In 2010, the Center for Distance Learning (CDL) Mobile Learning Task Force was formed as a collaborative effort between the Curriculum and Design Team, CDL faculty and the Office of Academic Technologies. The purpose of this group is to explore how mobile technology can aid learning opportunities and provide CDL students with additional technology tools to create meaningful learning experiences.
Mobile technologies are a familiar part of our daily lives. The technology allows us to talk to other people at any time from wherever we may be. We can take photographs and share them with our friends, family or the wider world with the touch of a button. Furthermore, smartphones permit easy internet and multimedia access and are quickly moving toward widespread videoconferencing. Many see the smartphone replacing the computer for many online tasks. Opportunities for social networking abound. The implications for online education are many.
The members of the Mobile Learning Task Force are as follows: from Curriculum and Instruction Design: Audeliz Matias (Chair), Lisa Snyder and David Wolf; Faculty representatives: Sheila Aird, Bidhan Chandra, Betty Lawrence, Nicola Martinez; Academic Technologies Representative: Jeremy Stone; CDL Systems Project Manager Brian Levin also serves as a member, and Hope Adams serves as liaison to the Graduate Studies’ Mobile Learning Committee.
One popular art course, The Photographic Vision, employs virtual field trips to enhance the student experience. Primarily an overview of photography, its history and the many genres it encompasses, this course also teaches hands-on techniques. The field trips are designed to expose students to a wealth of historical, educational and artistic knowledge directly related to each module’s topic. A visit to the American Museum of Photography provides a history of the discipline, as well as unique exhibitions and research resources. The websites of individual photographers and galleries offer high-quality, contextualized images and lessons in presentation. These in turn assist students as they complete their own photographic assignments for group critiques.
Throughout the course, students take full advantage of experts working in diverse photographic specialities such as journalism, portraiture and documentation. At the National Geographic Magazine site, students find professional advice on specific topics such as “Taking Photos in the Rain” or “Shooting with Available Light” in addition to the vast archive of the magazine’s renown images.
During an exploration of nature photography, students visit the website of master Ansel Adams. In a culminating module on fine art photography, inspirational examples include the modern color work of Chris Enos as well as the dreamy, black and white images of Dianne Duenzl, both of Box Set Gallery.
Virtual field trips offer countless pedagogical benefits, the results of which are often evident in lively online discussions grounded in shared experience.
A moderated “Think Tank” is created for students to collaborate and support one another as they plan, research and formulate a research project while taking the Nursing Research course at CDL. Students work collaboratively in Diigo to create a shared online reference repository, and their final research projects are “showcased” in a student gallery and peer-reviewed. It is hoped that students will feel some ownership for their peer’s projects when they have collaborated in the “think tank” and worked together in the shared reference assignment.
For instructors to maintain a presence and foster a mentoring relationship in their courses, they don’t want to spend the majority of their time trying to learn a new technology. Because the online environment is in a constant state of flux, it might seem like there is always something new to learn about – and that requires an investment of time, which is in short supply for most of us these days. Our new courses at CDL include Instructor Notes, informational materials written specifically for instructors to allow ease with the new teaching tools and resources. Providing this instructional material to instructors may seem redundant at first, but it allows our teachers to spend more time focusing on their students, and less time troubleshooting new technology.
The use of the Mapblog in courses offers a unique example. Because the Mapblog tool has been upgraded over time, it now includes that many more features and can therefore be daunting to new, or even seasoned instructors who are not consistently working with the tool. To address this issue, now included with the upgrade to the new mapblogs, CDL has released interactive instructional material for instructors that quickly review the pedagogical principles of the mapblog, offers tips for grading, and provides instructions for getting started.
The Global Workplace: Its Impact on Employers, Workers, and Their Organizations
The Global Workplace course examines recent global trends, especially the transformative effects of information technology and the increasing importance of service work on the economy.
Students participate in several class discussions to establish an informed position on some of the issues of the global workplace. Using posts from every discussion, the course instructor creates an image using Wordle, a free wordcloud generator, and posts the link to the wordcloud for students to see each week.
Before the end of each learning module, students are able to visualize those thoughts, ideas, concepts and themes generated through their discussion participation. The word collages therefore become evocative of the most pressing and controversial issues in the global economy today.
Students in the Play, Fantasy and Reality course use Glogster to keep a 15-week reflective journal. In week 15, the final week of the course, they re-read their Glog Journal and create a second Glog to describe their “play” throughout their life. Glogging is a new way to create posters on the web – it’s fun, and free for students.
Glogging allows the expression of opinions, feelings and ideas in a way that isn’t possible with the use of mere words. Students can add background images and themes, graphical representations, photos, titles, audio, links and videos. After a Glog is created, students publish and share theirs with classmates.
UPDATE: Glogster was removed from the course because the company began charging for use. In addition, the application is not ADA compliant.
Screen shots: Students collect data about their location using a handheld GPS and post to the mapblog (left). Then, students calculate the geographic center of everyone in the course (right).
Employing mapblogs with student-created content helps foster class cohesion and collaboration. In GPS and the New Geography as well as several other science courses, the use of Google-based mapblogs provide a visual data platform where students are able to contribute information, images and links related to specific locations. In the GPS course, they find the exact longitude and latitude of their own locale using a handheld GPS, underscoring the importance of accuracy and precision in geographic calculations. Later in the course they calculate the geographic center relative to the location of all students in the course.
According to the National Research Council (NRC), online learning should strengthen science education by providing students with digital content that enables them to gather, analyze, and display data. The mapblog serves this purpose wonderfully and in a hands-on way while adding to the sense of community students experience.
In foreign language courses at CDL, we encourage students to interact with visual content in order to immerse them in the language by providing context and meaning to their learning experiences.
The traditional ‘flash card’ approach to teaching and learning foreign language relies primarily on memorization and subsequent translation. Through the use of visual and dynamic content (shown above), instructors and students can rely on ostensive learning. That is, students are able to manipulate and change visual images in order to learn, define and translate any given vocabulary word or phrase.
The use of visual tools can augment the curriculum of any language course by offering students a chance to interact with the language, and derive meaning through the provision of familiar context.
Above is an Everglades National Park virtual tour. We recommend selecting the full screen feature (found on the tool bar) for the best experience.
Students in the Plant Ecology course must participate in ‘virtual field trips’ to better understand the ecology of several national parks. Previously these exercises would entail visiting a park’s website and providing written labs focused on unique aspects of the park, followed by a class discussion about the findings.
Plant Ecology has undergone an upgrade that includes a redesign of the field trips, which now harness the most current web technology. Students are presented with an interactive visual collage that is integrated within the course. The collage presents students with open questions and a learning space in which to explore aspects of the park though audio, text presentations, hyperlinks, slide shows, video, and live web cams. These immersive presentations bring the national parks to life. Students can listen to the tour guide present information on the Florida panther while watching a video or a slide show of the park.
Through the use of interactive maps, students gain a better understanding of the Francophone world as part of their work in the foreign language course, French 2. This highly interactive learning activity provides a geographic and demographic view of French language and culture throughout the world.
Students select to explore various regions that are highlighted on the map in order to identify historically and culturally significant events, places and people, and examine how they influence and represent the evolution and use of the French language.