The increases in capabilities of mobile devices have allowed individuals to gain a new degree of freedom in the exchange of media-rich information. The individual is able to access knowledge in text, audio, video, and real-time formats and provide such information to other individuals, privately or publicly. This freedom, of course, is available to K-12 students as well. In a previous study [Hey et al. 2006], we have found that peer learning through sharing – whether as a written observation, photograph or video – is crucial to a student's learning experience. Mobile technologies – photo phones, wireless gaming devices, PDAs, video IPODs, etc. – have constructed another arena for sharing for the students that promises to achieve the learning "anytime, anywhere" goal of mobile learning. However, for mobile learning to become truly accessible to students, parents and teachers have to be able to entrust the students with these technologies without fear for their well-being when they participate in the different types of spaces the Internet provides. Posting and sharing of images and videos of classroom exercises or field trips raises questions of the acceptable degrees of accessibility of media-rich infromation. Context-sensitive educational applications that utilize location technologies available on mobile devices, such as those that use GPS technology to identify location for animal sightings [CyberTracker 2005], raise questions about who can monitor and locate a student's location.
As student access and share information that are enabled by mobile devices, we highlight the opportunities and challenges associated with mobile learning and safety of K-12 students in an "unblinking" cyberspace. What types of information are shared or have the potential to be shared in mobile learning applications? What technological, physical or virtual, barriers are needed to create spaces that ensure students' safety? What are the tensions betweens the different stakeholders' (students, parents, teachers) perspective of their respective privacy rights and responsibilities? What tools and safeguards should be built into educational digital libraries that aim to provide access and support for mobile learning, such as the National Engineering Education Digital Library system (NEEDS) at www.needs.org or the Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology educational library at www.smete.org?
In the construction of a virtual barrier, we can review its physical congruence which has been widely studied by city planners, sociologists, and alike. As students share information the Internet via mobile devices, they are allowing themselves to be seen by other individuals of that space. This relationship is similar to one's action in entering a public sphere where they are visible to random individuals. Philosopher Michel Foucault reflects that "visibility assures the hold of power that is exercised over" the one that is seen. Thus when students are completely visible at any time anywhere to anyone on the Internet, how can this visibility be used strictly for the benefit of education without the drawback of exposing students to privacy and safety vulnerability? Of course, visibility is taken away when there are barriers between the individuals that are seen and the individuals that are seeing. Properly constructed barriers will be able to retain the integrity of learning from the sharing method and keep out the potential abuser of space. According to one study [M. Duneier, 1999], social order is maintained through "public characters" where individuals entering the space need to meet some normative standard to avoid scrutiny. Thus virtual public characters, a form of barrier as well participant, need to be explored while we define these spaces that will contain individuals that will ultimately interact with the minor user.
In order to develop and formalize our understanding of possible technological barriers to ensure minor users of mobile technology, we conducted a study to understand a range of media-rich information exchange possible in science and engineering learning for K-12 students. We reviewed the studies on public and private space planning for children in physical spaces and translated to parallels in virtual spaces. The two sets of information will allow us to recommend technological barriers for a safe "unblinking" cyberspace for K-12 students.
Our study of K-12 students was conducted in public schools and informal learning settings within the greater Bay Area in California. In this aspect of research, we examined the stakes of safety from a user-centered perspective. We observed the behaviors of the stakeholders while they were using mobile devices and examined the science and engineering materials that were employed in the student's education.
We chose two qualitative research strategies to enhance our understanding in the type of information content and flow that the students encountered from using Internet resources as well as mobile devices while learning.
1. We designed student workshops that were geared towards science and education learning and conducted with students within the study context. The sessions covered the educational material and employed PDAs and other mobile devices to enhance the student's experience by allowing them to explore engineering outside of classroom without constant adult supervision in the classroom. The sessions ended with a debriefing activity that solicited the student's opinions on the educational experience as well as the mobile device.
2. Formal, semi-constructed interviews with educators in different elementary schools were conducted. Each ranged from 40 to 90 minutes. Interview topics included teachers' concerns regarding the use of mobile applications as well as the types of science and engineering lessons they conduct in their classroom.
We also include a literature survey on construction of public and private spaces and the related safety concerns associated with children's use of mobile devices.
The workshops and interviews were captured in either audio or video form and transcribed. Each text document was coded by two researchers; then the data codes and quotes were distilled and discussed. Key findings were identified and analyzed in relationship to the literature finding of safety barrier construction. Technological barrier needs are then identified, which allow the design team to make recommendations for mobile device infrastructure that cater to the safe use of mobile devices by K-12 students.
1. CyberTracker (2005), http://www.cybertracker.co.za/.
2. Duneier, M. (1999), Sidewalk. (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux).
3. Hey J., J. S. Sandhu, C. Newman, J.-S. Hsu, C. Daniels, E. Datta and A.M. Agogino (2006), "Designing Mobile Digital Library Services for Pre-engineering and Technology Literacy", The International Journal of Engineering Education - Mobile Technologies for Engineering Education.
4. Merdich, E.A., Roizen, J., Rubin V., & Buckley, S. (1997). The serious business of growing up, (Berkeley: University of California Press).
Alice M. Agogino is the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Chair of UC Berkeley's Academic Senate. She has served in a number of administrative positions at UC Berkeley, including Associate Dean of Engineering and Faculty Assistant to the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost in Educational Development and Technology. She also served as Director for Synthesis, an NSF-sponsored coalition of eight universities with the goal of reforming undergraduate engineering education, and continues as PI for the NEEDS ( www.needs.org) and smete.org educational digital libraries. Agogino leads a number of research projects in the areas of computational design, learning sciences, wireless micro-sensors MEMS, green design and diagnostics and monitoring. Agogino received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Mexico (1975), M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering (1978) from the University of California at Berkeley and Ph.D. from the Department of Engineering-Economic Systems at Stanford University (1984). She has authored over 150 scholarly publications; has won 3 teaching and 9 best paper awards; is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a recipient of the NSF Director's Award for Distinguished Teaching Scholars. She has supervised 67 MS projects/theses, 27 doctoral dissertations and numerous undergraduate researchers.
Charlotte Daniels is an incoming third year Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student at University of California – Berkeley and has worked for Prof. Alice Agogino on the Mobile Learning Project in the Berkeley Expert Systems Technology Lab since summer 2005.
Arianne Agogino Gieringer is a senior at the College Preparatory School in Oakland, California. She is a summer researcher for the Berkeley Expert Systems Technology (BEST) Laboratory .
Jui-Shan Hsu is an entering graduate student in Mechanical Engineering at University of California – Berkeley, where she received her B.S in Mechanical Engineering and Material Science. Ms. Hsu has worked for Prof. Alice Agogino on the Mobile Learning Project in the Berkeley Expert Systems Technology (BEST) Laboratory since summer 2005. Her research interest is on user interface, qualitative research methods, and technical communication.
Paul Mackinney is a staff programmer/analyst for the Berkeley Expert Systems Technology (BEST) Laboratory. He received a B.A. in Mathematics from the University of California at Santa Cruz (1984), and is studying for a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinery Computer Science at Mills College. Professionally he has worked as a Software Quality Assurance Manager and as an IT specialist.
Chad-Eric Montgomery is an undergraduate researcher at the University of California at Berkeley. He is an incoming third year student in Applied Mathematics and Senior Vice President, Black Engineering & Science Student Association (BESSA). Selected for the Initiative for Diversity in Educational Leadership (IDEAL) Scholarship, he provides leadership and community services at UC Berkeley and in the City of Berkeley community.