The Learners Expressed Values of Learning in a Media Tablet Learning Culture

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1 The Learners Expressed Values of Learning in a Media Tablet Learning Culture Lars Norqvist, Isa Jahnke, Andreas Olsson Umeå University Department of Applied Educational Science Interactive Media and Learning (IML), Sweden (lars.norqvist; isa.jahnke; Abstract. What do learners value as learning and how does this value relate to the use of mobile technology? Inspired by Stimulated Recall and Photo Eliciting, 207 K-9 students took photos (a total of 283 photos) of what they considered learning situations. Using these photos as starting points, we conducted 21 group interviews that generated 293 utterances. From these utterances, seven themes were generated that shows how the learners expressed their values of learning in a rich and diverse way. Without asking explicitly about technology, 33% of the utterances addressed the adoption of media tablets. These statements also revealed that when the learners personally see a perceived value for them as individuals, then they label the situation as learning. This study s findings show that identifying what young learners value as learning per se should be considered when designing teaching and learning towards learner-friendly active environments for pro-sumers. These findings also open the door for developing alternative ways for evaluating projects in schools that integrate educational technology.. Keywords. Media tablets, Learners, Qualitative data, Photo eliciting, Schools 1 Introduction The use of media tablets in schools and higher education has rapidly increased. Several studies (e.g., [9] and [6]) illustrate the rise of media tablets in formal education. These studies most often analyse and evaluate learning from a teacher perspective, a didactical design view, or from an institutional perspective. In this study, we take the children s perspective. We argue, when education claims that there is a shift from teaching to learning [2], to learner-centred concepts, then students become pro-sumers rather than merely consumers of education. Such an approach encourages students to create and value their own learning experiences. If this is the case, then research should be able to study the different forms of knowledge production. In this paper, we present the learners perspectives (K-9) with the unique approach that all pupils got media tablets. The project was launched in 2012 in a 1:1 tablet program (one tablet per child). In an earlier study [8], we focused on the teachers digital didactical designs, which showed that the teaching practice has

2 changed towards learner-centred classrooms; in this study, we explore the expressed value of learning from the learners viewpoints. Specifically, we address two major research questions: How do children express what they value as learning? (What makes a situation to a good learning situation from their perspective?) (RQ1) and To what extent is the media tablet part of what the children value as learning, and if yes, how? (RQ2). Although the main purpose of the study was to explore how learners do experience the use of media tablets, we did not want to focus on the media tablet itself. Instead, we focused on learning to see whether the learners related learning to the media tablet or not. 2 Description of the methods and context This empirical study was conducted in a municipality in a Scandinavian country with approximately 22,000 inhabitants. The municipality has seven schools from preschool class to grade 9 with around 170 teachers and 2,000 pupils aged In January 2012, all teachers and students were given a media tablet (ipad). This study is part of a larger project that evaluates the integration of media tablets in all schools in the municipality. This project has become a project of changing the teaching and learning culture with the aim to develop a learner-friendly environment in which the children are active and reflective pro-sumers making their learning visible [8]. The study design was presented in meetings with teachers and school leaders. These meetings resulted in 24 teachers expressing an interest in participating; voluntary sampling [3]. In the end, 11 teachers and 11 classes participated. We requested the learners to take a photo of a good learning situation and then mark it with one word. The situations could be situated in school or in any other context. Thus, the learners perspective includes both a) the school context and b) the nonschool context. A child doesn t have the primary identity of a student or pupil outside of school but can be seen as a learner or child in both school and non-school learning settings, therefore we use the term learners or children. The data were collected using specific interview techniques. During the interviews, the children were asked to identify good learning situations as depicted in photographs they had taken (phase 1). We also led a discussion about what they think good means in the specific context (phase 2). The photographs, taken by the children and mainly with the media tablet, were marked with a word or a short sentence provided by the children. This approach is inspired by Stimulated Recall [7] and Photo Eliciting [4]. The photographs and the utterances from the children were used to understand what the children believed learning is in general and in relation to the use of media tablets. Phase 2 consisted of mixing forms of semi-structured interview methods [5] [10] such as explorative conversation, focus group interviews, [12] and photo-interviews. The interviews used open ended questions such as What does this photograph show? or Why did you pick this photograph? Usually, two audio recording devices were used to record the conversations and interviews. The interview guide focused on learning situations and not on technology. In the first phase, we did not ask about the relation of learning to the media tablets, as we did 2

