Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

To Txt or Not to Txt: That's the Puzzle

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

To Txt or Not to Txt: That's the Puzzle

Article excerpt


Promoting classroom interaction has been shown to enhance learning (Anderson, 2002; Markett, Sanchez, Weber, & Tangney, 2006). However, encouraging participation and deploying learning activities in large classes that range in size from 100 to 200 students can be very challenging. One way in which the problem can be overcome is by the use of information and communications technology (ICT).

An emerging ICT that can be deployed to engage students is the audience response system (ARS), or personal response system (PRS). Positive learning experience has been reported through the use of ARSs (Eggert, West & Thomas, 2004). The ARS uses wireless keypad technology, also known as clicker technology, for real-time communication with a server. However, one issue with wireless keypad, or clicker, technology is that it may have a restricted duration license. Often the license to use the system is limited to a single semester (Purdue, 2006) and a new license must be purchased for use to continue. Updating the license is normally done through the purchase of a new code. Frequently this is also tied to textbook purchase (OSU, 2006). Another limitation of clicker technology is that it has restricted functionality; it cannot provide responses that require text entry. Normally an ARS only uses multiple choice questions with a projector screen. The adoption of clicker technology as an ARS for classroom interaction, though very useful, is thus not ideal. There is consequently a need to look beyond clicker technology to achieve classroom interaction. The solution should provide an interesting and motivational medium to promote learning and interaction, while at the same time it should minimize the need for students to purchase hardware.

One of the most omnipresent gadgets carried by university students nowadays is the mobile phone. Mobile phones seem to have become the most popular communication devices for the current Y generation, irrespective of country or culture. For example, in China the latest statistics from the Ministry of Information Industry (MII) show that the short message service (SMS) of mobile phones in China hit an historical record in the first quarter of 2006 with the daily average number of SMS messages sent reaching 1.098 billion (China SMS, 2006).

Therefore, the idea of adopting the use of the mobile phone with SMS capability as a PRS presented an appealing and practical option to be explored.

Objectives of the Study

With this in mind, the objectives of this study were, firstly, to explore the feasibility of using the SMS facility of mobile phones to promote learning through the use of an SMS crossword puzzle activity in a classroom environment. The second objective was to examine the motivational capacity of using a mobile phone--specifically for an SMS crossword puzzle--for learning purposes.

The third objective, which is related to the second objective, was to explore the potential adoption of such a system as an educational tool by students. Simply, the objectives aim to understand whether, if a system is developed, users (students) will use it and what factors will motivate them to do so.

This paper thus initially provides an overview of the relevant literature. Firstly, the use of SMS in education is explored, then the motivation aspect of games in the context of learning, and finally, the SMS technology. The next section describes an SMS crossword system that was based on the literature and was developed to promote learning activity in the classroom. The last two sections provide more detail of the implementation and evaluation of the SMS crossword system with respect to the stated objectives.

Background Literature

SMS in Education

The adoption of SMS as an educational tool has recently become popular in education. For example, Lian (2003) developed an innovative teaching strategy that effectively integrates SMS technology into the teaching and learning process. …

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