Not on Technology Alone – ‘The Pedagogy of Augmented Learning’ Evaluation of an Experimental Program

Dr Liat Eyal, Max Sivan, Sigal Almi-Melman, Irit Cohen

Abstract

The purpose of the current study was to examine the attitudes of teachers and students about a model developed at the Shevah Mofet experimental school, called ‘The pedagogy of augmented learning’. This model seeks to respond to educational challenges in the post-modern era, and is based on a three stage educational process: (a) integrating learners in a dynamic and pluralistic reality; (b) providing a personal interpretation into reality according to the values fitting each learner and that he/she wishes to adopt; (c) socially productive and proactive activity which enables each student to voice his/her personal voice, using advanced technologies. The principles of the model are concerned with essential learning subjects, flexibility in curriculum and learning spaces, autonomy for teachers and students and an emphasis on producing results based on advanced technologies with a high social value. 88 junior high school students and 15 teachers participated in the study. The research employed a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. The findings demonstrate a high level of satisfaction with the model’s application, both among students and teachers. The challenges facing teachers are leading group processes and the need for training in guiding project-based processes characterized by sophisticated technological infrastructures. The main conclusions are that keeping the educational and pedagogical promise underpinning the integration of technology depends on the ability of schools to lead and assimilate processes at every organizational level.

Key words:  education in the post-modern era; education for values, technology in education, augmented reality, evaluation research

Introduction

Despite returns that have occurred in the reality of our lives, it appears that the education system continues to operate as a closed system, resistant to change.  As a by-product, most schools and curricula also prepare learners to be passive absorbers of predetermined truth (Doll, 1999), instead of active producers of life knowledge in the post-modern era and operating in an open system, according to ecological-educational approaches (Aviram, 1999; Keini, 2006; Lam, 2002). These features have created a gap between the reality learners experience in school and that of the outside world. The premise is that this incongruity between life in these two realities is likely to create confused learners, who do not develop abilities to decipher reality and choose wisely between values and actions in the complex and highly contradictory world outside school, and additionally, do not exploit the learning time available to them at school to consolidate ethical views, create their personal voices and social contribution.

Context

The Shevah Mofet experimental school in Tel Aviv, is a six-year secondary school including junior high school, high school and a technological college. There total student body is 800 (including the college). The staff consists of 70 teachers. Most students are the children of immigrants and new immigrants from the former Soviet Union. About 80% are not Tel Aviv residents and live in peripheral areas of the central region. The school encourages excellence in the fields of mathematics, sciences and technology, and has an Arts center. Alongside nurturing a Jewish Israeli identity, the school encourages multi-culturalism – preserving the Russian culture. The school is undergoing a rapid process of equipping and improving existing technological infrastructures: computers, I-pads, monitors, wired and wireless Internet, cameras, applications and more.

The school is interested in establishing reciprocal relations with reality, as an open system whose borders are penetrable. The educational aim is “to choose and combine traditions selectively, to gather those aspects from the past and present that appear to be most relevant to what is on the agenda” (Doll, 1999[SH1] ) and to acts as players who influence relevant communities in their functions. Therefore, the key purpose of the school experiment, was worded as presented to the Research and Development Division, Experiments and Initiatives at the Ministry of Education in 2014-15: to create and assimilate a model of augmented learning that includes pedagogical, organizational and technological components. The aims of the experimental model are based on spirally-developmental process of learners, both at a mental level and practical level. The model draws principles from post-modern epistemological and educational theories (Aviram, 1999; Doll, 1999; Giroux, 1993; Keini, 2006; Lam, 2002) in the context of the aims of education, pedagogy and curricula.

Educational activity at school is founded on a process that includes the following stages: (a) Integration – expressed in a learner’s ability to decipher the actual, dynamic and pluralistic reality and comprehend it so as to join relevant circles of belonging. (b) Adoption, interpretation and choice – the ability to choose from the past and present what should be maintained, and to adopt the traditions and values that suit a learner and his/her views (Jencks, 1987). In this experiment that focuses on leading values: logical choice, creativity, proactivity, responsibility, belonging, autonomy (Shechter & Iram, 2002). (c) Creativity and contribution – expressing one’s personal voice through creative and proactive productive activity that structure outcomes with a positive effect on the reality in which he/she lives and conducts him/herself, one communities to which he/she belongs and on society. According to Jencks (1987), the ‘new’ is built on the ‘old’. The future is not cut off from the past nor an antithesis of the past, but a change from it. The present is entwined in the past and the future (Doll, 1999; Jencks, 1987). The ability to derive impressive synthesis from tradition depends on our success in choosing and combining. Education must deal with preparation to choose and produce.

