‘In The Zone’ is a new location-based mobile app, developed in-house at the University of the West of England, Bristol. It is primarily intended to support field work, though it is also being used for public engagement, university open days and student induction activities.
Workshop participants will gain experience of using a mobile app for situated mobile learning, both as a learner and as a tutor. They will develop a better understanding of what mobile learning is and how it differs from simply delivering traditional learning materials to mobile devices.
The workshop will start with a brief introduction to the app and its development so far. The app was inspired by lecturers’ observations that some students do not participate in and engage effectively with field work, and that field trip tutors commonly experience a number of practical problems when leading groups in the field, which makes student participation more challenging. Technical development (i.e. coding) of the app has been undertaken by paid student interns working and studying at UWE Bristol.
The session relates to the theme of ‘Participation through Learning Technology’ as the app requires learners to physically visit the locations (zones) specified by their tutors in order to see the learning materials and tasks (triggered by GPS on their mobile device) assigned to that location. Learners engage with the learning materials and complete the tasks when, and only when, they are physically in the zone (hence the name of the app). This ensures learners are exposed to situated learning experiences, in places which make the learning more meaningful. Tutors are able to monitor participation in the field work in real time as the students’ responses to tasks are available to tutors immediately.
Using their own mobile devices, workshop participants will have the opportunity to experience In The Zone as a student, and to see the kinds of learning materials and tasks which can be delivered via the app. On a walk specially created for the ALT conference, they will be able to see the content of a number of zones without leaving their seats. Workshop participants will also have the opportunity to author their own walk/zones using the app, allowing them to experience In The Zone from the perspective of a tutor. Volunteers may be invited to briefly leave the workshop to find a number of zones within a short walking distance of the workshop location, and on their return to feed back their experiences to participants who remained in the room.
In The Zone is freely available to anyone but at present the ability to create new walks is restricted to UWE Bristol staff. The intention is to make the creation of walks available to other institutions in due course.
Session content: evaluation and reflection
The session is based on the In The Zone teaching and learning project currently underway at UWE Bristol. It is a university-funded project, led by a Senior Learning Technologist from the Learning Innovation Unit in the Faculty of Environment and Technology. At the time of writing the app is being used on several programmes at the university (including Architecture, Planning, Environmental Health, Geography, Civil Engineering, Building Services, and Law programmes).
Research and evaluation is ongoing by means of staff and student surveys and interviews. The research focuses on three aspects of student engagement (behavioural, cognitive and emotional) and explores the extent to which use of the app affects students’ engagement with the field work compared to traditional approaches. Anonymised survey data received so far will be shared in full with workshop participants. Results may be transferable to other research focused on student engagement, field work and mobile learning.
Fredricks, J.A. and McColskey, W. (2012). The measurement of student engagement: A comparative analysis of various methods and student self-report instruments. In: (2012) Handbook of Research on Student Engagement [online]. Springer, pp.763-782.
Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation [online]. Cambridge University Press.
Traxler, J. and Wishart, J.M. (2011). Making Mobile Learning Work: Case Studies of Practice. Discussion Papers in Education, ESCalate: HEA Subject Centre for Education, Bristol.
Resources for participants