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Handheld Devices for Student Learning Thesis

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Abstract

Handheld devices have proven to be vey vital for students in conducting their assignments and other academic works. These devices include smart phones, tablet computers, personal digital assistant, calculators, portable media player, digital cameras, barcode, and smart cards among a host of other devices. These devices perform various functions. The barcode and the digital cameras allow users to collect necessary data that would help in authenticating their arguments.

The smart card and other related devices help in storage and transfer of collected data or the already analyzed data. Calculator and tablet computers are vital in the process of data analysis while portable media player is used in the presentation of the analyzed data. Students may find these devices appropriate as they facilitate ease in data transfer and data sharing. Through their use, students can easily collect data from the field, analyze the data and make an appropriate presentation of their academic work.

However, handheld devices are not magic when it comes to doing assignments. They do not generate answers automatically as many would think of them. There must be an effort from the students and some level of intelligence in order to come out with a decent work that can earn some good marks. The research has it that these devices play a role in encouraging sharing of data in a way that leads to duplication of the students works. Because a student can easily access another’s work, they will fail to conduct their own research, waiting to lift that of a friend. This lowers quality of their work and their capability to cope with issues in the real world context.

Introduction

Introductions to the research

Motivating learners and helping them to communicate and collaborate with others for learning purposes is one of the most important objectives in education (James and Pollard 2006, p.2). Recent technologies with different features and capabilities support this concern by offering effective ways of communication between teachers and students (Dawes cited in Bingimlas 2009, p.1). Mobile learning which has emerged as a result of this advancement contributes to this objective by facilitating learning activities for different learning styles and different learning institutions (Attewell 2005, p.8). Being more specific, it is the educational value of handheld devices which promote mobile learning (Economides and Nikolaou 2008, p. 2).

Mobile learning with its dependence on advancement of current handheld devices represents a new stage of learning existing from electronic learning and traditional methods of learning (Bajpai 2011, p.1). Although there is a direct contact between teachers and students in traditional way of learning, it suffers from restricting students learning within the boundaries of the classroom. Students miss the course material and training if they do not attend the class (Georgiev, Georgieva and Smrikarov 2004, p.1).

Thus, this kind of learning limits knowledge to the classroom where students are required to travel and be restricted with the course schedule (Wagner, Hassanein and Head 2008, p.3). As a result, electronic learning emerged as an effective learning method allowing learning to occur during the everyday life activities (McDonald 2009, p.2). However, most of the students these days are willing to participate in learning rather than just receiving information. By employing the mobility and connectivity features of current handheld devices, they can facilitate mobile learning activities since they are easily carried anywhere and anytime (Kim 2011, p.3; Wong et. al 2010, p.2).

The availability and development of handheld devices facilitate mobile learning acceptance as a method to provide personalized, accessible and flexible learning (UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education 2010, p1). Many researchers study how mobile learning enhances learning outside classroom for example learning English language during field trips (Ogata, Yano & Yin 2008, p.1). Although assignments provide a significant value in students’ learning, only few researches have studied how this advancement of handheld devices can support students in accomplishing their assignments.

Therefore, this research focuses on to what extent handheld devices features can enhance current students’ assignments. To answer this question, the research explores the most important features of handheld devices and introduces the use of the devices into some selected students’ assignments through rephrasing specific paragraphs from the assignments. Kolb’s (1984) learning style inventory has been used as a base for selecting assignment to guarantee a wide variety of assignments that covers different learning styles.

Finally, interviews will be conducted with four of academics in Sultan Qaboos University to validate the classification, gather views regarding the effectiveness of the devices and collect suggestions about other ways the handheld devices could be introduction into each task.

Of course one point of the study is to determine if learning can be enhanced by simply incorporating handheld devices into existing assignments, or if it’ll be necessary to change the nature of the assignments.

Motivations for the research

Many studies have been conducted investigating and implementing different kind of handheld devices in learning. Most of these studies involved students who used these devices for some defined tasks developed by the researchers. For instance, Lai et al (2007, p.1) studied the use of mobile technologies in enhancing experiential learning by allowing students to use PDAs in a flow of learning script (in carrying out particular assignments) and using a ‘ mobile technology system’ which has been built to ‘facilitate students in experiential learning’. Similarly, Markett et al (2006, p.1) conducted research studying the usage of SMS within classrooms among students as an interactivity tool. Thomas and Bateman (2010, p.1) focused on the use of mobile Web 2.0 tools in enhancing social constructive learning.

Unlike the studies mentioned in the previous paragraph, the current study determines the extent to which handheld devices can enhance learning in case they are incorporated into existing assignments without changing the essential nature of the assignment. That is, the researcher will recommend some incorporation of handheld devices in each selected assignment in addition to further suggestions of instances will be raised by the expert panel during the focus semi structured interview. These guarantee maximizing the number of handheld devices incorporation in each assignment to cover almost all possible applications of handheld devices in each selected assignment. These incorporations support different functions such as administrative, collaborative, interactive, reference and data collection.

Moreover, these researches focused on how handheld devices improve learning and help students from different prospective such as class interaction and doing experiments as has been mentioned in above examples.

However, the researcher could not find any research aiming mainly in studying how handheld devices can support students in their assignments specifically. Therefore, exploring this prospect represents a significant contribution in shading light on the different possible uses of handheld devices in support of students with their assignments. Additionally, it will investigate on how such devices can enhance students learning and knowledge construction if handheld devices are integrated in students’ assignments.

Research question and objectives

Research question

  • To what extent can handheld devices enhance students’ learning?

Objectives

  • Determine to what extent handheld devices can enhance learning;
  • Describe handheld features which can be used to support assignments;
  • Provide particular applications of the use of handheld devices.

Literature review

The literature begins by offering an explanation of the proposed theory that has been selected (Kolb’s learning styles inventory) as basis to answer the research question. Later this chapter mainly focuses on reviewing different literatures on mobile learning and different handheld devices features aiming to establish a definition of mobile learning which best match with the research question. Also the literature concentrates on discovering different handheld devices functions and features that might support students in different aspects of their assignments.

Kolb’s learning style inventory

Learning style

Both experts in learning styles and psychologist have agreed on the importance of learning styles in understanding teaching approaches (Montgomery and Groat, 1998, p.1). For instance, learning styles is ‘cognitive, affective, and physiological traits that are relatively stable indicators of how learners perceive, interact with, and respond to the learning environment’ Keefe (cited in Reid, 1987, p. 1).

Coffield et al. (2004, p. 7-8) have reviewed literatures on learning styles and divided them into ‘five families’: cognitive structure, constitutionally-based learning styles and preferences, stable personality type, flexibly stable learning preferences and learning approaches and strategies. The cognitive structure family models involves all models which share the same view of ‘the interactions of cognitive controls and cognitive processes’ Riding and Rayner ( cited in Coffield et al, 2004, p. 73).

The second family model includes all models which agree that ‘people are born with various element-based temperaments, astrologically determined characteristics, or personal qualities associated with right- or left-handedness’ (Coffield et al, 2004, p.49). Stable personality group is interested in ‘learning style as one part of the observable expression of a relatively stable personality type’ (Coffield et al, 2004, p.131). Forth family focuses on ‘differential preference for learning, which changes slightly from situation to situation’ Kolb (cited in Coffield et al, 2004, p. 145). Finally the last family, learning approaches and strategies judges on ‘contextual factors influence learners’ approaches and strategies’ and therefore ‘lead to a multifaceted view of teaching’ (Coffield et al, 2004, p.175).

