Posts Tagged ‘disengaged youth’

Students Trial New Technology was the title of the recent article reporting on the Wirelessly Connecting Youth for Future Success project that appeared in Gippsland’s Latrobe Valley Express. 

Click on the link to read more.


The project, “Wirelessly Connecting Youth for Future Success”, investigated the use of mobile technology to connect with disengaged youth.

Students from the GETT Centre used a variety of apps on iPads to develop and build their literacy and numeracy skills.

The project found that the use of this technology has improved the engagement and learning outcomes of students involved in the program.

Click here to view a video of Malcolm Jolly – Project Manager interviewing Tanya Joiner – Project Officer. 
The video may take a little while to download as it runs for 8 minutes.

Being able to actively engage students in their learning is one of the key challenges a teacher faces whenever they work with their learners. Engaging learners is one thing yet having an engaged learner will not necessarily mean that they fully comprehend the material being covered. A Student Response Systems (STS) can assist with both of these functions. STS provide the teacher with a raft of options for directing learning, checking understanding and reporting engagement. Tobin and Lozanovski (2012) discuss two different pedagogical uses of clickers – students’ perceptions and self-efficacy. 

 As part of the Wirelessly Connecting Youth for Future Success project we explored the use of Socrative, an STS. Being free (limits imposed) Socrative has great appeal to the cash strapped education sector, yet its capabilities are truly impressive. On its website Socrative describes itself, “As a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops and tablets”. However, I feel that this explanation actually sells the product short by citing its use as being in the classroom. Given its ability to work on numerous devices including a range of portable technologies teachers should seriously think about capitalising on its mobile capabilities.

This report is designed to provide a brief account of our first foray into using STS with disadvantaged youth with low level literacy and numeracy skills. One of the primary aims underpinning the Wirelessly Connecting Youth for Future Success project is to foster engagement with education through the use of mobile devices. Any learning that ensues in these activities is principally concerned with literacy and numeracy. Our experiment was undertaken away from the traditional classroom using the free wireless internet at a local food chain.

With the Socrative app pre-loaded on the students’ Ipads the teacher described the process for accessing her room. Socrative allocates a room number to each teacher for use with students. Students on the other hand simply have to type in the teacher’s room number in order to gain access to the questions. Once in the room the user is first prompted to enter their last name and first name. By completing this step the teacher is then able to monitor in ‘real time’ students progression through the exercise. Results may be exported and used for auditing purposes to demonstrate student engagement and/or attainment of a particular standard.

A video was taken by a student on an Ipad. It provides a brief overview of the students and teacher in ‘action’ using Socrative. Whilst on the surface this may appear a rather superficial use of this resource; this cohort voted it as being highly enjoyable and meaningful. Further details will be provided in the project final report.

Click here to watch the video.

Can a learner with Down’s syndrome benefit from using mobile devices for developing their literacy and numeracy skills? The early indication is a most resounding yes! The following is an abbreviated account that captures some of the work that we have been doing with one particularly disengaged young learner. Student 1 has Down’s syndrome and teachers had observed that the student was often disengaged from the rest of the class. The student completed an online literacy and numeracy assessment which showed that the student had very low literacy skills especially in the area of spelling.

Student 1 was provided with an Ipad and completed the first spelling list using the Skill Builder Spelling (SBS) app. The teacher/assessor enters spelling words of a level suitable for the particular student. A number of different lists can be created. Initially the student typed in the words using one finger and recorded a slow time for the test. After the first attempt the student’s times improved with fewer mistakes. Some of this improvement was probably due to the student becoming familiar with using the tablet keyboard.

As a way of testing the efficacy of this activity the test was repeated using flash cards and the student wrote the words using pen and paper. The assessor observed that handwriting the answers required the student to concentrate harder and the test took longer as the student had to focus on remembering how to write each letter. The result was more spelling errors which the assessor attributed to the effort of handwriting.

