I am an Associate Professor of mobile and multimedia journalism. My teaching and researching of digital users is at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland (USA). My lab’s web site is explainmynews.org. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and my Twitter account is @ryaros.
The Mobile 3.0 app provides students with the assignments and media tools for the class.
- Access and engage with various types of content, including their own ePortfolios, which they create for the course on Blogger. Student also access the course Twitter feed (#info3pt0).
- Students can use the app’s built-in media tools to produce audio, video, and photos.
- Students use the apps to view how their web pages appear to MOBILE users (the fastest growing segment of today’s digital audience). This is critical since most students typically produce their content only for web site. Students are amazed how different their content looks on their phone.
- Students access the course learning management system (Canvas) for other assignments, quizzes and their grades.
- Students can also submit their media directly to the professor or request an office meeting.
- Mobile 3.0 offers “text alert” notifications from the professor, and
- Students use the app to critically analyze content produced by their peers.
The Case Study
The Mobile 3.0 app is integrated into student learning in two ways.
First, the course-related content in the app is updated frequently. This includes graded weekly assignments. Frequent updates facilitate regular student engagement through the semester, not just a few times after downloading. Second, some course content is made available ONLY in the app (i.e. my “virtual” video lectures, quick polls or surveys, etc.) so students can engage with the course content at any time from any place. Based on student input, this is something most students do not experience in other courses.
The app supports virtually all of my teaching of course content.
For example, knowing that many students complete writing assignments on their laptop, the app is integrated into my teaching as a “secondary” source for information. In other words, if I ask students to write a brief assignment in class about an assigned topic, I provide menus to topical information in the mobile app so students can reference content as they type. Since the app has built in “alert” capability, I can schedule text alerts that “prompt” students to read an assignment or submit work before a deadline.
The Mobile 3.0 app is used all semester for peer reviews.
For assessments, the mobile app is used exclusively for peer reviews. These reviews demonstrate the need for students to think about how they must produce and deliver various types of content on screens much smaller than those on their laptops.
Two major benefits of mobile learning are ease and convenience.
As one expects, most students need little training on how to use their phone. However, while most students are comfortable with the they know little – if any – techniques to produce the best mobile media (i.e. photos, video, etc.). The app utilizes the powerful tool that students hold in their hands.
One pitfall is that a few students do not yet have a smartphone.
The widely-adopted position that a mobile device can be distracting is valid especially when instructors depend on only traditional methods for delivering course content (i.e. lecturing with slides projected in front of class). Based on my research in the past six years, new teaching methods and strategies that utilize the mobile phone during class meetings (displaying slides only on their phone and not in front of class) makes the device more important and less distracting for other temptations such as text messaging, email or Facebook. By depending on the device and my app for course content, other content is less distracting. However, this approach requires a radically different “mobile mindset” for instructors.
On interesting outcome is that students are required – and no longer not have the option – to attend to class content.
Put a student and their laptop in a class where slides are projected on a front screen and you get a student who “switches” briefly between projected slides and the social media content on their laptop. Unlike the dedicated screen on a phone running the Mobile 3.0 app, it is much easier for students to view multiple screens on their laptop during class meetings. Three years of student surveys consistently suggested that: (1) Students know they are distracted by technology but don’t necessarily like the distraction, and (2) Appreciate any technology that keeps them more focused. Given that many of us – young and old – have limited “digital self-regulation” and are in a cognitive state of what Linda Stone calls “continuous partial attention,” it was interesting for me to find that an increasing number of students welcome new strategies that keep their learning efficient and effective.
The student feedback has been nothing but positive.
Students respond positively to the many different features of the mobile app include “text alerts” for assignments and deadline reminders. Students say that they have so many deadlines for different courses, it can be difficult to keep assignments organized. Why not do what we can to assist students in meeting deadlines that the students might otherwise overlook?
I am starting a new collaboration with a colleague at another university.
In spring 2017, we will conduct an experiment with writing assignments on laptops versus mobile phones. Our questions ask to what extent do students prefer composing text on their phone whenever and wherever they want? Is there a particular style of writing that students prefer to complete on a mobile phone? Do mobile assignments keep students engaged for longer periods of time outside of class, as compared to assignments on laptops?
Utilizing a foundation of my previous research summarized on www.explainmynews.org, we will continue to explore ways to use mobile apps effectively in the classroom. We will continue to test digital writing assignments, such as student collaboration to prepare an class iBook, We will explore new ways to utilize mobile apps in a “flipped” classroom.
Does any of this information and evidence relate to what you experience? I am interested in your comments, experiences, and tweets – including those about this case study or the app. You can share your tweet on #12appsDIT and/or post a comment in the comments section at the bottom of this page.
Try it for yourself
You are welcome to download the free app and access the course content or try the media tools. Use the app to shoot video or a photo and tweet it to #12appsDIT. If you have comments about the app that you wouldn’t mind sharing with my students – or perhaps even a suggestion on how you could use it in your teaching if I were to produce a similar app for your course, email me or tweet the suggestions to @ryaros.