For the purpose of this research, flexibly stable learning preferences family and its main theorist David Kolb model will be adapted. The integration of this family matches with the research topic since it fits the best with the agreed definition of mobile learning and handheld devices features which are mentioned later throughout this research. In addition, the following reasons justify the selection of Kolb’s learning style inventory:

  • Kolb’s learning style inventory uses different learning modes which help to develop learning styles that match with different student’s preferences and skills (Kolb, Boyatzis and Mainemelis 1999, p.15). Thus this insures involving different kind of assignments covering wide range of students’ abilities and learning styles.
  • Kolb’s learning style has been involved widely in different prospect of technology such as computer and information science to study the end user training and software use (Bostrom, Olfman, & Sein cited in Kolb, Boyatzis and Mainemelis 1999, p.15). Therefore, using this theory satisfy research approach as it is dealing with mobile technologies. More so, Kolb’s theory was used to work out particular tasks for students (Lu et al. 2007, p. 194).

Kolb’s learning style inventory

David Kolb unlike other learning styles has built his experiential learning theory based on the fundamental work of Kurt Lewin, John Dewey and many other learning theories which later enhanced building and forming Kolb’s different learning styles which stand as a holistic experiential model used by many academic, managers and teachers (Kolb and Kolb, 2005, p. 2).

According to Kolb (1984), learning is ‘the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge is the ‘result from the combination of grasping and transforming experience’ (Kolb cited in Kolb, Boyatzis& Mainemelis 1999, p.2). This view of experience has helped in building four learning modes: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation (Kolb 1984, p.64).

According to Muyinda, Mugisa and Lynch (2007, p.4) ‘a community of practice sending educative SMS messages to each other via a mobile phone is likely to benefit from’ the different learning abilities discussed above. Moreover, these four learning abilities are arranged into two different axes as appears in figure 1. In the first axis, concrete experience is on one end and abstract conceptualization on the other end whereas the second axes holds reflective observation on one end and active experience on the other end. Overcoming the conflicts between being active and reflective on one hand and between concrete and abstract conceptualization of experience on the other hand constructs the four learning styles: convergent leaning, divergent learning, assimilative and accommodative.

Kolb’s learning style inventory

The following sections describe different learning modes and learning styles. Since each learning mode may intersect with more than one learning style, a description of the learning mode is introduced first followed with different learning styles:

Learning modes ( abilities to learn)
Concrete experience (feeling)

According to Kolb (1984, p.1) concrete learning is a leaner who ‘must be able to involve himself fully, openly, and without bias in new experiences’. Therefore, he suggests that this learner prefers to learn by being involved in different cases and real world situations as well as learning from ‘feedback and discussion’ with other concrete learner (Kolb 1984, p.1-2). Moreover, he argues that concrete learner learns basically from ‘feeling based judgments’ and experience rather than thinking. As a result, people who are concrete learners solve problems based on the situation rather than following ‘theoretical approaches’ and scientific methods (Kolb 1984, p.1). Additionally, he mentions that people in this mod are ‘open minded’ and are interested in involving with others in real situations (Kolb 1984, p.68).

According to Nikana (cited in Cobcroft et al. 2006, p. 32), one of the most important advantages of mobile learning is that it increases students’ motivation to learning through improving the group discussion and dialogue. Therefore, mobile learning enhances students with concrete prospect who learn from engaging with others.

Reflective observation (watching)

The learner in this mode who learns by watching is interested in reflecting and observing from different perspectives rather than taking actions (Kolb 1984, p.1). In instance, through watching and observation of the ideas and situations, learners are able to describe them impartially (Kolb, 1984, p.68). Through this process, he concludes that a reflective learner focus on understanding rather than using practical approaches. Learners in this mode are characterized as ‘tentative’, ‘impartial’, and valuing objective way of judgment (Kolb 1984, p.2). Moreover, He mentions that reflective learners depend on other ‘feeling’ and ‘opinion’ to make decisions (Kolb, 1984, p.69).

Ryokai et al (2011, p. 4), have carried out a project called GreenHat prototype as one application to mobile learning and found that mobile learning motivate ‘students to actively observe the physical environment and provide more contextual evidence in forming their responses’. Thus, students who learn by watching will be encouraged to learn.

Abstract conceptualization (thinking)

The conceptualization learner ‘must be able to create concepts that integrate his observations into logically sound theories’ (Kolb 1984, p.2). Therefore, learner in this mode prefers to participate in logical conceptualization and ‘rational evaluation’ of ideas and concepts (Kolb 1984, p.2). As a result, the individual with these abilities learns from cogitative approach and ‘impersonal learning’ in contrast to concrete learner who relies on feeling and interpersonal learning (Kolb 1984, P.2). Additionally, these learners prefer ‘learning situations that emphasize theory and systematic analysis’ (Kolb 1984, p.2).Consequently, Kolb acknowledges that learner in this mode enjoy quantitative analysis of different problems that need building theories to be solved (Kolb 1984, p.2).

Some of the added values that mobile learning can introduce to learning are ‘activating the students, making them think and talk about their thoughts’ and ‘discuss complex questions’ (Attewell and Smith 2004, p. 82). Accordingly, abstract conceptualization learners can use their thinking abilities and learn better with mobile learning.

Active experimentation (doing)

According to Kolb (1984, p.1), Learners in this mode are interested in using ‘theories to make decisions and solve problems’. Moreover, he suggests that they prefer practical solutions dislike the reflective way of dealing with situation (Kolb 1984, p.69).In instance, Learners start doing and relaying on experimentation instead of observing (Kolb 1984, p.69). Moreover, Kolb points out that learner in this mode have a preference of taking risk toward reaching their targets (Kolb 1984, P.69). Interestingly, they find lectures not enjoyable instead they like group discussion and projects. Kolb argues that this group has the ability to affect the environment surrounding them in order to get productive results (Kolb 1984, p.69).

Different handheld devices features such as web browser, voice recorder and note taker which are used in mobile learning help students in conducting experiments (Cobcroft et al. 2006, p.54). That is, handheld devices support student to act and perform their different tasks.

Learning styles
Convergent (thinking and doing)

According to Kolb (1984, p. 77), convergent learning is a combination of abstract conceptualization and active experiment. He suggests that the greatest advantages of this style lay on its ability to solve problems, make decision and applying ideas on practical. Hudson (cited in Corbett, 2005, p. 12) argues that these learners have a control over their emotions and feeling and therefore they are interested in ‘technical problems’ rather than ‘interpersonal issues’. Moreover, Kolb (1984, p. 77) and Torrealba (cited in Cobcroft et al. 2006, p. 12) maintain that in this style learners enjoy doing tests that require only ‘one correct’ technical answer. As a result, Kolb contends that this kind of learning style follows a ‘hypothetical deductive reasoning’ in dealing with different tasks and problems.

