User Experience Findings
Mari Ervasti and Minna Isomursu
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Kaitoväylä 1, P.O. Box 1100, FI-90571 Oulu, Finland
Keywords: Near Field Communication (NFC), Mobile learning, Urban adventure track, Context-sensitiveness,
Abstract: This paper presents a mobile context-sensitive learning concept called the Amazing NFC, and reports the
findings and results of a field study where 228 students experienced the Amazing NFC urban adventure
during spring 2008. The Amazing NFC concept is an Amazing Race -style survival game for teenagers for
learning skills and knowledge essential to everyday life and familiarising them with their hometown. During
the Amazing NFC lessons, students were guided through an urban adventure track with the help of NFC
mobile phone, site-specific NFC tags located at eleven control points and related mobile internet content.
Trial aimed to analyze touch-based interaction paradigm directed to specific users in a defined context as an
implementation technique for mobile learning. User experiences and added value evoked by the service
concept were investigated via a variety of data collection methods. Findings revealed that students
experienced the NFC technology as easy and effortless to use. However, users hoped to see more challenges
and activity in the track in the future. Our analysis indicates that one main benefit of the urban adventure
concept was moving the learning experience from the traditional classroom to a novel context-sensitive
learning environment that includes social interaction between students.
Traditional classroom learning is what we are all
most familiar with. It usually awards credits based
on student performance, which is measured through
assignments, tests and exams. Traditional learning
typically takes place in an identifiable classroom
space during pre-defined hours. A classroom usually
has a number of specific features, including a
teacher who delivers information to students and a
number of students who all are physically present in
the classroom and regularly meet at a specific time.
Many learners favour traditional learning while
others find that it is more restrictive and lacks
flexibility. (Learn-Source, 2008)
However, new ways of learning are emerging.
New learning approaches suggest that imaginative
and innovative approaches are needed to bring about
improvements in learning new skills and adopting
new information (Espoir Technologies, 2007). The
best learning occurs in a stimulating, active,
challenging, interesting and engaging environment
when you move at least some part of your body and
when you learn things by doing and by experience
(ibic). The best learning occurs when you are
actively involved in co-constructing knowledge in
your own head, not passively reading or listening or
taking notes. Forcing people to sit in a chair and
listen (or read) dry, formal words (with perhaps only
a few token images thrown in) is often considered to
be the slowest, least effective, and most painful path
to learning (ibid). Yet it is the approach you see
replicated in everything from K-12 to universities.
Mobile phones have now evolved into pocket-
sized computers and as such have the ability to
deliver learning object and provide access to online
systems and services. Mobile learning is unique in
that it allows truly everywhere, anytime,
personalized learning, and offers opportunities to
integrate learning technology into student’s daily
activities (Laroussi, 2004). Mobile devices belong to
a learner’s personal sphere, which means that the
learner can take learning opportunities directly in the
situation where they occur, because the learner has
his learning environment always at hand (ibid).
Mobile learning can also be used to enrich, enliven
or add variety to conventional lessons or courses
(Attewell, 2005). Thus, the educational potential of
Ervasti M. and Isomursu M. (2009).
In Proceedings of the First International Conference on Computer Supported Education, pages 55-64
DOI: 10.5220/0001973400550064
mobile learning contents, both as learning and
teaching tool, is widely acknowledged, and various
initiatives have been undertaken to encourage the
integration of educational mobile resources in school
practice (Avellis et al., 1999).
Portable technologies have been explored in the
context of m-learning to provide literacy and
numeric learning experiences for young adults (aged
16-24) who are not in a full-time education
environment (Attewell, 2005). The m-learning
project running 2001-2004 intended to develop some
of its learning materials using a gaming philosophy
to make their use attractive to young adults. In the
project 62% of learners reported they felt keener to
take part in future learning after trying mobile
learning. 82% of respondents felt the mobile
learning games could help them to improve their
spelling and reading, and 78% felt these could help
them improve their maths. Study’s evidence
suggests that mobile learning can make a useful
contribution to attracting young people to learning,
maintaining their interest and supporting their
learning and development. It was also observed that
loaning equipment to young adults has resulted in
other benefits not directly related to the learning
experience. In particular, some of the learners were
surprised and proud to be trusted with such
expensive and sophisticated technology.
