Tue 8th August 2017 - 18:50

Connecting school and real life: reframing homework

This case study describes PoLPs (Possibility of Learning Places), a project exploring the possibilities of creating a tool to allow small communities of (4th-6th grade) students to create and review their homework assignments.

The main goal of the project was to gain knowledge about learning in context through technology. We also wanted to test if 10-12-year-old students can be active learning content producers. Consequently, this knowledge could be analysed and applied to get more meaningful data from learning processes and more qualitative learning analytics. Ideally, the project could also test family engagement, educators’ productivity, and the learning outcomes and engagement of children with their homework.

In this case study we will start by analysing the main characteristics of the school system and traditional views of education focusing on learning from experience. We will then describe new theories of learning that have evolved or have been revisited due to the influence of technology in education. And lastly, we will describe the concept of a platform that tries to connect the best of formal learning with the best of informal learning through technology.

The Possibility of Learning Places Network is an app that provides a digital platform for children to learn from each other but based on the world around them. For this first prototype we chose to work with children aged 10-12 who are doing their maths classes.

The goal of the network is to create local and connected learning communities that allow them to explore and discover the world around them. The main drive of the project is to connect what children learn in school with their everyday lives, providing the opportunity for homework which is creative and involves being outdoors. The communities are formed by teachers and students showing their real-life subjects or grades. It is an open tool so parents and guardians can also join.

Key aspects:

  • Mobile technology is used to explore the world around us. Children can use technology in an isolating way where the screen becomes their world. We try to evoke curiosity and provide the opportunity to create questions.
  • The network is created by people who know each other and who see each other in real life on a daily basis.
  • Creativity and collaboration are rewarded more than competition.

All the work is done by children and teachers. The app provides a platform to allow them to do so in a creative, personal and fun way e.g., choosing subjects. The tool also promotes social media creation and communication skills.

How it works

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This image shows a problem created by two children in one of the participatory design workshops.

There are two ways for people to use this network:

  • Create and publish localised (maths) content using photos. children can draw over images and write problems for them. For example, imagine you are a teacher explaining multiplication to your students and, as homework, you ask them to create PoLPs (take pictures or sounds etc.) from their surroundings that are an example of multiplication. A student could take a picture of the windows of an office building, create a problem about it and upload it to share with their class.
  • Find and solve PoLPs in the areas created by other groups and classmates. There is an option to receive notifications of local PoLPs. Instead of completing homework sitting in your room, you can go out and find problems created by your classmates and get points solving, correcting and improving other children’s problems.

Children can also comment on published PoLPs. Children work in groups of three to four members.

Groups are organised within classes and schools, so there is a growing hierarchy and challenges range from an individual level up to the highest level (person, group, class, grade).

Teachers (and parents) can also participate creating problems. 

Process

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Prototype made by a 10-year-old girl in one of the user interviews

We followed a design ethnography and participatory design method working with children throughout the whole process. We also interviewed children during research while trying to understand their likes and feelings when learning and playing.

We run workshops with students to get inspiration from students’ designs and mock-ups. 

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This is a general view of the navigation of the first prototype

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This is a detail of one of the screens. It is a paper prototype in order to encourage testers to suggest changes and improvements

Next steps

A new prototype is being created which allows for testing with children and teachers in a real life setting.

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