Divergent ( feeling and watching)

In contrast to convergent learning, divergent style emphasizes from both concrete experience and reflective observation (Kolb 1984, p. 77). Accordingly, they do well in ‘imaginative ability and awareness of meaning and value’ argue Kolb (1984, p. 77). By these abilities Kolb mentions, a learner will develop skills to build different perspectives of current situation. Later, they start building relations between these different prospective to construct a ‘gestalt’ meaning of the situation (Kolb 1984, p.77). According to Caglayan (2011, p.2) individual in divergent learning style are ‘adept at focusing on the ideas and associating them as such in brainstorming’. A learner in this style is people, feeling and imaginative oriented (Kolb 1984, p. 78).

Assimilative (watching and thinking)

Assimilative learning abilities lay on abstract conceptualization and reflective observation (Kolb 1984, p. 78). Learners in this style are described as ‘inductive reasoning’ learners as they build theories through converting observations into ‘integrated explanation’, suggests Grochow (cited in Kolb, 1984, p. 78). Kolb has stated that an assimilative individual are concerned less on social and personal interaction and they are valuing logical aspect of the theory over practical aspect of it.

Accommodative (feeling and doing)

Accommodative learners build learning from concrete experience and active experimentation (Kolb 1984, p. 78). Therefore, they perform well by making plans and seeking new experiences (Kolb 1984, p.78). Moreover, Kolb discussed two best situations for accommodative learning: where learners can adapt themselves towered changing circumstance and where they can ignore plans or theories if they did not match with the facts (Kolb 1984, p.78). Grochow and Stabell (cited in Kolb 1984, p. 78), acknowledged that accommodative learners solve problems through ‘intuitive trail- and- error manner’ instead of testing the facts and depend on information gathered from other people rather than collecting them by themselves.

Recently, many researchers are using these learning styles in computer based systems where the system adapts to learners different learning styles (Carver et al. cited in Kinshuk and Lin 2004, p.2). Moreover, Kinshuk and Lin (2004, p.1) have realized that a successful implementation of mobile learning involve a deep understanding of learning styles. That is, different application of mobile devices must take users preferences in consideration (Kinshuk and Lin 2004, p.4).

Students can enjoy a better and more effective learning experience when delivering the right level of information to the most appropriate and matched learning style (Beale and Lonsdale cited in Nagella and Govindarajulu 2008, p.3). These different learning styles are challenging educational methods by assuming that not everyone can learn in the same way (Gardner cited in Yuen and Chan 2003, p.3).

Mobile learning ‘does increase the chances of success by providing multiple paths for learning’ (Yuen and Chan 2003, p.3). Although mobile learning does not insure delivering lesson to a specific student but it provide a more effective way for learning. For instance mobile learning offers freedom to learning by helping students in getting learning material faster, doing revision and helping them in their group work (Yuen and Chan 2003, p.3).

Mobile learning

The recent development of communication technologies such as mobile phones, web books and note books with different sizes has affected education significantly (Jones and Jun 2004, p.1; Mohamad and Woollard, 2009, p, 2). This development helped in designing appropriate learning by allowing students to access different digital resources anytime and anywhere (Chen, Chang & Wang 2006, P. 78). Electronic learning is one of the learning techniques that have been designed by using such advancement in communication and information technology (Naidu 2006, P. 11). Later on mobile learning has emerged as a new learning paradigm (Drira et al, 2006, p.1). According to Traxler (2005, p, 1), defining and discussing mobile learning is not easy since it is a new learning format.

The immobility of PCs in electronic learning has restricted learning only when students are in front of their PCs (Steinfield cited in Motiwalla, 2007, p.5) whereas wireless technologies has empowered students to continue working anywhere not only from ‘hard-wired Internet connections’ (Motiwalla, 2007, p.5). Moreover, Suhail and Kitchens (2004,p.206) state that handheld devices allows learning in different locations such as fieldtrip where learners have the ability to take notes and access information unlike electronic learning which happens only in front of desktop computers. Therefore, wireless technologies have introduced many opportunities that were not possible in other learning methods (Liu, 2007, p.1)

Sharples, Taylor and Vavoula (2005, P.2) acknowledge three main aspects that make mobile learning activities different than other learning tasks: Firstly, ‘We learn across space’ since the learner is always on move and exchange knowledge learnt in one context to another. Secondly, ‘We learn across time’ by building a framework to current context gained from previous situations. Finally, ‘We move from topic to topic’ as using personal experience instead of following one single curriculum. These different aspects provide the wider view of mobile learning as delivering the learning content whenever and wherever the learner requires it.

The market for handheld devices such as PDA, Smartphone and IPod is growing rapidly (Roth 2001, p.1). While Kolb (cited in Mohamad and Woollard 2009, p.3) mentioned that as mobile phones and handheld devices are becoming common and popular among students, they can be used as a motivating tool for learning. Herrington and Herrington (2007, p.3) argued that the small size of handheld devices is matching with current student learning style and that students are connivance with ubiquitous of handheld devices. From this point of view they therefore, acknowledge that mobile devices can have possibilities to improve education and learning.

Admittedly, Smartphones and PDAs contain all the essential features of handheld devices which can enhance learning. These devices can be used to carry out various assignments effectively. More so, these devices have already been used for a while, so it is possible to draw some conclusions concerning the effectiveness of these devices. It is also possible to point out that these devices are quite popular among young people, and this which makes them really valuable as these devices can be used during the class to make student more involved while completing their tasks.

Thus this research will explore some of these handheld devices features and their current applications in learning to know their possible implementation in student’s assignments. Moreover, this research will investigate how these devices support students in their work on different assignments.

Handheld devices portability or mobility

In effect, the three main elements and benefits of mobility in learning are convenience, expediency and immediacy (Kynaslahti cited in Chiu and Hung 2009, p. 1). In term of convenience, mobility enhances learning by enabling students to do some learning activities in their own waiting time. Thus learning happen whenever students are free (Chiu and Hung 2009, p. 1). For instance, students can access information and data while traveling by a bus or a train and while they are having their lunch (Salter cited in Shih 2005, p.2). This would help students since they will not be forced to arrange a formal time to learn instead they have the full choice to learn anytime even while having a small break or during a field trip (Seppala and Alamaki, 2003, p.2).

Convince of learning has inevitably caused the expediency of different learning activities in which ‘learning activities can occur without constraints of place’ (Chiu and Hung 2009, p. 1). They further explain, learners can control their learning location to overcome the boundaries of the classrooms and expand to the surrounding environment. In another words, students can access information from any places even while they are on move (Geddes, 2004, p. 1). For instance Dr Kittanasearee (cited in Brown 2007, p.37) state that mobile learning allows students to get access to different course material from any location by employing GPS feature of handheld devices.

Following on from the elements discussed above, mobile learning facilitates sharing ideas and information immediately by using the built-in photographic function of handheld devices (Chiu and Hung 2009, p. 1). Many studies have explored this element further. For instance, Seppala and Alamaki (2003, p.1) conducted a mobile project at the Department of Home Economics and Craft Science in University of Helsinki by allowing teachers and students to discuss some teaching issues by using handheld devices.

Students took pictures and prepared memos of other student’s lesson and then share it with others to get immediate feedback. Moreover, Sharples et.al (2006, p.1) introduced MyArtSpace project to enhance learning while students are visiting museum. Students were able to record videos, take photos and notes, watch multimedia presentation through their handheld devices in order to offer an immediate learning experience feedback while rooming the museum.

By and large, the above three features of mobility, explain that the learning content and learning activities can be build flexibly based on learners requirements regardless the time and the place of the learner (Fang Cheng Chen, n.d, p.5).