Wyeth et al. (2008) have used mobile technology
as a mediator within science learning activities in a
trial where 11-year-old children completed in pairs
an outdoor treasure hunt activity using a
combination of two mobile phones and a video
camera. During the trial was discovered that all the
children treated the treasure hunt as a competitive
activity and were highly motivated to make
discoveries based on the clues. However, the side
effect of the racing nature of the treasure hunt was
that it detracted from more focused learning and
considered reflections on what had been observed.
Study findings also revealed the importance of
context in learning: new understanding emerged as
children moved through the treasure hunt
environment. Productive and creative aspects
included in the trial appeared also to provide an
intrinsically motivating platform for learning.
Chang et al. (2006), in turn, have introduced the
treasure hunting learning model that extends
Computer-Aided Learning systems from web-based
learning to mobile learning. In their model the
system will provide students suitable instructions or
quests according to students’ learning results on
web, students can use the mobile phone to get the
guidance messages or quiz when they are moving
around in the field, and what concepts students
obtained and did not understand during the mobile
learning phase will be posted on the website in order
to let teacher and students do further discussions.
The effective use of mobile learning resource
depends to a large extent on how enjoyable students
find the learning experience. Some students may be
motivated by an element of competition (Becta,
2006). Also to cater the academic needs of students,
the service needs to be at the appropriate intellectual
level. Avellis et al. (2003) state that the effectiveness
and pedagogical soundness are very important to
evaluate in mobile contents. Some of the factors that
encourage a positive response from students to
mobile learning have been identified as (Becta,
Attractive presentation
Appropriate skill level(s)
A 'fun' element
Clear focus
Use of different types of media
Non-threatening environment
A feeling of progression and achievement
Intuitive design and interface
In the Amazing NFC trial, an Amazing Race -
style game was created for teenagers for learning
skills needed in everyday life and learning facts
about the city of Oulu in Finland. An objective was
to trial a context-sensitive educational service for the
target group by utilising NFC technology. Our urban
adventure concept acknowledged the importance of
context within the learning experience by focusing
on situated learning (Brown et al., 1989): enabling
learning in real-life contexts, outside the confines of
a conventional classroom (Tétard et al., 2008).
The aim of the trial was also to investigate user
experiences evoked by the touch-based interaction
paradigm and the mobile learning concept itself. In
addition, the educational aspects concerning the new
learning environment and the suitability of the
touch-based user interface and the related interaction
technique for the target group, i.e. the teenagers was
explored. In the trial was also examined the added
value the concept brings to learning.
Touching with a mobile terminal has been found to
be an intuitive, natural and non-ambiguous
CSEDU 2009 - International Conference on Computer Supported Education
interaction technique that does not incur much
cognitive load for users (Rukzio et al., 2006).
Välkkynen et al. (2006) state that touching is an
effortless way to select objects in the environment
and it is easy to learn and use.
NFC (Near Field Communication) technology is
designed to make communication between two
devices very intuitive, and NFC suits the
requirements for physical mobile interactions very
well. Objects can be augmented with NFC tags and
mobile devices can be equipped with NFC readers.
Tags in the environment may be used to provide
fast, zero-configuration service discovery (Isomursu
et al., 2008), and they can be attached to virtually
any object or surface. When a tag is touched, the tag
reader integrated into the mobile phone reads the
information embedded by the tag and is then able to
perform predefined actions. Tags are also small and
inexpensive, which makes tags suitable for
embedding the user interface into the everyday
living environment of the user.
