Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teaching with cellphones impacts learning?

Note: This is a follow-up message to an item posted to eLearning Acupuncture a week ago (19 Nov 2008), so be sure to read the original post first before reading this post.

I left off in the last post with the intention of testing if the use of cellphones in teaching contributed positively towards student learning. So here’s the simple experiment I designed.

First, a week after I exposed the class to the cellphone exercise in trying to answer the question “what is the mechanism of action of cyanide’s toxicity” via text message, I posed them the same question again. Only this time, they could not use their cellphones – they had to personally know the answer at that moment. The result is that four people out of 24 students answered the question correctly.

I approached these four people to ask the follow-up question: “Where and when did you learn this fact about cyanide?” Of the four people who answered the question correctly, two of them were the students who had successfully completed the cellphone activity last week, one was someone who independently looked up the answer because of her exposure to the question in last week’s cellphone activity, and the last person was someone who knew the answer from a previous course.

picture of resultsSo here is how I interpret this data in combination with last week cellphone data.

First, let’s examine the people who successfully accomplished the cellphone task last week and let’s see if their accomplishment from last week affected their learning. Of the two students who accomplished the cellphone task last week both were able to correctly answer the question regarding the mechanism of action of cyanide one week later. Both students identified the previous week’s cellphone activity as being the time and method that they learned this answer. So for 100% of these students, success with the previous week’s cellphone activity did indeed contribute positively to their learning. They demonstrated this by retaining this knowledge for the period of at least one week.

Second, let’s examine the student who did not successfully complete the previous week’s cellphone activity yet was stimulated by the activity to a great enough extent where she independently researched the answer and was able to demonstrate her knowledge one week later. Did the cellphone activity affect her learning? YES! On the surface this sounds quite positive doesn’t it? However, there were 19 other people in the class who where not stimulated by the activity to a great enough extent to independently research the answer as she had. So for 1 out of 20 (or 5%) the activity stimulated their learning despite being unsuccessful with the cellphone activity. For the other 95%, there was no positive impact.

Third, the student who previously knew about the mechanism of action of cyanide was unaffected by the activity – he already knew the answer.

So taken together, despite a very small sample size, there is a suggestion that cellphone use in the classroom might positively affect learning. Maybe just enough of a suggestion that further investigation on the subject is warranted. What do you think? Please leave a comment below.


Anonymous said...

Hi Eric!

Great stuff. Hey -- we are on the same page again. Not sure if you follow Brian Lamb (Abject Learning) but he has some good thoughts on the subject of cell phone (mobile) learning, as well, and a nice selection of links and ideas at:

take care. janet.

Eric said...

Sweet! Thanks Janet! I have visited Brian's blog before. He's one of the people I follow on Twitter as well. Thanks for the link.

Hope you are doing well.

Take care


Katia said...

Hi Eric!

I just came back form E-Learn conference in Las Vegas and there was a conference on text messaging by Alice Camuti. She showed us how to use effectively cell phones in classes with

Take care,


Eric said...


I checked out the website and I see that Poll Everywhere is a live poling system that uses text messaging on a cell phone. That is excellent! I wondered how long it would take for a company to create a service like this. Audience Response Systems (aka. clickers) do the same thing but every participant has to have a clicker with them. By replacing cell phones with clickers, you eliminate the need for your students to purchase a clicker (and as the instructor - you no longer have to purchase and bring to class a receiver).

Did you notice any disadvantage to the product? One question that comes to my mind is 'how fast do the text message responses get to the website'? When I send text messages to people I often note that the delivery time somewhat variable. Will the variable delivery time affect the dynamics of using this in the classroom? I wonder.

Thanks a lot for sharing this! I'm going to try it.


Katia said...

The vote is displayed in real time (2-5 seconds) on the screen of Poll Everywhere. It is free for class of under 30 learners if I am not mistaken. Hope this answered your few questions.

I send you this morning an email in order for you to see and collaborate to a wiki that I have created for the development of courses...did you receive the email?

Have a nice day!