In effect, handheld devices ubiquities connectivity supports and adds value in learning by allowing student to build personal and collaborative learning (Harper et al 2007, p.25-29). When it comes to the personal learning, this advancement in internet connectivity consequentially enable the learners to ‘configure and develop a learning environment to suit and enable their own style of learning’ (Attwell and Pontydysgu 2007, p.3). For example, in Taiwan Chen and Hsu (2008, p.1) developed an English learning environment for students which allows them to receive English articles according to the reading abilities as well as retrieving the unknown vocabulary automatically from the English news articles. This can build knowledge according to the learner’s preferences and interests.

Besides the personalized learning discussed above, many researchers argued that the current advancement in mobile learning connectivity can further empower students by enabling them to collaborate with other students as well as with their lectures within and beyond classrooms (Cobcroft et. al 2006, p. 6). In particular, this gives potential to the students to built rich social communities to interact with lecturers and other students based on connectivity prospect of handheld devices (Kineo 2009, p.2).

For instance, such social community support student’s group work by allowing them to share their achievement of the work, exchange views, opinion and experience among whole group members where the lectures can provide them with immediate feedback (Vasiliou and Economides 2007, p.2). Such communities that enhance collaborative learning activities are possible due to handheld devices wireless ubiquities connectivity.

To conclude, mobile learning provides the potential to improve learning through providing ubiquitous connectedness and personalized learning in contrast to traditional learning environment (Cochrane 2008, p. 2)

Some examples of handheld devices

PDA and Smartphone are the two handheld devices which have been selected in support of this research. As mentioned above, these devices have all the most valuable features which can be used to enhance learning. More so, these devices are available for the majority of students nowadays which is also very important as all students will be able to benefit from the use of certain devices (not only a group of students).

Many researchers consider the availability of these devices to be one of their advantages (Rawlinson and Bartel 2006, p. 44). Finally, these devices have been used for quite a long time, so a lot of software is available. Therefore, new ways to use these devices constantly appear. Hence, the following paragraphs focus on PDA and Smartphone by highlighting their most important features and functions that justify their selection in support of this research on one hand and explain how they can facilitate learning and education on another hand.

Personal digital assistant (PDA)

The origin of PDA was simply used as an electronic phone diary with five basic functions note taking, scheduling, contact managing, to do list and basic mobile phone functions. However, PDA now has been improved to include a wider range of futures and functionality (Jansen and Scarfone 2008, p.1-12). In addition to the previous features and apart from the reduced size which might fit into thickness of only 10 business cards, most of the current PDAs can display a colored screen and have longer battery life. Thus PDA enhances student’s time management skills by using different built-in features discussed above (Trinder, Magill & Roy 2005, p. 6).

Other significant features that most of the current manufacturers include in PDA are their ability to support internet access and Bluetooth connectivity, reading electronic books, running MP3 files (Hewlett-Packard Company 2000, p.1). In term of internet access, PDA can communicate to internet through different wireless technologies discussed previously in handheld devices section (Jansen and Scarfone 2008, p. 12).

This further helps students to access ‘web-based instructional materials during class’ (Deneen, 2001, p. 1). With the help of the internet, PDA as a consequence can be used as e-book reader where students can search, download, read and transfer electronic books (The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative 2006, p.1). Finally, PDA allows its users to ‘download multimedia contents such as sports news, movies or music videos’ (Nespot cited in Hong and Hur 2006, p. 1).

In addition, PDA can be easily adapted to the recent technologies used in different learning institution. That is, most of the PDAs can be easily connected to a desktop or notebook computers by which users can modify and synchronize their document on their PDA through desktops (National Centre for Technology in Education 2008, p.2-4). Moreover, this adaptability enables users to download different software from different websites and to be connected to external monitors or networks.This customization and the ability to exchange information between desktop and PDA enable the utilization of PDA in different ways to help students (Trinder 2005, p. 18). For example, Myers et.al (2004, p.1) had run a project where PDA is used as wireless remote control for PowerPoint presentation.

By and large, it is the different range of features and functionality that makes PDA so popular in enhancing students learning in schools and universities (National Centre for Technology in Education, 2008, p. 1). It is important to note that the use of these devices has been discussed for quite a long time. For instance, according to Churchill and Churchill (2008, p. 1446) educators have developed many applications for this device. PDA can be used during the class for many tasks, such as sharing ideas, quick search for the necessary material, and more effective use of materials available.

The researchers provide particular examples and comment upon the effectiveness of each use. Rawlinson and Bartel (2006, pp. 45-46) reveal results of the survey which proves that students are eager to use PDAs during the class and they do use these devices. For instance, apart from sharing ideas during the discussion, students could implement a brief research during the class. They were able to find the necessary information and answer the questions immediately. Apart from this, the students were interested in using the latest technology which some people called a useless toy. An interesting project has been conducted at Carnegie Mallon University as it has proved that the use of PDAs can enhance learning. Reportedly, PDAs were used during in-class tests (Kim et al. 2006, p. 91).

The use of these devices made the assessment more objective. Of course, it is important to note, that this evaluation also optimizes teachers’ work. Ganger and Jackson (2003, p. 4) also provide the results of the survey held in school. The researchers claim that the use of PDA is really helpful while evaluating students’ performance and assessing students’ achievements. Admittedly, such tests can be more effective as students’ knowledge and skills can be assessed more effectively.

Ogata et al. (2008, p. 13) comment on the use of various handheld devices including PDAs. The survey shows that students can make use of PDAs in different settings while fulfilling certain projects. The results of the survey also show that the use of PDAs does enhance learning. Finn and Vandenham (2004, p. 23) also provide several examples of effective use of PDAs during classes. More so, the researchers note the effectiveness of each project. The survey shows that the use of these handheld devices improved students’ performance.

Therefore, it is possible to consider the possibility of using PDAs during classroom discussions and students’ assessment. It is also possible to work out specific fieldwork assignments which should be carried out with the help of PDAs. These projects can help students acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.

Smartphone

Similarly to PDA, phones started out simply as devices to make voice calls with weight and size of a brick and over the time they faced a rapid improvement to become a handheld device with network capabilities (Jansen and Scarfone 2008, p.13). These capabilities can be explained by high ubiquitous connectivity, in which Smartphone remains connected to the high speed internet wherever the user goes, improved storage capability , better battery life and email and voice messaging (Brown and Metcalf 2008, p. 2-3).

Another interesting feature of Smartphone has been raised by Cochrane and Bateman (2010, p.6), the built in camera which enable recording video and audio in high quality. They further argue that this built in camera help in facilitating student learning by allowing them to record interviews and different events and share them immediately online through different websites such as YouTube. Thus, Smartphone support the social constructivism learning theory ‘where knowledge is constructed and shared as part of a social process’ (Johnson and Johnson cited in Cobcroft et.al 2006, p.6). For instance, when recording an interview students may construct knowledge in real life and upload it on YouTube. This represents the sharing process in social constructivism theory.

Besides the above features Smartphone devices provide Short Messages Service (SMS) which cannot be found in typical PDAs (Jansen and Scarfone 2008, p.14). That is the ability of the user to send and receive SMS to and from other Smartphone users (Australian Communications Industry Forum 2002, p. 17). Several researchers have emphasized the use of SMS application in education.