The main advantages of NFC are the simple and
quick way of using it and the speed of connection
establishment, and even though people may have to
learn how to use touch-based interaction, it still
offers possibilities to be much simpler and quicker
than classical screen-based user interfaces on mobile
devices (Falke et al., 2007; O’Neill et al., 2007). In
our concept an URL to the web content was
transferred from the tag to the mobile phone when
the user touched the tag. The browser available in
the mobile phone could then directly access the
Amazing NFC field trial was implemented in the
city of Oulu in May 2008. The total of 228 students
between the ages of 14 and 15 from the schools
located in the Oulu district participated in the trial.
The mobile learning concept used in the trial was
called “Amazing NFC” after the well-known TV
series called “Amazing Race”. During the Amazing
NFC lessons that took place in downtown Oulu, the
students were guided through an urban adventure
track with the help of mobile phone and related
mobile internet content. Eleven locations, that we
called “control points”, around Oulu were marked
with NFC tags.
In the beginning of the Amazing NFC lesson, the
students were grouped into small groups of two.
Each student was provided with Nokia 6131 NFC-
enabled mobile phone for the duration of the lesson
and each student pair received an individual route
with a designated departure point. Upon arrival at a
control point, the student touched the NFC tag and a
web-page concerning information about the place
where the control point was located (e.g. a museum)
was sent to the student’s phone. First the student
read the text relating to the control point, watched a
video or listened to an audio file, and then answered
to a question related to the site. In some locations,
the question required the user to do some tasks to
acquire the information needed to answer the
question. After completing the assignment, students
received instructions and a map guiding them to the
next NFC control point. The control points, with the
exception of zoological museum, were located in the
city centre within a couple of kilometres distance,
and the students were expected to travel from one
control point to another with bikes (although some
used mopeds against instructions).
During the lesson, the teachers were able to
follow in real time via a web-based user interface
how the pairs of students proceeded through the
adventure track. Also, the students were advised to
use the mobile phone to call the teacher in case of
problems or questions. In Figure 1 is described the
overall view of the urban adventure concept.
Figure 1: Overall view of the trial.
The educational goals of the Amazing NFC
lesson were to provide the students with knowledge
related to landmarks, public buildings and offices in
their hometown, and practical skills related to
dealing with public authorities in mundane everyday
tasks. The locations chosen as control points were
city information centre, fire station, swimming hall,
police station, museum, city hall, youth and culture
centre, zoological museum at University of Oulu
(requiring a bus journey to the museum and back,
and ticketing was done with an NFC phone), city
library, theatre and the social insurance institution.
During the bus journey to zoological museum, the
students became familiar with, among other items,
the “Initiative for Oulu” service, i.e. sending an
electronic initiative to city authorities by touching
information tags in the bus. In Figure 2 the student is
touching the Amazing NFC tag at the control point
inside the social insurance institution.
Figure 2: Student visiting the Amazing NFC control point
located at the social insurance institution.
The Amazing NFC lesson was planned and
designed in close cooperation of teachers, service
and technology providers, and researchers. During
the design phase was especially emphasised the
ultimate goal of integrating the concept into the
normal practices of the schools, so that the trial
would not to remain as a single occasion related to
the research project. The aim was to create a viable
concept that could be adopted as a learning
instrument to be used also after the research trial.
This required tight involvement of teachers and
school administration in planning and implementing
the applications, and organizing and supervising the
trials. During the trial, the researchers were only
involved in the data collection activities; teachers
took full responsibility for organizing and
supervising the actual Amazing NFC lessons.
Dutton and Aron (1974) have stated that humans are
not very good at analysing what actually caused an
experience, so it can be difficult for users to identify
if the experience was caused by the technology
under evaluation or the user experience evaluation
method (or any other event in the life of the user).
Human memory about experiences is also unreliable
thus affecting our ability to recall past experiences
so that we could compare them with other
experiences (Schooler and Engstler-Schooler, 1990),
or to describe them reliably after time has passed.
Also, our ability to predict our own experiences in a
hypothetical or future setting is very limited (Wilson
et al., 2000; Gilbert and Wilson, 2000). Therefore, in
order to achieve the most reliable understanding of
user experience, the data during the Amazing NFC
lessons was collected in three phases: before use,
during use and after the use.
