Exploring the use of mobile learning applications in the Physical Sciences classroom

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Tsie, Motlatsi Jacob
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University of the Free State
Over the years, there has been a rapid increase in the development of technology. Most researchers have realised the importance of integrating technology in teaching and learning activities. This should also be included into curriculum planning as teaching with technology will assist in better lesson delivery. Since ICT tools are expensive to buy and maintain, smart phones through mobile apps provide alternatives that are readily available with most of them not requiring a subscription fee. Although e-Education policies that support the use of technology in the classroom are being implemented, schools in the Free State are still not exploiting this advantage. However, guidelines on how to use a smart phone in the classroom, is lacking. Additionally, because of the numerous apps advertised in stores, it is difficult to find a relevant app for use in the classroom. This study emanated out of concern that South African schools lack ICT and Physical Sciences resources and therefore learners will not grasp the importance of using smart phone technologies to enhance learning activities thus creating a digital gap in their knowledge and skills. In attempting to understand the role free mobile applications could play in a Physical sciences classroom, this study investigated if learners know how to install and use apps appropriately, and then assess them for suitability and applicability in the teaching-learning processes. The teaching and learning policies and the CAPS document were used to inform the study on what type of skills learners should acquire in Physical Sciences, especially by using smart phone apps. Additionally, TPACK informed on the different types of knowledge that an educator must possess in order to integrate technology in teaching and learning activities. This concurrent mixed method study selected 72 Grade 10 and 11 Physical Sciences learners from 2 schools in the Southern Free State by utilising observation sheets and questionnaires to elicit the impact of adopting mobile apps in teaching and learning activities. This was done through the testing of 4 applications; namely, the Physical Science mobile app, WhatsApp, the school planner app, and the Google classroom app. Key findings revealed that learners knew how to acquire mobile applications on their own. This can be acquired from an app store, or the internet through a browser and through sharing software which allows apps to be shared as an APK file. Additionally, learners knew how to evaluate content through the apps concerning its relevancy to the Physical Sciences. Learners experiences indicated that apps can be used to impact planning, provide sufficient practice, and improve communication between teachers and learners. Moreover, these apps prioritised learners to be in charge of their learning by allowing them to schedule events for later dates and to practise at any point without the supervision of an educator. However, app usage in the classroom provided loopholes that made it easier for learners to collude, proving that the usage of apps in the class must be supervised. These findings, therefore, call for a revision of policies that can guide smart phone usage in the classroom to avoid collusion. Additionally, app usage must be promoted in schools to provide learners with sufficient resources to access learning content with ease which will somewhat address the lack of resources in schools. Teacher- training must also include the use of ICT programmes to facilitate learning in schools. Teacher-trainees when on practice sessions at schools could monitor the progress of teaching-learning situations when using smart phones in classroom. Future studies must utilise eye-tracking software to determine the areas that learners generally hone into when using an app which can lead to better suitable apps being created for teaching and learning purposes.
Dissertation (M.Ed.(Subject Education in Science and Technology))--University of the Free State, 2022
Curriculum, digital gap, ICT, integration of technology, mobile apps, TPACK