University of Mount Union Formal & Informal Learning Essay

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University of Mount Union

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I want you to talk about formal learning and informal learning, Plus, how informal learning supported formal learning. Make one or two paragraphs for each one and give an example.

You may focus on YouTube that or you can talk about social media and narrow it to YouTube.

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not more than 3 pages without references.

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I attached the 3 PDF's below. It wouldn't let me mark or highlight the text so I cited in the word document what page I got information from. Hope this helps.

Chapter 7 Bridging Formal and Informal Learning with the Use of Mobile Technology
Chee-Kit Looi*, Khin Fung Lim#, Jennifer Pang#, Peter Seow*, Daner Sun*, Ivica Boticki%, Cathie Norris# & Elliot
Soloway@
*National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
#

Nan Chiau Primary School, Singapore
%

University of Zagreb, Croatia
#

University of North Texas
@

University of Michigan

Abstract
Bringing formal and informal learning to enable students’ engaged learning is a core tenet of seamless
learning. Addressing the limitations of the current studies on the innovative design and implementation of
seamless learning scenarios, this chapter presents one well-designed and implemented curricular initiative
at the primary school level, namely M5ESC. The chapter first discusses the theoretical background of
formal and informal learning, and of seamless learning, and then presents the context information of
mobile technology for science education in Singapore, as well as the 5E instructional model. These serve
as the design rationales for the M5ESC curricular innovation. Next, the description of M5ESC provides
an overview of how the school designed for seamless learning supported by mobile technology, as well as
how well students and teachers responded to these innovations. The work reported here is intended to
inform the curriculum design and implementation of the notion of seamless learning enabled by mobile
technologies.
Keywords: Seamless Learning, Formal and Informal Learning, M5ESC, Science Learning

Introduction
In the policy statement developed by the Informal Science Education Ad Hoc Committee of the Board of
the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), the committee state that learning is
an ongoing, cumulative process emerging over time through a myriad of human experiences, settings and
situations which interact to influence how individuals construct scientific knowledge, attitudes, behaviour
and understanding, and how students come to understand the world around them through their real-life
experiences outside school should be integrated with their learning experiences in school (Bell,
Lewenstein, Shouse & Feder, 2009; Sharples, et al., 2014). A report by the National Academy of Sciences
(2009) of USA concluded that a high portion of science learning occurs outside school across a range of
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settings. Indeed, recognizing the educational value of students’ learning in informal context which is
mostly regarded to the learning takes place outside school, the team of academics, commissioned to study
how people learn science in informal learning environments. They proposed that informal learning can
engage individuals in many ways. It promotes students’ interactions with phenomena built on the
individuals’ prior knowledge and interest. It has been noticed by early research that learning both inside
and outside the school can positively impact children’s achievement and their role in Society (Resnick,
1987). While students’ ability to make connections between in-school and out-of-school learning
experiences is associated with positive learning outcomes such as achievement, interest in science, selfefficacy and effort in learning science (NAP, 2009). Hence, educators are suggested to design learning
experiences to engage children in learning science as part of their social and lived experiences, in contexts
that will be meaningful to each child.
Seamless learning is one productive view of learning that sees it as happening continuously over
time and learning experiences as being enriched when similar or related phenomena are studied or seen
from multiple perspectives (Looi & Wong, 2013). In the formal settings such as in the classroom, learners
may learn subject matter knowledge about a subject or topic, while in the informal setting such as home
or science museum, learners experience the knowledge in the subject or topic in its natural settings or in
different contexts, thus achieving more holistic notions of learning and literacy. However, a review of
recent literature shows that most studies focused on learning in formal settings, and much less literature
focused on observing students’ learning performance or designing learning for the informal settings. Thus,
few scenarios addressing learning in both formal and informal settings have been discussed and
investigated (Jones, Scanlon, & Clough, 2013). Addressing this, and to inform the curriculum design and
implementation of learning that can take place in informal and formal settings, we will narrate an
innovation story which started in 2007 and is still an ongoing pursuit of how to appropriate such an
expansive view of continuous learning into school curriculum-based teaching and learning. The topic has
been discussed in the seamless learning research in recent years (Wong & Looi, 2011). In this chapter, we
intend to present the innovative curriculum which inherits the notion of seamless learning developed from
the design-based research with a long term perspective (DBRC, 2003). The description of the innovation
aims to provide implications for the science curriculum development and implementation.
In this chapter, we will first present a review of literature on the differences between informal and
formal learning, and on seamless learning and other relevant studies. Next, we discuss the contextual
information for the role of mobile technology played in science learning and the 5E instructional model
adopted by the school for inquiry-based instruction and learning. We will share a school-based curriculum
innovation, namely, M5ESC that was designed to support Information and Communications Technology
(ICT) - enabled science inquiry learning through strategies to bridge the informal and formal learning in
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the notion of seamless learning. The innovative science curriculum called Mobilized 5E (EngageExplore-Explain-Elaborate-Evaluate) Science Curriculum (M5ESC) was developed through an iterative
cycle of design-based research spanning over six years in a Singapore primary school. In M5ESC, mobile
technology is a major enabler for supporting learning anytime and anywhere such as providing access to
information for performing authentic activities in the context of students’ learning (Martin & Ertzberger,
2013). We will discuss the features of this innovation and cite the lesson exemplar to highlight the design
rationale of the innovation. Especially for the role of mobile technology played in formal and informal
learning contexts. Finally, some teachers and students’ responses will be discussed briefly for verifying
the value of such kind of innovation.

