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1 Article Critique Affordances of mobile technologies for experiential learning: the interplay of technology and pedagogical practices C.- H. Lai, J.- C. Yang, F.- C. Chen, C.- W. Ho & T.- W. Chan Theoretical Perspective The authors of this article provided a thoughtful and rational conceptual framework as they explored the connection between mobile technology and pedagogical practices. From the beginning of the article, the authors laid out a clear goal for the study which was to examine the possibility of a support system for experiential learning when using mobile devices. Mobile technology for this study was clearly identified as being personal digital assistants (PDAs). Further, several affordances of mobile technology were described in detail and will be highlighted later in this critique. To restate, the overall conceptual framework as communicated in the article appears to be examining experiential learning by providing a support system based on a specific technology which is identified as mobile devices. From this framework, the researchers laid out a plan to design a lesson (learning flow) that allowed students to experiment and learn in their local school garden. An experiment design was constructed to collect data and relevant information that would compare the knowledge creation of two test groups (5th grade classes). One group had access to the mobile devices and the other group experienced the same learning flow but did not have access to those devices. As noted, the conceptual framework was clearly articulated from the general concept down to the practical steps of the process. 1! Chris Fahnoe - EPET 900/930

2 Among the competing pedagogical theories and beliefs in education, experiential learning is not only of high current interest but also can be a difficult methodology to develop effectively. The authors defined experiential learning for their study as utilizing experience in a unique context to facilitate knowledge acquisition and creation. This definition encompasses several other relevant approaches including discovery learning, observational learning, and constructivism. Not only is the topic of great interest throughout the educational community because of the potential impact on student engagement and achievement but this study goes one step beyond examining the approach. The researchers looked to support the theory by a technological system and learning flow that would complement the experiential learning process. This additional perspective can provide information about the types of tools that are provided in an educational setting and how they can help support pedagogy. It also can provide useful information for teacher training and how educators can be better prepared to create lessons with similar technology support structures. Finally, the topic is not without its controversy. By focusing on the support structure within a learning theory, and not the specific content, the results of this study could have a dramatic impact on teaching styles if the results can be generalized. This work could help in the debate of whether technology use with conventional content can have a direct positive impact on student achievement and knowledge creation. The researchers provided relevant research and background information to help clarify their investigation and tie together current approaches with theories that have endured for multiple decades. For example, Dewey s learning by doing theory from the 1930s talks about the value of active learning. Linking past experiences with new content and contexts 2! Chris Fahnoe - EPET 900/930

3 is a significant part of the optimal learning concepts discussed in Kolb s experiential learning theory. This theory is discussed in detail and formed the basis for the pedagogical foundation in this research. As we move down the conceptual framework from the learning theory to a support system, the authors also provide background research about the application of mobile technology to learning including references to the G1:1 project, the MOBIlearn project, and the M- learning project. Most of this and similar research claims benefits to learning achievement through the utilization of mobile technology. However, it is also noted by the authors that mobile technology does not work on its own but rather is part of a complicated system which is influenced by other social and cultural factors. After connecting research about mobile devices and learning the authors continued to provide definitions and research supporting the conceptual framework. Affordance is defined as the relationship between an object of physical properties and the characteristics of the user that enables particular interactions between the user and object (Gibson, 1977). Educational affordance is further clarified for an educational setting as the relationship between the properties of an educational intervention and the characteristics of the learner that enables particular kinds of learning by him or her (Kirschner, 2002). The connection between the author s research interest and analogous research and theories is clear and relevant. Research Design and Analysis This study explored the possibility of technological support for experiential learning with mobile devices. Researchers conducted this study using an experimental study design with a convenience sample. The author s hypothesis stated that mobile technologies can increase 3! Chris Fahnoe - EPET 900/930

4 knowledge creation through experiential learning beyond that which is achieved with traditional methods (paper and pencil). Therefore, the null hypothesis would suppose that mobile technologies would have no impact or a negative impact on knowledge creation. The group was a small convenience sample selected from one school and consisting of two fifth- grade classrooms. The quantity, gender, and grade level of participants were noted. The overall number of students participating was 66 (one class of 34 and one class of 32) with a relatively equal distribution between boys and girls. The small convenience sample would not lead to extensive generalization to larger populations. Due to a single grade level, small number of students, and small number of classes, the results of the study need to be carefully applied to other situations. Little additional information is provided about the students such as demographic information, achievement information, or classroom designs (e.g., special education, gifted, charter school). The lack of specific details in the participant section makes it more difficult to generalize the results. The listed procedure was clear and noted the structure of having a pre- test, main activity, post- test, and questionnaire. Discussion of the results of the study used this structure effectively. The results section listed the items for the questionnaire but not the form itself. The pre- and post- test were noted to be identical in their content and consisted of eight multiple- choice questions. One design distinction was that one group of fifth- grade students received an additional 90 minute course on the use of the PDAs after the pre- test. It was not addressed whether the authors thought that this additional training or level of exposure could have affected the results or how they might have thought the lesson flow would have been altered without this training (if students were left to discover how to use the devices 4! Chris Fahnoe - EPET 900/930

