Saturday, 2 April 2011

mLearning History - The SMS Project

I did a very interesting course run by The Consultants-E that I have already written about see That course spawned a very small project to see if SMS and mobile phones could be used to inspire reluctant readers and so improve their reading.

This project is still in progress!

SMS for reading project - a journal

Week 1
I visited the school doing the SMS project and was shown by a very excited and willing group how to use the phones, talked through all they they have been doing etc. There is lots of enthusiasm within the group that are taking part but they were really upset that a new message had not arrived to coincide with my visit.

It is very early days but the children are clearly very involved in receiving texts and sending replies. The text they got earlier this morning was "How many months have 28 days in them?" they all have responded "February" - so it will be interesting to see what they make of the answer "12."

It is interesting to note that the children have been told that they are only allowed to use the texting facility. Yesterday their teacher was with us at our ICT Conference all day. Today when she got in she found that they had all been using the camera while she was away - it does not take them many seconds to work out how it all works! While the cat's away… We have promised them that if they behave we will use the camera facility for the treasure hunt so I must try to spend time at the school soon to write that!!

Whilst the teacher involved was talking to other teachers at the conference yesterday she was amazed that there were secondary school teachers who had never thought to ask the pupils to use their phones in the classroom, apparently a few went away quite excited by the idea... let us live in hopes that we get a few more converts, they are quite hard to come by!

Week 2
I visited the school again at lunchtime today and was able to take some video of the children getting, reading and replying to the messages. They are very enthusiastic - whether that will pay in terms of reading or spelling improvements I am not at all sure  They seem to have an understanding now of what a riddle is. Next week the messages will be based on the Greek Myth of Pandora's Box. The answers should be longer than the one or two word answers to the riddles. It will be interesting to see if their interest diminishes with the need to type in more words. Friday I am going to create the Treasure Hunt for the following week.

Week 3
I visited the school on Friday and planned the treasure hunt, they are going to use the Learning Platform for this project. I made up a sentence of brightly coloured huge words and cut them up putting them into tiny envelopes. Their teacher is going to take pictures, real close-ups of tiny images from the classroom. Pupils have to find the image, photograph it and send their photo of it to their teacher, close by they will find a tiny envelope with a word on it! The words need to be collected, they can be assembled into a sentence on the last day and their sentence sent back to their teacher. So 13 words, 13 picture clues to lead them to their envelopes!

The words given to the pupils for the treasure hunt make up my sentence:
Little Red Riding Hood and how she beat the big, very bad wolf. The children will have to end up with a similar sentence. The treasure hunt is running next week.

This week has fallen apart somewhat! On Friday I did not talk to the children, they were playing Red Nose Day Games, when we planned the visit I should have had about 20 minutes with the children and then done the treasure hunt but they were otherwise occupied, we had forgotten Red Nose Day.

Week 4
Today (21st March) I sat them down, started the camera and asked them to tell me the story of Pandora’s Box so far. They denied having it, they said the messages they had were the riddles....

I read the first message to them
•    We are going to work through the story of Pandora’s Box over the next day or two. It is a Greek myth. See if you can find out what Pandora’s Box is.
- yes they had all had it and answered - they all told me it was a metal box. When pushed a little further apparently there was a Pandora’s Box episode in Dr Who! So I asked what that story was but no-one could tell me. I asked what this story was about and no-one realised they had had the first part of a story in the next four messages. They told me they had received something about the Romans - close but not close enough and not enough of it. I mentioned a sacrifice - they knew about a bull - and a god - really no idea at all. So - I read them the story, explaining it as I went, they were fascinated as one would expect but unable to take enough meaning from the text episodes to get the gist of the story.  I have left the teacher to send them the last 6 messages, the next two they have already heard but the last four are new, what was in Pandora’s  box when she opened it and that hope was left etc - I have asked them to tell me the story next time I visit!

One rather strange thing is that the children do not seem to be bothered by the fact that they don’t understand. I asked them what they would do if they did not understand a text, they replied they would ask.... but they didn’t! When I pointed that out they seemed pretty nonplussed, as though they had not realised that they did not understand... hmmm difficult to see how to encourage them to think about it to decide whether or not they understand. Answering questions should provoke thought.... maybe the riddles are working against thinking for understanding!

I chatted to the teacher about this story, it is simply too hard so we are finishing it quickly and getting on the the treasure hunt. The teacher had an idea for sequencing another story, a traditional tale. I have used Red Riding Hood for the treasure hunt so we agreed on the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I have split it into texts and mixed it up as requested but not sure what the teacher envisaged - numbering the texts and sequencing them by number? Waiting to see what she has in mind. Meanwhile I need loads more riddles and one liners :-( That seems to be the level of understanding, reading capacity etc..

Week 5 - sadly the teacher was away ill when I got there. Knowing that there would be no messages to look at, talk about etc, I did not even go in the classroom, the pupils involved would have rushed to me and grabbed their phones and been disappointed!

Now we are headed towards week 6. The pupils should have done their treasure hunt and we should be on to a sequencing activity, In theory this little test finishes on Friday - must talk to the teacher before I talk to my boss on Monday to see whether we want to carry it on, whether the teacher is able to put up with the disruption, whether the pupils are making any advances in their reading - though I am already sure that their attitude to reading has improved - and more!!

This is a link to the presentation re the SMS project presented at BETT 2012
Videos that were embedded are now linked to You Tube for ease of viewing.

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