Literature
Differences between Formal and Informal Learning
Science learning in the classroom is formal and planned. It is characterized as content driven to cover the
syllabus, performance-based assessment, and teacher-initiated activities and teacher-led instruction. The
term “informal learning” has been used to describe learning that occurs outside school settings which is
not a part of the school curriculum. The participation in the activity is voluntary rather than mandatory
(Crane, et. al., 1994). In informal learning, students acquire knowledge through their own selfengagement, learn on their own and through interaction with others. Thus, informal learning is
characterized by learning driven by the interest of the student without an authority figure
(Csikszentmihályi & Hermanson, 1995).
Informal learning is a part of spontaneous activity which is unplanned and emerges when the
students interact with others or engaged in activities such as their hobbies. Informal learning can occur
spontaneously in students’ daily lives, anytime during the day-to-day routine, and anywhere in places like
homes, parks or museums. Informal learning is often initiated by the student and motivated by their own
interest. Further, out-of-school learning encompasses non-formal and informal learning (Eshach, 2007).
The distinction lies in the presence or absence of a formal curriculum and the frequency to which the
places we visit where learning occurs. Specifically, out-of-school learning experiences such as visits to
museum exhibits, field excursions, and from the media such as the Internet sources and books, can
supplement school formal learning. Most studies on out-of-school learning focus on the non-formal
learning where students learn during organized visits to informal learning environments like the science
centres, zoos, or parks are examined. These places are important resources to teachers as they can provide
unique educational experiences to students. The teachers’ goals for such trips are to motivate students in
learning, enhance their interest in the subject and connect to the curriculum (Kisiel, 2005). However, field
trips may not always lead students to make connections between they learn outside school contexts to the
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school content. Many of the field trips are conducted by external parties and may not link to the
curriculum. Teachers accompany the students as chaperons because the trips are usually led by the
external party’s facilitator. The teachers may not be able to help make the necessary connections between
outside school learning experiences to the formal school curriculum for the students because their
unfamiliarity of field trip’s purposes and content. Another area of difficulty is that teachers may not be
comfortable to lead outdoor activities because they lack the knowledge or the skill to facilitate learning in
outside school contexts. Some teachers may treat field trips as outdoor classrooms to teach instead of
letting students embark on their learning.
Recognizing the differences and difficulties in how learning occurs in the formal and informal
learning environments, researchers have studied how to bridge in-school and out-of school learning.
Nicholson and his colleagues (1994) proposed that informal learning experiences can be structured to
meet a set of objectives or influence attitudes or behaviour. Participation by the learner can be voluntary
and learning can be self-directed. Some researchers have studied individuals’ science learning outside the
classroom in their everyday lives and hobby activities. Bell and his team (2013) conducted ethnographic
studies in the US context to examine the learning pathways of a group of youths across settings, social
groups and pursuits. Zimmerman’s (2013) longitudinal study of an American girl’s hobby of keeping
hamsters at home, painted an account of how youth access scientific knowledge and acquire science
practices in outside school settings. The girl was observed to develop competencies that overlapped with
science practices such as observation inquiry and using media to understand animal behaviour. Bricker
and Bell (2012) examined a boy’s interest in playing video games over a period of 4 years to understand
the development of expertise across settings and time. Through computer games, the boy developed
technology expertise through practice, trial and error, and reflection. But his technology practices in
school were markedly different from his gaming practices at home. In school, he was told how and when
to use technology and for specific tasks. He expressed his interest in technology in school but teachers
recognized his expertise in technology by giving him the responsibility to turn on all the computers in
each morning.
The differences between learning in- and out-of-school highlight the lack of continuity between
the formal school experiences and the outside school experiences which are situated in the variety of
contexts. Research has early recognized that technology, especially for the mobile technologies, can play
a role in the facilitating learning across the different physical and social contexts (Bell, Lewenstein,
Shouse, & Feder, 2009). It particularly support the teachers to design learning for students’ inquiry in the
informal context, meanwhile, to trace students’ performance through various mobile learning tools in and
out of school time.

