creating a reality that is enhanced or augmented” (Johnson et al., 2011, p. 16). There are two ways to do this:

  1. Using GPS coordinates, the AR software recognises your geo-positioning location , or
  2. Using the camera, the AR software recognises the object and displays a layer of information on the screen. (Johnson et al., 2011)

Layar is a company that makes a Layar Reality Browser that uses the smartphone camera to assist interaction between the user, the smartphone and the AR.

Potential & Recommendation

Some of the following ideas may seem unrealistic for the average teacher but teachers need to, innovate and think creatively pedagogically, rather than technologically, if we are to keep teaching and learning cutting edge. I admit that for these to be implemented, one must create software with a program similar to Layar which requires technical knowledge of AR. However, we must remember that currently, 40% of US mobile devices are smartphones (Kellogg, 2011) and IMS research (2011) expects 1 billion in 2016. Smartphones with AR is for the near future and advances in programming are constant so a program to help the average teacher may be available in the near future.

To support social-constructivist principles, the AR could be used to deliver a highly interactive AR hunt with the environment and cultural artifacts stimulating learning. Similar to AR browsing at the Powerhouse museum, the idea would be to use GPS coordinates to provide information about the environment around the user and the camera to identify specific objects. The teacher would need to nominate objects around the classroom, secondary school, or local area that fit with a cultural element. Students would be interacting with the physical environment and discovering cultural and linguistic information along the way. Follow-up activities are needed to consolidate the AR hunt by promoting dialogue, stimulating reflection, and/or text productions around the linguistic and cultural elements they interacted with (Gould, 2005).

Within this examples, students are actively learning and constructing knowledge based on their AR experiences. The smartphone and AR shouldn’t be considered as the pedagogy, rather the medium of learning. Pedagogy is what happens in reality around the augmented reality and is needed to meet learner needs (Kaufmann, n.d.). But these experiences come with a large price tag attached to the phones and to the preparation required from the teacher. Teachers must not make assumptions that all secondary students will have access to smartphones, nor the digital fluency required to seamlessly move between the AR and the real learning activity. Teachers must be prepared to use smartphones in their classrooms with very careful analysis and be prepared to justify its inclusion to possibly skeptical administrators, parents, colleagues and students.

Gould, J. S. (2005). A Constructivist Perspective on Teaching and Learning in the Language Arts In Constructivism: Theory, Perspectives, and Practice. New York: Teachers College Press.

IMS Research (2011, July 27). Global Smartphones Sales Will Top 420 Million Devices in 2011, According to IMS Research. Retrieved September 9, 2011 from http://imsresearch.com/press-release/Global_Smartphones_Sales_Will_Top_420_Million_Devices_in_2011_Taking_28_Percent_of_all_Handsets_According_to_IMS_Research

Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., & Haywood, K. (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.

Kaufmann, H. (n.d.). Collaborative Augmented Reality in Education. Retrieved September 8, 2011 from http://www.ims.tuwien.ac.at/media/documents/publications/Imagina-AR_EducationPaper.pdf

Kellogg, D. (2011, September 1). 40 Percent of U.S. Mobile Users Own Smartphones. Retrieved September 9, 2011 from  http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/40-percent-of-u-s-mobile-users-own-smartphones-40-percent-are-android/

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