Since describing and understanding user
experience are complex as user experience is always
multifaceted and difficult to verbalise and describe,
the combining of different data collection methods
increases the reliability and validity of the results
(Isomursu et al., 2007). Therefore, we decided to
utilise a variety of data collection methods that were
highly complementary (Yin, 2003). The methods
used and data collected in different phases of the
experiment were as follows.
Before the start of the trial, two teachers were
interviewed in order to investigate their
expectations, doubts, thoughts and attitudes towards
the evaluated technology and learning concept.
Before the Amazing NFC lesson we also observed
how the students learned to use NFC technology,
and what kind of spontaneous reactions and
discussion took place in introduction of the concept.
A mobile questionnaire was used to capture
information about the expectations and attitudes
towards the mobile learning experience before the
lesson. Unfortunately, there were some technical
problems with the mobile questionnaire during the
very first trial lessons. Additionally, some teachers
forgot to provide the NFC tag used for accessing the
mobile questionnaire for their students. Therefore,
not all students were able to report their experiences
through the mobile questionnaire (we received 133
valid responses from 228 participants).
User experiences during the Amazing NFC
lesson were collected through video recordings, and
through automatic creation of log data about how the
pairs of students progressed on the track. Video
recordings were made by placing video cameras at
fixed spots to record students while they were
visiting the NFC control points, and by providing
students video cameras that they could use to record
their experiences during the lesson.
After use, the students filled out a second mobile
questionnaire collecting data about the user
experience immediately after use. The data received
CSEDU 2009 - International Conference on Computer Supported Education
from both mobile questionnaires was used to survey
how students’ expectations and attitudes changed
during the trial; whether their expectations were met
and attitudes altered. The students and teachers were
also requested to fill out a web questionnaire within
two weeks after the trial. For this purpose we created
two separate questionnaires (resulting in a total of 81
responses from students and 8 from teachers). In
addition, we arranged a workshop with twelve
students to explore the experiences with the
Amazing NFC. The workshop included participatory
features, i.e. the students participated in designing
how to iterate the concept for future use.
5.1 Before Use
Evaluation before use was done for gaining insights
into the attitudes, expectations and doubts of the user
groups regarding the upcoming Amazing NFC
lesson. Technology training situation was observed
to see how the students coped with learning to use
new touch-based interaction technique.
5.1.1 Interviews with Teachers
In general, teachers had a positive attitude toward
the learning concept. They found the trial
trustworthy; students could not get lost or get into
trouble as the teachers could follow their progress on
the track in real time through a web interface and
contact them if needed. Teachers felt it was good
that learning could be taken out from the traditional
classroom and 45-minute teaching style. They saw
the concept as an excellent way to familiarise the
students with their hometown and for students to
learn life-skills and to gain more courage to visit
different public buildings and offices in the city.
However, teachers thought that urban adventure
track needs to provide students a sufficient amount
of challenge in order to maintain their interest and
motivation during the Amazing NFC lesson. Thus,
in order to make a concept to succeed and to create
real experiences students must be offered more
activities, such as competitions and tasks. Teachers
expressed a doubt of NFC technology having the
taint of decoration; that in practice NFC would not
bring any added value for the learning concept.
Teachers’ stressed that the technology itself is not
enough to surprise and amaze students; it is the
content and activities that need to generate real
5.1.2 Observation of the Training
Before the Amazing NFC lesson, students were
given an introduction to NFC technology and they
had their first visual and physical encounter with the
learning concept and their first hands-on experience
on using the novel interaction paradigm. Therefore,
it is not surprising that learning touch-based
interaction required some practicing. Students
needed some practice to find the comfortable
personal reading distance between the tag and the
phone. Also, finding the right touching spot both
from the phone and from the tag, and learning the
response times required some practice. However, as
teenagers are nowadays very technological-savvy
and familiar with mobile technology, they adopted
the new technology and touch-based interaction fast:
all students were able to learn to use touch-based
interaction with a few repetitions.
