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Kara Monroe

Helping Mobile "Catch On"

Posted by Kara Monroe May 31, 2017

It seems hard to think of for those of us that take our cell phones and tablets for granted - but for many students - and for that case - faculty, mobile is not something on their mind.


We're a new Canvas institution. As we did our LMS needs analysis process we weren't shocked to find that faculty said that by and large students come to class with a mobile device in hand.  However, being at a large, statewide institution there are broad disparities in the capabilities of those devices and the access students have to high speed Internet when they are not on campus.


Looking at possible solutions to this fuzzy situation has brought about a lot of creative thinking but I'm wondering if other higher ed institutions of a broad scale have tackled the device and Internet question with tablets - and if so - how have you gone about it?

In the spirit of the current Mobile Quest (Mobilize Your Assignments), I want to share some of the results of my mobile Photography I final I assign to my high school students.


Throughout the entire semester, I emphasize the Elements of Art (line, shape, form, color, value, texture, space) and Principles of Design (rhythm/pattern, contrast, balance, emphasis, movement, proportion, unity). The other key topic, besides the camera settings themselves, is composition.


Initially, I created this final in a last-ditch effort to have students showcase their understanding of key course vocabulary. Until last semester, I generally had students create a cumulative portfolio, but when our student server crashed, I had to come up with something practical and enjoyable. That's when I came up with the Mobile Final!


Each student was required to have the Canvas by Instructure app installed on their personal smartphone. This part was easy since most of my students already had it on their devices! Then, students could choose from a variety of editing apps, but I suggested Snapseed (iOS + Android) and Pixlr (iOS + Android). This way, they'd be prepared to take the photographs, edit, and submit their work...all from their personal devices. I thought this was amazing since the entire activity could be done outside and within the hour-long time restraint of our scheduled final.


In their "Photo I Final" module, I added the following prompts, each as their own assignment:

  • Leading Lines - "Capture an image that utilizes leading lines. How can lines help guide a viewer through your image?"
  • Framing - "Capture an image that contains an excellent example of Framing. Framing is a technique that photographers use to help emphasize their subject. How can you surround a subject with other objects to exaggerate the importance of the subject?"
  • Exaggerated Perspective - "Capture an image that exaggerates perspective. Consider a subject, but then think about how foreshortening changes the way a viewer would interpret the images. (A good place to start would be worm's-eye-view...but don't be afraid to look at extreme angles of all types.)"
  • Rule of Thirds - "Capture an image that utilizes Rule of Thirds." Composition is everything! Demonstrate your knowledge of this key compositional tool."
  • Macro - "Capture a beautiful macro image. Get up close and personal with an object and emphasize texture!"


Each had their own directions and rubric. Students liked how they knew exactly what they needed to accomplish, and yet, they had some freedom on how to interpret the prompts.  It was amazing how many compliments I received about this mobile experience. Needless to say, this activity was repeated this semester...with warmer weather. Again, these students enjoyed the active learning and being able to demonstrate their learning, rather than only being evaluated what they could communicate on a written final.


This will be something that I continue to do. The unique combination of assigning a written final with a later (mobile) skills final really does provide me with some great ways to assess student learning.


Here are some highlights from each term:

Photo I 2016-2017, Semester 1

Photo I 2016-2017, Semester 2


Mobile On!

First off, I'm new. I'm new to Instructional Design. My route here was through teaching K12 and adjuncting online for a community college and then joining that college as its Instructional Designer. However, I've noticed one truth: most instructors are the same. Whether in K12 or Higher Ed, instructors break into two camps (probably more, but for the sake of time..). First, you have the innovators, the goal setters, the go-getters. These instructors will break everything in sight if they think it will do something new that will help their students. Then, you have instructors who are stuck. Stuck in their way of doing things, their ideas and concepts of the world, and how they instruct. With these two camps in mind, I have started conversations about increasing mobile accessibility in our courses, both online and face to face. Why? Because student's are using them.


We did a survey this semester to check on how our students are accessing their information. What we found was from the 2,200 students who took the survey, 83% of them use a smart phone, a tablet, a laptop, or some combination of the three. 42% noted using a tablet or a smart phone. This is a large portion of our students! I am sure that other institutions have found similar information in their own surveys. However, this data does nothing unless we do something with it. So, we've begun the conversation of how to make mobile friendly courses.


