Posts Tagged ‘literacy & numeracy’

The case studies for the recent E-Learning for Participation and Skills projects have now been finalised and can be accessed at:
VIC215 – Learning for Employment
VIC242 – Educaton Support a Pathway to Teaching


It has been very exciting to be a part of this project that used iPads to deliver training to young learners with disabilities. We found that the use of mobile technologies increases the learners’ level of engagement and allows them to undertake activities that are suitable for their ability level. There is also the opportunity for them to move to new levels as their skills develop.

We found that it was important to use apps that were appropriate to the learners’ individual level of ability rather than worrying that the graphics might be too “babyish”. The learners were very supportive of each other in this respect but in a different group this could be an issue to consider.

This group found the iPads easy to use and because they are not bulky they are unobtrusive and still allow the learners to feel part of a group and focus on the teacher when necessary without being distracted by bulky screens and other equipment.

Click here to watch a video about this project and the learners’ achievements.

We have created this list of tips for other organisations and teachers who may wish to run a program similar to this. Here they are:

  • Start enrolment process earlier so there is time to gather ID
  • Start with a few apps and add to this each week so that learners are not overwhelmed to begin with and they have something new to engage in each week
  • Spend time in each of the apps before you use them in class so that you can answer any technical questions in class
  • Set up the administration part of the app before taking them into class – this can be time consuming but makes for a smoother class
  • Take photos each week for evidence of engagement
  • Teach students to take screen shots when they have completed tasks for evidence
  • Look for apps that have a reporting mechanism
  • Be mindful of American apps where the language may be different eg: money notes / bills
  • If using apps with voice you may need to spend time arranging the speed of voice so that it is easily understood
  • Look for apps with levels so that students can move through at their own pace
  • Use a combination of apps and teaching styles in each lesson to cater for all students
  • Purchase headphones so that each student can be listening to their own app
  • Spend time getting to know each student

GippsTAFE is currently delivering training to a group of learners in South Gippsland who have a disability. This training forms part of the project funded under the National VET E-Learning Strategy, E-Learning for Participation and Skills.

The training is now under way and the learners are making good progress and, more importantly, they are having a lot of fun using a range of apps on their iPads.

PuppetPals has proved to be a popular app and is a great way of improving the learners’ literacy skills.

Lisa Kuhne has organised the training program and is currently delivering the training sessions. She has found that using iPad apps alongside traditional worksheets and group work is a successful mix. The learners are engaged and happy with their learning. Apps that include levels to pass are proving to be the most successful as the sense of achievement felt when a new level is passed provides great motivation to the learners.

 Some of the students at a recent training session.

Lisa reported the following achievements from this weeks session:

  • One learner completed 17 levels of a maths app and was incredibly proud. He refused to take a break as he wanted to keep going.
  • Another learner, usually very hard to engage, worked for over half an hour on a money recognition app.
  • The money recognition app was popular with another learner but he had lots of trouble adding up money so next week we are going to give him actual coins to work alongside the app.
  • One learner with more advanced skills took it upon herself to do further investigation of apps to find ones that would challenge her further.
  • Another learner was so motivated  that he would not stop for a break as he wanted to continue on his maths app. He reached level 7 today which was a huge effort.

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.