5.1.3 Mobile Questionnaire
Students’ preliminary feelings were explored with a
mobile questionnaire just before the Amazing NFC
lesson: general attitudes toward the lesson, the
biggest expectations of and the major doubts about
the lesson. We received 133 responses from 74 boys
and 59 girls. A three-point Likert scale ranging from
1 (positive) to 3 (negative) was used to measure the
question concerning the attitude. 54.1% of students
had positive feelings about participating in the
lesson, and only 10.5% of students expressed
negative attitudes towards the lesson (see Figure 4).
In order to investigate the correlations that
stemmed from the student’s gender, data was also
analysed by doing the dependency tests between the
questionnaire parameters. Between the student’s
gender and attitude towards the Amazing NFC
concept was found a direct correlation (see Figure
4). 16.2% of boys had negative attitudes towards the
lesson, whereas only 3.4% of girls expressed the
same opinion. In contrast, 72.9% of girls thought it
was nice to attend the lesson, the corresponding
proportion of boys counting only to 39.2%.
Students were expecting most eagerly (see
Figure 3) to spend time with their friend (21.8%), to
try out new technology (21.8%) and to get out of the
school (19.5%). They were least expecting to learn
new information at the control points (9.8%) and to
get to know new places (8.3%). Correlation was also
discovered between the gender and expectations
(Figure 3). 32.2% of girls were most expecting
spending time with their friend while only 13.5% of
boys were expecting that. Whereas 29.7% of boys
and only 6.8% of girls were expecting getting away
from school the most. Quite surprisingly, more boys
(13.5%) than girls (5.1%) were waiting “learning
new information”, whereas girls (15.3%) were more
waiting “getting to know new places” when
compared to boys (2.7%).
Figure 3: Students’ expectations of the Amazing NFC
before the lesson (n=133; 74 boys and 59 girls).
Over half of the students (66.2%) reported
having no doubts regarding the Amazing NFC
lesson. Of those 33.8% students that reported having
some doubts, 16.5% identified the most important
reason to be the anticipated problems with new
technology, 7.5% considered it to be the difficulty of
finding the control points and moving around the
city and 3.8% feared bad weather during the day.
Student’s gender had also effect on whether or not
something daunted him or her before the lesson:
41.9% of boys had some doubts whereas the figure
with girls was lower (23.7%).
5.2 During Use
Collecting information about user experiences at the
time they happen requires in situ data collection
methods which can be applied during the use of
technology (Consolvo et al., 2007). This means that
the tools and methods used for collecting user
experience data need to be integrated into the
everyday practices of the trial users, just as the
technology under evaluation. Experiences show that
the user experience evaluation method may actually
“steal the show” (Isomursu et al., 2007) if it is more
visible and needs more attention and cognitive
processing from the user than the actual technology
under evaluation.
5.2.1 Video Recording
Video cameras were set at fixed spots to record
students while they visited NFC control points. This
solution was chosen in order to minimise the
interruption of the videotaping, and to prevent it
from having an influence on the user’s behaviour
and user experience formation (Yin, 2003).
However, when the student’s head was down while
he was watching the mobile device, it was difficult
to see all the facial expressions. Students also often
turned their backs to the camera or even moved out
of the reach. Thus, videos recorded by students
themselves proved to be a better information source.
Videos showed, for example, that students
commonly asked for help from passers-by if they
had trouble finding the control points. During the
lesson they also called and send text-messages to
their classmates to find out how they were doing and
how many control points they still had to go.
5.2.2 Log Data
User experiences were also collected by monitoring
the log data that was automatically recorded from
the control points by the Amazing NFC backend
system. For example, from the log data could be
seen that some pairs coincided with each other at
some control point and continued their way from
then on together, which resulted in some students
going through part of the track in bigger groups.
5.3 After Use
After-use evaluation was utilised to investigate user
experiences after the lesson and to identify possible
changes in students’ attitudes by comparing
situations before and after use. Also the future use of
the concept was inquired of students and teachers.