This cyclical process of the role of school and desired graduate, is described in Figure 1 below, the model of ‘augmented learning’ – principles of the educational process in the post-modern era at Shevah Mofet school:

Figure 1: ‘Augmented learning’ – principles of post-modern educational process at the Shevah Mofet experimental school


We have called the means by which the educational aims presented in the figure will be achieved “the pedagogy of augmented learning”. The term ‘augmented learning’ does not exist in professional and research literature, but in a technological context, and it appears that those who employ it refer in fact to augmented reality. In the current experiment, ‘augmented reality’ is one of the total number of components of the model. For this purpose, we defined the “pedagogy of augmented learning” as a teaching-learning-assessment process with different levels that correspond with the changing reality in which learners conduct themselves including the features: complexity and depth, flexibility, relevance, creation, using technology. We will detail them as follows: (a) Complexity and depth: concern with essential issues, such as moral dilemmas, through questions that lead to many sophisticated answers and contexts, diverse world views or points of view that allow personal and team reflection. (b) Flexibility: in subjects of study, processing curricula, learning spaces and environment, age of learners, units of time, autonomy given to teachers and students. (c) Relevance: connecting learning to learners’ content worlds, to the community and environment in which they live and act. (d) Creativity and productivity (Caspi, 1985): ways of learning, learning spaces and physical and virtual learning environments, ability to cope with dilemmas and find original solutions and diverse answers to them. Creativity is also expressed in the way a person recreates his/her life every day with the help of change processes and transformation. (e) Technology – advanced diverse information technologies integrated into every level of learning and by links to the environment.

Each one of these features is expressed in school components: curricula, learning environment, pedagogy, organizational structure and defining the role of teachers. Following are some examples of the inputs and changes made at school so as to conduct the experiment:  teachers’ professional development – research and development meetings about common work on the principles of the experiment and leading projects that would be undertaken during school hours. In addition, attending high-tech training in San Diego and Bard College, New York; a group of humanity subjects were learned in a concentrated manner for 4 consecutive hours, twice a week; ‘critical friend’ – providing professional and emotional support to teachers informally, using the model of mentored teacher-mentoring teacher; redefinition and assimilation of the teacher’s role as leading project-based learning processes; creating collaborations with external bodies, such as integrating mentors from high-tech companies; purchasing advanced technological equipment: smart classrooms, copying and editing means, projection rooms and I-pads. I-pads serve learners at school in tracing information, presenting it and building diverse outcomes. A group of “I-pad trustees” was established that studied at a course run by Amal. The members help teachers and their colleagues in class. In addition, the devices are used for place-based and project-based learning, such as developing applications. An example of a project in which the experimental model was used is the ‘Sarona project’. The Sarona project is a digital tourist initiative, based on a model of place-based learning and augmented reality called ‘Cell-Aviv’. It was established to meet a need from reality – school students built an online and accessible route for people with disabilities for the Sarona leisure facility, which include various levels of heritage and history. The route allows QR using mobile phones to get rich digital information, short films and accessible maps, also for people with disabilities, about different stations on the route. In this case, there was cooperation with students from the ‘On’ school for special education. The school won a prize for educational initiatives and innovation as a result of this project. Another example is a project on the topic of ‘Leadership and Morality’, in 9th grade, which examines whether leaders’ hands are clean. The projects included a stage of observing the past – a critical study of biblical texts and researching definitions on the subject of morality, a stage examining the present – students examined contemporary and historical leaders in light of the vicissitudes of reality and chose a leader according to the definitions, and a stage of multi-area creation with a view to the community. The learning product was a production of an election campaign for a chosen leader combining advanced technological tools, after receiving training in areas of photography, design and short film production. Furthermore, they made contact with various bodies in the community and around the country, according to the leadership examined. Learning was carried out in teams, on concentrated days, with teacher instruction. Students could choose their learning environment (library, cafeteria, school yard or classrooms).

Research Aims

The research aims were first to examine the attitude of teachers regarding the application of the ‘augmented learning’ model at school. Secondly, to examine the attitude of students to the application of the model and thirdly, to acquire information about the way in which it is worthwhile to promote the application of the model at the school.

Research Questions

What are teachers’ attitudes towards the application of the ‘augmented learning’ model?

How is it worthwhile to promote augmented learning processes at the school?

What are students’ attitudes towards the application of the ‘augmented learning’ model?