I have been so thankful for the Canvas Community and Canvas Live! sessions on Mobile, as it has given me a lot of information to share with our faculty on how they can easily begin addressing mobile accessibility. Things like chunking their content and thinking through their use of color, bolding and italics. Simple things like redesigning assignments so students interact with the world around them. Some will be excited and start the process. Some won't do anything unless it is required.


While I am excited on starting this journey with our instructors, I already know the ones who will resist. I'll be told that their content is not able to be used on mobile. Their assignments require a full computer. And while some of that may be true, resisting mobile accessibility only diminishes the experience their students have. Because there is only one truth: mobile learning is not coming. It is here.

Sitting in a work group this morning we discussed several new initiatives coming our way. As the team leader responded to inquiries on how new platform updates would impact what students see as they log into the LMS this fall, several alerts cascaded down from the top: an email received, a 15-minute reminder for the next calendar event, a text message. As I think more about designing courses with mobile in mind, this stands out to me.


The impact of distraction on learning is a hot topic in my house as my daughter heads off to college in just a few months. I feel I have such a short time left to reinforce some positive study habits which have gone awry senior year. Lately, I’ve noticed her flipping between algebra homework, YouTube, and online games. I find myself slipping her gentle reminders on the impact this is having on her test performance as I remind myself she’s an adult now.


Pennies cause accidents


Not that long ago I was an online graduate student myself. The mobile app for the LMS was handy for staying up-to-date with assignment changes and class discussions. It was an easy way to read journal articles as I sat waiting for Girl Scout meetings to end and the like. As I prepare to develop content-specific study resources using our LMS for our more traditional students, I’m looking at it much less as a convenient add-on and more as a learning engine. How can I manage the distribution of instruction in a way that laughs in the face of distraction?


Chunking information and repeated testing is the approach I imagine. What kind of time can I ask for - fifteen minutes? Give me fifteen minutes without clicking on that alert, and you can feel better about your comprehension of “how cancer can be linked to overactive positive cell cycle regulators.” How do I track that learning for students? Where do they see their progress through a module?


In my traditional course design, I use end-of-module checklists, visual timeline graphics at the top of a page, and the like. These options, though they are somewhat flexible, still seem fairly linear. I still imagine myself sitting down at my laptop every evening at 10 o’clock as a graduate student and going through the checklist for the week. It doesn’t seem useful for truly flexible mobile delivery. For anyone who uses the Canvas LMS for this type of chunked mobile learning, how do you address progress tracking?

Nicholas Jones

Mobile Method Man

Posted by Nicholas Jones May 2, 2017

Mobile learning represents an interesting case study of the kinds of problems we will encounter with educational technology in general. It's technology that is old enough to be widespread, but still new enough to not be ubiquitous or firmly integrated with praxis. We think its cool, but we're not sure what to do with it yet. What I'm most curious about is what sets mobile technology apart from other tools available to educators. What can mobile learning do that other things can't? Here's what I came up with:


Mobile is... 


  1. Mobile — Literally, learners can get up and move around with a mobile device; its easier for learners to take their assignments into the world and make them interactive. They can have your guidance available while they are engaging with the work in a way that's unique to them. I think of an engineering class where students have to document types of mechanical advantage they can see in their neighborhood, or a project where students try to extrapolate the quantity of materials used to construct a building based on external observation. 
  2. Immediate — Learners can interact on-the-fly with your content, or quickly provide fresh feedback. Imagine a psychology class where students recorded brief interviews in public. Perhaps your assignment could be to live tweet a cultural event. Although solemn, dry academic writing can have a purpose, it really doesn't provide insight into how students are actively working there way through a problem; its necessarily summative. The immediacy of mobile learning can encourage a level of frankness not easily accessed in a traditional classroom environment.
  3. Extensible — If you are able to ensure access to a mobile device (probably a smart phone) to everyone in your class, you have a solid platform for trying out new processes/technology without investing much in the way of additional resources. You could try out an augmented reality activity using something like Quiver to have them activate convergent and divergent thinking. New tools are just a download away.


I'd love to hear how you have incorporated mobile learning into your lessons, or if there are things you've found that are only possible through mobile learning. Of course I also love juicy drama, so I'm up for when your mobile plans fell apart, too.  Thanks for reading!

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