5.3.1 Mobile Questionnaire
Students’ experiences were explored with a mobile
questionnaire immediately after they had finished
the Amazing NFC lesson. The questionnaire
explored the general feelings after the lesson as well
as the best things and the downsides experienced
during the lesson. A three-point Likert scale ranging
from 1 (positive) to 3 (negative) was used to
measure the question concerning the emotions.
51.9% of the students reported that they had enjoyed
participating in the lesson, whereas 13.5% described
their feelings as negative (see Figure 4). A direct
correlation between student’s gender and feelings
after the lesson was revealed: 20.3% of boys had
negative feelings when only 5.1% of girls were in
the same opinion. As much as 66.1% of girls but
only 40.5% of boys had enjoyed the lesson.
CSEDU 2009 - International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Figure 4: Students’ attitudes towards Amazing NFC
before the lesson and their feelings towards Amazing NFC
after the lesson (n=133; 74 boys and 59 girls).
There was also discovered correlation between
students’ attitudes before and feelings after the
lesson. 60% of the respondents who reported having
negative feelings after the lesson had also had an
unfavourable attitude towards the lesson.
Correspondingly, as much as 72.9% of those having
positive feelings after the lesson had also had a
favourable, positive attitude before the lesson.
The best things in the lesson were considered to
be spending time with a friend (30.8%), wandering
on the town (22.6%) and trying out new technology
(19.5%). Over half of the students (64.7%) stated
that in their opinion there were no downsides in the
Amazing NFC lesson. Those 35.3% that had
experienced some negative things felt that the most
important reason was related with finding the control
points and moving around the city (12.8%).
5.3.2 Web Questionnaires
After the trial, students and teachers answered to the
web questionnaire that aimed for evaluating their
experiences about the lesson and finding
improvement ideas for Amazing NFC. Unless stated
otherwise, a four-point Likert scale ranging from 1
(strongly agree) to 4 (strongly disagree) was used to
measure the questionnaire variables.
The total of 81 students (42 girls and 39 boys)
answered to the web questionnaire. The majority of
the respondents reported that they liked the urban
adventure track (av. 3.741, where the scale was from
1 (boring) to 5 (nice)). Students mostly agreed that it
was easy (av. 1.691) to discover the tags located at
the NFC control points. The navigation from one
control point to other by using the map and
instructions received on the mobile phone was
considered easy (av. 1.838). The usage of NFC
phone and touching the tags was also experienced as
effortless and natural (av. 1.457).
However, the students somewhat disagreed (av.
2.432) that the information provided at the control
points was interesting. Students did not think they
had learned lot of useful information during the
lesson (av. 2.346) nor considered the questions
presented at the control points having been
challenging (av. 2.951). Nevertheless, they preferred
(av. 1.704) the learning through Amazing NFC to
learning in the classroom, but did not think (av.
2.346) that participating in the trial had given them
more courage to visit the public buildings and
offices in their hometown.
Students found it nice (av. 1.469) that they could
go from one control point to other on their own and
at their own pace. In the trial, the learning
experience was rather social, as the students were
instructed to work in pairs. Working in pairs was
preferred by almost all (97.5%). In addition, many
participants (59.5%) reported that they had formed
bigger groups during the Amazing NFC lesson. The
time it took from the students to go through the
adventure track and the distances between the
control points were perceived as suitable by 76.5%.
In the web questionnaire were also explored
students’ preferences between the eleven control
points. Students had most liked about the control
point that was situated inside the zoological museum
(32.1%), next best was the bus journey to the
museum (25.9%), the third best being the police
station (9.9%). So, clearly the most interesting
control point for Amazing NFC participants was the
visit to zoological museum. The visit started with a
bus journey, where the students were able to use
their NFC phones for ticketing. Inside the bus the
students were able to use informational NFC tags
offering e.g. news from the local newspaper. For
other transitions, students used bikes in all weathers.
During some lessons, weather was cold, rainy and
windy. Also, as the lesson lasted approximately
three hours, some students started to get tired.
Therefore, the bus ride was experienced as a
welcome change. At the zoological museum, the
students were instructed to see the animals on
display, and consume content about the animals
through tags attached to the displays. When
compared to other control points, there was clearly
required more activity and offered more interaction
with the environment.