For example Mellow (2005, p.3) acknowledges three main SMS models in which SMS can be used in education: ‘Push’, ‘Pull’ and ‘interactive’. The ‘Push’ SMS model refers to the institution sending text messages to its students regarding their courses such as class cancelation. The second model means student may order some information from the universities such as ordering course syllabus. The last model includes students and universities send SMS to each other such as students asking questions and seek feedback. In the first model universities cover the cost whereas in ‘Pull’ model students take the cost.

The ‘Interactive’ model is the most expensive one. Based on these three models Attewell (2005, p. 14) developed different SMS learning application for example, ‘Mobile phone SMS mini language course’ where each concept of the course where sent to the student own phone through text message. Another interesting application raised by him is ‘Mobile phone text messaging quizzes’ in which students receives SMS with some information on one side and some question on the other side where students are supposed to reply back with their answers.

Clore et al. (2011, n.p.) revealed several effective ways to use Smartphones during the class. More so, the researchers have developed a detailed description of learning certain topic with the help of Smartphones. All the most important features of these devices are used (interactions, communication, texting, sharing files). The researchers depict several activities which can be used during the course.

Davis (2010, p. 20) points out that the use of Smartphones has become an important tool of enhancing learning at K-12 school. One of possible applications of the Smartphone is that the student can get the necessary support from a teacher, classmates, or even students from different schools with the help of this device as they can communicate via various blogs. The survey shows that the use of Smartphones positively influenced students’ “math achievements” (Davis 2010, p.20). In addition, Davis (2010, p, 23) also claims that the use of these devices enhances the students’ interest. Besides, smartphones are already used by librarians (Lippincott 2010, p. 3).

Though, in this case the smartphones are not used in class, but it is proved that the interaction between librarians and students (via Smartphones) encourages students to search for information more effectively. Of course, this helps student to carry out their projects more effectively. Admittedly, availability of sources (and information about them) helps students to improve their performance. Singh and Zaitun (2006, p. 1834) suggests numerous ways to use handheld devices as well. The survey provides particular examples of effective use of smartphones during the class. The smartphones are used to involve more students into the discussion during the class, or get a feedback from the students. Several ways to evaluate students’ performance are also depicted.

With all of the above features in effect, it could be concluded that Smartphone devices encourage interactive learning material and teaching by which the interactive Smartphone screen encourage and provide an immediate and real time feedback to the students (Vinci and Cucchi 2007, p.2; Cobcroft et al. 2006, p.8).

Thus, by having all the features discussed above, it can be said that a Smartphone is a compact device that combine both computing and communication in one single device (Corbeil and Corbeil 2007, p.54).

Admittedly, though many researchers have tried to describe various ways to use handheld devices, it is still unclear to what extent the use of handheld devices can enhance learning. Of course, there have been quite many descriptions of various tasks carried out with the help of PDAs or Smartphones. Nonetheless, these descriptions are ‘uncoordinated’. In other words, there is no specific system or paradigm which could be used by teachers.

The Kolb’s theory can help to provide a comprehensive pattern of particular uses of handheld devices. It is important to work out a particular pattern where one could see the effectiveness of each approach. Therefore, it can be helpful to tie Kolb’s theory and particular assignments which can be carried out with the help of handheld devices. In this case it will be clear to what extent PDAs and Smartphones do enhance learning. This research does not simply provide some applications of handheld devices. It suggests particular cases when this or that assignment can be most effective. This pattern will enable teachers to choose particular tasks in accordance with learning styles of students. Therefore, handheld devices will be used in the most effective way in every instance.

Handheld Devices: the Limitations

Roschelle, Patton and Tatar (2007, p. 45) argue that there has been a constant increase in the number of students using hand held devices. They explain that such devices have attracted students because of their efficiency and size. This attracted attention of many researchers who have since considered conducting research on the importance of these devices among the student populace. Learning in many, instructions currently apply use of such devices in various forms.

Jarboe (2009, p.16) explains that many stakeholders have come to appreciate their importance to students as far as their learning is concerned. However, little attention has been paid to the cost factor associated with it. Inasmuch as these devices are important to students, the cost implication may be a deterrent to its usage. This may have implication on the effective usage of such devices by students to enhance their successful undertaking of their assignments.

This research is therefore aimed at studying how these devices can help students do their assignments in a much appropriate manner. The research also needs to investigate how students cope with the cost implications associated with the handheld devices.

Evince (2010, p. 14) suggests that handheld devices with wireless connection offer the best value to the students. Because of their portability, small size and limited external connections, they offer students with the best option as a tool that can accommodate their mobility. However, these devices have limitation in usage. There are limited to administrative work only. Treadaway (2010, p.28) advices that they may not be vey appropriate when it comes to doing such activities like extensive research analysis which forms an important part of students assignment. Their capacity is limited, limiting the capability of the students when doing assignments that require extensive research.

Method and data

  1. Both qualitative and quantitative
  2. Individual interview
  3. The lecturers will be incorporating the handheld devices

Research approach

Recently, the interest to mobile learning has risen from only a minor aspect in most of the researches to being a significant concern in many projects worldwide in different sectors such as schools, universities and museums. Some of these studies focused on using mobile phone to help students in revising the course content whereas other studies the implementation of handheld devices within a small number of students in a classroom.

Moreover, some of them have investigated their benefits in museums where they can take the advantage of mobility and connectivity of handheld devices to offer context aware learning (Sharples 2007, p.1). Most of these studies have approved the abilities and capabilities of different mobile technologies in supporting students learning specifically and education in general. However, there is almost no real exploration of such technologies in current students’ assignments to show what opportunities mobile technologies can offer in current student assignment.

Thus, this research has been designed to introduce handheld devices in students’ assignments and look at the kind of support they can provide for students in carrying out their assignments. This research is considered as an introductory research which can be further developed in depth by future investigation.

The approach of this research to explore handheld devices in current students’ assignments is divided into two stages. The first stage is collecting and finding a set of students’ assignments using Kolb’s learning styles inventory discussed previously in literature review chapter. Different tasks from each selected assignment are modified by introducing handheld devices where such devices could support performing the task.

Notably, the nature of these assignments will be altered as the task is to define the effectiveness of the use of handheld devices. Therefore, if the nature of assignments will be changed the results of the survey can be irrelevant. While in the second stage, a panel of academic staff is interviewed to collect their views about the extent to which the devices might enhance learning and gather suggestions about other ways the devices might be incorporated.

According to Hancock (1998, p.6), a ‘qualitative research is concerned with the opinions, experiences and feelings of individuals producing subjective data’. Therefore, the approach of this study is partly qualitative since the research is aiming to gather different academics’ subjective opinions, ideas and suggestions on different functional classification of each rephrased task. Moreover, both primary and secondary data has been used to solve the research question and improve the validity of the final results. However, it is also important to implement quantitative research as this approach can help to make conclusions based on particular objective data.

Thus, it is possible to build a scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. If most of the lecturers disagree then the finding will be that handheld devices help only in doing administrative tasks. Therefore, the mix approach (which comprises elements of qualitative and quantitative approaches) will help to answer the major question of the present research: Do you think the modified task helps in enhancing students learning and building knowledge?