3 not want the children to focus on media tablets but rather on learning. We assume this approach strengthens the validity of the data that describe the actual adoption of mobile technology in classrooms. This study analysed what the children said about the photographs they took. All the utterances were collected in themes using a software programme. Seven themes were coded from the total sample of utterances. In total, the study involved 11 classrooms from grade 1 to grade 7. There were 207 children (100 girls and 107 boys) and 11 teachers (9 female and 2 male). The children produced 278 photographs and five drawings. A total of 293 utterances were generated. 3 Findings The findings are organized according to the seven themes that were generated from the analysis of the 293 utterances. The seven themes show the children s view on what learning is with respect to their definitions of learning situations (Table 1): 1. Various locations; 2. Reading and practising language skills; 3. Learning from someone (traditionally face-to-face); 4. Learning from/through something (mediated artefacts); 5. The learners know what works for them I did it my way ; 6. Engaged interactions; 7. Making mistakes is OK. Utterances Themes Total Single meaning utterances (SiM) Not related to Media tablets Related to media tablets Fig 1. Summary of utterances in seven themes including relation to media tablet without explicitly asking about the media tablets. Theme 1 was generated from utterances that expressed learning activities in different locations: e.g., Homework To get the homework from the Intra ; BookCreator Rather work alone, but it can be done with others ; and Bake a cake. We also asked follow-up questions such as What do you learn when you bake? One girl responded that she mainly learns about math when baking (e.g., decilitres and litres). The first theme was generated from 44 utterances; 14 utterances were related to the media tablet. In total, 32% of the utterances were related to the media tablet even though the interviewers never explicitly asked about technology. Theme 2 was generated from utterances about reading and practising language skills (i.e., writing or spelling assignments). From the children s view, this type of learning was seen as a prerequisite for more learning and enrichment of the language: To have a vocabulary The meaning of word is important ; To read is most 3

4 important, you need it/do it all the time ; Learn by reading you get a better education by reading. The second theme was generated from 52 utterances of which 18 (35%) were related to the media tablet. Theme 3 was generated from 26 utterances that related to directly receiving help, information, or guidance from a teacher, a peer, or a parent: e.g., You can learn from someone else who knows more ; When I as a learner can observe and hear another person do something ; From someone who is explaining It can be an adult or a peer ; When the teacher explains in his/her own language. It s the best when the teacher explains on the blackboard since it also is written and can be seen. Three (12%) of these utterances referred to the media tablet. Theme 4 was generated from 50 utterances about receiving help, information, or guidance from something (i.e., no direct/live interaction or conversation) that supports learning. Obviously, there is someone behind these things, but theme 4 focuses on the fact that learning has taken place using mediating artefacts. In most cases, the children s utterances referred to a media tablet and the features: You first see a YouTube film about something and then you practice ; Google you can find out something that you don t know. For example, if you need help with the computer the whole world can help you ; Apps Different apps to learn different things. Of these utterances, 38 (76%) were related to the media tablet. Theme 5, I did it my way, was generated from 56 utterances that illustrate individual ways of learning and a deeper level of individuality. These learners valued learning when they knew what works for them during the learning process in order to improve the learning progress: Find out new things ; To explore new topics ; A school visit to a piggery - Learning is facilitated when something feels real, to learn when it is for real ; Practise sit at home and practice alone. Of these utterances, 10 (18%) were related to the media tablet. Theme 6, engaged interactions, was generated from 48 utterances expressing a form of communication where the learners interacted, collaborated, and received help from someone. It also included expressions about sharing or presenting something: It is important to be together in the class because we all have different views ; Group work You learn through discussion. Depending on the subject, group work can be more or less common ; When you show/present things, it makes you repeat, write, prepare. Then you learn. Of these utterances, 10 (21%) related to the media tablet. Theme 7, making mistakes is OK, was generated from 17 utterances about learning activities such as initiatives and challenges. In this theme, the utterances express learning as trials in which the children learn from being wrong or making mistakes: e.g., At first it didn t work but then it worked ; Learn from being wrong; to make it better another time. It s ok to be wrong in school ; and Try on your own. Of these utterances, 3 (18%) were related to the media tablet. 4 Discussion and conclusion 4

