Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Expert System-Based Context-Aware Ubiquitous Learning Approach for Conducting Science Learning Activities

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

An Expert System-Based Context-Aware Ubiquitous Learning Approach for Conducting Science Learning Activities

Article excerpt

Background and objectives

Educators have indicated the importance of learning from observing or interacting with real-world learning targets (Arnseth, 2008; Rogers et al., 2005). In the traditional approach, a teacher usually needs to guide dozens of students to learn in the field or in science laboratories to interact with those learning targets (Hwang & Chang, 2011; Lin, Hsieh, & Chuang, 2009; Wu, Hwang, Su, & Huang, 2012). Researchers have indicated that such a learning approach has several problems. One is the lack of personalized learning guidance and feedback, since a teacher usually needs to face dozens of students; therefore, some students might fail to keep up with the teaching progress (Shih, Chuang, & Hwang, 2010). Another problem is the lack of an effective tool to help the students organize their findings during the observing and detecting process; consequently, the students might memorize some features of individual learning targets, but without being able to compare and differentiate them (Hwang, Chu, Lin, & Tsai, 2011).

The advancements of mobile and wireless communication technologies seem to provide an opportunity to cope with these problems (Looi et al., 2009; Peng et al., 2009). More and more studies that use mobile and wireless communication technologies to conduct real-world learning activities have been reported in recent years. For example, Wong, Chin, Tan and Liu (2010) developed a mobile learning environment to conduct Chinese idiom learning activities; Hwang and Chang (2011) emplyed mobile and wireless communication technologies to support in-field learning activities of a social science course. Some researchers have further employed sensing technologies, such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and QR (Quick Response) codes, to detect the location of students during the learning process (Chen, Chang, & Wang, 2008; Hwang, Kuo, Yin, & Chuang, 2010; Ogata & Yano, 2004). With the help of sensing technologies, students can easily access supplementary materials on the server without inputting web addresses or requests; instead, they only need to read the tags on the learning targets with the sensing devices (Chen et al., 2009; Hwang, Wu, & Ke, 2011; Hwang, Wu, Zhuang, & Huang, 2013; Lin, 2007). Hwang, Tsai and Yang (2008) have named such a learning approach that employs mobile, wireless communication and sensing technologies to provide learning supports in real-world environments context-aware ubiquitous learning, which is called u-learning in the following discussions for short.

In the meantime, researchers have pointed out the necessity of providing effective learning strategies or tools to assist students in interpreting and organizing what they have learned from such authentic learning environments with complex and rich resources (Chu, Hwang, & Tsai, 2010; Hwang, Shi, & Chu, 2011; Chiou, Tseng, Hwang, & Heller, 2010; Hwang, Wu, & Kuo, 2013). Jonassen, Carr, and Yueh (1998, p. 1) have formally defined such tools as "Mindtools," which they describe as "Computer applications that, when used by learners to represent what they know, necessarily engage them in critical thinking about the content they are studying."

Among the existing approaches to developing Mindtools, expert systems have been recognized as being an effective tool for providing personalized guidance or suggestions based on domain knowledge elicited from experts or experienced teachers (Cragun & Steudel, 1987; Edwards, McDonald, & Young, 2009; Jankowicz, 2004). Researchers have indicated that, with the help of expert systems, students are able to reorganize their knowledge for identifying the similarities and differences between learning targets (Ford, Petry, Adams-Webber, & Chang, 1991; Hwang, Chu, Lin, & Tsai, 2011; Jonassen, Carr, & Yueh, 1998). Among various objectives of science education, fostering identification and differentiating competences of students has been recognized as being an important and challenging aim (National Research Council, 2000). …

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