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Seamless Learning
Seamless learning refers to the seamless integration of learning experiences across various dimensions
including in- and out-school contexts, individual and social learning, and physical world and cyberspace
(Looi, et. al., 2009). Looi and Wong (2013) defined it as a synergistic integration of the learning
experiences across various dimensions such as across formal and informal learning contexts, individual
and social learning and physical world and cyberspace. In a seamless context, students are able to link and
relate what they have learnt in school to their daily lives using the relevant ICT tools in a 1:1 mobilized
environment anytime, anywhere. Hence, their learning can extend beyond the school hours. With
carefully designed curriculum, they can be continuously engaged in the learning of science. Students can
use appropriate applications on mobile phones to pursue their own interests and inquiry anytime and
anywhere. In a seamless learning environment, we view learning spaces on two dimensions: physical
setting and learning process as shown in Figure 1. As reflected, students’ learning spaces can take place
along two dimensions: 1) in class vs. out of class and 2) planned learning (planned by teachers) vs.
emergent learning (not planned by teachers, but occurring unexpectedly driven by student interest and
motivation).

Figure 1 - Matrix of students learning spaces (adapted from So, Kim, & Looi, 2008)

The availability of highly portable devices such as smartphones and tablets with the pervasive
internet connectivity can provide continuity across different settings and contexts. In an earlier project to
help Primary 4 students learn the importance of conserving the environment, a pair of students worked
together to collect data about the usage of materials in places such as the supermarket and fast food
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restaurants. Data was collected through a camera equipped personal digital assistant (PDA) and uploaded
to the central server which was accessible from the school. Students were asked to review their
aggregated results in school, reflect on their experiences outside school and talked to their parents about
the conserving the environment at home. The conceptual understanding of the conserving the
environment through the 3Rs of Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse increased at the end of the series of
experiences across in- and out-school contexts, individual and social learning, physical and virtual
environments (Chen, et. al., 2008).
In another example to learn about the Singapore Chinatown, students toured the area led by an
experienced guide to understand the historical settings of place and buildings. During the trip, students
were allowed to use Google Maps to locate places they visited by placing a pin marker on the map
location. In school, they were given time to revisit their pin markers to write the reflection on the places
they visited. They were also allowed to visit other markers placed by the peers to read the reflection and
ask questions. Students were making meaning out their experiences as they reflected, read, commented
and asked questions on their own marker and their peer’s markers. Through the process, the students were
building knowledge based on their own experiences and that of their peers across different contexts (So,
Seow, & Looi, 2009). Mobility of computing devices with Internet connectivity can make a difference to
bridging learning in- and out-classroom (So, Kim, & Looi, 2009). So and her colleagues (2009) postulate
that with mobile technologies, learning is not bounded by fixed time and location, enabling learners to
construct knowledge individually and collaborative across various experiences. Consequently, with the
notion of seamless learning, and associated with the use of mobile learning tools, the learning will
become more flexible for both teachers’ science instruction and students’ learning in a variety of learning
contexts.