Methodology

The research employed a quantitative combined with qualitative methodology. In this framework the research tool was a questionnaire that included closed questions and a number of open questions. The sample of the student population included 8th and 9th grade students (N=88) constituting 55% of the research population who had studied using the augmented learning model. The questionnaire examined aspects of: interest in learning, learning motivation, teaching-learning-assessment process, team work, the role of the teacher during the work, relevance, innovation and technology, points of strength and difficulties. Options were given on a Likert scale between 1 (not at all) and 5 (to a great extent).

Additionally, the questionnaire was distributed to a sample of the teaching population that included 15 (N=15) teachers who participated in the experiment comprising 54% of the teachers participating in the experiment. The questionnaire examined the following aspects: professional development, training and instruction, rationale and aims of the experiment, teaching-learning-assessment process, infrastructures (organizational, technological), satisfaction, relevance, innovation, points of strength and difficulties. Options were given on Likert scale between 1 (not at all) and 5 (to a great extent).

Findings

Teachers’ Attitudes

The findings shown in Table 1 testify to the fact that teachers expressed a high level of satisfaction about the various training they received as part of the experiment: training professional development in the pedagogical field, technological field and emotional area. In addition, they were satisfied with their participation in the ‘critical friend’ group and were interested in continuing to be trained and professionally developed in these subjects.

Table 1:  Satisfaction from training – means and standard deviations

Aspect M SD
Contribution of professional development and personal instruction on the topic of PBL 4.60 1.06
Contribution of pedagogical training 4.33 1.33
Emotional training 4.00 1.13
Technological and I-pad training 4.00 1.06
‘Critical friend’ 3.57 1.62
Participation in further professional development/training 4.00 1.00

Table 2:  Satisfaction with the experiment model – means and standard deviations

Table 2 shows the means and standard deviations on aspects of satisfaction with the experiment model: one can see that the teachers expressed a high level of satisfaction with the experiment and their participation therein, despite the workload created as a result.

Aspect M SD
Desire to participate in the experiment 4.33 0.90
Desire to continue applying the model in teaching 4.27 0.88
Satisfaction with the experiment model 4.20 0.68
Worthwhileness of using the model for all school subjects 3.73 0.88
Work overload 3.60 1.06

Table 3: Experiment’s contribution to students and learning processes – means and standard deviations

From the data presented in table 3 below, one can learn that there is a relative consensus on the variable of the pedagogical worth of the experiment, which they argue is high.

Aspect M SD
The experiment allows personal voice expression compared to regular learning 4.27 0.70
Flexibility teaching-learning time and space 4.07 0.70
Expresses students’ ability compared to regular learning 4.07 0.70
Students’ interest and motivation compared to regular learning 4.00 0.74
Contribution of link to community for students 3.93 1.10

In the analysis of the open questions, the teachers addressed the strong points of the experiment model, which were its uniqueness and originality, creating learning interest, motivation and curiosity among students, expressing students’ varied abilities and personal voices, significant teacher-student connection, learning and strengthening diverse skills, alternative assessment processes and breaking away from classroom spaces. However, teachers also mentioned weak points, which are the gap between planning and providing the curriculum, the need to acquire strategies to manage projects and motivating groups of students, a lack of teaching hours and group and personal accompaniment, lack of technological infrastructures (WiFi), the need to improve students’ group dynamic, size of class and broad responsibility of teachers in flexible spaces and time. Other findings referred to subjects that teachers were interested in continuing to study: motivating learners, leading group processes, developing original and creative thinking, time management, technological innovations on I-pads and collegial learning in the context of problem solving and learning from successes.

Students’ attitudes

Table 4: Learning interest and motivation – means and standard deviations

Aspect M SD
Importance given to presence at every lesson 4.024 1.072
Enjoying the learning process in contrast to regular learning 3.641 1.309
Interest in learning in contrast to regular learning 3.561 1.174
Desire to learn using this method in other subjects 3.415 1.339
Desire to learn using this method in the subject in which this experiment was conducted 3.366 1.443
Sense of involvement in learning 3.295 1.167
Learning method awakens curiosity to study subject more deeply 3.147 1.343

Table 5:  Teaching-learning-assessment processes – means and standard deviations

Aspect M SD
Opportunity to express personal opinion 3.743 1.206
Sense of personal responsibility for learning 3.733 1.134
Opportunity to express unique abilities 3.656 1.158
Better learning achievements in contrast to regular learning 3.517 1.205
Desire for closer teacher guidance 3.493 1.122
Preference for new system in contrast to regular one 3.341 1.162
Sense of better comprehension of learning material 3.147 1.178