5 on their own for example). The learning flow gave all students the same information about the content and asked them to perform the same tasks in a consistent overall experience. However, an attributable distinction between the two groups was in the tools that were used to complete the tasks such as one group being allowed to take photographs while the other group sketched the image of the flower. From the description of the process and learning flow, it appears that the students had a consistent experience despite the technology that they had available to them. This consistency allows the researchers to focus directly on the impact of the technology variable. Prior to the post- test, the final portion of the learning flow required students to generate a report. The statements within those reports from the students were analyzed based on two main categories: knowledge creation and knowledge acquired. The article provided a clear description of how they categorized knowledge creation or knowledge acquired statements. This process can obviously lead to a subjective coding based on who is analyzing the material. It is not noted in the article who was doing the coding nor the method in which it occurred. After the data were gathered a one- tailed t- test was conducted. Using a one- tailed approach seems suitable since there was one direction of interest as indicated in their hypothesis that mobile technologies can increase knowledge creation. However, the article provided little additional detail about the t- test method and some questions remain about the application for these data. Correct answers on a test are not continuous variables since there are not unlimited outcomes within the range. The students were not randomly assigned to groups and the authors do not discuss the assumptions with the variance between the groups. Although the purpose of the t- test can be to find differences between the means of two groups, it seems that several assumptions of the t- test are not addressed or are violated. 5! Chris Fahnoe - EPET 900/930

6 The questionnaire had 37 items, had four main parts, used a Likert scale and gathered information about students attitude about the learning flow in general, and the supporting technology in particular. It was noted that there was one "trick question" included for validity purposes. I would question the limited scope as additional questions would seem reasonable to enhance validity. A problem can occur where people may become influenced by the way they have answered previous questions. For example, if they have agreed several times in a row, they may continue to agree. This patterning can be broken up by asking reversal questions, where the sense of of the question is reversed. With only one trick, or reversal question, this would not be possible. The study s design and analysis appear adequate in their scope and detail aside from the items mentioned previously regarding coding of the final report, assumptions of the t- test, and the limited reversal questions in the questionnaire. The variables in the study were limited to whether or not the individual use of mobile device during the learning flow. Not enough information was provided to establish that the variables are normally distributed within each group and the variation of scores in the two groups is not reliably different. Additional statistics regarding the students should be included as noted. This would allow the reader to understand all the factors that could contribute to the outcomes. Finally, the qualitative data that were collected through the questionnaire provided significant information for understanding the learning flow and the sequencing of events. This provided additional information from the stated research question that was discussed by the researchers and used to give future recommendations. 6! Chris Fahnoe - EPET 900/930

7 Interpretations and Implications of Results In the abstract the authors wrote that results indicate that mobile technologies are effective in improving knowledge creation during experiential learning. These results were supported by a design structure and related data collection. The study found that learning achievement scores of the group with the mobile devices were significantly higher than those without them. The researchers proposed that the students with the PDAs created more knowledge than did the students without the PDAs. The authors discussed the difference between knowledge creation and knowledge acquisition. This distinction is a critical part of understanding the conceptual limitation of the results. For example, the students had access to the Internet in order to further develop understanding and conduct deeper investigations. This process alone would be knowledge acquisition and would not reflect the stated results. However, the article does give examples and methods for how they distinguish between these two critical categories. The results in the questionnaire indicate that some issues were discovered including the differences between photo taking and sketching, the effectiveness of the learning prompts, and the motivation level of students with or without the mobile devices. Additionally, the questionnaire also provided feedback about the six stage learning flow which all students experienced. Although each group had different supporting media, it was noted that order of the flow made an impact on student responses of whether they found the stage helpful, frustrating, or enjoyable. The author s conclusion and discussion of limitations are consistent with the reported results 7! Chris Fahnoe - EPET 900/930

8 and is directly tied into the original research question. Despite some issues with the methods as described in the previous section, the author s discussion in the article was comprehensive and covered both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the study. The author could have connected the results back to the related theories in the beginning part of the article (whether it was the mobile device impact on learning projects or the experiential learning theories). The results and conclusions remain consistent to the overall focus of experiential learning and the integration of technology; however, specific references back to previous research are not detailed. The authors also list three factors for considerations for future experiments that provide a good reflection of the process. The reflection on both the qualitative and quantitative results demonstrated that it was not necessarily the technology itself but the interplay between technology and pedagogical practice that afforded possibilities for better experiential learning. This understanding can have a significant impact on future teaching practice. Although the sample size was limited and generalizations need to be handled carefully, the concepts can lead to further research in understanding the interplay between different forms of technology and different teaching practices. These findings also continue to provide evidence necessary to move away from the idea that technology will improve achievement simply because it s in the hands of students. Simultaneously, it forces readers to revisit the potential positive impacts of technology integration in purposeful educational contexts. 8! Chris Fahnoe - EPET 900/930

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