Context
Mobile Technology for Science Learning
In Singapore, the 2014 Primary Science Syllabus based on the Science Curriculum Framework (MOE,
2014) places emphasis on the basis for the equilibrium between the acquisition of science knowledge,
process and attitudes (CPDD, 2014). It aims to provide students with experiences which build on their
interest in learning and stimulate their curiosity about their environment. This is to enable students to
understand themselves and the world around them, providing opportunities to develop skills, habits of
mind and attitudes necessary for scientific inquiry.
In the inquiry process, teachers should be the leader of inquiry and act as facilitators to create a
learning environment to encourage and further challenge their students to develop a sense of inquiry in
them and relevant learning skills as 21 century competences (21 cc) required. However, the critical
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learning skills in 21 cc such as collaborative learning skills and self-directed learning skills are not
adequately addressed in our formal learning contexts. These learning skills, which are less tangible and
harder to quantify in nature, are increasingly sought after by employers in addition to standard
qualifications.
With mobile technology, the science learning environment can be mobile and go with the
students to the field site, to the laboratory and beyond (Martin & Ertzberger, 2013). The extension of the
learning environment enables students to investigate more science phenomena in real life and to
demonstrate principles and scientific knowledge in different contexts other than the laboratory (Shih,
Chuang, & Hwang, 2010). Furthermore, the social networking opens up opportunities for students to do
socially-mediated knowledge-building associated with learning science by doing science at anytime and
anywhere. Science projects with the use of mobile technology have demonstrated the merits of mobile
learning and its learning effectiveness for students (Pea & Maldonado, 2006). In general, the use of
mobile technology open up more opportunities for extending the learning context from formal space to
informal space, and students can have more venues for developing the critical learning skills as 21cc
required.
Hence, Nan Chiau Primary School (NCPS), who has always aspired to be an innovative and
forward looking school, saw the need to take the bold step to enhance the curriculum by improving
pedagogies and refining the approaches. To better prepare our students for a globalized world, the school
also ensures that the ICT initiatives and curriculum innovation efforts are pertinent, significant and up-todate. All these would in return help our students to become self-directed and collaborative learners
leveraging on the use of technology.

5E Instructional Model
Reviewing the studies on the mobile technology-supported learning, we found that most focused on
investigating the learning effectiveness with employing the specific pedagogical principles into the
mobile learning activities (Looi, et al., 2014). Relevant studies on ThinknLearn, Mobile Plant Learning
System, Mobile Tour System, and nQuire generated positive impact on both teachers and students, and
highlighted the integration of appropriate pedagogical principles supported by technology design (Ahmed
& Parsons, 2013; Jones, Scanlon & Clough, 2013; Huang, Lin, & Chang, 201; Ruchter, Bernhard, &
Geiger, 2010). These studies affirm the potential of mobile learning in enriching science education. More
importantly, evidences have been obtained for supporting the claim that combining mobile learning
systems/apps and appropriate pedagogical approaches (e.g. inquiry-based principles, knowledge building,
collaborating learning) can create special educational value for students’ science learning. Hence, 5E
instructional model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate) (Bybee, 2002) which adopted and
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adapted in science curriculum by many Singapore schools was employed into the design of M5ESC
learning activities.
Inquiry-based science provides students with opportunities to learn science by adopting similar
methods and skills as real scientists do (Harwood, 2004). Students are to identify problems, formulate
questions and hypothesis, strategize a method for testing their hypothesis, and then use the collected data
to justify the answer. To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must have deep fundamental
conceptual knowledge, understand facts and ideas in a particular context as well as have the ability to
organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application. A well-known inquiry science
method is the 5E. Through the 5E instructional model, the primary objective is for students to learn
fundamental science concepts, principles, and theories as well as to develop science process skills and
attitudes that are essential for scientific inquiry. Hence, through incorporating the 5E model in the
teaching and learning of science, a platform would be established for students to allow them to redefine,
reorganize, elaborate and make changes to their initial science conceptions through self-reflection and ongoing interaction with their peers and their environment. With mobile technologies, inquiry can be
conducted to better facilitate the iterative representation, communication and collaboration that are
needed for students to acquire deep understanding.

