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Eighty Secondary 3 students embarked on a voyage of geographical discovery on Tung Ping Chau—an outlying island with sedimentary rocks formed 65,000,000 years ago—with their tablets or smartphones. When they arrived at a designated checkpoint on the island, a challenging question would pop up on their device screens. Once the question was completed, the system would instruct them to look for the next geological site. As the students continued their ‘treasure hunt’ on the island, their avatars in the digital landscape in their devices would trace out a similar itinerary.
That they were able to engage in such an interactive and interesting mode of learning was due to the dedicated preparation of their geography teacher. He tailor-made some electronic learning material in advance on the mobile learning system EduVenture®; therefore, the students could explore the natural landscape at their pace using the smart devices and GPS to investigate their surroundings.
Mr. Wong Chi-wai of Ju Ching Chu Secondary School (Yuen Long) is the teacher responsible for the Tung Ping Chau field trip. He said, ‘The cloud-based system not only gives teachers real-time data of the students’ positions but also enables them to have instant assessment of how their students are doing and lend timely support to those having problems after evaluating their answers and listening to their audio recordings of the land formation surveyed. The students also enjoyed being given the choice of designing their own itinerary.’ Mr. Wong had not adopted EduVenture® in his previous Tung Ping Chau field trips. He found much satisfaction this time in having seen his students completing the tasks with great diligence and enthusiasm.
The Coming of Age of Cloud-based Learning
In the 21st century, education is increasingly moved outside the four walls of the classroom. But traditional study expeditions do not allow the students to set their own routes, pace or agenda. All these have changed since the research team led by Prof. Jong Siu-yung Morris of CUHK’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies has developed the cloud-based EduVenture®. The system offers the ‘digital natives’ a brand new exploratory experience as they are able to leverage on technology and multimedia tools to design a more interesting and autonomous learning process for themselves.
EduVenture® consists of three integrated components: EV-Composer, EV-eXplorer and EV-Retriever. The EV-Composer is a cloud-based platform by which the teacher can compose digital teaching materials. The students will use the mobile app EV-eXplorer in their field trips. When they come to a certain geo-location, the corresponding pre-installed materials will pop up to give them observation guidelines and let them collect data via photo-taking and audiovisual recording. All the data captured during the field trip, including the route and the time taken to and on each location, will be uploaded via the Internet to the cloud-based EV-Retriever for the teacher’s downloading. The teacher will be on top of the students’ real-time learning process as well as their differences in capability, to provide timely support or post-trip analyses.
Learn It Yourself
A total of 220 local schools including primary, secondary and special education schools have adopted EduVenture® to support their outside-the-classroom learning activities. Professor Jong said, ‘As long as the students use a smart device with GPS , the system can accurately capture the real-time locations of the users even though the locations do not have network coverage. I have evaluated the system’s effectiveness and found that in addition to helping the students to gain new knowledge, it has increased the students’ understanding of the inquiry process and their motivation for carrying out outdoor learning activities.’ In early 2016, he received a General Research Fund from the Research Grants Council to further conduct a two-year research on how teachers should make use of the system in conventional curriculum to enhance its pedagogic effectiveness. ‘It is envisioned that the research would optimize the system design and its application to teaching, and thereby encourage its wider use in outdoor inquiry learning.’
This article was originally published in No. 481, Newsletter in Aug 2016.