You can tell I’m on holiday due to the number of blog posts written and today’s is something I have been turning over for a while. I intend to write, by the end of the Easter break, a discussion document on hand-held learning for the school. What has occupied my thoughts over the last week or so is not the selection of devices or the examples of use but the principles behind it. For me, this is the most important feature of any approach to e-learning, as it sets out the framework for the use of the technology. This is a slight departure from some of the literature and on educational technology; ‘engagement’, ‘retention’, ‘relevancy’ and ‘preparation for employment’ are usually included as the drivers for use. In the UK this seems an especially problematic as hardware and learning is often combined into the category ‘ICT’ and the promised land of increased achievement does not seem to match the spending. This conflation, and the subsequent lack of clarity, creates an environment where people can easily dismiss technology as a useful tool for educators. This is where John Hattie’s work provides an interesting read. His book, ‘Visible Learning’, a synthesis of 800 educational research studies over the last 15 years, points to a number of research based elements that seem to improve student achievement. Here are just three examples:
1.The ability for students to set their own targets on pieces of work/term grades
2.Small group learning
He suggests that if we are to become excellent educators, we should heed the ‘signposts’ his research identifies (which, if national figures are taken into account, we do not do). I find his argument persuasive because as a teacher, I want to do the best for my students and his work clearly shows some things work very well in raising performance. I also think the above would provide a clear steer on what the outcomes of the principles should look like, but not limit the ways they could be achieved. Within this ‘space’ of choice, hand-held devices would become another tool but with some very distinctive possibilities in terms of where the learning can take place and when.
For example, students could record their provisional target grades (by submitting an audio file or by filling in a simple text box) and this is stored in a management information system/learning platform/VLE. They and the teacher could refer to the provisional target before attempting the work and then deciding whether the target has been met before submitting (and after). The potential for substantive feedback in this example is obvious and the technology, rather than being the driving force, acts as the vehicle for learning. On a school visit, the use of an application like Scvngr to check comprehension (and giving feedback with hints) on an individual or group level would also facilitate learning in line with the principles.
In both of the examples, mobile devices, with their camera/video recorder features, GPS capability, data connections and rich applications create the possibility to be more thorough in recording and challenging learning beyond the four walls of the classroom than with paper. Notice that they are not the driving force – it is the (research driven) learning that is most visible.
The above is just my first attempt at working through some of the principles behind hand-held learning and I’m sure, after reading Clayton Christensen’s ‘Disrupting Class’, my thinking will be refined. Comments, as usual, are most welcome.