I presented yesterday at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University E-Learning Lab, and was impressed by what they are doing. Although it is not the only thing they do, I quite simply have not seen anyone as advanced in mobile learning functionality – and I think it is because they have a nice combination of (#1) idea generation (hosting conferences and visiting with other scholars), (#2) technical expertise in developing the ideas (with the base of dozens of computer science students working right there), and (#3) the resources to make it all happen (including funding from Intel, China Telecom, BT, etc…).
Prof Shen showed me how students can view a live class room experience from their cell phone, toggling back between views of the teacher, the presentation material (if any), the live class, and at the same time send an SMS to the teacher in real time. I toured one of the “Smart Natural Classrooms” that make this possible. Immediately after each class session, they are archived and available for retrieval at any time, with students even being able to make calls to a call center for additional support as needed. The messages sent by email or SMS are first scanned with a natural language processor that extracts the meaning of the question and sends an automated response based on similar answers to previous questions. If that answer is not adequate, then the student can contact the teacher. The main idea behind it all is to have the class-room experience that people are already familiar with, but simply to extend the audience through mobile learning functionality.
The main current limitations seem to be that only one type of phone is currently compatible with the system (at least it is a Nokia :), but they are already working on extending the options of phones that will work. On the other hand, these lectures are a part of is a premium degree-granting program, so students are willing to pay more to be a part of the university, etc. The desire in China to have a degree from a top university probably can not be overstated. Also, my personal (admittedly somewhat biased) opinion is that they should be using technology not simply to mimic and extend existing class-room experiences, but also leverage the opportunity for student’s to engage in more web 2.0 kinds of learning and teaching experiences. Not just consuming content, but also creating, synthesizing, sharing…
My presentation to the lab today was in two parts: (1) Web 2.0 Paradigms & Platforms for Harnessing Collective Intelligence (with case: Agillix BrainHoney), and (2) Web Analytics and Decision Automation in E-Commerce and E-Learning Contexts (with case: Omniture/ Touch Clarity).
Afterwards – Dr. Minjuan Wang and I toured a part of old town Shanghai – enjoying ice cream bars – the treat in the center being sweet green peas (although Minjuan’s was sugar free, of course).
Some like it hot; some like cold.
Some like it in a snack, packaged and sold.
Thank you for posting the photo and commenting on my ice cream bar. Constructivism is still having a hard time in China. Knowledge-transfer is still the dominant teaching philosophy. With 3000 students in one class, it’s impossible to have anyone participate and construct. Also, the assessment system, does not encourage knowledge construction. Students are practical, teachers give them what they want.
“Impossible” is such an interesting word. What seems impossible from one vantage point or paradigm – is not only possible, but essential from another. I am thinking of “classes” (better talked about as “communities”) much larger than 3,000 being perfect for participation, because there are a lot more people to help each other along the way (for example, look at the family history community online).
I agree that the current “knowledge transfer” model of schooling, with its assessment strategies included, does not easily lend itself to student creativity and participation – but I wasn’t thinking about the way things traditionally have always been done. Although some knowledge transfer will always be a part of education, I was thinking of how we can do better than making that the central part of education, but instead only a step along the way. How things can be done better, not just the technology, but the paradigm and model of schooling changing.
When you say “students are practical” I think what you mean is that students want the shortest possible path to getting a degree and then exchanging that degree for a job. I agree that is the way a lot of students think. What I am talking about is a different kind of education – one in which the degree is not the most important thing, but what is important is who you become and what you create, internalize, and share with others in the process.
One more thought…
Take for instance the simple case that you have any ordinary class. Then make it a part of the students grade to teach someone else what they are learning in class. They will naturally be more interested in learning and internalizing the information, because they know they have to teach it to others. In the ideal case, they will also find new ways to understand the information as they adapt it to the needs and situation of their learners – perhaps even enhancing it beyond what the original teacher did. Also this might even make the teacher a little more accountable for teaching things that are relevant and interesting.
I had one class at university that was like this, and I remember more from that class than almost any other.
I heard of one professor that even gave grades to students based upon how well their learners did on the final! That seems a little extreme to me, but he thought it was a great thing.
This all is only one aspect and possible configuration of a larger paradigm issue, but I think it starts to get to the point that the traditional model of “knowledge transfer” can be improved upon.
Thanks for the good comment – it helps me clarify what I mean. Feel free to continue to point out any difficulties you see in anything I say – I like that.
All sound so difficult!-:)
I take the “impossible” back, it should be “challenging”. The cell-phone mLearning we have been doing here, helps a lot! Students were interacting more with each other. The essential problem is, (deeply rooted in the Chinese educational system), that students don’t want to interact. Many of them just want to get a degree and move on. To get a grade, they don’t need to interact. They only need to know about the final exam and prepare well for it.