Secondary data

Various secondary data such as previous studies, online journals articles, books and reports were reviewed to provide a clear understanding of how handheld devices could support students in performing their assignments (Singh and Zaitun 2006, p. 1834; Davis 2010, p.20; Finn and Vandenham 2004, p. 23; Churchill and Churchill 2008, p. 1446). In addition, a range of assignments from different departments in different universities and colleges has been collected and reviewed in order to choose the right range of assignment matching with different Kolb’s learning style inventory.

Assignments selection

The assignments sample has been collected from three institutions, Deakin University, Sultan Qaboos University and Middle East College of Information Technology. Email has been sent to a range of academics in these institutions asking them to share their assignments in support of this research. The assignments were in the public domain since they had been undertaken by students in previous semesters. After going through received assignments, four of them have been chosen each covers one Kolb’s learning style. The following section provides more details about each selected assignment.

During such small study, researcher was tightening to different constraints such as time. As a result, only one assignment has been selected from each style. Moreover, the researcher has selected a small sample as a suitable number of assignments to be collected, modified and analyzed during the time span available.

The sample size of selected assignment was small as the aim of this research is to discover the usefulness of incorporating handheld devices on at least one assignment from each learning style. The finding from each assignment in each learning style category can be later in proportion with the wider assignments within the same category. According to General Accounting Office (GAO) and Program Evaluation and Methodology Division (PEMD) (1990, p. 14-26), some researches ‘could look at a limited number of cases that would represent the universe overall’.

Incorporating handheld devices in four different assignments including the four different learning styles is likely to cover all other assignments which might return the same results if handheld devices have been introduced in them. They further argue that ‘instance selection on the basis of the purpose of the study is the most appropriate method in many designs’. This study focuses on instances from the four selected assignments as a method to answer the research question. Each instance stand for one task has been modified from a selected assignment by exploring handheld devices in support of that task.

Selection of assignments based on Kolb’s learning styles Inventory

In order to grantee involving all students with different learning abilities and different learning styles, Kolb’s learning style inventory has been reviewed. After reviewing his theory in the literature chapter, the following table has been built as a base for selecting assignments sample:

Learning style Method Description Assignment
The convergent
  • Hypothetical deductive reasoning focusing on Specific problem
  • Technical task not emotional
  • Experiment with new ideas
  • Less concern on people into personal aspect
  • Analytical approach
  • Creativity
  • Organic Cosmetics and its major business problem
The divergent
  • Observation and building relations
  • Imagination and people oriented
  • No action
  • Design Basics
The assimilative
  • Inductive reasoning
  • Creating theories model
  • Disparate observation into an integrated explanation
  • Less focus on people and concerned on ideas and abstract concepts
  • Industrial Electronics Assignment
The accommodative
  • Intuitive trial and error manner
  • Adapt themselves to immediate circumstances
  • Relay on other rather than building their own analytic ability
  • Dhofar Machine Maintenance

Based on Kolb 1984, p.

Based on the above table, four assignments have been selected that involve all four different learning styles according to the characteristic mentioned on the above table:

Assignment #1: Organic Cosmetics and its major business problem
  • University:
  • College/School:
  • Course Name: Information systems for business
  • Year: 2009
  • Assignment description:

This assignment provides a scenario about Organic Cosmetic Company which is a medium size company with 180 employees and an annual turnover of 40 million dollars. The sale of this company has fallen by 30% due to the global financial crises. Organic Cosmetic Company is facing problems in its internal operation since all paper and faxes are filed in cabinet which raises different problems and concerns needed to be solved. For example, difficulties to know accurate account receivable, account payable and difficulties to build ideas about purchasing trends. One of the company staff recommends introducing some new processes that might overcome the problem.

Specifically, the stuff has recommended introducing some new technologies. Indeed, in this assignment students are requested to write a business report for Organic Cosmetic Company providing recommendations for some changes to push this company forward. Students are provided with details of invoices, notes, bank statements and charts as gaudiness to find the right solution.

The nature of the assignment is a group work where students need to identify the problem and propose a justified solution to it along with discussion on infrastructure and cost requirements of the proposed solution.

Interestingly, the lecturer has created an assignment area online on DSO where students can access resources, post questions and read useful messages in support of doing the assignment. Moreover, Assignment submission and grade feedback has been done through DSO as well.

The convergent learning style

As mentioned in literature review section Kolb, Boyatzis and Mainemelis (1999, p. 10) acknowledge that most of the technical jobs that need problem solving suit convergent learning style. In information systems for business assignment, the Organic Cosmetic Company has a technical problem in handling with internal information due to the lack of record keeping system. Introducing some new technologies in this company by building an information system is an example of a technical task where students need to consider the infrastructure and the cost requirements of building the new system.

As mentioned above according to Alamolhodaei (2001, p. 2) convergent learners involve creativity since learners think in order to explore a suitable solution to the problem. In the selected assignment, students were asked to discover the most suitable and creative changes that needed to take place in order to explore a solution for the record keeping problem where each group of students will provide different ideas and solutions to the same problem.

Finally, according to Amer (2005, p. 21) Convergent learning involves analytical thinking as it requires analysis and implementation of the ideas. In the business report which needs to be submitted to the Organic Cosmetic Company, students are required to justify and analyze their selected solution based on balance sheet, bank statements, organizational charts and many other documents and details that have been provided throughout the assignment description. Solutions and changes recommended by the students are based on logical arguments. Convergent learning style includes abstract conceptualization which involves ‘logical investigation of ideas’ (Richmond and Cummings 2005, p. 2).

Assignment #2: Design Basics
  • College/School: Middle East College of Information Technology
  • Course Name: Design Basics
  • Year:
  • Assignment description:

In this assignment student are requested to create an A3 size mood board. Mood board is kind of poster design that consists of colors, images, text, and samples of materials, etc, in a work of art (Greenwood 2010, p.11). Students are asked to select a theme for their mood board from different moods provided by the lecturer such as global warming and hi-tech life. Based on the designed mood board, student are further asked to create a design in the block of 10”x 10”,shopping bag (12”X 10”) and a laptop skin in inch size.

Moreover, students are requested to use principle s of governing art, theories and their skills in order to develop their mood-boards. Students are requested to submit illustrated art work, conduct a presentation and submit a report both hard and electronic copy.

The divergent learning style

According to Hunsaker (1981, p 3), imagination represent the most important strength point of divergent learning style. The design basics assignment matches well with this learning style as students need to imagine how their poster will be designed within the given size. Moreover, creating the block of 10”x 10”, shopping bag (12”X 10”) and a laptop skin encourages students to do some imagination of the final look of each art before starting actually designing (Akkaladevi, Keesara & Luo, 2008).

Hunsaker further states that most of the students under divergent learning style prefer to deal with arts. Designing a laptop skin and a handbag with different colors and design is considered as kind of art. Students in this assignment are asked to submit illustrated arts.

In addition, students in this style are interested in observation and building relation and are able to view a situation from different viewpoints (Kolb cited in Lum 2009, p 24). In design basics assignment students built a mood board by observing different styles and images from one mood such as global warming and then build their poster by joining their observations and imagination.

Assignment #3: Industrial Electronics Assignment
  • College/School:
  • Department
  • Course Name: Industrial Electronics
  • Assignment description:

This assignment is divided into 5 tasks and each task consists of some additional subtasks. In the first task students are requested to design a circuit to connect three microphones by following two different provided scenarios. The second task introduces a diagram where voltage rate is supposed to be calculated based on the feedback resistance. Similarly to the previous task, task 3 includes a diagram but a switch has been added and students are asked to calculate the closed loop voltage for two different cases. In term of task 4 approximate firing and conduction angles is needed to be calculated for a given circuit.