Curricular Innovation on Seamless Learning: M5ESC
In the rest of the chapter, we will discuss the curricular initiative and implementation in the school that
seek to provide a viable model of seamless learning. It illuminates the approach and the ways in which
teachers teach science and students learn science in a context that bridges formal (i.e. classroom) and
informal (i.e. home) learning spaces to achieve continuous and pervasive use of technology for
meaningful learning.
M5ESC involves the transformation of the national science curriculum for P3 and P4 into one
with an inquiry-based orientation which leverages the affordances of mobile technologies (i.e.
smartphones). M5ESC was developed by a design-based research approach with iterative research cycles
over a period of six years (Penuel & Fishman, 2012). The basic rationale of the M5ESC is that it is not
feasible to equip students with all the skills and knowledge they need for lifelong learning solely through
formal learning (or any other single learning space); henceforth, student learning should move beyond the
acquisition of content knowledge to develop the capacity to learn seamlessly (Chen, et al., 2010). The key
epistemological design commitments of the curricular innovation are: learning as drawing connections
between ideas, and learning as connecting science to everyday lives, across multiple learning spaces (such
as between formal and informal learning settings, individual and social settings, and learning in physical
and digital realms). Integrated with the mobile learning activities, the 5E inquiry is conducted in a
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seamless learning environment. In M5ESC, the technological commitments include: technology for
construction, technology for communication, and technology for sharing anywhere anytime. M5ESC aims
to promote students’ conceptual understanding and critical learning skills (e.g. collaborative learning
skills, self-directed learning skills, reflective thinking skills) (Sha, et al., 2012).
The Mobile Learning Tools in M5ESC
MyDesk System
In M5ESC, MyDesk system that runs on a Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system is flexibly
integrated with the 5E inquiry phases. It was integrated with both classroom activities and outside
activities. The system is developed by Elliot Soloway and Cathy Norris and the students of Soloway at
the University of Michigan. With MyDesk Teacher Portal (Figure 2), the teachers create learning
activities for the 5E inquiry-based lessons by employing multiple media and applications (e.g., text,
graphical, spreadsheet, animations, and the like), and then review and comment students’ work generated
in the activities (Looi, et al., 2009). Students can assess to the learning activities and complete their tasks
using learning tools in the student module of MyDesk (Figure 3).

Learning tools

Figure 2. The MyDesk Teacher Portal

Figure 3. Student Module of MyDesk

Table 1 depicts the learning tools in MyDesk system and their functions, and the exemplar mobile
learning activities in the lesson unit of Fungi at P3 science.

Table 1. The learning tools of MyDesk learning system
Tools
(KWL)

Functions


Mobile activities in Fungi

A self-reflection tool supporting students’



Engagement: students respond to

reflecting upon on learning process through

“what do I already know” about

responding questions (i.e. what do I already

fungi in KWL.

Know? what do I Want to know? What have
I Learned?) to allow students to learn in a

9



Exploration: students respond to
“what do I want to know” about

self-regulated way.

fungi in KWL.


Evaluation: students respond to
“What I have learnt” about fungi
in KWL.

(Sketchbook)



An animation/drawing and picture



Engagement: students record the

annotating tool to assist students’

changes of moist bread and

establishing connections between knowledge

toasted bread using Sketchbook.

learned in the classroom and knowledge
applied outside the classroom.
(MapIt)




(Blurb)

A concept map tool that allows students to



Elaboration: students draw

develop conceptual understanding through

concepts maps of the

creating, sharing, and exploring concept

characteristics of fungi using

maps.

MapIt.

A question setup tool which facilitates the



Exploration: students respond to

teacher to set up specific questions to ask

the questions: how do the fungi

students to give short opinions or feedback

grow? in Blurb.

on their inquiry activities or their
understanding of knowledge.

(Recorder)

A voice recorder tool for students to record



Exploration: students record their

the process of the experiment, fieldtrip and

questions when observing the

the observation of teacher demonstration,

moist and toasted bread using

and students’ reflection and conclusion are

Recorder.

also recorded as a data for teachers’ to
review their progress and improvement in
inquiry.

(Notepad)

A data recording tool for students to record



Engagement: students write their

the results or process of experiments,

observations of the moist and

fieldtrip, and observation of teacher

toasted bread using Notepad.

demonstration.

SamEX
To better bridge the Science learning in- and out-of-school, the school also developed a Windows Mobile
application called SamEX (Sampling of Experiences). The application was designed to enable students to
sample their learning experiences outside the classroom where they can record their observations with
text, video, pictures or audio recordings of objects or phenomenon that they are interested. It was
especially developed for students to share and comment on their learning artefacts with their classmates
10

thus supplementing the function of MyDesk on facilitating students’ collaboration. Figure 4 and 5 show
the SamEX screens for capturing students’ learning experiences. Their observations and pictures can be
uploaded to a central where they be accessed by the teacher. The postings made by students can be shared
to the other students in the class. Their peers may comment on the postings if they choose. Students were
assigned badges if they contributed to SamEX and participate in giving comments to their peers’ postings.
The badges were designed to motivate the students in posting their contributions and interaction with their
peers.

