Digital management systems in the classroom with a focus on tablets

Author: Patrick Armstrong

Armstrong, Patrick, 2020 Digital management systems in the classroom with a focus on tablets, Flinders University, College of Science and Engineering

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Mobile learning is an unavoidable emergent aspect of education and is recognized as such by most people involved in the education field. However, schools and teachers face a number of unique challenges when looking at how best to employ devices in the classroom. No matter the number of commercial applications one of the key elements remains the willingness of teachers themselves to make use of technology. When looking at various computing devices, tablet and mobile options can offer an alternative to laptops in the classroom and can provide a number of benefits to teachers as either a primary or complementary device. Teachers need simple to use and simple to learn software that does not require significant professional development investment, especially in the field of classroom management software. This thesis examines the way teachers digitally manage classroom environments and looks to explore what makes usable and learnable management systems when applied to tablet devices.

In this work the pedagogical framework in which teachers look to employ mobile devices and the major factors that impact their willingness to employ them in the classroom was examined. A survey was conducted with the target population to assist in understanding how schools view the use of tablet devices in the classroom, the ways in which they look to employ them, how the institutions themselves are adapting to the influx of mobile devices and managing the policies and infrastructure required to maximize their benefit. The research also looked at the ability of tablet devices to act as a content creation device rather than purely consumption, examined how efficient the different methods of textual input were as well as how students themselves perceive the effectiveness of different hardware and software keyboards.

Initial investigations identified that teachers would like to make use of these mobile devices more and that they could act as a substitute for laptops. To investigate this an application was created that would allow teachers to digitally manage classroom tasks. This application looked to provide a simple and highly learnable interface that required little training to employ and allowed the teacher to control the storing and access of data themselves. It ensured collaborative mobile learning ideas are utilised to provide channels for peer to peer, collaboration and grouping, student to teacher communication channels and document distribution, and management in a device agnostic manner. Two usability studies were conducted with volunteers which resulted in a zero fail rate in users executing a spread of single and multiple function tasks. The application also achieved an above average overall rating on the System Usability Scale. Following these tests, the application was deployed to the target population in a primary school classroom for a 2-hour lesson block, acting as a companion management tool to the existing lesson structure. During this lesson the application was utilised successfully by the students with limited issues or problems. After the test the application was again rated and found to have above average usability by the participants. Overall, the software performed well and users could learn to navigate and utilise the application feature set with little (or no) training or practice. Users also found that it was very easy to repeat tasks once they successfully completed a task.

This work’s contribution includes a greater understanding of what creates usable and learnable tablet interfaces and the importance of providing teachers a low cost, simple and usable digital management solution that is focused at the classroom level. The work also suggests that interfaces can be developed that remove the need for professional development time to be invested in learning the technical and sometimes redundant aspects of software usage. Finally, the research presented the importance for teachers to have access to these simple systems to allow them to choose the pedagogical application solutions that best meet their teaching needs.

Keywords: HCI, Human-Computer Interaction, Tablet, Mobile, Learning management system, Education, ClaMApp

Subject: Computer Science thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2020
School: College of Science and Engineering
Supervisor: Brett Wilkinson