“We really enjoy using our smartphones for Science and English classes, it makes going to school and doing homework so much more fun!” said one of the participating students during an event at Nan Chiau Primary School in Singapore. The school and its students are part of the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Future Schools program that promotes the use of ICT for education and learning.
Nan Chiau Primary School, together with Qualcomm Wireless Reach, the National Institute of Education, the University of Michigan, Microsoft, Nokia and Singtel, launched the WE Learn project in March 2012 and provided 350 third-grade students, teachers and staff at the school with 3G mobile devices and Internet access in order to complement the school’s curriculum and teaching processes.
The purpose of the project is to explore the ways that mobile technology can enable movement from a traditional, teacher-centric model to a student-centric, inquiry-oriented and collaborative model. As a result of this effort, Nan Chiau Primary School has now become a model for primary schools in Singapore that are implementing 21st century classrooms.
In celebration of this work, supporters of the WE Learn project gathered at Nan Chiau Primary School last week to celebrate its first anniversary and shared its results. Dr. Elliot Soloway, an Arthur F. Thurnau professor from the University of Michigan, has worked closely with the school to develop applications as well as the technology for the project and was pleased to report that “students using the smartphone-enabled curriculum became more independent and inquisitive, and improved their test scores in areas of self-directed and collaborative learning. These are the 21st century skills that we want to help students develop to compete in a world that requires people to think critically and creatively, solve problems and make decisions as a team.”
A study of the project confirmed that students who used smartphones for their English and science classes were more confident and engaged when asking and responding to questions and improved their spoken English.
Aside from sharing the positive results, I was honored to join our fellow project partners to announce plans to expand the WE Learn program in 2013. This expansion will include an additional 300 students from Nan Chiau Primary School’s fourth-grade class. The project’s mobile learning platform (MyDesk, running on Windows Phone) and educational applications will also be enhanced.
Immediately after the announcement, fourth-grade teacher Jenny Lee provided a demonstration of how smartphones are being used in her science classes. After being separated into small groups, students were asked to take photos of magnetic toys from different angles and to share these photos and their observations of the magnetic toy. Students were able to gather information online using their smartphones and discuss and collaborate with other students on their findings. I found it particularly interesting to see the ways that smartphones were being used to facilitate learning in a multitude of ways—through text, drawings, audio and visual recordings and student-to-student collaboration.
We are proud to be part of the WE Learn project as it is a clear example of how mobile devices and software can be used to complement traditional teaching methods and facilitate improved learning outcomes. I encourage other organizations to support similar projects to expand the reach of mobile in education.
To learn more about the WE Learn project, please see our case study.