Students reported that they would be willing to
participate in the Amazing NFC lesson also in the
future (av. 2.123), but were not especially eager to
go through the adventure track on their own outside
the school (av. 2.716). In students’ opinion NFC
technology suited the learning concept well (av.
1.605) and they would be glad (av. 1.815) to use
NFC technology also in other situations and
environments. The average grade students gave to
the concept was 8, on a scale from 4 to 10.
The total of eight teachers answered to the web
questionnaire after the Amazing NFC lesson.
Teachers experienced that the new learning concept
exceeded their expectations (av. 1.5) and somewhat
agreed that students had learned and received new
information to expected extent (av. 1.75). All the
teachers thought that the adventure track served well
getting to know ones hometown, and 75% of the
teachers were in the opinion that the lesson had also
served students becoming independent and learning
life-skills, whereas only 25% thought that the lesson
had served informational learning. They also agreed
that the monitoring of students’ progress on the track
was easy (av. 1.375) through the web-based
interface and had received all the necessary
information through it (av. 1.625). All the teachers
were ready to exploit the learning concept in the
future. The average grade the teachers gave to the
concept was 8.9 on the scale from 4 to 10.
Teachers gave also many ideas for the future
utilisation of Amazing NFC concept. For example,
different kinds of adventure tracks could be planned
based on art works, nature, history or different
theme days such as Easter and Christmas, and in
those occasions tags could be placed in locations
that suit the theme. Teachers also hoped to see the
concept to be used for teaching of different school
subjects, e.g. in language learning clues and tasks at
the control points could be given in English. NFC
tracks could also be created for new students starting
the secondary school in autumn. On their first day at
new school students could go through the adventure
track located on the school premises and would thus
have an opportunity to familiarise themselves with
the new school and its surroundings. Getting to
know unfamiliar cities with the help of NFC
technology would also be useful for example during
school trips. Teachers were in the opinion that the
adventure track should be mainly directed for a bit
younger students, because students around the age of
15 already have so advanced knowledge and skill
levels that they comprise a difficult target group
when you want to dazzle them with new
5.3.3 Workshop
In the workshop twelve students were asked to give
ideas on how the Amazing NFC concept could be
improved and developed further. In their opinion,
tags at the control points should be hidden and
located in more difficult places. Students also
thought that the tasks should be longer, and more
effort should be required to find answers to
questions, because now all just guessed the answers.
There should be someone supervising at the control
points to check that all tasks would be performed
correctly. Students hoped to see more physical and
problem-solving tasks and activities at the control
points and if they could also compete with each
other on the adventure track it would bring along
more motivation and excitement.
The Amazing NFC learning concept provides a
learning experience on a mobile phone – which
many young people are comfortable using and
enthusiastic about. Mobile technology was used to
encourage both independent and collaborative
learning experiences, to help to battle against
reluctance to use ICT in learning, to help to remove
some of the formality from the learning experience,
to engage reluctant learners, to aid learners to remain
more focused for longer periods and to help to raise
learners’ independence and self-esteem. In our
concept an objective was to have learning content,
pedagogical methods and technological tools all
functioning in a harmony (Tétard et al., 2008).
Teenagers are a tough target group for designing
mobile services. The experience and high knowledge
in using mobile devices means that this user group is
hard to amaze or even satisfy. NFC promises a novel
and intuitive user interface to mobile devices but the
novelty of the technology is not enough to ensure the
success and interest of the concept. The teenagers
who attended the trial had high expectations
concerning the new technology and the content and
quality of the service. One factor contributing to
negative attitude towards the content provided and
related tasks may be the association made by naming
Amazing NFC after the popular TV show “Amazing
Race”. The naming might have set expectations and
mental impressions that were not fulfilled. For
example, searching and finding the tag at the control
points was part of the excitement of the urban
adventure. This is illustrated in the following
improvement idea expressed by one of the students:
“Tags should be somehow hidden so it would be
more interesting to search for them.” The
CSEDU 2009 - International Conference on Computer Supported Education
excitement and challenge level of the TV show was
not obviously reached during the lesson.