When asked about these spelling activities Student 1 reported that she:

  • Enjoyed the spelling activity when they used the Ipad
  • Preferred typing to writing
  • Would change the background colour of the app to purple
  • Would like the app to read the word rather than the teacher (this would allow for more independent learning)
  • Would definitely try the app again
  • Preferred to use the tablet instead of a smart phone, laptop or desktop computer
  • Preferred using e-learning technology to improve her spelling.

Some other questions that this case study raises include: When we test spelling using pen and paper are we gaining distorted results, particularly with students who have difficulty writing? Why are developers reluctant to create age specific apps? Why do so many apps that are seeking to build proficiency with literacy only provide information to the user in a written format? Additional information on this case study and other examples may be found in the final project report.

Adult Learning Australia has featured our project, Wirelessly Connecting Youth for Future Success, on their webiste.

Click here to access.

As Project Officer of the iPad E-Learning Project, I have had the privilege to work with many enthusiastic students whilst trialing various apps on the iPad 2. Students have also had the benefit to undertake the literacy and numeracy assessment using the iPad 2. I will endeavor to inform you of some of the outcomes through this blog.

Student 1, let’s call him Peter, has a vision impairment. Previously Peter has used a desk top and laptop to complete the online literacy and numeracy assessment. Peter finds it difficult to see the keyboard and takes a long time to read information on the screen. When I gave Peter an iPad to use, he informed me that the keypad was much easier to see. Also, Peter could pick up the iPad and bring it close to his eyes in order to read the information. This would be quite difficult to do when using a desk top or laptop. Peter also, found it easy to navigate and search for things on the iPad.

Another group of students I worked with had the opportunity to research educational apps that could be used as learning tools to improve, spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, numeracy, multiplication, subtraction, addition, division, fractions, shapes, area, perimeters, mapping, measurement, problem solving and time management. The group of students spent several hours trialing various apps and commenting on their usefulness. All students thoroughly enjoyed the activity and are eager to embark on this activity again. In a later activity the same group of students will be trialing specific apps (that I have researched) which they will rate by completing an ‘app evaluation form.’ This data will be collated and displayed on graphs etc and will be shared via this blog.

I hope to update blog readers on a regular basis about this wonderful project. If you require further information Malcolm Jolly (Team Leader – Innovation, GippsTAFE) would be more than willing to assist.

Until next time…..

Tanya Joiner Project Officer

The GETT Centre was established more than 30 years ago to help people with a disability further their education and employment. Although that philosophy still runs deep through the GETT Centre today, we have developed ourselves into so much more.  The GETT Centre is situated in state of the art facilities in Traralgon where we have access to some of the latest technologies from smartboards to Playstation 3’s.

The GETT Centre has evolved and undergone significant growth over the past four years, moving from primarily having a focus on training young people with a disability and running a Disability Employment Service to catering for all young people within the community who are disengaged from education and require additional assistance with their literacy, numeracy and life skills. This involves setting up and delivering programs on behalf of schools and community groups as well as breaking down the boundaries on what education looks like to most. Much of the learning now done at the GETT Centre takes place either connected to the world through our expanding range of engaging gizmo’s and gadgets or through being out and about in the community performing tasks as work groups, volunteering and doing an assortment of fundraising and community minded activities.

Sometime ago as a unit we started to contemplate how we might be able to use Web 2.0 technologies and gaming devices for engaging our students in an educational context. Through some trial and error we have slowly implemented the following changes:

  • The use of online social networking
  • Students have access to a Playstation 3 with both educational and recreational games
  • The development of a student breakout area with fun and stimulating card and board games as well as an outdoor basketball ring to let off some steam
  • The computer lab has been replaced with a mobile laptop cart that turns any and all classrooms into computer labs.

These subtle strategies have helped us to develop a culture of using technology to engage our students. Our process and practices along with technology are always evolving however we pride ourselves on staying on the cutting edge and firmly believe that if a device out there can make a student’s life easier then we are happy to give it a go and give them the opportunity to engage and to be educated.

This Partnership for Participation project is a wonderful opportunity to explore the use of mobile devices for the testing of and building of literacy and numeracy skills for this complex cohort.

Michael Duncan

Team Leader – GETT Centre