Figure 4. Capture Screenshot on
SamEX

Figure 5. Capture Screenshot on
SamEX

SamEX activity is firstly designed for outside learning tasks at NCPS. For example, the P3
Science curriculum were introduced to the parts of the plant such as the leaves, stem and roots, to improve
students’ understanding of the growth of plants, students in the class were given a packet and seeds with a
pot con to grow during the school holidays. The seeds and pot were donated by the National Environment
Agency to encourage the growing of plants by Primary school students. The students were briefed on the
activity and asked to use SamEX to record how they grew the plant. They can use SamEX to take pictures
of the plant as it grew and write their observations of the plants. Over the month long holiday, the
students were free to carry out the activity and decide how they recorded the observations. All the
postings were uploaded to a server, where they were aggregated and sorted according to the studen t.
The combination of these tools with 5E inquiry activities is intended to facilitate students to
develop sophisticated and systematic understanding of scientific concepts, enhance skills in modeling,
reasoning and reflective thinking, especially to foster self-directed learning skills in and out of the
classroom (Brooks & Brooks, 2009; Greca, & Moreira, 2000). Other supporting tools are also
incorporated (e.g., mobile blog online discussion forum, video/photo camera, and a search engine). With
11

these tools, students’ prior knowledge and ideas must be accessed and addressed in order to build new and
deeper scientific understandings through inquiry. Meanwhile, inquiry and other supportive constructivist
practices foster meaningful science learning.

Our Findings
Classroom Practices
M5ESC is about learning activities for students to probe, state, create and discuss their own understanding
of science concepts using the MyDesk apps and other complementary tools on the smartphones. It is also
about students treating the smartphone as a learning hub from which they can initiate or continue learning
activities anywhere even outside of the classroom. A substantial transformation is thus that students took
more ownership of the learning with technology by recording or doing learning activities through the use
of the smartphones. The teacher becomes a facilitator of learning in the classroom characterized by
classroom discussion of the science ideas and students’ experiences. The students become more
generative in their science ideas.
In the M5ESC classroom, teachers are encouraged to use more constructivist pedagogical
approaches that incorporate collaboration, learner autonomy, generativity, reflectivity and active
engagement (Duffy & Jonassen, 1992). Students’ construction of knowledge is enabled by active
participation in discourse, collaboration, and student-centred activities rather than transference from
teacher talk. The teachers elicit and use students’ existing ideas as a basis for helping them construct new,
more reasoned, more accurate or more elaborate understandings (Holt-Reynolds, 2000), and use
technology as cognitive tool to support student-centred curricula (Ertmer, Gopalakrishnan, & Ross 2012).
To adopt and adapt the M5ESC lessons based on the school culture, teachers are encouraged to be more
open in customizing the lesson plan based on their own classes’ needs together with the use of
differentiated instructional approach (Tomlinson, 2001). They are also encouraged to integrate more
formative assessment methods for evaluating students’ performance in the inquiry process rather than
emphasize the results of term-based tests. Gradually, teachers will develop better understanding of how to
connect science learning in classroom with that outside of the classroom, and could monitor and assess
learning artefacts created outside of the classroom for supporting students’ conceptual understanding and
skills development. Parents are also encouraged to be more involved in their children’s learning activities
and to assist in monitoring their work progress.

