(BEING CONTINUED FROM 11/11/14)
9.Learning and Skills Network – MoLeNET and GoMobile!
•Elizabeth Horne, Head of Sector of Schools and Local Authorities at LSN;
•Dr. Geoff Foot, an LSN Programme Manager for eLearning and Technology and leader of the Support and Mentoring Network within the MoLeNET Programme; and GoMobile! project manager;
•Jill Attewell, Programme Manager for MoLeNET and manager of LSNʹs Technology‐Enhanced Learning Research Centre;
•Danny Atwere, LSN Development Advisor for eLearning and leader of the Continuing Professional Development strand of the MoLeNET Programme.
Abstract: LSN aims to bring technology devices in support of students with disabilities to improve their learning abilities and to stimulate their interest in knowledge.
LSN is an independent not‐for‐profit organisation with a long history of successfully delivering government projects and programmes both in the UK and internationally.
LSN leads the Mobile Learning Network (MoLeNET) is a unique collaborative approach to encourage and support the introduction, expansion and embedding of mobile learning. MoLeNET is the UK’s, and probably Europe’s, largest and most diverse implementation of mobile learning, involving to‐date approximately 20,000 learners and 4,000 staff in 115 colleges and 29 schools.
LSN’s MoLeNET support and evaluation programme includes: programme management; information, expert advice and mentoring; face‐to‐face and on‐line facilitated networking and knowledge sharing; face‐to‐face and on‐line induction, continuing professional development and dissemination events; tools and materials; repurposed materials; action research including practitioner researcher CPD and support; programme evaluation; dissemination of research findings, good practice and lessons learned.
MoLeNET uses a broad definition of mobile learning: the exploitation of ubiquitous handheld technologies, together with wireless or mobile phones networks, to facilitate, support, enhance and extend the reach of teaching and learning.
Technologies can include PDAs, mobile phones/smartphones, MP3/MP4 players (i.e. iPods), portable multimedia players, handheld gaming devices (i.e. Sony PSP, Nintendo DS), Ultramobile PCs (UMPCs), mini notebooks/netbooks, handheld GPS and voting devices, specialist portable technologies used in science labs, engineering workshops or for environmental or agricultural study.
IMPLEMENTATION AND SELF‐REPORTED RESULTS
There have been 62 projects in phases 1 and 2 of MoLeNET, each with a project manager appointed as responsible for ensuring implementation and a practitioner researcher collecting feedback on improvements.
The projects were given training by LSN before implementation was launched and they were required to draft a detailed project plan ex‐ante including targets for the project and strategies. The practitioner researchers were also supported along the way through visits from LSN team members, training events, ‘knowledge cafes’ for them to share their own experience, etc. Additionally, statistical expertise was provided to the project for the running of MOSAIC, a geo‐demographic analysis tool and carrying out a comparative analysis of student retention and achievement statistics as part of the evaluation of the initiative; according to LSN this has been quite costly but highly valuable to improve and to understand whether the initiative has been making a difference. It has also turned out to be useful during school and college inspections, carried out by public authorities, helping to prove that investing in technological tools has been successful in improving teaching.
College led projects have been selected by LSN through a bidding process. A communication was disseminated to English colleges to let them know that capital funding was available and proposals could be submitted to be awarded part of the funding. Colleges were able to propose projects individually or join others in a consortium and were required to make a contribution to the cost of the support and evaluation programme equivalent to 20% of the amount of capital received.
The need to use a bidding method was mainly dictated by the fact that the capital funding came from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), a public institution and they had required that such money should be distributed equitably within the scope of the initiative. Distribution also needed to be not just to a small number of projects, not to scarcely motivated institutions, etc.).
Once selected, each college/consortia signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with LSN, in which they agreed to the conditions of the project.
Case study from ‘GoMobile!’: National Star College has been a pioneer in using technology to help learners with severe disabilities become more independent. Learners who have a range of disabilities that include speech, mobility and cognitive difficulties work on vocational and independent living skills whilst at National Star College. These impairments could make the use of handheld devices difficult. Yet, with a little ingenuity, learners and staff at the college are finding mobile and wireless technologies invaluable aids for living and learning. Learners with learning difficulties enrolled on the Preparation for Employment programme at entry level, for example, have been exploring how a range of mobile devices – including the TyTN ll, Apple iPod touch and Nokia N95 – can assist them in improving their timekeeping and preparation, and in adhering to regular health and safety routines while at work.
