Smartphone-enabled mobilised learning: a curriculum innovation in the school ecology

Year: 2013

Author: Hong, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

To redesign an existing programme can be a daunting task, but to embark on new curriculum innovation promoting learning through inquiry and use of smartphones can be even more, since this pedagogical approach may not be widely understood, unlike tried and tested traditional teaching approaches. The introduction of smartphone-enabled learning into a Singapore Primary School Grade 3 English Language curriculum for 3 pilot classes is an example of a curriculum innovation.  The paper addresses the central question of what are the factors in the school ecology that will contribute and hinder the curriculum innovation of using smartphone-based mobilized learning for English Language curriculum. A case study approach was used to explore the context for curriculum innovation, design and implementation of mobile inquiry lessons. Qualitative data were analysed using the general inductive approach.  Key themes were drawn out, as well as allowed to emerge from the raw data. Data was triangulated across multiple sources available (i.e. notes of meetings, curriculum plans and interviews). Three components of ecology stood out as factors which contributed or hindered the curriculum innovation: (1) Competition - teachers operate within a competitive environment (i.e. many demands on their limited time and energy) that ensures only the most efficient of them (i.e. effective use of ICT) will survive. E.g. recognition from school heads. (2) Co-operation - organisms (i.e. teachers) behave in ways that optimise the balance between their energy expenditure (i.e. amount of work they have to do) and satisfaction obtain (i.e. the learning they witnessed among students).  As teachers saw the change in their students and learning environment, they were bought over by the innovation and started working collaboratively. (3) Filling a niche - the new curriculum innovation addressed an important need to help students develop inquiry and oral skills.  All curriculum innovation is complex, due to the involvement of a large number of human actors and the part played by non-human actors such as technology itself. Using the ecological model as a lens for interpretation of the complexities within, it is important to note that the acceptance of the curriculum innovation is affected as much by the complexity of the interactions between people and technology within the school organization and curriculum innovation itself.  The paper ends with points for consideration for those who are thinking of embarking on similar endeavors e.g. shared vision, ownership, support, leadership.