Linkages to Informal Learning
An important feature of the M5ESC is the design of seamless learning activities for students’ inquiry that
connect formal learning with informal learning contexts. Teachers developed competencies on designing,
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implementing and assessing students’ learning activities in the classroom and that can continue beyond
the classroom. With the improvement in the skills of designing mobile learning activities for informal
contexts (e.g. home, zoo, botany garden, etc), teachers planned for more student-centered mobile
activities that relate students’ understanding with real-life experiences. These activities are planned to
enculturate the students to initiate learning outside of the classroom and for them to see the linkages with
classroom learning. In the zoo trip for P3 science, appropriate scaffoldings were provided for students to
complete the tasks of classification of the animals and identifying the characteristics of the animals, with
the use of mobile phone to collect their evidence and record their observations. More group discussions
were found during the zoo trip. Teachers designed learning experiences in the zoo trip for students to
observe and record the characteristics of animals groups through the affordances of the mobile devices.
Question prompts were designed to encourage students to carefully observe the characteristics of the
animals they view in the zoo and the habitat. Students took pictures of the animal and the habitat,
annotated the pictures or wrote the short notes of their observations which are uploaded to a server. The
students’ uploaded picture artefacts were used by the teacher in the follow-up discussions in the post-trip
lessons to review students’ observations and facilitate students in making connections of their
observations to the concepts they learnt about characteristics of animals in class.
To encourage students to be more observant of their environment, students were asked to use
their cameras on their mobile phones to take pictures of fungi they observe in their everyday lives. The
students showed examples of the different types of fungi such as fungi growing on a grass patch, white
molds on an old leather wallet and a finger nail infected by fungi. The variety of examples of the fungi
observed and catalogued by students enabled them to make connections to where and how fungi grow in
the environment. In a lesson to understand the lifecycle of living things, students visited a butterfly farm
where they are able to observe the different stages of a butterfly from the egg to adult stage. Students
were able to buy a butterfly caterpillar kit to take home and observe the stages of the butterfly
metamorphosis. Students took pictures of the metamorphosis from the caterpillar to the adult stages.
Teachers discussed with the students on their observation and linked their experiences to the concepts
they learnt about the lifecycle.
In M5ESC, term-based tests and students’ worksheets were not the only assessment instrument,
students’ performance in doing activities and the artefacts done by MyDesk had been selected as other
indicators for teachers’ evaluating students’ improvement and progression. For example, in the topic of
“Exploring Materials”, students were required to complete a series of tasks including constructing a
concept map in MapIT for materials classification after they explored the experiments of materials and
their properties, and writing their reflections on what they had learned in KWL, and connecting and
applying their understanding in daily life through posting a pic of product and pointing out its materials
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and properties via Sketchbook. Students created these artefacts outside of the classroom. We illustrated
three Sketchbook artefacts constructed by students (Figure 6), which present students’ different
understanding levels of the concepts.

Figure 6. Students’ Learning Artefacts in MyDesk

Furthermore, we analysed the SamEX data from one class of 43 students by categorizing their
postings made during the school vacation period. We identified three categories of postings: 1) Sciencerelated stemming from the school activity; 2) Science-related stemming from the students’ own interest;
and 3) Non-Science related.

The following table shows examples of the postings. We read the

accompanying text, if they are included, to interpret the images taken by the student. In the first category,
we grouped postings about the plants they grew during the holidays as Science-related stemming from the
school activity. For second category, we considered postings that were related to what they learn in their
Primary Science lessons to be included in this category. Also, we encountered some postings that were
Science-related but were outside the curriculum or have not been taught in the class yet. We classified
these postings into the second category. We considered the rest of the postings as non-school and nonScience related postings. Table 2 shows examples of the students’ postings in their categories.
Table 2. Categories of Postings
Science-related stemming from the
school activity

Science-related stemming from
their
own
interest
and
observation

Non-Science related.

Text: My plant-day 6

Text: arrghh! a butterfly

Text : eating ice cream!

14

Text: My plant started growing on
the 2nd day!!! Look how tall it is
now!!!!!!

Text: trees/plants

Text: the robot I made. nice?