Finally, in the last task students have produced a sketch of the output waveform from two different diagrams. The assignment is an individual and hard copies are to be submitted to the lecturer. Students are advised to use sources from internet and books from the library to support their answers.

The assimilative learning style

In this assignment students had an opportunity to manipulate circuits along with examining and measuring voltmeters. Moreover, they were asked to calculate the right voltage for a circuit based on given resistances. Additionally, they were requested to observe the changes in the circuits after adding a switch to it. Therefore, this assignment has been selected as a sample for the assimilative learning style which promotes learning through ‘disparate observations into an integrated explanation’ (Kolb 1967, p7).

By calculating and observing the changes in the voltage in different cases provided in the assignment, students can end up with an explanation of how changes in a circuit such as, altering resistance and adding switch could affect the whole circuit performance overall. Moreover, students by doing such tasks can discover a common observation which can be used to build theories.

Assignment #4: Business Simulation
  • College/School
  • Course Name:
  • Assignment description:

In this assignment student are asked to investigate on Dhofar Machine Maintenance Company’s operation and build models for it based on given scenario. This company has two main workstation lines with different capacities. Students are requested to build a model for the existing scenario of company‘s operation as well as another two improved models aiming to enhance the resources usage of existing model.

The report which is submitted by the students is targeting low, middle and top level managers who will later decide on student’s suggestions and built models based on cost and benefits explanations provided by students as a guide to make the decision. Moreover, students are requested to compare and review between two improvement programs that the CEO is wondering which one to follow to best meet the company’s future plan.

The lecture recommended using Simul8 simulation software to model the existing scenario and the other assumed two improved models. a brief explanation about the simulation is required while explain different assumed models. In addition, the submitted report should include some statistics for example number of units waiting for each work station and the percentage of time that workstation 1 is blocked.

This assignment is an individual assignment and students are requested to conduct a presentation after submitting the report. An extensive explanation of assessment criteria is provided on the assignment sheet paper. Also, a detail of different headings and sections of the report are clearly stated in the last section of the assignment information sheet.

The accommodative learning style

According to Rachna (2011, p 28) simulation study ‘consists of many – often thousands of – trials. Each trial is an experiment where we supply numerical values for input variables, evaluate the model to compute numerical values for outcomes of interest, and collect these values for later analyses’. Business simulation assignment therefore includes many trails and experiments in order to build different models asked by Dhofar Machine Maintenance Company.

According to Kristen and Schellhase (2006, p.3), learners in accommodation learning style ‘like to take risks, participate in hands on activities, make plans and solve by trial and error’. Business simulation assignment involves trial and error tasks where students use Simul8 simulation software to calculate different statistics and percentages to be sued in building the final models.

Primary data

In addition to the secondary data, collecting some primary data provides additional value and enriches the research with more valid results. A focused group semi-structured interview method has been used as a main source to collect primary data in this study. The idea behind this interview is to collect opinions and suggestions from some selected academics in order to approve the exploration of handheld devices in each selected assignment.

An individual semi structured interview

According to Maur et.al (2009, p.6) semi structured interviews are very useful in collecting data in a situation that ‘allows a respondent the time and scope to talk about their opinions on a particular subject’. Individual interview is one technique that can provide useful information that cannot be gathered with other ways of collecting data. Moreover, it helps the researcher to create an atmosphere that motivates a participants to reveal his/her opinion and perceptions about the topic (Evaluation Briefs 2008, p.1-2). Thus, this study has followed an indiviual semi structured interview since its aiming to gather opinions of different participants about different allocation of handheld devices in selected student assignments raised by the researcher.

The individual interview will be carried out in sultan Qaboos University with four academics from college of Commerce and Economics. The participants were selected by their knowledge and background of mobile learning as each interviewee can later judge on the best fitting of handheld device. Moreover, all of them have more than five years experience in teaching and are PhD holders. These experiences and qualifications enable them to best address student’s preferences and abilities to learn. In addition, the targeting participants have already used electronic learning tools for several years such as assignment submission, providing feedback and interacting with students. Therefore they can easily argue on the usefulness of handheld device implementations in each selected assignment.

As per nature of this research, the selected interviewee sample has involved only those academics who can discuss, describe and articulate about each instance of handheld devices incorporation while conducting the interview.

The individual semi structured interview questions are designed in a sequential way where the participants are asked first about their agreement of the classification of each rephrased tasks in different selected assignments. Later they are requested to add some valuable suggestions on each selected assignment by exploring any other possible areas where handheld devices can support students in performing their assignments. Finally, the participants are encouraged to judge on the ability of handheld devices exploration in each rephrased task in constructing knowledge and enhancing students learning.

Before starting the interview, a copy of each selected assignment will be forwarded to each participant to allow them further exploring any additional task that could be done by handheld devices in each assignment. Finally, the academics will be provided with different modified tasks as well as they need to judge on their ability of handheld devices to construct knowledge in different rephrased tasks.

Ethical consideration

Permission to conduct this research has been approved by Deakin University through submitting low risk application and consent form to Deakin University human Ethics Discovery Group. The interviewee will be given a full explanation about the research, its objectives and how they will be involved in the study. Each participant has submitted an informed consent form approving their agreement to be involved in the research. Therefore, those participants who showed willingness to be interviewed were selected as members of expert panel to participate in the research.

Although an audio tape will be used to record the whole interview, the confidentiality of the participant will be protected. The name which will be given to the recorded tape will be only a number which stand to the total number of the participants will be interviewed such as ‘4’. Moreover, the recorded tape itself will be stored in a secure area with no name and positions mentioned on the tape. In addition, the audio record will be password secured to grantee not everyone will have access to its information. Also, each participant will be disguised throughout the research by referring to each academic by a pseudonym.

The interview will be conducted in a small, quiet and relaxed office in Sultan Qaboos University in such a way to protect the participants’ privacy and integrity. Such atmosphere could grantee revealing thoughts, ideas and beliefs which generates rich and valuable data to be collected from the participants. Moreover, the academic panel will be asked to feel free not to answer any question since they are not obligated to participate in the research. They can withdraw from the interview at any stage without repercussion.

Interview analysis method

Most of the qualitative research interview is aiming to ‘understand the world from the subject’s point of view, to unfold the meaning of their experiences, to uncover their lived world prior to scientific’ and to get the benefit of interaction between the participants to create and generate data (Kvale & Brinkmann cited in der Heidt and Charles 2009, p.10; Kitzinger cited in McLafferty 2004, p.1). Analyzing the data collected from the semi structured focused group interview to understand the view, meaning and experiences of the interviewee is an important step to be followed. Analyzing interaction and data collected from the interview helps in revealing shared practice and discover common meaning (Jorgensen cited in Seidel 1998, p.4).

Different steps will be followed to analyze the qualitative data that will be collected from the focus semi structured interview. According to The Health Communication Unit (2002, p. 42), ‘typing up a transcripts / comments verbatim’, is the first step in analyzing data of focus group interview. Therefore, after the interview, the researcher will play the audio tape and manually will feed the information into computerized word document. This might involve playing and rewinding the tape in order to listen and write the interview efficiently. The produced narrative word document will be generated from the verbatim transcription of the interview. The researcher will read through the developed transcribed verbatim many times in order to gain an initial understanding of the data.