Videos and digital images for the devices have been developed using the suite of software tools in MyLearning author for Pocket PC from Tribal. Using these resources as prompts has greatly improved learners’ independence and confidence. Those working in a market gardening enterprise, for example, can follow a video sequence to plant seeds without intervention from a workplace mentor.
Other learners have used video tutorials on a TyTN ll smartphone to remind them about using personal safety equipment in the workplace, for example, putting on gloves and goggles in the work area. These visual prompts provide just‐in‐time information that is an invaluable aid for learners with poor memory skills. Some have also used the GPS functionality of the TyTN ll and Nokia N95 to aid them in travelling to their places of work.
Rob’s story: Rob is a wheelchair‐based student at the National Star College who has limited mobility and memory due to a brain injury. Rob’s aim is to become more independent and rely less on his tutors to prompt him to take medication, attend lectures and eat regularly. The Nokia N95 was assessed to see whether it was suitable for Rob’s needs and then mounted onto his wheelchair.
The calendar function on the N95 can be synchronised with Microsoft Outlook so that reminders of the day’s appointments, timetable, medications and mealtimes pop up on his handset at the right times. Rob can also access the photo gallery to put a face to a name and amend his own appointments and contacts. As a result, he is able to take more responsibility for his day‐to‐day routine.
Rob’s use of the smartphone is also having other unexpected benefits. Rob is starting to remember regular occurrences – for example, the times for his medication – in much the same way that someone wakes up at the same time each day. And with a Bluetooth keyboard and headset, he is able to use the phone to communicate with friends and family, which has prompted greater use of his LightWRITER communication aid than he has previously achieved.
Rob’s story is one of increasing confidence and independence – the next step is to use the phone’s GPS functionality to navigate around town on his own.
You can watch Rob’s story on MoLeTV.
LSN developed and delivered a support evaluation programme. The aims of the programme were to support colleges in the introduction of mobile learning – both within the programme and in preparation for further mobile learning beyond the life of the programme; to ensure distribution of capital funding in an equitable and efficient manner that will maximised benefit to the sector. The evaluation programme seeks to develop evidence that the introduction of mobile learning can have significant and positive impact on teaching and learning.
Research carried out by LSN and by practitioner researchers, trained and supported by LSN, indicates that mobile learning can:
•Help improve students’ attendance, retention and achievement;
•Encourage and support learning at any time, in any location;
•Make learning more convenient, more accessible and more sensitive to learners’ individual needs and circumstances;
•Make learning more interesting and engaging;
•Enable teachers to maintain a supportive dialogue with learners regardless of their location, including learners who attend classes infrequently;
•Enable teachers to provide differentiated learning activities to suit different learners’ styles, preferences and ability levels;
•Encourage and support both independent and collaborative learning;
•Support revision and help learners who have missed lessons to catch up;
•Enable technological support for learning in the normal learning location;
•Help to overcome the digital divide for learners who do not have broadband access;
•Make formative assessment more enjoyable for learners;
•Support work‐based learners, improving communication as well as assisting with evidence collection and assessment.
A comparison of the (mostly predicted) retention data for nearly 5,000 FE college learners (approximately half the total 2007/08 MoLeNET learners) with LSC national in‐year retention rates for 2006/07 suggests an improvement in retention of 8%.
Furthermore, a comparison of the (mostly predicted) achievement data for nearly 5,000 FE college learners (approximately half the total 2007/08 MoLeNET learners) with LSC national in‐year achievement rates for 2006/07 suggests an improvement in achievement of 9.7%.
In considering this information it is important to bear in mind that MoLeNET figures are based on predicted – not final, actual – Individual Learner Record (ILR) figures. It has not been possible to control for the many factors other than the introduction of mobile learning that could have affected retention and achievement. Nevertheless, the finding of the research carried out at project or institution level by practitioner researchers includes support for the quantitative findings. Nearly all (89%) of the MoLeNET learners for whom progression data was received were found to be progressing to further learning and employment.
Further reported effects of giving learners mobile technologies included:
•Improved communication between learners an tutors and between colleges and employers;
•Learners feeling more trusted and valued by their college or school;
•For some NEET (Not in Education, Training or Employment) category learners the provision of mobile technology fostered a sense of belonging.
