Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Supporting Classroom Activities with the BSUL System

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Supporting Classroom Activities with the BSUL System

Article excerpt


This paper presents the integration of ubiquitous computing systems into classroom settings, in order to provide basic support for classrooms and field activities. We have developed web application components using Java technology and configured a classroom with wireless network access and a web camera for our purposes. In this classroom, the students interact among each other and with the professor through an Internet-enabled personal digital assistant (PDA), using the different modules described in this paper. We include our evaluations about the performance and usability of the system in a computer science related course of the University of Tokushima, other practical uses including outdoor learning activities, and future research and development work.


Ubiquitous learning, Mobile learning, PDA, GPS


Generally, it is possible to say that in the upcoming years, it will become more and more common to see students bring mobile devices into the classroom. This means that mobile devices will be an embedded tool for supporting their learning process, in the same way a pencil, a ruler or a calculator does. Early evaluations suggest teachers and students respond to mobile devices favorably. For example, 90 percent of teachers in a study of 100 Palm-equipped classrooms reported that handhelds were effective instructional tools with the potential to affect student learning positively across curricular topics and instructional activities (Roschelle, 2003). Roschelle classified classroom applications in four categories:

1. Classroom response systems allow teachers to obtain responses from the students in a classroom. The system can recall the students' answers and if applicable, create tables, histograms, or any other graphs (statistical studies, polls, etc.). This information then helps the teacher to be aware of each learner's individual performance. The Educlick system, which consists of a set of wireless response devices and a response signal receiver, is a wireless response collecting system for promoting interaction between teachers and students, which increases students' level of interest and holds their attention. In particular, students in Japan are very quiet and passive in the classroom. Therefore, response systems will be very helpful to increase students' interactions.

2. Participatory simulations coordinate a group of learners to conduct simulations through the data exchange among students. The students are able to learn about many scientific phenomena by acting as agents of simulations in real phenomena. For example, the Virus Game was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Colella, Borovoy, & Resnick, 1998) to explain the process of how a virus is spread. Participatory simulation system for learning sort algorithm (PSSLSA) (Yin, Ogata, & Yano, 2006) also allows participatory simulation for learning sort algorithms where learners switch positions in ascending or descending sequence.

3. Collaborative data gathering systems help learners gain experience from real life, and deeply understand what they have learned. The learners touch and feel the actual objects, photograph them, and bring them back to the classroom (Kravcik, Kaibel, Specht, & Terrengi, 2004). A very popular scenario is water-quality evaluation. Students take their Palms and probes to a stream, and each student takes measurements at different points. The students exchange their data by beaming, and they use handhelds to graph and analyze the combined data set after going back to the classroom. Another example, the bird-watching assistance system (Chen, Kao, & Sheu, 2003), enables students to take photos of birds outside the classroom with handheld devices and to communicate with teachers and other students.

4. There are many other applications for mobile learning. For example, PiCoMap allows learners to make their own concept maps with mobile devices and exchange them by beaming them to one another. …

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