EDTECH 597: Mobile Learning in the Larger Picture

This week’s mobile app for EDTECH 597 was in some ways for me the most practically related to the school experience since it was the Presidents Quiz. The purpose of the app is pretty straight forward. Create an app that allows you to make a quiz. It could be used for studying in any circumstance, I suppose, although in the example in the book, used U.S. presidents, the quiz can be adapted to any subject. In my case, I made a quiz about German Romanticism since I studied German at the undergraduate level, so that’s a subject I know a little more about.

Three of the screen shots for the German Romantic Period quiz app.

Mobile Apps for the Romantic Period

I picked the Romantic Period, because it was the one in which Goethe lived. He had a huge influence not only during that era, but in German history in general. In fact, there is a Goethe Institute today, and when I lived in Berlin we took a train tour across Germany to visit some media outlets like radio stations and PR departments. Because its purpose was in part cultural, the Goethe Institute paid for our week-long trip.

I also selected that era, because I like the literature and the art that arose from that period of time. It was an age in which the cultural artifacts were infused with a kind of magic or mysticism, which is a component of Romanticism in general and something that appeals to my personal sensibilities as a writer.

No Infrastructure, No Apps

All of that said, I was reminded again that the purpose of technology for this degree is to use it to better educate people. This was brought sharply into focus for me, because in my other class EDTECH 501, we’re doing our digital divide project. For our assignment, we are to make suggestions about how a state can implement technology into the learning experience. I had pulled an article from CNN, which I spoke about in an earlier blog post for this class. It dealt with cell phones in Africa and how they are changing the intellectual landscape with education being one of the things phones will change. In Africa, people often use them in place of computers, because they’re cheaper and more mobile. And because there is enough equipment to get cell coverage so that people can access the internet.

This proved to be a key component of the assignment. How do we reach students and school districts whose infrastructure really isn’t completely up to par or non-existent. Having a cell phone won’t matter if there’s no tower to get a signal. It is a more complicated issue than I originally looked at when I started this class. It still does fall under my original question of “What is the most logical end to this technology?” It doesn’t matter how good a mobile app is. If people can’t download it, because they don’t have the infrastructure then all the good that went into its development is going to be lost to a segment of the population.

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Horizon Report Tech Trend

A screenshot from the hotel portion of the “Who is Oscar Lake” game by Topics Entertainment.

This week’s assignment in EDTECH 501 was the Tech Trends assignment. Dr. Kemp introduced it to our class in part by asking us to read the NMC Horizon Report. Fortunately, it was something that I’d already had a chance to look at, because it was also required reading in my mobile app development class (EDTECH 597) several weeks ago. Because of my earlier exposure to the report, my thinking had already been directed somewhat toward how to use some of these emerging technologies in my lesson plans in the classroom. Two in particular—mobile apps and video games—were already on my mind, because I’m in the mobile app development class, and there’s a particular video game I’ve wanted to use for a long time in a German class. It’s called “Who is Oscar Lake?” by Topics Entertainment and it’s a game that I have used to learn German and to teach my private tutoring students some German. It’s the focus of my lesson plan for the tech trends assignment as are mobile apps.

Language-Acquisition in the College Classroom

In language learning classes demand that foreign-language students develop competencies in all four language areas—speaking, reading, writing, and listening comprehension. A good lesson in a foreign language  exposes students to all aspects of foreign-language competencies each time they come to a language class. These are part of the standards set forth in foreign-language education. With that in mind, I wrote a language plan for a college-level German class that lasts 50 minutes since that’s what I’ve taught. These are at the 200-level, and the lesson plan would work for a German conversation and composition class.

The other guiding principle of my selection was that I wanted to introduce vocabulary to students that is immediately useful if they travel to and in a German-speaking country. When I was an undergraduate German student, I did not fully appreciate this aspect of the Oscar Lake game until I lived in Germany and traveled around. Then I was very glad I had been taught vocabulary related to activities like buying train tickets, checking into hotels, going to restaurants, etc. The lessons the game taught me were used over and over again during my travels, so I knew that the game worked. They also helped a student of mine pass a difficult exam that she needed to complete successfully so that she could work in Germany, so I knew it would be a good option.

