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Cell Phones Can Be An Important Tool In Learning

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Cell Phones Can Be An Important Tool In Learning

Learning comes in various ways and new research indicates that cell phones and technology can play important part.

In a move by the Government, Professor Niki Davis with Jo Fletcher (College of Education) have looked at the issues of low levels of literacy, language and numeracy and the possible role e-learning may have. They have recently published a report funded by the Ministry of Education titled "e-Learning for Adult Literacy, Language and Numeracy".

The Ministry of Education reports that one in five adults in New Zealand don't have a good primary level education, they have low literacy, language and numeracy levels. This is also an issue in US and UK said Professor Davis, "New Zealand is not alone here".

Professor Davis and Ms Fletcher investigated computer-based simulation, online distance learning, availability of digital resources and the use of mobile phones to support course learning as examples of how e-learning can improve the literacy, language and numeracy skills of adults in polytechnic courses.

"The results were surprising," said Professor Davis. "Cell phones can play a role in learning - that was a surprising part our research. What we know is that the biggest factor in learning is that it has to be student centred," said Professor Davis.

"To some the idea of using a mobile phone as part of student learning might seem strange, but the use of mobile phones can engage students in their learning via a technology with which they were familiar," said Ms Fletcher.

The research shows that technology allows people to ask questions without looking vulnerable, said Professor Davis.

"The question can be based around not understanding the technology rather than not understanding the content, and that is much more acceptable - no one loses face," she said.

"It's easier to say they are doing a computer course rather than a remedial learning course, so it becomes a positive experience."

The research found that of the variety of technology people have access to, the greatest was cell phones. And as they are carried with the person they are a useful tool in learning.

Tutors can make appointments and leave messages of positive reinforcement; students can use their phone to take photos of achievements.

"Another example is tutors can send brief messages to the student that the student will then need to respond to - they will be inadvertently practising their literacy when replying," said Professor Davis.

"Adults can also learn along with their kids, they have the support of whanau and it becomes a safe environment to learn in."

The Government is most concerned with the levels of literacy. Language and numeracy in some adults and by investigating how they could best learn is important said Professor Davis.

"E-learning is relevant to and useful for most adults with literacy, language and/or numeracy learning needs. However, these benefits rely on a learning programme that is carefully designed to fit each individual's needs and lifestyle, his or her proficiency with digital technologies, and his or her level of reading literacy," she said.

The research also identified five key factors that are essential to the success of e-learning: They are the adult's lifestyle; tutor's learning goals; tutor's e-learning proficiency; the purpose and culture of the education and/or training organisation; and, other locations where learning takes place, including the home.

Professor Davis and Ms Fletcher now hope raise the awareness of appropriate e-learning strategies to enhance learning. They will both present at the Literacy Aotearoa National Planning Hui on 10th July in Christchurch. The invitation followed a successful presentation to the Industry Training Federation in Auckland.

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