Table 6:  Group working processes – means and standard deviations

Aspect M SD
Sense of contribution to group discussions 3.791 1.106
Sense that a good learning atmosphere was created 3.378 1.325
Development of mutual help between students 3.302 1.280

Table 7:  Relevance, Innovation and Technology – means and standard deviations

Aspect M SD
Satisfied with learning in different places 4.032 1.161
Contribution of instruction on i-pad 3.605 1.271
Contribution of learning in different places to learning atmosphere 3.485 1.326
Extent of connection between learning units and environment and community 3.383 1.168

Qualitative Findings

From an analysis of the open question by which subjects were asked to point out the strengths and weaknesses of the experimental model, the following strengths were mentioned by students: their ability to learn independently, breaking out of classroom space, providing a place for abilities and self-expression, group work characterized by cooperation, mutual help and social consolidation processes. In addition, students emphasized that the model allowed them personal responsibility for leaning, met their personal needs and abilities and allowed them to acquire skills over and above the curriculum (such as presenting to an audience). Furthermore, they also praised learning by using I-pads and new technology. As weak points, students mentioned group working relating to aspects of group make-up, diverse efforts made by group members, difficulty bridging attitudes and unfair division of roles. In addition, some students argued that they found it difficult to concentrate, to meet the time limits allocated to a project and find alternative learning and work spaces other than the classroom. Furthermore, they argued that independent learning allowed some students to play on i-pads and waste time.

Discussion and conclusions

The information collected in this research allows one to get a picture of teachers’ and students’ attitudes towards the model that was developed and assimilated, as well as to learn about successes and challenges facing the school.

It appears that teachers and pupils are expressing a high level of satisfaction with the teaching-learning model applied during the experiment and see it as having a major contribution to bettering teaching-learning processes, raising students’ motivation and allowing them to express their voices and talents. Some strengths raised weaknesses at the same time – for example, group work, which contributed to students and they enjoyed, also encompassed social processes that challenged them and their teachers and require training and attention in the context of group dynamics. In addition, project- based learning that integrates advanced technologies, keeps the pedagogical promises it makes, such as responsibility for learning, acquiring investigative skills, presentation before an audience and creative outputs that are highly relevant socially. The model of augmented learning allows students to examine critically the social values of their environment, to structure learning processes that are translated into proactive doing that include both their unique personal voices and influence the community. It is encouraging to see that in light of the enormous inputs invested in developing and applying the experiment model, teachers, in turn, enjoyed the autonomy of curriculum development and flexibility of lesson time and space, despite the burden placed on them. They expressed the need for improved organizational infrastructures and their desire to continue to develop professionally in relevant areas, both for the experiment model and the needs of teaching and learning in the post-modern era (Doll, 1999; Giroux, 1993). The findings support previous research conclusions dealing with leading technology-based change in the education system, according to which changes in the field of technology do not guarantee pedagogical or educational changes in and of themselves, if they do not accompany fitting pedagogical and organizational processes. The success of change is found in a school’s ability to lead and assimilate processes at every level of school organization.

References

Aviram, R. (1999 a). Navigating in the Storm – Education in Post-Modern Democracy. Tel Aviv: Masada (In Hebrew)

Caspi, M. (1985). . Transition to Creative Education Approach. Jerusalem: Academon (In Hebrew).

Doll, W.E, (1999). A Post-Modern Perspective on Curriculum. Tel Aviv: Sifriyat Po’alim (In Hebrew)

Giroux, H.A. (1993). Postmodernism as border pedagogy. In: J. Natali & L. Hutcheon (eds.), A Postmodern Reader. New York: Sunny Pres.


Jencks, C. (1987) Post-Modernism: The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, Academy Editions, London.

Keini, S. (2006). In the Ideologies Whirlwind: A New Approach to Educational Change. Tel Aviv: Mofet Institute, Klil books (In Hebrew).

Lamm, Z. (2002). The Ideological Whirlpool: Foundations of Education in the 20th Century. Jerusalem: Magnes (In Hebrew).

Shechter, M., Iram, Y. (2002). From School to an Educational Institution: Guidelines or Educational Intervention for the Consolidation of a Personal and Collective Identity in a Democratic Society. In: Maslovaty, N.  and Iram, Y. (Eds.). Values Education in Various Teaching contexts (pp. 449-474). Tel Aviv: Ramot (In Hebrew)