Out of the 43 students in the class, 30 students participated to use SamEX to post their
experiences and observations during the month long holiday. There were a total of 294 postings made by
the students on SamEX. Out of these postings, there were 134 Science-related postings from the activity,
45 Science-related generated outside the activity, and 160 postings that were not related to Science. We
found that 24 students contributed to the 134 Science-related postings from the activity. These students
also contribute to the rest of the postings in the other two categories. From the 134 postings, we found
evidence of students’ inquiry-based learning as they observed the growth of the plant from planting the
seeds given to them. A few of students systematically recorded and took pictures of the plant daily using
the SamEX labeling the number of days. Another student observed a picture and observed how the plants
were growing in a direction and added the text “my plant day 8 growing towards the sun”. Another
described the germination process of the seed and growth of the plant, stating the sequence “Roots then
stem then leave then fruit.” In another example, a student observed her plant growing towards the window
and explains the phenomenon. She expressed her concern about the lack of sunlight because of the spell
of hazy weather which may cause the plant to die. She proposed the idea of using artificial light on the
plants to prevent them from dying (Table 3). From the artefacts collected from these students related to
the activity, the students make connections to what they have learned in the school about plants. They
have learned about how plants would grow towards light and how the stages of plant growth. From
observing the plant growth closely, they are able to make connections of the phenomenon to their learning.
Students are able to create their own hypothesis based on their knowledge. For example, the student
thought that her plant would die because of the lack of sunlight from the hazy weather. From her
hypothesis, she inferred and generated a solution to the problem by creating artificial light in replacement
of the sunlight.
Table 3. Students’ different postings

15

Text: my plant day 8 growing
towards the sun.

Text: Roots then stem then leaves
then fruit.

Text: Day12. Do you notice that the
two plants are growing towards the
window? It is because they want
sunlight. However, the haze is
blocking out the sun, so I am afraid
that the two plants might die without
light. I must create artificial light for
the plants.

In M5ESC, the classroom culture changed into one of participatory culture in the classroom.
Participatory learning culture advocates the engagement of students to share and distribute knowledge
within learning communities in the ICT learning context (Reilly, 2009). With constructivist pedagogical
approaches deployed in the classroom, students received more opportunities in articulating their
understanding, sharing their prior knowledge, commenting on their learning artifacts and elaborating on
their thinking during the group work in doing experiments, hands-on activities and mobile activities.
Student learning became more inter-dependent when they faced the complex tasks out of the classroom.
This indicated that the changes of classroom culture influenced students’ learning at outside as well. With
the increase of students’ autonomy learning in and out of the classroom, they became more confident in
doing the activities when they were required to complete the tasks by themselves. The implementation of
M5ESC has also seen some shifts in the role of parents. Their foci have been moved from an emphasis on
students’ test results and answers in worksheets to also look at students’ performance in completing the
tasks of mobile learning activities. They could assess students’ MyDesk and review their KWL reflections,
quality of concept maps and work done in the Sketchbook to glean more information on their children’s
learning process and thereby provide in-time feedback. When they received positive feedback of their
child’s performance, the parents became involved more and aware of what their children were learning,
they were willingness to assist their children’s outside work and interacted teachers with feedback and
suggestion.

Summary and Conclusion

16

This school initiative provide an illustration of how we can design innovative curricula to support
learning that incorporate elements of bridging of the formal and the informal learning spaces. Bridging
the spaces can help students to gain a better understanding of the conceptual knowledge in science by
connecting it to their daily experiences. Through the designs for learning and the use of technology,
students take more ownership of their learning and make their learning visible to teachers and their peers.
By sharing their ideas and making the learning visible to the peers, they can build upon one another ideas
and construct knowledge collectively.
In M5ESC, 5E instructional activities were made more vivid through enabling students to
construct, share and synthesize knowledge both in and out of the classroom, using tools and connectivity
provided on the mobile devices. Teachers have a window into the understanding and performance of each
student as well as aggregate views of the same for the whole class; these become the fodder for the
teacher to conduct individual and whole class level discussions and teaching. From the study of students’
use of SamEX, we learned that students can develop inquiry process skills through making detailed
observation, recording data, comparing differences, creating hypothesis and generating solutions. Thus, it
important to design tasks which are contextually related to what they have learned and are able to extend
learning to new situations. For example, in the activity in planting a seed, students can extend their
knowledge to plant systems – how parts of the plant work together for the plant to grow and reproduce.
As activities are designed to help students connect to their experiences in their daily lives, teachers can
facilitate the learning through sharing learning experiences, and facilitating discussions and meaningmaking, leading to students’ engagement in their learning of science.
In summary, our narration of this curricular implementation elucidates some of the approaches
and ways in which we can bridge formal and informal learning for science education in the primary
school level.

Acknowledgements
The paper is a part of work from project “Bridging Formal and Informal Learning Spaces for Selfdirected & Collaborative Inquiry Learning in Science” funded by Singapore National Research
Foundation (NRF2011-EDU002-EL005). We would also like to thank Qualcomm Wireless Reach for
their support of this research (2012-2014).

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