On September 23rd 2015, The 12 Apps of Christmas won an International E-Learning Award (Mobile Learning Division). A copy of the case study submitted can be read below.
The 12 Apps of Christmas 2014 was a free, open, short, online Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course which ran from Dec 1st 2014 to Dec 16th 2014 and was hosted at https://the12appsofchristmas.wordpress.com/ . 700 participants worldwide registered to take part, and over the course of the 12 consecutive weekdays, were introduced to 12 different mobile apps. These apps included iMindmap, Socrative, Aurasma, Explain Everything, EasyBib, Thinglink, Instapaper, Animoto, Evernote, CamScanner, Bonfyre, and Voice Recorder HD, all of which are available from both Google Play and the iTunes App store. Each app was evaluated in turn against the SAMR model of technology integration and explored in terms of its potential to enhance, modify, and redefine teaching, learning and/or assessment practices in the higher education context. The course itself adhered to the social constructivist theory of learning, and the content presented each day was influenced heavily by the TPACK framework. More details on these approaches have been provided below.
The site has been left online as an open resource for all to use and is covered by the Creative Commons Licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0. The feedback has been excellent and the course continues to be referenced in academic circles
While the 12 Apps of Christmas short CPD course was aimed at academics working in the higher education sector, the course was free and open to anyone who wanted to take part. Analysis of the registrations later showed that Librarians, Students (both undergrad and post grad), Learning Development Coordinators, first and second level school Teachers and their colleagues in the further education sector, as well as individuals working within education departments in private industries, all joined in and engaged with the course.
This short course set out to
- raise awareness amongst educators of the benefits mobile technologies and mobile apps present for learning, teaching and assessment in this connected mobile enabled world that we live in;
- upskill anyone interested in experiencing, exploring and learning more about integrating mobile learning technologies into their teaching, learning and assessment practices; and
- help connect like-minded individuals and provide them with an opportunity to expand their personal learning networks and start powerful conversations with others interested in this emerging field.
With permission, I collected a lot of data on and about the 12 Apps of Christmas course and have negotiated permission to analyse this data with a view to publishing a paper or two about different aspects of it and its design and development as a CPD opportunity for academics. I collected data via:
- closed and open ended questions on the registration form
- wordpress site analytics
- comments left on the wordpress site
- closed and open ended questions in a post course feedback survey (n=181. A 26% response rate)
Of those who filled in the aforementioned post course feedback survey, and gave me permission to use that data:
- 54% (n=96) noted that the course met their expectations with a further 41% (n=74) saying that it exceeded their expectations
- 91% of the respondents (n=165) agreed that each daily page released gave them just the right amount of information that they needed to get started with the app, and
- 19% (n=35) reported integrating some apps in their teaching, learning and/or assessment practices as a direct result of the course, with a further 57% (n=103) stating that they intended to integrate apps during the following semester and academic year
The general feedback comments were wonderful too. I’ve included just a few of these quotes below to give a flavour of types of comments made and which serve to demonstrate that the course achieved its goals and supported its target audience effectively:
“thank you for a great course, it was informative, practical and bite-sized, ideal for the busy lecturer!”
“I really enjoyed being involved in the course when I could take part. It was a really innovative idea and I enjoyed the pedagogical approach taken in suggesting how to integrate the apps into someone’s teaching and learning. Great achievement, well done…”
“Really enjoyed learning about the apps and reading about the examples to help me understand how we could put them into practice. Each section was short enough so you learnt enough but it didn’t take up too much time. This is actually the first free short course I have ever completed. Others are usually too demanding of your time…so you got this one just right. Thank you!”
“Excellent concept and well executed – well done Frances…was something to look forward to every morning in cold wet December.”
“We need this so much to keep up with our students…I think there is a huge degree of ignorance among lecturers of the potential of mobile apps and thus we need regular training. Thank you for getting me started.”
The whole design of the initiative was built around the social constructivist learning theory. Where possible opportunities were built in to allow the participants to engage with each other, collaborate, communicate, share and ultimately learn from each other.
