Investigating mobile science learning in workplace settings

Marshall, Christine; Issroff, Kim; Scanlon, Eileen; Blake, Canan; Holliman, Richard; Smidt, Samantha; Clough, Gill; Banks, Frank; Jones, Ann; Roche, Nel and Waycott, Jenny (2007). Investigating mobile science learning in workplace settings. In: CAL07: Development, Disruption and Debate - D3, 26-28 Mar 2007, Dublin, Ireland.



The potential of technological developments in the form of handheld mobile devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) to augment and improve the experience of science for the learner has been well documented (see, e.g. Scanlon et al., 2005), as has their use to augment and improve performance in workplace settings (Waycott and Kulkulska-Hume, 2003; Waycott et al., 2003). These devices also have the potential to provide new ways for teachers and learners to engage with mixed media science learning materials. Working with the Open University’s Practice-based Professional Learning (PBPL) Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), we will address these questions by investigating how science teachers studying the Masters-level course Contemporary issues in science learning use mobile technologies in their workplace settings. In particular, we hope to better understand the ways in which PDAs influence the use of OU course material in workplace contexts, and investigate how the link between knowledge about science communication, education and practice can be influenced by the use of PDAs. In this paper we will report on the first phase of the project, documenting the experiences of revising existing mixed media materials for use on PDAs, and the development and trialling of familiarisation activities and data collection techniques. We used a range of data collection methods to record student and tutor use of the PDAs, including weekly audio diaries and a web-based surveying infrastructure that can be programmed to automatically invite users to submit online questionnaires as they complete course-related activities on their PDAs. The results of the first phase will iteratively be developed to document the use of these materials in workplace settings. Our evaluation is based on the activity theory approach developed by Scanlon and Issroff (2005) and the tool appropriation model developed by Waycott et al. (2003).

Scanlon, E., Jones, A. and Waycott, J. (2005). Mobile technologies: prospects for their use in learning in informal science settings, Journal of Interactive Media in Education 21(5), pp. 1-17.

Scanlon, E. and Issroff, K. (2005). Activity Theory and Higher Education: evaluating learning technologies, Journal of Computers and Learning, 21 (6), pp. 430-439.

Waycott, J. and Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2003). Students’ experiences with PDAs for reading course materials, Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 7(1), pp. 30-43.

Waycott, J., Scanlon, E. and Jones, A. (2003). Using PDAs as learning and workplace tools: An Activity theory perspective. In S. Anastopoulu, M. Sharples and G. Vavoula (Eds.), M-Learn 2002: European Workshop on Mobile and Contextual Learning, Birmingham, England.

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