•Work‐based learners and learners with learning difficulties or disabilities feeling a stronger sense of belonging to the institution;
•Improvements in learners’ organisation and time management due to using calendars, tasks, reminders and alarms on handheld technologies.
A feedback survey was also carried with learners using text messaging and responses from 902 learners produced the following results:
Does using mobile technology help you learn?
Does mobile technologies help you learn iN different places?
Does mobile technology help you learn at different times?
Does using mobile technology make learning more interesting?
A MoLeNET streaming website (www.moletv.org.uk) has been developed as a video‐streaming service similar to YouTube for education institutions to share educational content which can be used with mobile technologies. The platform has been organised in subject areas and can be viewed on the Internet, as well as on iPOD Touch and iPhone. It also supports RSS feeds.
Several different information and media‐on‐demand services have been created. All MoLeNET resources and services can be found via the main website at http://www.molenet.org.uk.
The aim of these online resources is to facilitate sharing of learning materials and resources by education practitioners:
•To allow registered users to add learning materials for mobile devices and virtual learning environments particularly as a result of those involved with MoLeNET projects.
•To provide learning materials that can be downloaded and re‐purposed by users.
The examples and tools area of MoleSHARE website shares some of the outcomes of the development and collaboration for MoLeNET Phase 1 (2007‐8) and phase 2 (2008‐9). Learning material can therefore be searched with keywords, it is available in various formats, i.e. video, audio, text, and it is downloadable onto any handheld device, other than ‘regular’ computers. Resources can be uploaded by the members, but they can also be edited.
Moodle, on the other hand, is an Open Source Course Management System (CMS), also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). In other words, it is a free web application that educators can use to create effective online learning sites.
As part of phase 2 of MoLeNET, all projects participating were expected to contribute to MoLeSHARE and upload video related content to MoLeTV. A total of 20,000 students have been reached over MoLeNET’s first 2 years and Phase 3 starting in September 2009 will add to this number.
In activity related to the ongoing MoLeNET project, LSN (jointly with JISC TechDis) has produced a publication entitled “Go Mobile! Maximising the potential of mobile technologies for learners with disabilities” that highlights stories from the MoLeNET projects on the use of mobile technologies for learners with disabilities and learning difficulties. The results have been truly amazing and include case studies that feature lessons learnt on how everyday mobile technologies can be used for learning and teaching and, above all, on enhancing learners’ potential. A complementary DVD‐ROM included with the publication enables everyone to get involved in mobile learning.
To help produce the publication LSN set up a steering group which consisted of:
oLSN MoLeNET project
oJISC RSC NW (JISC Regional Support Centre North West)
oNational Star College,
oRNIB college, Loughborough and
The steering group’s role was to focus the project, get best value from limited funding and time scales, and to give advice and guidance to LSN and JISC TechDis throughout the project. Organisations were invited to contribute case studies and visitors with specialist knowledge visited to obtain detailed information relating to the use of mobile devices with disabled learners. An author collated and categorised the case studies so as to achieve maximum impact relating to the lessons learnt.
The DVD resource used m‐learning specialists with experience of accessibility issues to derive support material that is totally inclusive.
The Case studies and DVD resource were published with the title: ‘GoMobile! maximising the potential of mobile technologies for learners with disabilities’ GoMobile! illustrates through case studies how mobile technology can enhance and transform the lives of learners with disabilities. Each case study outlines the lessons learnt and the device used so that it offers sound advice for practitioners. This exciting publication with a DVD‐ROM resource offers a totally inclusive approach to teaching and learning for everyone – a toolkit for every practitioner who wishes to use mobile technologies to engage learners.
The case studies were collated with lessons learnt and 5000 copies published by LSN with a DVD ROM resource/toolkit produced by JISC TechDis. An end of project report was submitted to the funder of this project, the Learning and Skills Council. The project was disseminated at a number of national and international events:
•MoLeNET dissemination event
•Handheld learning conference
The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and consortia led by English further education (FE) colleges have together invested over £12 million in MoLeNET during 2007 to 2009.
During the year 2007/08, approximately 10,000 learners were involved in 32 projects, each of which received between £100,000 and £500,000 of capital funding from LSC and contributed between £20,000 and £100,000 to the programme. Participating institutions also contributed a great deal of staff time, overheads, resources and enthusiasm. Colleges purchase the technology directly with money from LSC.
