Learning Design from a Student Perspective – Karina’s Journey Part 1

Karina’s Journey Part 1


Here I take you on a short tour of my Learning Design Project, created and developed during the Teachers as Designers session as part of EVO 2016.

The Design Inquiry of Learning includes the following stages:

Imagine > Investigate > Inspire > Ideate > Prototype > Evaluate > Reflect


The context

I teach about 80 students ‘Speaking Skills’ at an institute in Beijing, China. I have four classes, two ‘Sophomore’ classes and two ‘Freshmen’ classes, with around 20 students in each class. They have differing levels, ranging from false beginner, to elementary and up to pre-intermediate. They also have differing goals, ranging from little interest in English, to wanting to take the IELTS test to study abroad. With this range or abilities and goals, it is not always possible to keep all needs satisfied. Overall, there is low motivation and high distraction from mobile devices (which are not allowed and yet still appear..!)

The Personas
Instead of an infographic depicting my students typical personas, I put together a 5 minute video (mostly pictures with loud hip-hop music – sorry!) of me overseeing a Four Corners activity with a Freshmen class. Basically, I put a ‘controversial’ statement on the screen, and they go to one of the four corners (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree), to discuss with their partners and then feedback to the group.
Hopefully the video helps to clarify the physical context, the personas and all the hand-waving I do!

The Objectives

Ideally, I would like my students to see the value of their mobile devices as a means of language practice. Initially I allowed students to keep their mobile devices on their person so as to exploit the audio and video record functions, internet search and dictionary. But alas, they just used them to send wechat messages (and unsolicited photos of me mid-teaching!) So the phones are essentially banished to the front desk throughout the lesson.

More succinctly, the objectives are:

  • To use mobile devices diligently (internet search, dictionary, etc.)
  • To use mobile devices for speaking practice inside and outside the classroom (audio/video functions, vocaroo, etc.)


Existing ICT Activities

I like the emphasis on looking at existing solutions, as, when faced with problems I often feel the need to create something new/never done before. So I was a bit tentative when someone suggested using some existing One Stop English Mobile English (Links to an external site.) lesson plans for inspiration for my Dream. I didn’t want to copy ideas. But now I realise, that’s exactly what I should – and will do!

Cambridge Research Note 56 (from http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/research-and-validation/published-research/research-notes/ ) included action research on analysing & developing speaking fluency using mobile apps, Hitcounter and Ahcounter. They focused on speech rate, non-lexical fillers (um, er, ah) and interjections (so and like, etc.) And students used a class wiki to store their speaking diary entries recorded using Audacity. Well! So many great ideas here!


The Prototype

Here is my prototype – a video introduction of Mobile English:

The Heuristics

Here is a set of heuristics to apply as you review the Mobile English Project video:

1.       Is the activity specific – (a) does it appropriately target young Chinese students ability to use their digital skills and practice language skills? (b) does it train students to give good feedback?

2.       Is the activity measurable – will students’ peer-evaluation and reflection be enough to determine if they have improved their speaking fluency?

3.       Is the activity  attainable – does the project allow for achieving the goal (i.e. developing self-autonomous learners inside and outside of the classroom)?

4.       Is the activity  realistic – (a) is it realistic to expect that independent learning will be developed through this learning design? (b) is it realistic to expect young Chinese learners to be engaged by this activity?

5.       Is the activity time-related – is one lesson (90 minutes) enough time to complete the activity and achieve the goal?

The Learning Activity

In order to achieve the learning objectives mentioned above, I outlined what I wanted to happen, in terms of integrating the use of mobile phones to develop speaking fluency in the English Language classroom:

After being given a controversial statement and reviewing key vocabulary (20 minutes), students will:

a) audio record their opinion (60 seconds)
b) be introduced to 3 speaking sub-skills which they can work on themselves in class/home (speech rate/words per minute, ums and ers, interjections/so and like) (15 minutes)c) be introduced to a simple rubric with which partners may take notes on and analyse recording content (10 minutes)
d) analyse their partner’s audio recording and give feedback as per rubric (5 minutes)
e) receive feedback and have time to consider what they can do to improve (10 minutes)
f) re-record their opinion (60 seconds)
g) repeat step d) (5 minutes)
h) upon receiving 2nd feedback, reflect on the actual improvement, and value of the activity with partner (5 minutes)
i) participate in a group discussion – first sharing their 60 second opinions and their reflections as per step g) (20 minutes)

The Learning Outcomes

The activity has not yet been carried out. But I speculate that my students will…

> learn how to use their phones for speaking practice

> realise that their speaking isn’t too bad, and they know have a method to practice and improve on their own

> leave the class feeling positive and motivated about learning & improving their English skills.

The Evaluation & The Reflection

I plan to run try out my activity with my students in June 2016, so please stay tuned for deeper reflections on my heuristics, a more detailed lesson plan, plus a full evaluation – with pictures and video, if possible!

Learning Design from a Student Perspective – Karina’s Journey Part 1
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