Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Mindtool-Assisted In-Field Learning (MAIL): An Advanced Ubiquitous Learning Project in Taiwan

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Mindtool-Assisted In-Field Learning (MAIL): An Advanced Ubiquitous Learning Project in Taiwan

Article excerpt

Background and objectives

Learning Technology (LT), as a trans-disciplinary, professional field of leading human developments and innovations in various situations, disciplines, settings, and industries with advanced technological uses, is always in need of creative applications of hard and soft technologies in order to bring about positive changes (Jonassen, 2004; Liu, 2008). Many educators have identified the importance of situating students in real-world contexts for developing and acquiring knowledge and skills (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Lave, 1991; Wong & Looi, 2011). In the meantime, researchers have also pointed out the importance of providing personalized learning supports or knowledge sharing facilities during in-field activities (Sharples, Milrad, Arnedillo-Sanchez, & Vavoula, 2009; So, Seow, & Looi, 2009). The popularity of mobile and wireless information and communication technologies (ICT) has provided good opportunities which match this emerging trend in LT; moreover, the advancement of sensing technology has further enabled learning systems to detect real-world information with various types of information- generating e-readers and e-tags. With the help of these technologies, students are able to learn anytime, anywhere. That is, they are encouraged to learn in various real-world environments with supports from and access to the digitalized world (Hwang, Tsai, Chu, Kinshuk, & Chen, 2012; Looi et al., 2009; Wong, 2012); moreover, dynamic learning systems are developed for the user to engage in more active interactions with other learners as well as the learning system itself (Ogata, Li, Hou, Uosaki, El-Bishouty, & Yano, 2011; Okamoto & Tseng, 2008). Generally speaking, this kind of learning strategy has been called "context-aware ubiquitous learning," and is a state-of-the- art, particular form of ubiquitous learning (u-learning) as defined by Hwang, Tsai and Yang (2008).

Recently, context-aware u-learning has become a popular issue and research topic in the area of e-learning (Ogata & Yano, 2004; Sollervall, Otero, Milrad, Vogel, & Johansson, 2012; Syvanen, Beale, Sharples, Ahonen, & Lonsdale, 2005). Researchers have attempted to conduct context-aware u-learning activities for various courses; however, it has been found that, without effective learning strategies or tools, students' learning performance could be disappointing (Chu, Hwang, & Tsai, 2010; Chen & Li, 2009; Liu, Peng, Wu, & Lin, 2009). Several studies have pointed out that u-learning scenarios could be too complex for most students without some proper guidance or supports, because the students need to make use of both real-world and digitalized world learning resources at the same time (Shih, Hwang, Chu, & Chuang, 2011). Therefore, it has become an important and challenging issue to provide effective learning supports in mobile or ubiquitous learning activities.

Among the various learning strategies and tools, Mindtools have been recognized as an effective way of assisting students to learn in complicated learning contexts with all kinds of ICT. Educators have indicated that "technologies should not support learning by attempting to instruct the learners, but rather should be used as knowledge construction tools that students learn with, not from" (Jonassen, Carr, & Yueh, 1998, p. 1). Mindtools are cognition tools that are able to assist students to think and learn in a meaningful and constructive way through stimulating them to expand their cognitive ability in interpreting, analyzing, synthesizing and organizing their knowledge. Jonassen (1999) defined Mindtools as "a way of using a computer application program to engage learners in constructive, higher-order critical thinking about the subjects they are studying" (p. 9). With the assistance of Mindtools, students' knowledge can be constructed to reflect what they have learned and realized, instead of merely memorizing or recalling content taught by their teachers. …

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