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The PCA Mobile Device Student Partner Project

Part one: Project description

Project fundholder / Project leader

Elaine Garcia

Funding awarded



Plymouth College of Art

Project title

The PCA Mobile Device Student Partner Project

Project description

This project will utilise students as partners in order to evaluate whether large scale / full College provision of mobile devices to students would be advantageous within the range Art and Design disciplines taught at the institution. This project will provide four students from a range of disciplines (i.e. high and low tech) with an iPad mini, or similar tablet device, and case for an initial period of one year. Students would be asked to volunteer and academic staff would be required to “sponsor” volunteers. The use of mobile tablet devices from an Art and Design perspective will be core to this project and inform the College’s on-going ILT strategy.

As a further aspect of this project the project team will plan visits to institutions where large scale implementation of mobile devices has taken place in order to learn from existing practice (i.e. University or University department)

Project aims and objectives

  • Utilise students as partners in forming institutional strategy
  • To gather learner perspectives and engage with students utilising mobile devices within their learning and daily lives
  • Enable staff to understand how technology can aid student learning
  • Gain an understanding of mobile device usage within an Art and Design discipline context
  • Gain evidence to inform mobile device and ILT strategy for institution
  • Enable the creation of a vision based on evidence from usage
  • Utilise “fun” technologies to highlight possible use of technology within institution
  • Increase discussion of learning technologies within institution – increase awareness
  • Consider preparedness within institution for student usage of mobile devices with particular attention given to pedagogical challenges and approaches
  • Seek experiences from other institutions and learn from existing practice
  • Explore use of mobile devices within teaching and learning
  • Provide an opportunity for students to utilise mobile devices and provide feedback to College
  • Provide an opportunity to investigate new forms of pedagogy such as opportunities mobile devices provide for teaching outside of the classroom
  • Provide students with “power in their pocket”
  • Allow student evaluation of usefulness of mobile devices within formal and informal learning
  • Provide a full institution investigation into the management of mobile devices by students before considering large scale adoption
  • Allow experimentation and innovation within the curriculum

Intended outputs (resources e.g. documents, videos, learning objects etc.)

  • Roadmap to the use of mobile technologies as part of a wider ILT strategy
  • Availability of learning resources within relevant formats for mobile tablets
  • Staff development session(s) in relation to mobile devices and technologies and mobile optimised course content
  • Staff forum to discuss pedagogy and the use of mobile devices in education
  • Blog providing details of learning throughout project and experiences gained

Intended Outcomes for staff

  • Provide awareness amongst staff of mobile devices and student usage through the activities of the project
  • Enable initial discussions concerning mobile devices and their usage within the College and seek staff views
  • Require staff to consider whether their current delivery is optimised for mobile devices
  • Enable mobile device usage in education to become accepted institutional practice
  • Provide a plan for future staff training in relation to mobile device usage in education
  • Enable participation in staff forum discussing the project and project themes
  • Engagement with other institutions and sharing existing best practice which will be brought back to the institution and shared
  • Change of attitude (where appropriate) as mobile device is considered a learning tool that can be used in class

Intended Outcomes for Students

  • Ability to use mobile devices within education and general life which might not otherwise be possible due to cost restrictions
  • Provide awareness amongst students of mobile devices and educational usage through the activities of the project
  • Student engagement with College concerning ILT strategy and raising of awareness of ILT strategy
  • Greater availability of online materials in a range of formats
  • Greater acceptance and usage of bring your own device (BYOD) as use of such devices in class becomes seen as accepted practice
  • Ability to undertake training and development as part of project and beyond life of the project
  • Long term strategy for student usage of mobile devices which will impact on student educational experience
  • Change of attitude (where appropriate) as mobile device is considered a learning tool that can be used in class

Funding outline (how money is to be spent; list items or costs)

4 x Tablet Devices (Ipad mini or similar android tablet device) with case = £304 x 4 £1,216 for student use

2 x Travel, Accommodation and Subsistence for visit to institution(s) who have provided devices to students on medium / large scale = £142 x 2 = £284 (contribution made also be made from College towards cost of these activities)

Total Funding = £1,500

Activities (brief outline of work)

During the year students would be asked to become student Information Learning Technologies (ILT) champions undertake the following:

  • To complete an initial expectation of use survey to allow analysis of expected and actual usefulness, intention to use, etc.
  • Utilise the iPad mini within class and outside of class for learning and general use.
  • To report on how they have used the devices and any thoughts or comments they have about the usefulness of the device during the year.
  • To post, as a minimum, once a week to a group blog outlining their experience and usage on an on-going basis.
  • To provide feedback via a termly project group meeting on the use of the iPad mini within class and outside of class.
  • To report any on-going issues from a student perspective across the College to the project team.
  • Provide details of apps that have been useful to their learning and general lives and make recommendations for apps that should be incorporated into a “student top apps” list
  • To utilise free apps where possible to minimise costs if this scheme were to be launched on a large scale across the institution.

At the end of the academic year student participations will be able to retain the device if they have been fully engaged within the project and have completed all requested tasks and a final survey of usage has been completed. It is anticipated that 1st or 2nd year students will be selected in order to ensure the devices can continue to be used through the remainder of the student’s time at College.