Observation of students showed that none of
them had problems in learning to use touching as an
interaction technique within a couple of minutes of
hands-on training. Intuitiveness and naturalness of
this interaction technique made adopting effortless.
In NFC technology survey (O’Neill et al., 2007) was
discovered that users were concerned with how the
use of NFC readers in public spaces made them
appear to other people around them. Many
participants of that survey noted that they felt
awkward at first using NFC due to the very explicit
public act of reaching out and touching a tag
embedded in the environment. However, many
participants lost their reservations about using NFC
over the course of the trial. In Amazing NFC trial,
none of the students reported that touching tags
would make them feel uncomfortable.
Even though the students attending the Amazing
NFC lessons mostly reported that context-based
mobile learning experience was better than
classroom learning and they enjoyed participating in
the lesson, they criticized the provided content
strongly. Majority of students reported that the tasks
and the information provided were not interesting
and challenging enough to make the urban adventure
truly motivating and thrilling. Students expressed
their need for getting more challenging tasks, for
example by including physical and competitive
activity and increasing the variety of tasks. For
example, the following student comment reveals the
need for improvement: “There should be more
challenge at control points. Now the maps were not
actually needed and the questions were too easy.”
Clearly the most interesting control point for
Amazing NFC participants was the visit to the
zoological museum. When compared to other
control points, there was more activity required from
the students and more interaction offered with the
environment. The average time used for the visit was
the longest during the lesson, and the content and
related questions integrated seamlessly with the
physical activities required and the context of use. In
most control points, the students just quickly visited
the entrance hall of a public building for reading the
content and to answer the question. In these cases,
the physical experience and social context of the
location did not successfully integrate with the
content provided, as the students did not really
interact and experience the space and environment
they visited.
Thus, in future development the Amazing NFC
urban adventure needs to be more carefully
combined with intrinsically motivating attributes
(Malone and Lepper, 1987) such as challenge,
curiosity and competition. However, when adding
the element of competition in learning, one has to be
aware of the possible pitfalls associated with racing
(Wyeth et al., 2008).
Teachers brought up an idea that in the future the
students themselves could act as content creators and
providers by offering them a possibility to create
their very own tags and to place these tags at the
control points. In general, teachers identified that the
main benefit of the Amazing NFC lesson was
moving the teaching situation and learning
experience from the traditional classroom to real-life
contexts that also included social interaction
between students.
Within this mobile learning concept the threats
mostly concern to ensure the safety of students while
they are independently going through the urban
adventure track. However, students participating in
the trial were already older and more independent
and used to move around the city by themselves.
Also, students could not get lost in the city because
teachers were able to follow in real time their
progress on the track through a web interface, and
the students were advised to use the NFC phone to
call the teacher in case of problems or questions.
Throughout the pilot, the students coped very well
on their own. However, the city of Oulu is relatively
small (130 000 inhabitants). In bigger cities safety
could be more of a problem.
Also, in this kind of concept a password
protection is a necessary requirement to gain access
to the web interface that contains status information
of the students (which control points have been
visited, at what time and by whom) while they are
on the urban adventure track. Tags at the control
points need also be protected against rewriting.
After this Amazing NFC trial, the project
arranged a cultural/historical track where students
became familiar with the city of Oulu’s culture and
history. The route consisted of seven NFC control
points located at the local cultural and historical sites
in the Oulu, such as statues, monuments and
historically meaningful buildings.
We would like to thank the students and teachers of
the participating schools. We are also grateful to the
administrative units of the city of Oulu for being
actively involved in this mobile learning pilot
scheme. This work was done in the SmartTouch
project (ITEA 05024) which is a project within
Information Technology for European Advancement
(ITEA 2), a EUREKA strategic cluster programme.
The SmartTouch project (www.smarttouch.org) has
been partly funded by Tekes, the Finnish Funding
Agency for Technology and Innovation.
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