The second phase of MoLeNET included 30 new projects, some involving organisations from phase 1 and some introducing mobile learning for the first time. The LSC have committed a further £2.5 million of capital funding to support Phase 3 of MoLeNET.
Suggestions relating to ensuring the financial sustainability of mobile learning included:
•Enabling learners to use their own mobile devices for learning and to access college/school resources;
•Wireless networks throughout college/schools campuses;
•Taking advantage of reasonably priced data‐only mobile network contracts;
•Requiring learners to purchase mini notebooks/netbooks as part of the standard equipment required for their course;
•Including the cost of mini notebooks/netbooks in course fees;
•Generally expecting learners to provide their own mobile technology and only providing it to those learners who cannot afford to buy their own;
•Enabling learners to purchase mobile technologies through their college or school and pay for these in instalments.
MoLeNET has created a cultural change within the institutions that participated in the initiative. In some cases, for instance, teachers have had a chance to learn more about their students’ technical abilities to such an extent that a learning partnership has been formed where the learner takes on the technical role and the teacher the curriculum role. Facilitation, Sharing, Engaging, Supporting have been the keywords for the running of the project.
MoLeNET has helped re‐design educational content and activities to include technology. In this context, they have also been working on staff development. In fact, they are collaborating with eSkills and City & Guild to award staff with ITQ in Mobile Learning13 for staff who acquire IT skills.
Vital for the success of the project have also been the research and evaluation programme that LSN has been running alongside the project implementation; these have supported both strategies and dissemination of results.
A significant Barrier to the implementation of the project has been the service received from some suppliers of hardware and network services, including delivery delays, difficulties identifying and contacting the relevant expert for to solve technical problems, service costs and lack of systems optimised for serving educational institutions rather than individual customers.
A culture of mistrust of mobile technologies in some schools together with negative attitudes and substantial training needs of some teachers has also been a barrier. The cultural and attitude problems are much less common in colleges but there is still a steep learning curve for teachers.
Most institutions participating in MoLeNET projects agreed that large‐scale provision of handheld technology free of charge to learners is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. Also in the case of mobile phones and mp3/mp4 players, many learners already own these technologies and some have expressed reluctance to carry on additional college/school provided device. Solutions are being explored and these include institutions seeking to facilitate use of learners own technologies.
The following caveats also apply:
•Mobile learning is not a single solution for delivering or supporting learning. There are many possible combinations of technology and pedagogy which may, or may not, be appropriate;
•Careful planning and preparation are required when introducing mobile technologies, particularly if large number of learners and devices are to be involved;
•Staff training, support and time to experiment, become confident with the technology and plan are critical to success;
•Production of learning materials for use on mobile devices can be time consuming and a steep learning curve is involved for teaching staff;
•The advantages of mobile learning are not fully realised if materials consist solely of existing materials simply converted to a format that fits onto a mobile device. It is necessary to start from the lesson objective, take into account the needs of the particular learners involved and establish how the capabilities of specific mobile technologies can be used to enhance delivery.
In the UK several projects, most of these being MoLeNET projects, have explored the potential of mobile technologies and wireless networks for e‐Inclusion.
The GoMobile! publication enabled case studies to be published from a variety of different sources and projects including MoLeNET. It gave a national overview of the benefits and lessons learnt of using mobile technology with learners with disabilities and/or learning difficulties. However, the funding was modest and the timescales tight. Further funding would allow more case studies to be collected and more active, wider dissemination to be undertaken.
The EC could improve this viable project by treating the inclusion strand of MoLeNET and GoMobile! as a feasibility study for a full 3 year project covering a number of states within the EU so as to get a broader and better insight into how mobile technology can be used to enhance people’s lives and their learning, thereby giving them e‐Inclusion. An essential role that the EU could play would be in the area of effective dissemination of the lessons learnt.
Additionally, the EC could push private companies to do more, especially in terms of IT donations and financial support to initiatives that have already proved to be successful and impactful but need sustainability or additional resources for further development. They could also help to encourage private companies to think about how they can provide better, more targeted services to education.
Finally, people at LSN suspect that some other organisations are reluctant to bid for European funding because of a perception that this involves a great deal of administrative effort and they may be discouraged by unfamiliar jargon and technical terminology. This has not been LSN’s experience. However they suggest that the EC could assist by providing more tools and guides aimed at assisting potential first time bidders and new projects and by more actively promoting the benefits of taking part in European projects.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Annalisa De Luca