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The introduction provided a strong rationale for why the experiment was initiated by the proponent of the study. The core principle that the proponent of the study wanted to prove was contained in the statement that says, “Experiential learning utilizes learning activity in which learners encounter tangible learning contexts rather than abstracted knowledge” (Lai, Yang, Chen, Ho, & Chan, 2007, p.326). This was followed by the assertion that “Most research in the field of mobile technologies claims benefits to learning based on evidence of learning achievement” (Lai, Yang, Chen, Ho, & Chan, 2007, p.327). They were also able to clearly articulate the research questions and hypotheses. In essence, the researchers made the claim that through mobile technology, learners can experience tangible learning contexts. They needed to show evidence that the students encountered tangible learning contexts rather than mere theoretical knowledge.
The methodology was clearly defined so that replication is possible. The subject recruitment and selection process was carefully described. It appears that the participants were randomly selected because there were no distinguishing characteristics that significantly created a difference between the two classes used. The participants were ordinary fifth-grade students. There were about the same number of participants in both groups. At the same time, the same teacher taught the two classes.
The sample size was not appropriate in terms of the population to which the researcher wished to generalize. The researchers should have chosen another group of students from another school. They should have chosen students from other grade levels, especially those who are able to manipulate the use of mobile devices. This procedure is needed to prove that the learning capability was not affected by their ability to use electronic equipment. There was no indication that informed consent was obtained.
A control group was used. The control group was a class of fifth-grade students who were not given PDAs. They went on the same field trip and they had the same science teacher. They performed the same exercise as described in the experiential learning activity but they only used paper and pencil to record their observations.
There were certain issues that they needed to clarify before others can use their study as a basis for future research. First of all, they needed to clarify the meaning of experiential learning. Secondly, they needed to explain why it was superior to other forms of learning activities. Thirdly, they needed to explain the scope and limitations of mobile technology in the context of experiential learning. Fourthly, they needed to demonstrate the link between experiential learning and mobile technology. Finally, they needed to prove that experiential learning via mobile technology was better compared to conventional methods of teaching.
It is, therefore, significant to point out that the researchers expanded the coverage of experiential learning to include the following: concrete experience; reflective observation; abstract conceptualization; and active experimentation (Lai, Yang, Chen, Ho, & Chan, 2007, p.327). Based on this framework it was possible to consider the use of mobile technology for experiential learning. It appeared that the teacher did not need to produce the actual fruit as long as the student was able to see the image of the fruit and that he was able to engage in reflective observation and abstract conceptualization.
Bias and Artifacts
The administration and scoring of the measures were done blindly. There was no apparent bias in the recording and interpretation of the data collated from the experiment. The procedure was also constant in all groups. It was made easier because there were only two groups and one of them was the control. The procedure was consistent all throughout because the group with PDAs continued to use their devices till the end. Those with pencil and paper were not allowed to use PDAs for the whole duration of the experiment.
The independent variable was manipulated as described. The independent variable was centered on the use of mobile devices in an experiential learning context. Thus, the proponents subjected the participants to the same learning activity but the two groups had different tools. The different aspects of experiential learning were tested in order to determine if the PDAs had an effect.
The researchers clarified the importance of mobile technology even further when they reported that “mobile technologies provide instant recording functionality for note taking equipped with plug-in cameras and sound recording” (Lai, Yang, Chen, Ho, & Chan, 2007, p.327). This was an example of the experience factor in the learning process. It was not just to experience a specific phenomenon but to experience the learning process through the use of the senses. In this particular instance, the student did not simply listen to a lecture but they were active in their participation and took part in the process of recording data as opposed to conventional teaching methods wherein students were passive receivers of data.
It can be argued that in cases wherein mobile technology was used as part of the teaching strategy, the success of mobile technology cannot be separated from the actual experiential learning activity. In one example, mobile technology was merely a tool when it comes to field trip-based and outdoor learning exercises. Thus, mobile technology was used as a means to collect data. This experiential learning process was made possible through an in-built feature to capture photographs and sounds from the physical environment.
It must be made clear that mobile technology did not provide a sensory experience. However, mobile technology-enhanced the experiential learning process. For example, when the students touched the flowers and the plants during their field trip, the use of their sense of touch and smell was the actual concrete experience. But when they completed the activity, their mobile devices enabled them to record their observation. Thus, it can be said that the experiential learning process was enhanced through the use of mobile technology.
The researchers also made the claim that mobile technology-assisted students to record notes so that it can be compared to other statements made later on. But it must be pointed out that students do not need PDA to record observations. A simple notebook can perform the same task. The same thing can be said about the capability of mobile technology to encourage students to propose questions. Even without a PDA students can initiate a lively discussion with regards to the topic.
The researchers were able to recognize at the end that mobile technology did not create experiential learning. It was clear in the very beginning that mobile technology cannot recreate reality. It was also made clear that electronic equipment like iPads and PDAs cannot reproduce an object. Thus, it was difficult to understand their proposition when they said that mobile technology can be integrated into an experiential learning activity. They made it sound as if the combination of the two can bring about a new type of experiential learning. They went as far as to argue the different types of experiential learning in order to establish that experiential learning and mobile technology can be fused together. But at the end of the study, they were only able to prove that mobile technology had a minimal impact on experiential learning.
The researchers were correct when they said that mobile technology increased the learning capacity of the students. However, it can only be considered as a tool and not the main reason for the increase in performance. The real reason for the increase in aptitude was experiential learning activity. It was consistent with the findings of other researchers who asserted that experiential learning is much better compared to traditional learning methods.
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The proponents of the study encountered difficulties when they framed the argument in such a manner that mobile technology was a significant component of the experiential learning process. But an in-depth analysis of their research method revealed that mobile technology was just a tool. The experiential learning activity was the field trip. Even the most advanced technology cannot recreate the same experience. Thus, the accurate thing to say was that mobile technology can be used to enhance the experiential learning process.
Lai, C., Yang, J., Chen, F., HO, C., & Chan, T. (2007). Affordance of mobile technologies for experiential learning: the interplay of technology and pedagogical practices. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23, 326-327.