Assist New Culture Learning with a Mobile Group Blog (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Assist New Culture Learning with a Mobile Group Blog.

Abstract: Cultural shock and adaption are ubiquitously existing problem among the international students who newly arrive in the UK. This research examined a new way of forming online community with mobile devices helping overseas students successfully adapt to the new environment after arrivals. In this pilot study, a group mobile blog, Nottsmoblog, was designed and developed to a group of Chinese overseas students in Nottingham, UK. During the month of this study, each of the participants held Nokia mobile phones for group blogging, sharing their findings and personal experiences about the adaption and discussing within the group blog site. Different levels of cultural awareness were found in the group and people got increasingly awareness and more motivation to learn the local culture through their blogging activities.

Posting to NottsmoblogBlogging through mobile devices — moblogging — provides the opportunity to “capture the moment,” “on the spot.” A mobile group blog, with multiple authors, is a shared space which can create a sense of community between the bloggers. In this study:

  • 12 Chinese students moblogged for 4 weeks directly after arriving in Nottingham
  • They used internet-enabled phones and posted to their WordPress blog via a page customised for mobiles (see image)
  • Most posts were anonymous
  • 239 posts, 184 comments
  • The site received 2,847 hits with 218 login visits and 1,798 site pages viewed

They also created a short video using their camera phones: “A day in Nottingham.” Scenes include: Queuing to get onto a bus, getting onto the bus and buying a ticket. A market scene. A lone protester with a poster — free speech, new to the Chinese students. A funny British post-card — the Chinese girl explains to her friend that in the UK they find self-mockery humorous. Robin Hood museum. Etc etc.

When moblogging the students can send a photo, text and choose a category. Most posts covered the categories: life, buildings, food and traveling.

The author observed (not measured) the following links between blogging activities and thinking skills:

Mobile learning activities Thinking skills
Awareness Inquiry skills
Information gathering Information processing skills
Information transfer Reasoning skills
Information sharing Collaboration skills
Feedback Evaluation skills


Student motivation for moblogging:

  • Sharing experiences
  • Expecting comments

Time and place of moblogging:

  • Needed time to edit and choose photos to upload
  • Needed a place to sit down to upload
  • Asked for new input methods other than text

New opportunity for language learning:

  • Of interest was the unconscious shift in language use of a few students from mother-tongue (Chinese) to English after a few weeks of moblogging

Usability feedback:

  • Poor quality of photos taken by mobile camera
  • Inconvenience of inputting personal logging information

Privacy and security:

  • Students noted the need to keep blog audiences in mind before blogging
  • Students wanted more people to join in
  • There was mutual F2F communication between the students beyond the blog (they did not know each other before arriving in Nottingham)

Conclusions:

  • Students are very happy to share their experiences with people not only with the same background but also with people from diverse cultures, including local people
  • Young people are fascinated with the changes brought about by new technology in their daily life
  • The information they captured and stored in the group blog helped them recall their experiences
  • All of them would like to know more people who are in similar situation as them, with the aid of online community

In addition to being useful to immigrants, it could also be used for people moving from rural areas to cities. Businesses could also have their employees use such a service when they are moved between countries. Before moving to Shanghai (with the Ambassador Relocation or any other quality service), a US-worker could read the blogs of others who have gone before her and prepare for the culture shock.

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Author: Yinjuan Shao (aka Peggy),  LSRI University of Nottingham, UK

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