5 The learners expressed their values of learning in a rich and diverse way (RQ1). The children valued learning when their personal needs were addressed (e.g., when something feels real) and when they saw benefits for themselves (theme 5, n=56 utterances). The children stressed different values of learning as individuals and valued learning in situations where they learned from/through something (theme 4, n=50), in reading and practising language skills (theme 2, n=52), in engaged interactions (theme 6, n=48) (theme 1, n=44), when they learned from someone in traditional face-to-face communication (theme 3, n=26), and when making mistakes was not stigmatised (theme 7, n=17). In other words, the learners preferred learning when they saw a benefit from expanding their pre-existing knowledge. The findings show that a learner-centred classroom takes advantage of students perceived values of learning when designing teaching and learning. Figure 2. The municipality framework in the schools that participated in our study. It can be used to evaluate their teaching and learning practices via connecting the themes. Of the 293 utterances collected, 96 (33%) were related to the media tablet (Table 1) (RQ2). The utterances that are summarized in the table came from the children (open coded) when asked to describe learning from their point of view (see Methods). When around one third of the utterances have a connection to the tablet, without explicitly asking for the use of it, then, we argue, this is a strong indicator that the media tablet became natural part to the school culture; it is like a book or another resource for learning. When the schools would remove the tablets, then one third of the learning situations suddenly were lost. After a 2 year of using the media tablets everyday in the classroom, the tablets were not perceived as being special anymore or as something the teachers needed to encourage the learners to use as the learners used the media tablets when they needed. Depending on the learning activity, the teachers and learners decide whether the tablet is helpful to use or not. The media tablet can be seen as integrated naturally in the teaching and learning setting. However, the quotations revealed that a media tablet is not used all the time. The learners had already learned that sometimes the tablet was not useful. The study shows that it takes more than a media tablet to support the learners perspectives of learning [11]. 5

6 An alternative approach for evaluating education. With an understanding of the learners view of what learning is, the municipality can evaluate their teaching and learning practices. The municipality that participated in our study used a model to develop and evaluate the schools understanding of teaching and learning (Figure 2). From such a framework, the seven themes presented in this article can be analysed and connected to the different blocks in the framework, resulting in an evaluation of the schools teaching, learning, and education activities. When applying the themes from the learners view of what learning is to the municipality project framework, developing teaching and learning with respect to mobile technology can be evaluated from the perspective of what the schools value. This strategy gives the schools an alternative method of evaluating teaching, learning, and the use of mobile technology. Schools will not have to rely only on national or international instruments such PISA. Conclusion. This qualitative study explored how young learners express what they value as learning in a municipality with a 1-1 media tablet programme. Photos that depicted learning situations were used as starting point. Media tablets are integrated in the learning culture and the relation between the media tablets and what the learners value as learning is expressed in a third of all utterances. The innovative methodology of this study reveals the learners perceived values of learning in a media tablet learning culture. This study also points to a new question: How to design teaching and learning that it increases the learners perceived value of learning? Using the data from the teachers view and classroom observation [8], we hope to develop a more comprehensive picture of the change in schools from teacher-centric to learnercentred classrooms in future studies. References 1. Attard, A., Di Loio, E., Geven, K., Santa, R.: Student centered learning: An insight into theory and practice. In: Partos Timisoara, Bucharest, (2010) 2. Barr, R. B., Tagg, J.: From teaching to learning A new paradigm for undergraduate education. In: Change: The magazine of higher learning, 27(6), (1996) 3. Bryman, A.: Social research methods (3rd Ed.). NY: Oxford University Press. (2008) 4. Cappello, M.: Photo Interviews: Eliciting Data through Conversations. (2005) 5. Cohen, L., Manion, L., Morrisson, K.: Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge. (2007) 6. Findahl, O.: Svenskarna och internet 2013:.SE (Stiftelsen för Internetinfrastruktur). (2013) 7. Haglund, B.: 'Stimulated recall': Några anteckningar om en metod att generera data. In: Pedagogisk forskning i Sverige, 8(3), 145. (2003) 8. Jahnke, I., Norqvist, L., Olsson, A.: Teachers Digital Didactical Designs of Learning Expeditions. In: Proceedings of the ECTEL 2014, Graz, Austria (2014) 9. Kaganer, E., Giordano, G. A., Brion, S., Tortoriello, M.: Media tablets for mobile learning. In: Communications of the ACM, 56(11), (2013) 10. Kvale, S., Brinkmann, S.: Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. Sage. (2009) 11. McCombs, Barbara L.: Assessing the Role of Educational Technology in the Teaching and Learning Process: A Learner-Centered Perspective. (2000) 12. Patton, M. Q.: Qualitative research & evaluation methods. London: SAGE. (2002) 6

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