For staff this project will largely relate to the learning that will take place as a result of such a pilot but it is anticipated that a research paper or output will be formed from the learning that takes place. This will particularly relate to the views of students before, during and after the project in relation to mobile devices.

In addition the project team plan to visit institutions where large scale implementation of mobile devices has taken place in order to learn from existing practice (i.e. University or University department).

By the end of this project it is anticipated that the College will have utilised the evidence and feedback received in order to inform and provide a roadmap to the use of mobile technologies as part of a wider ILT strategy.

Dissemination routes (e.g. events, posters, webinars…)

  • Staff Forum
  • Project Blog (staff and student input)
  • Staff Development Session
  • Institution’s ILT Strategy
  • Feedback via HEA Event
  • Research findings to be disseminated depending upon outcomes

Part two: Final outputs

Project resources inventory (list of items created)

Blog Posts:

Blog Page – Mobile Device Project

Blog Posts – Via Blended Learning Blog (Category: HEA Tablets Project)

Presentations at Events:

TurboTEL (JISC RSC SW) – Student Views of Tablet Devices in Art and Design – Elaine Garcia & Martial Bugliolo

Draft Book Chapter:

“Smart Devices for Learning” in Association with MELSIG (due to publish at end of 2014)

Student Presentations:

Using a Nexus 7 in education

HEA Mobile Device(s)


Ipad Project

Using an Ipad mini in HE Photography

Link to project resources and blog


How did the project utilise and/or develop digital literacies in the participants?

Attach a mapping of key project activities onto

  • Allowed students to become familiar with a range of mobile devices.
  • Students demonstrated mobile devices to other students and College staff.
  • Students were required to evaluate and critically analyse the manner in which they use digital technologies for both study and personal purposes.
  • The project utilised best practice and learning from other institutions to learn about the use of large scale mobile device adoption in education.
  • There was an increase awareness of digital technologies within the institution as the project was shared with the College community.
  • Students and staff had an increased awareness of the number of digital tools that could be useful for teaching and learning.
  • Other students became more confident in utilising their devices in class and therefore the use of mobile devices within the classroom increased.
  • Students gained a greater awareness of the manner in which digital technologies are viewed as “professional” by external “clients”.
  • Students were able to experiment with the mobile devices and therefore felt able to trial technology in a way they had not been able to do before. This assisted in achieving a greater confidence in using digital tools.

Please see attached sheet for mapping of key project activities to the DIL framework.

General Issues raised by project

  • Views of usefulness of devices varies by type of device used (Ipad mini is sought after device).
  • Views of usefulness of devices vary by discipline of study with higher technological subjects seeing less usefulness for the device.
  • Tablets are largely used for solving issues of:
    • Workflow and productivity
    • Convenience and Ease of Use
    • Reducing costs (less use of paper)
  • Large scale adoption has been successfully undertaken in Schools but not as yet in HE institutions.
  • Visits to other institutions demonstrated that mobile devices have not, at the moment, replaced paper based activities, books or computers.
  • Mobile devices complement use of existing technology and paper based forms of teaching and learning.
  • Students utilise a range of apps and each used the device in a different way.
  • The nature of the devices as personal became apparent through the project. Students need to “own” the device.
  • There were no barriers to BYOD use within the classroom and other students also brought their tablets to College
  • Students largely used free apps and did not wish to pay for apps
  • The ability to use technology in a mobile manner was a key benefit for students both in class time and outside of the class
  • Engagement with ILT and blended learning department and as a subject was heightened for both students involved in the project and their teaching staff who also gave feedback on the project.
  • Indications from students that the devices were helpful for those with dyslexia who were able to download useful apps to assist with spelling and reading.
  • This project has allowed a greater engagement with academic staff and students in relation to ILT and future strategy.

Barriers / Challenges e.g. accessibility

  1. Choice of student and which devices to give to which student were challenging.
  2. The number of students who wished to take part was higher than the number of devices available
  3. On occasion gaining timely feedback from students was difficult, particularly for those with non-apple devices.
  4. Finding other institutions who had already undertaken large scale roll out of mobile tablets was difficult.

Solutions deployed to above issues and challenges

  1. Students were nominated for project by Programme Leaders and devices were randomly assigned.
  2. The College contributed funding to allow for a total of 7 devices to be used for the project
  3. Students were reminded via email with prompts for feedback given. Programme Leaders were asked to remind students when required.
  4. Visits were undertaken to a secondary school in Cornwall and a Prep school in London.

How the roles/activities of the participant’s learning landscape was effectively changed by the project

  • Students gained experience of utilising mobile devices, often devices they had not previously utilised.
  • Students were asked to critically evaluate the use of the mobile device for both College and home usage. They therefore needed to considered technology in a critical and evaluative manner.
  • The encouragement of the use of mobile devices by the institution encouraged other students to use their devices within the classroom.
  • Changes in attitudes towards mobile devices was seen in both students and staff involved in the project.

Recommendations to future projects of this nature

  • It would be advised that any institution considering large scale purchase of mobile devices consider undertaking a pilot such as this before committing spend.
  • Future projects should continue to utilise a range of mobile devices to better understand the differences between devices and perceptions of students towards such devices.
  • Future projects would be encouraged to visit other institutions where similar activities have already taken place to share best practice.