Using iPhones with student teachers has always been my mission in the hope that I will engage our future primary teachers with today's technology and education's future tools for learning.
So why, after planning an input, organising and managing the hardware, testing the set of devices and implementing do I not feel the wow factor that I normally enthuse when waxing lyrical about handheld learning?
A simple answer - the technology let me down!!! I can't believe I am saying this but there are lessons to be learnt from this experience. If you are looking at using handhelds with children, students and adults then read on as the lessons learnt may assist you to achieve success rather than failure.
The planned activity for the third year student teachers was to engage the students in a fun outdoor activity using my set of iPhones and the software and App GPSMission
. Students were to work in groups to complete the mission I had previously created around University of Dundee called 'Santa's Deliveries'
The preparation work, prior to the activity, took over an hour where the following :
1. Assign each handset a desktop picture with the iPhones name to distinguish all the black iphones as they all look the same. Did not want to put stickers on them as felt it would tarnish their design!
2. Created seven email accounts at google mail
for each handset so that individual accounts for each iPhone could be created at GPSMission. Individual accounts are required with GPSMission where you have multiple people playing the game at the same time. The application does not allow more than one person using the same login therefore I created Handheld01, Handheld02 etc...
3. Log each iPhone into GPSMission using the designated login created above.
4. Charge all iPhones up.
5. Create the Santa's Deliveries Mission using my GPSMission account that incorporated clues related to location, riddles at location, pictures, audio and video to be taken and different locations to ensure students experienced using the different tools in the one device. All media would be sent to my personal iPhone to ensure privacy was adhered to.
6. Go around campus and test out mission with phones (I did get funny looks with all these devices on my possession!)
The above did take sometime to set-up, however, like any activity that is new, more time is required during the initial preparation stage. This is similar to getting a new IWB in class or software, you need to spend time setting the technology up for users.
With eager students waiting to take up the challenge wearing various Christmas accessories (yes it is still November but they are future primary teachers) I explained the mission and set each group off in five minute intervals.
The buzz of excitement was tremendous and once they had all departed I logged on to GPSMission and sat back to await the various media to come flooding in as the students worked their way around the different missions.
Well it was too good to be true, only one group managed to get a GPS signal and all the other groups were not able to engage in the activity. They were disappointed but not as disappointed as I was. Why did it work earlier and not now? Why would it not pick up the GPS signal? Was it because they started off with the wireless connected rather than 3G? In my search for an answer I came up with the following:
Here's how you fix it:
- Go to settings, general, auto-lock, change it from 1 Minute to NEVER
- Go to settings, general, reset, reset network settings (THIS WILL REBOOT YOUR IPHONE)
- Go outside, in a clear place with NO tree's, buildings, or anything blocking your view of the sky
- Open "MAPS", click NO on all that wi-fi, then click the little gps icon, and let it sync up with the satellites (this could take a few minutes)
I tried the above and it still is not working. So went back to the thought that is is because the wireless was activated first but Apple say that GPS works on wireless and 3G so that does not match with my theory.
GPS (Global Positioning System) technology uses information from earth-orbiting satellites to find locations. A-GPS (Assisted GPS) on iPhone 3GS goes a step further, finding the closest satellites to more quickly identify your position. If you’re not within a clear line of sight to a GPS satellite, iPhone finds you via Wi-Fi. If you’re not in range of a Wi-Fi hotspot, iPhone finds you using cellular towers. The size of a location circle tells you how accurately iPhone is able to calculate that location: The smaller the circle, the more accurate the location. iPhone also offers a built-in digital compass that automatically repositions maps to match the direction you’re facing
I am currently testing out different settings to ascertain which gives the best and most reliable GPS signal and will amend post with findings.
Now it was not only technology that let me down but my own assumptions that students would be able to work the iPhones as they are all digital natives and I think it is a simple device to operate. This assumption was incorrect as the iPhone is not like your normal mobile devices just like an apple mac is not like a standard PC. Time is required to acclimatise with the device and how it works. In my eagerness to get students to undertake the mission I forgot to teach them the basic IT skills first: how to access their email to send media, how to use voice recorder, how to use video, how to use the touch screen etc... Things I take for granted were not demonstrated which was a large error on my part and made me reflect on my theory that technology should not just be put into educator's hands they should be taught how it will deepen their learning and how to use it. A bit like the government putting IWBs into classrooms but not providing the training to accompany it.
On reflection of some of the problems the students encountered, where they said they could not send media as an account had not been set up. This was due to the students selecting the 'mail' icon on the device which is matched to a specific email account. This had not been set up as I presumed the students would use the Internet to open their own email accounts and send me the information. The students did not take this route whereas they saw the 'mail' option would not connect and presumed it did not work. My mindset with technology is always to try another route when things fail, however, this is not the way all think and even our digital natives took the barrier route rather than the detour. To counteract this happening again I assigned all handsets to their email accounts that I had previously set up earlier in the day when I thought I was organised! This is a much better system as it means students only use the accounts that are set up by the teacher providing a safer learning device.
My journey through implementing handheld learning is not a straight road to the destination but more like the hills of Scotland: rough and rugged with twisting paths that lead to unknown destinations.
If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all.