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Students learn through mobile phones


For most university students having their mobiles switched on during lectures will, at best, earn them a withering glare from tutors – but not the University of Portsmouth’s technology students, who are learning via their mobiles.

The eight-week pilot requires students to keep their mobiles on during lab sessions and aims to mprove learning and unlock hidden potential in quieter students.

The Interactive Personal Response Information System (iPRISm), designed by electronic and computer engineering lecturer, Manish Malik, sets questions which students can respond to using either university mobiles or their own phones.

Once they have texted the answers, the lecturer can identify the areas where the class might need more guidance.

The system records the students’ responses and then displays the summary of results to the class. If a student responds incorrectly they are sent automated personalised feedback and another question to answer. This all happens in less than five minutes.

“Today’s young people are so at home with technology, it makes sense to use it as much as possible in a learning environment,” said Manish.

“The Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? style of voting has been around for years but by giving feedback, I have added a completely new level. Students can keep the information on their phones and therefore re-engage whenever they wish.

“I am sure that the use of this technology will encourage interaction and boost results.”

Manish employs a problem-based learning (PBL) style that encourages students to take an experimental and collaborative approach to learning. In this approach teachers act as facilitators who are there to offer advice and guidance.

“The idea of the iPRISm is to combine a PBL approach with the latest available technology. By using mobile phones I am hoping that quieter students in the class will now have the opportunity to be heard.”

After receiving funding from the University of Portsmouth ExPERT (Excellence in Professional development through Education, Research and Technology) Centre, Manish enlisted the help of Paul Watkin, a final year electronic engineering student, to write the code for the system as part of his final year project.

“By writing the code Paul has made a huge contribution and I am delighted to say that he will be graduating this July with flying colours,” Manish said.

Manish’s next step is to use Bluetooth technology to develop the system even further. Bluetooth is a wireless technology that provides a way to connect and exchange information between devices, such as laptops and mobile phones, at close range.

“This means that students could download information that they currently see on screens around campus to their mobiles. They could use their phones to partake in instant university polls and surveys.

“When the iPRISm has been fully developed it could easily be used by the council or other local services wanting to engage with the general public,” said Manish.


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