Here’s my project for #eduMOOC week 4 on mLearning. I’d love to hear your feedback. Please post comments below. Thanks!
Background on F2F Class:
I’m teaching an ESL course this summer with adult learners in a low-income neighborhood of Los Angeles. After assessing that students have very limited internet access at home and via their cell phones, I also noted that most students have a simple cell phone (or feature phone). This is an ongoing pattern I’ve noticed and talked about before: https://hooper41.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/hooper41-intro/ . So I’m bringing the internet to them, through mobile devices they already have.
The mLearning Project
I’ve created mLearning blended activities students can access anytime, anywhere. No need for expensive smart phones or data plans. All you need is your simple cell phone. These ESL activities are based on activities students have done in class. If you’d like to check it out just call (323) 686-6375.
Using original content, I posted a dialog up on the whiteboard in class, which students copied in their note books. I then recorded this conversation with another person (in this case my lovely wife). Using VOIP I programmed the content (recorded conversation + quiz) so it can be accessed via a local telephone number. If students complete a mini-quiz (4 questions) they receive a time stamped SMS text message. The message encourages them to come to class to collect their prize.
The Prize/Rewards System:
The system I currently have set up is one of points. Students get points for a range of things (attendance, traditional paper-based homework, participation, and now these cellphone quizzes). There will be a raffle the last week of the course and the students with the most points will have the biggest chance of winning. The prizes include an 8GB thumbdrive and dictionaries. With the SMS text messages, in addition to the points, I’m planning to give stickers showing students have passed the level which they can put on their notebook or where ever they like.
Issues of Attrition:
- Unlike K-12 attendance is not mandatory. Unlike university, the ESL classes are free. Also, many students come to class after a long shift at a local factory or sweatshop.
- By having the raffle the last week I am hoping to encourage class attendance and reduce attrition which tends to occur particularly during the last week of a course.
- I am also encouraging students to read the dialog they copied down in class as they listen to the conversations, so they can further connect the written words with the pronunciation. Granted, they listen to a computerized voice, which is not always perfect, nevertheless this also presents another opportunity for students to navigate a phone tree in English in a non-threatening environment. Since it’s not a ‘real-life’ situation, students don’t have to worry about making a serious mistake.
Analyzing the data:
Online, I can track who called the activities, how much time they spent and which quizzes they successfully completed.
For Week 2 of the ESL course, I’m writing dialogs that are based on feedback from students who I surveyed on situations they would like to be able to better converse in English. Week 2’s dialogs include asking for directions to the hospital and ordering fish tacos at a local restaurant.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this project. Please let me know what you think about the User Interface and I’m really interested in developing a reward system together with the students, and I’m interested in any ideas you might have.
Sean C. Abajian
graduate student, California State University Northridge (CSUN); teacher adviser & ESL instructor;
Los Angeles, CA