Additionally, certain aspects of language learning are harder to facilitate in the classroom. Listening to the language spoken by native speakers and within the context that it is to be used can be challenging. Although most college-level language classes are taught in the target language, they are often taught by non-native speakers. Both the German mobile app and the game allow the student to hear German spoken by a native speaker in addition to providing for the other aspects of language learning.

Finally, despite trying to incorporate new technology as much as I possibly could, I have opted to use “old” technology when it comes to the German/ English dictionaries. I made this decision, because individual words have nuances that online dictionaries don’t cover in depth–at least the ones that exist now like Beolingus or Leo German Dictionary. Often to understand the real meaning of the word, you have to read through several entries in the dictionary and see how the dictionary uses them in context before you know which word to use. While I’m confident that this will eventually change, the electronic dictionaries are not where they need to be yet to give students full comprehension of a word’s subtly, so I’m asking students to have a traditional dictionary.

My assignment is below.

AECT Standards

I was able to touch on quite a few of the AECT standards. Here are the technologies involved in the lesson plan with the corresponding AECT Standard/s below each example:

Systems design was one of the main focuses of the assignment and fits the the following standard.

  • 1.1 Instructional Systems Design: Instructional Systems Design (ISD) is an organized procedure that includes the steps of analyzing, designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating instruction.

“Who is Oscar Lake” is a computer-based video game and the following standard.

  • 2.3 Computer-Based Technologies: Computer-based technologies are ways to produce or deliver materials using microprocessor-based resources.

The use of the smart phones plus the audio elements and video game fit the following standards.

  • 2.4 Integrated Technologies: Integrated technologies are ways to produce and deliver materials which encompass several forms of media under the control of a computer.
  • 3.1 Media Utilization: Media utilization is the systematic use of resources for learning.

The creation of the assignment and the suggestions for its use touch on the following standards.

  • 3.2 Diffusion of Innovations: Diffusion of innovations is the process of communicating through planned strategies for the purpose of gaining adoption.
  • 3.3 Implementation and Institutionalization: Implementation is using instructional materials or strategies in real (not simulated) settings. Institutionalization is the continuing, routine use of the instructional innovation in the structure and culture of an organization.

This list does not include the foreign language education standards. However, they are included in the lesson plan.

EDTECH 597: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

This week’s apps encourages us to chase bugs…

Learning to create apps requires a certain amount of patience, I’ve found as well as an eye on the long road. The patience part is probably pretty obvious, but the long road maybe not so much. When I started the EDTECH 597 Apps class, I wondered with each subsequent app, but in particular the first, “How am I going to change one element on this app when I have no idea what I’m doing? I’ve proceeded with the faith that if I do the work—even if I don’t understand at first—I will eventually.

Chasing Ladybugs and Answers and Catching Neither One

I’m finding that at least mentally, I’m “fixing” a lot of the previous apps, which presented problems that I couldn’t solve at the time, but have some idea of how to do it now. For example, as I was researching how to solve a problem with this week’s app (Ladybug Chase), as I flipped through the book’s previous chapters, something from the Paint Pot app was solved. I remember looking at classmate, Faith Foo’s blocks for changing the picture on the screen and recalled the little media list at the bottom of the app builder. I realized that I don’t always have to load a particular media to a particular step. In understanding that, I also understood how Faith made the multiple windows in her Paint Pot app. Mind you, I still haven’t figured out how to make a fatter line in the Ladybug Chase, the original task that got me to looking for solutions in the first place, but at least it’s something.

Advertising Moves into the Mobile App Age

I did read over the chapter in the book that was supposed to explain how to do things like this, but I couldn’t seem to apply the knowledge (at least not yet) to enable me to make a different-sized line for the energy field in the current app. While my progress pleases me, I’m a bit concerned that I won’t know how to solve the problems that will come when I create my last app for the class. I’m hoping that the problem-solving skills (and persistence) that I’ve developed in these past few weeks will be enough to ensure that the app gets done.

On a different, but related note, as a media person, I am pleased that I’m learning this skill. I read a report in the New York Times this week that talks about the boom in mobile digital ads. Being able to create apps for myself and others from a business standpoint could come in very handy.