As is true for many of us using educational technology in the classroom, we are experimenting with how technology can enhance the learning experiences of our students. Sometimes we have failures, often times we have successes. Yet, in this age of evidenced-based education, educators, administrators, and other decision-makers are depending on and using the data gleamed from large studies often completed by companies with vested interests, e.g. Gates Foundation, book publishers, and testing companies.
Educators can easily conduct action research about the practices they are using in their own classrooms especially given the ease of creating online surveys and data collection methods. Yet, it seems that it is rarely done.
For example, I introduced Quest Atlantis into my gifted classes a few years ago and asked these 3rd through 5th graders to complete a survey to assess its efficacy from the student perspective. The results I received were rich and informative. The kids offered great feedback, ideas, and suggestions. See Beyond the Game: Quest Atlantis as an Online Learning Experience for Gifted Elementary Students.
So if educators want to influence what occurs in not only their own classrooms, but in the classrooms of their co-teachers, then they need to invest the time and energy to demonstrate best practices. In a related blog, I discuss Every Educator Has a Story . . . Just Tell It.
The Interpersonal Relations course was offered during Fall, 2011. There were 12 students in the course – five were male, 7 were female; ten of the students were 18 to 20 years old, one was 25 years old, and the oldest student was a female in her 50s.
The first section of the survey listed all of the class activities that used the students’ cell phones. I blogged about the individual activities. The archive of these blog posts can be found at User-Generated Education tagged with mobile learning.
Obviously the sample size is small, but I was excited to find that most of the students found most of the activities of some value and that only one student found one of the activities a waste of time.
I also asked a series of open ended questions . . .
Favorite and Least Favorite Activities?
These were all over the map with no general consensus.
What was the greatest advantage of using students’ mobile phones to get to know one another and build a sense of community in the class?
The responses centered around being able to use the devices they used outside of the class,
It was something that we use everyday so it related back to us.
It was something they were familar with.
The students use their phones on a regular basis.
. . . and that their devices helped to create an environment of sharing, friendliness
It provided us with a common ground on which to get to know each other.
We got to talk to each other outside of class, not just when we were in class.
We were able to communicate outside of class and create friendships.
You got to know the people better though them.
To get a better experience from the class and enjoy coming to class.
What was the biggest problems in using students’ mobile devices during class time?
As was expected, most of the student responses centered around them being a distraction.
People would abuse it and text friends and do other things that the activity wasn’t for.
The students were tempted to use the phones for personal use.
Sometimes people weren’t always doing what they were supposed to be doing.
Students had more of a chance to get distracted.
Some people texted when they should have been participating.
(Note: I had to implement a device away strategy, when I had to ask students, often several times, to put their devices away when we weren’t using them for class activities.)
A few mentioned service problems.
Some didn’t work.
The service was bad because i would send a text and it would show up ten minuets later.
What recommendations would you make to improve the use of students’ mobile devices for class activities and community-building?
Most of the students stated, “None.”
There are none everything is A Okay.
Interestingly, two mentioned having laptops available for all students.
Change the moblie devices into personal laptops provided by the school.
Have computers for each student.
Next week, I begin this course again with a new group of students. I will continue to test out the mobile learning activities and get student feedback about them.
Thanks Fall, 2011, students!