- As each participant registered I sent them an email welcoming them to the course. This email also invited them to take part in the conversations with their peers around the apps and introduced them to the dedicated hashtag #12appsDIT. Many replied to that email thanking me and telling me they were looking forward to learning more. I felt this email added a personal touch to the open course and motivated them to engage with me, with the course itself, and with all of the participants. Building a sense of community amongst online learners is crucial for success.
- A short email was sent each morning to all participants alerting them to the fact that the next app had just been released. This email also reminded them of the password needed to access the page on the site.
- The dedicated hashtag #12appsDIT was used right from the beginning of the project and the participants were encouraged to tweet and follow the conversations there. For those participants who did not have a twitter account, the twitter feed was embedded into the 12 Apps website so that they could still follow the comments, conversations, and links being shared.
- Comments were enabled on the wordpress site and each day the participants were encouraged to leave comments on the app of the day. In fact, a standard paragraph was included at the end of each day’s page which said “Don’t forget to tweet #12appsDIT your opinion of this app, or indeed post a comment below. Let us know your ideas on how to use it effectively with students to transform teaching, learning and assessment practices. The more we share, the more we learn!”
- Bonfyre was the 11th of the 12 apps presented. A closed Bonfyre for the 12 Apps participants was created and the conversation continued there for a few days too sharing ideas on apps for enhancing communication between students and staff.
- 34% of respondents (n=61) tweeted to #12appsDIT while a further 30% (n=54) stated that while they didn’t tweet themselves that they did read the tweets sent by others.
- 16% of the respondents (n=29) posted comments on the wordpress site with a further 46% (n=83) noting that while they didn’t post comments there themselves that they read the comments posted by others.
- 50% (n=90) agreed that they learned from reading the tweets and/or comments posted.
The design of the course in terms of the information provided (that is the amount of information, the type of information, and the level of information provided), was prompted by my study of the TPACK (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) framework. This framework argues that there must be an understanding of the relationship between technology, pedagogy and content, in order to integrate any technology effectively. I kept this very much in mind when designing each page on the 12 apps website. To explain:
- The participants were provided with enough technical information to get them started with the app e.g. what operating system it was designed for; how much it cost; screenshots of what the app looked like; and some information on basic functionality. Links to further technical help such as guides, articles, and YouTube videos were provided where appropriate.
- A page on the site was dedicated to the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition) which was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura. This model guides our integration of any technology into our classrooms and ensures that the ultimate goal of any technology integration is to redefine our teaching, learning and assessment practices. Then, each day, the app in question was evaluated against the SAMR model in terms of its potential to enhance and redefine our learning, teaching and assessment practices, and, most importantly realistic and practical examples of its integration at each level were given. In a few cases a short reflection from a DIT lecturer who was already using the app was included also.
- An optional task was included each day also. This gave those interested in the app of the day a chance to try out the app in a structured purposeful way and in many cases it provided a reason to interact with the other participants too. In two instances the task was gamified and those who took part were entered into a competition. This injected an element of fun too and helped motivate the participants to take part and share ideas.
The feedback in relation to this approach was very positive. To give just a few examples:
- “…the application to the SAMR framework and examples given was very useful.”
- “I think it was very effective because of the time and consideration that was put into the design of the course. The structure of the course was not just engaging but also was very effective in framing the contents. The SAMR model was really helpful and something I will definitely be using in the future.”
- “I teach on a Technology Enabled Learning module so we went on to demo some of the apps from the 12apps course and used the SAMR model of evaluation, as a direct result of seeing its effectiveness in the 12apps course.”
- There is an introductory video to the course embedded on the course website https://the12appsofchristmas.wordpress.com/
- Tweets get lost eventually, and because the participants were sharing names and links to other apps and softwares, I decided to ‘Storify’ any tweet that mentioned additional resources. These can be found at https://storify.com/Boylanfm/the-12-apps-of-christmas and this link was provided for participants on the 12 Apps website itself at https://the12appsofchristmas.wordpress.com/tweet-archive/ .
All of the tweets sent before, during, and after the 12 apps initiative, can be found on Twitter by searching for #12appsDIT
*A second iteration of this course was run in December 2015. This iteration was aimed primarily at students although supports for their educators were provided also. It focused on personalization of learning and how mobile apps can help facilitate that process, and the website can be found at www.dit.ie/the12appsofchristmas