The interview which will be conducted is planned to be a short interview aiming mainly to approve and collect participants’ opinions on the different modified tasks where handheld devices has been incorporated. Therefore, analyzing the generated data will be simple focusing on participants’ views of knowledge construction on each modified task. Basically three main questions were formed to be asked during the interview:

  1. Can you please suggest other ways handheld devices might be incorporated into these assignments?
  2. Can you please describe how student learning might be enhanced by incorporation of the handheld devices in each modified task? If you think learning will not be enhanced, please explain why, too.

The Health Communication Unit (2002, p. 42), further explains some more steps in analyzing focus group interview, ‘read through all materials and formulate the different themes that are evident’ and ‘describe each theme’. As there will be only three questions asked during the interview (mentioned above) and each one represent a different concept, these questions will be used later in forming and guiding the data while analyzing and presenting the research finding. Moreover, the different instances of incorporation of handheld devices in different assignments will be used as bases in coding the data analysis. Having this in mind, reading through the transcribed verbatim document, the researcher will gain a better understating of the whole interview.

Implementation of handheld devices on the selected assignment samples

It is possible to point out some possible examples of modified assignments. These modifications involve explicitly incorporating handheld devices on different assignment’s tasks to discover to what extant such devices can enhance students learning.

The convergent learning style’s assignment: Organic Cosmetics and its major business problem

Handheld devices can be implemented in different tasks of this assignment:

Receiving assignment’s objectives: Instance #1
The original task

‘When you have successfully completed this assignment you will be able to propose appropriate features of an information system to address the needs of an organization, taking into account various perspectives and circumstances’ (Information Systems for Business 2010, p.1).

The modified Task

‘When you have successfully completed this assignment you will be able to propose appropriate features of an information system to address the needs of an organization, taking into account various perspectives and circumstances’. You will receive the necessary information and feedback on your mobile phone through a weblog or SMS text message.

Communicating and discussing with group members/ getting feedback from lecturers: instance #2
The original task

‘This assignment may be completed by teams of 2-3 individuals’ (Information Systems for Business 2010, p.5).

The modified Task

‘This assignment may be completed by teams of 2-3 individuals’. You and your team member can use mobile phone communication tools such as weblogs, photo blogs and wikis to have a live discussion, exchange information and communicate with your group member. Lecturer may communicate through these tools to exchange viewpoints and provide assistance and feedback.

Assignment submission: instance #5
The original task

‘Submit the Word document (business report) via Assignment 2 Submission (Step 2 of 2)’ (Information Systems for Business 2010, p.7).

The modified Task

Students can use their PDA and submit their business report through the submission area in the blog.

The divergent learning style’s assignment: Design Basics

Lecturer consultation: instance # 9
The original task

‘I will be available for consultation or discussion of your assignment during the time given for completion’ (Kumar 2010, p 1).

The modified Task

SMS messages and telephone messengers can be used for consultation and discussion of your assignment.

Downloading plagiarism software/ informing in case of plagiarism: instance #10
The original task

‘Plagiarized documents, in part or whole, submitted by the students will be rejected. However if the plagiarism is found to be accidental the student may be advised to re-submit the work only once more within one week from the date of rejection’ (Kumar 2010, p 1).

The modified Task

Plagiarized documents, in part or whole, submitted by the students will be rejected. Students can download the plagiarism software program on their PDAs or Smartphone devices to check their work to avoid accidently submitting a document containing text that is identical to text in other documents. Students with plagiarism cases will receive an SMS informing him/her of rejection and as a notification to resubmit the work within one week starting from the date of sending the SMS.

The proposed classifications of handheld devices instance

The following table shows the Classification of instances incorporations of handheld device under Patten, Sanchez and Tangney’s functional Framework.

Assignment
Scale
Administrative Reference Interactive Microworld Data collection Location aware collaboration
The convergent learning style’s assignment Assignment submission

Grade submission

Resources accessing

Receiving assignment’s objectives

Uploading resources

Receiving assignment’s instructions

Communicating with group members

Getting feedback from lecturer

Getting feedback from lecturer

Conducting conference call
The divergent learning style’s assignment Assignment submission

Downloading plagiarism
Software

Collecting form

Informing in case of plagiarism

Lecturer consultation Capturing photos Browsing internet
The assimilative learning style’s assignment Organizing schedule Collecting references

Sending instructions

Editing documents

Recording Data
The accommodative learning style’s assignment Presentation preparation

Report and model submission

Work storing

Sending instructions Recording data

Conducting conference call

Data Analysis

  • Support students in some administration tasks with their assignment:
    • Assignment submissions:
    • Assignment’s grade submission:
    • Software downloading
    • Editing documents
    • Organizing schedule
    • Presentation preparations
    • Storing their assignments.
  • Handheld devices as a reference tool in supporting students with their assignments:
    • Accessing resources:
    • Receiving assignments objectives
    • Uploading resources
    • Collecting forms
    • Keeping students updated
  • Supporting students’ interactivity with their assignments:
    • Communication with group members
    • Getting feedback from lecturers
    • Lecturer consultation
  • Supporting students’ Microworld tasks with their assignments
    • Capturing photos
  • supporting students in collecting data with their assignments
    • Conducting conference call
    • Browsing internet
    • Recording data
  • Location aware and collaboration activities.

Finding

Research Limitations

Like all other mobile learning studies and researches, this research has faced the problem of missing solid theoretical frameworks of mobile learning which can design the effectiveness and quality of the proposed incorporation of handheld devices in enhancing students learning.

Moreover, there are many limitations that need to be addressed in the future researches. The number of participants and assignments has been selected represent the two main limitations in this research. The number of participants has been selected were considered somewhat small which affect the sufficient approve of the final results. Furthermore, the time limitation of the master research thesis has forced the research to be limited with only four assignments has been investigated and modified according to the research aim and objectives.

In addition, the assignments sample which covers different learning styles mentioned by Kolb, was simple and straightforward that does not significantly support students experience with any field work kind of assignments. In future studies, different kind of assignments content with different disciplines may be considered to explore handheld devices incorporation and learning enhancement.

Future Researches

Future studies should address the main limitations have been raised in the above paragraphs. At the same time, there should be more researches investigating and exploring the abilities of handheld devices in supporting students in their homework and assignments. These kinds of researches are significant since they help in forming general guidelines that can be used to enhance students learning and improve education.

Moreover, the carried study was limited on the abilities of handheld devices on supporting students in doing and performing their assignments, however, future research may further investigate on how handheld devices could support students specifically in accomplishing their group work in more detail.

In addition, a future research can build a real small application which will play the role of the middleman between the lecturers and students and help students in accomplishing their assignments. The proposed system will help them to communicate via SMS. Thus lecturers can assign assignments, send grades whereas students can make an appointment and discussion.

Furthermore, this research did not consider the practical applications of the incorporated handheld devices instances in different assignments due to the time shortage. Future study can further apply the modified task on some students to approve their ability to support students with their assignments

Finally, this research studied the incorporation of handheld devices from teachers and experts’ prospect, exploring the same concept from students point of view in further studies will contribute in providing valid judgment on the advantages of such devices in support of students with their assignments.

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