Developing a Culturally-Rich Interactive Model for mLearning

Developing a Culturally-Rich Interactive Model for mLearning

Patricia J. Donohue (San Francisco State University, USA) and Martha E. Crosby (University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2985-1.ch012
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The authors’ research group is part of a national consortium that developed and tested a successful Studio-Based Learning (SBL) model for teaching programming in undergraduate Computer Science (CS). The model was also developed for a 9th-grade Spatial Studies class to improve mathematics, digital literacy, and raise student interest in computing. Early CS course evaluations showed that culturally relevant content helped improve student learning and engagement. The group investigated the ability of mobile learning to personalize instruction, adapt content to cultural contexts, and coach students through complex design problems. Mobile offered a solution to improve and raise the quality of students’ SBL experience. The result presented here are the group’s modified mobile SBL model, the “mLearning Design Studio” (mLDS). The authors propose mLDS will improve students’ SBL experience, augment their analytical skills, attract more underrepresented students into computer science, raise all students’ skills needed to enter and compete in today’s global workforce.
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Mobile Learning (mLearning) exploded into the educational landscape with the brilliant invention of digital smarts for the personal telephone (Metcalf, 2006). The adoption rate of mobile phones worldwide is “outpacing all past technologies including radio, television, desktop and laptop computers” (Quinn, 2012, p. 1). Mobile software developers have provided more educational applications than any one educator could review (Quinn, 2011, 2012; Lindsay & Davis, 2013; Darling-Hammond, 2010; Friedman, 2007). Given this onrush of innovation into our lives and potentially into our classrooms, Clark Quinn (2012) takes pause to note, “I’d like to step away from content dump and use the transition to mobile as a catalyst to make more meaningful learning” (p. 6). The question could be asked, “Whose meaning?” As our research group has discovered, “getting at” meaning is not an easy task and trying to mediate it through a mobile device can be slippery. The mobile device offers the potential for every learner to learn from a personalized master tutor in a way Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989) could not have imagined a quarter century ago. If we are going to adopt learning with emerging mobile technologies, Michael Allen (2006) tells us we need to think new about learning: “We need not only fresh ways of thinking about learning, but also fresh ways of making it happen.” After all, he says, learning is not about reading or test cramming, “it’s about preparing for life’s opportunities and challenges” (p. xv). This chapter will propose what mLearning meant for us as we considered its adoption to our instructional model.

mLearning was defined (see Key Terms) by the eLearning Guild’s mobile learning research team in their 2007 eLearning Guild, 360 Mobile Learning Research Report as:

Any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket or purse (Quinn, 2011, p. 4).

What we mean by mLearning is something more as Michael Allen alluded above: it is interacting with others in real-time, communicating on an as-needed basis with anyone anywhere at any time, capturing images, content and context, sharing it with others, enhancing our environment, creating entertainment, and making our personal world meaningful (Allen, 2006; Quinn, 2012; Metcalf, 2006). It is not about courses on a phone; it is about “complementing our intelligence” (Quinn, 2011). This is the very feature we wanted to enliven our design studio classroom experience with an augmented experience of personal mobile interaction.

We report here the efforts of our multidisciplinary research group of computer scientists, information technologists, instructional designers, and educational and learning science researchers to develop a mobile learning solution to our Studio-Based Learning (SBL) instructional model. The foundational work was developed by colleagues through a national consortium who pilot tested the SBL model for teaching computer programming (particularly code reviews) in a variety of undergraduate courses (see At the heart of the SBL model (see Figure 1) is the Design-Crit (see Key Terms), a review protocol where students collaborate to critique, analyze, and question each other’s project. Students can co-critique projects as a pair or as a team. The objective of the Design-Crit is to fix problems and improve the designs or solutions. Pilot tests have consistently shown steady progress in raising student achievement and generating student excitement in programming projects from Oklahoma to Washington, to Hawai`i and eventually to 14 other states. Early tests also revealed that some students had difficulties in using the Design-Crit effectively and in solving program and classroom challenges, especially in large courses where instructor guidance was scarce.

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