Posted on May 29, 2015
A group of mobile learning experts at UP’s Faculty of Education recently successfully completed a mobile app e-resource project for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The project links to the Information and Communication Technology for Rural Education (ICT4RED) project. It was the first inter-disciplinary research project of the research unit of the Living Lab for Innovative Teaching at the University of Pretoria (LLITUP) in the Faculty of Education.
The aim of the project was to identify mobile applications that can be linked to the national CAPS documents to support teaching and learning in Science, Mathematics and English in all phases of basic education in South Africa. The project, which commenced in March 2014 and concluded in April 2015, was led by Dr Ronel Callaghan from the Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education. Eleven researchers, representing the departments of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, Early Childhood Education and Humanities Education, formed the core research team of the project. They were supported by students and other researchers.
During the project the researchers had to identify appropriate mobile applications per age group that can be pre-loaded onto Android tablets. The submissions of this phase were an initial list of 220 mobile apps, as well as a first version of the app evaluation tool. The next step was to source, test, evaluate, align, quality assure and describe a wide range of Android tablet applications for the appropriate age group and phase. This yielded 100 apps that had been evaluated in depth. Lastly, the team had to provide application possibilities for these Android tablet applications in the teaching and learning environment, focusing specifically on enrichment, extension and remediation. The final outcome of this phase was 40 designed lesson plans.
A series of workshops were arranged during the project. The purpose of the workshops was to build a community of practice, share ideas, collaborate, create templates, plan subsequent phases, and clarify roles and responsibilities.
Participants regularly commented on the advantages of working on an inter-disciplinary research project. Another positive aspect of the research was its impact on the teaching and research practice of the core research team, and therefore also on student teachers and the school environment.
According to Dr Callaghan, it was a daunting and time-consuming task to find good apps, think in new ways when planning for mobile teaching and learning, and obtain ethical clearance for the research linked to the project.
‘It became apparent that there is a myriad apps available, increasing every day, and that the evaluation process therefore is as important as the design of educational interventions utilising these apps,’ she said.
She identified capacity building as one of the major positive results the project had for the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria. The researchers experience this in their own teaching and research practice, and it inevitably also impacts on student teachers, in-service teachers and postgraduate students.
The research team would like to be involved in possible future subject-specific support and workshops with educators, especially to investigate the challenges and implementation of the mobile app e-resource project deliverables.
Dr Callaghan pointed out that the main drive behind applying for and participating in this project was to provide inter-disciplinary research possibilities to the core project team in the Living Lab research paradigm of LLITUP.
‘Interdisciplinary research in this project proved to be inspiring and supportive of creativity. The project created an excellent set of raw data that each researcher can apply in his or her own research foci,’ she noted.
Two articles have already been submitted for publication in accredited academic journals.
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