SCAffolding Rich Learning Experiences through Technology: SCARLET

Lead Research Organisation: Institute of Education
Department Name: Culture, Communication and Media


The nature of technology has changed since scaffolding was conceptualised as an educational approach, and software scaffolding systems were first developed. Technology is smaller, more mobile, networked, pervasive and often ubiquitous as well as being provided by the standard desktop PC. This offers the potential for technology supported learning wherever and whenever learners need and want it. However, in order to take advantage of this potential for greater flexibility we need to develop modelling and scaffolding techniques that go beyond a single subject and place. The development of such models and techniques is the subject of the SCARLET project proposal.The concept of scaffolding was introduced to describe the sorts of support that can be offered to a learner to help them bridge the gap between what they want to achieve and what they are currently able to achieve by themselves. These face to face scaffolding techniques were then applied to educational software design. The requirements for successful scaffolding remain the same whether the scaffolder is a person or technology. The scaffolder needs to know about their learners as well as the subject to be learnt so that they can provide and remove support as and when appropriate to the learners' needs. For example, the scaffolder needs to know how much the learners currently understand about the subject, how motivated to learn they are and how confident they feel. Scaffolding software dynamically creates such learner models, activities are completed and information from teachers, peers and collaborators can be added. To complement these learner models, the scaffolder also needs a good model of the subject to be learnt. This model needs to identify the types of task that the learner can complete, the sorts of resources they can access and the types of assistance that can be offered. For example, simulated science laboratory software might ask children to explore food web problems by adding animals and plants to a virtual lab and then selecting actions, such as one animal to eat another. A scaffolding component could offer advice contingent upon:* The organisms available to the learner, domain resource contingency* The actions she tries to make happen once she has selected her organisms, task contingency. * The time at which support is offered, temporal contingency Initially software scaffolding systems concentrated upon using artificial intelligence to build such models of the learners' knowledge development and implemented scaffolding based upon the contingencies described above. More recently this modelling activity has involved exploring further types of contingency relating to learners' metacognitive awareness (what learners know and believe about their own learning), learners' motivation, and learners' confidence. To date however this scaffolding has been implemented to support learning within the context provided by the software.The increasing ubiquity of technology brings with it the need to explore new types of contingency. We now need to be able to model the context beyond that created by a single piece of software as well as the learner and the subjects being learnt. But what are the new types of contingency and how can we scaffold them? What types of technology can we use to develop new forms of scaffolding? These are the questions that the SCARLET project will explore. Such contingencies might include interface contingency for example. We also need to explore a different granularity of scaffolding support. If we consider scaffolding in the real world then the domain resource contingency discussed earlier might relate to resources such as a museum, park, an environmental expert or certain books in the library. The SCARLET project will explore ways in which we can use technology to offer advice about the resources that can be used to support learning across multiple locations, subjects and times.
Description There are four categories of finding from this project:
1) An increased understanding of the relationship between a learner and the context with which he/she interacts when learning
2) A theoretically grounded model of a learner's context
3) A design framework for the development of context sensitive technology enhanced learning
4) Technology developed using the design framework
Exploitation Route The design framework can be used by teachers to develop technology enhanced lessons, and by technology developers to build technology enhanced learning applications.
The technology can be used by language learners to increase their vocabulary and by tech savvy people to develop further applications
Sectors Education

Description The educational technology design framework developed during this grant has been used with teachers and learners both within and outside formal education. The use of the framework leads to the development of context sensitive technology enhanced learning activities and technologies that meet their users' needs. One of the technologies developed: a mobile phone application, has been re-purposed and used to support work with learners as part of a different EPSRC research project. The theoretical model has been used to inform the work of an EU funded project that engaged teachers in the process of using technology to support their formative assessment activities.
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Education
Impact Types Societal

Description Lyrical, hip hop and rhyme explorations 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Background
The JOLLY project is concerned with (i) exploring innovative web based technology to improve English comprehension and digital skills amongst disadvantaged Filipino children transitioning from primary to secondary school and (ii) using language ambiguity as a means to also engage UK children with the English language. The project's starting point was to use joking riddles: an approach that has previously produced improvements in reading comprehension.

After exploring English language humour with colleagues and their students in the Philippines it became clear that an alternative approach would be more effective. Interviews with over 700 students indicated that the highest levels of engagement with English were found in listening to pop songs. Reviews of existing literature and commercial services confirmed that English pop music was potentially a viable means to improve comprehension skills; in a large part this is due to (1) high levels of engagement and motivation from learners and (2) use of melody and rhyming within songs which can enhance phonemic awareness. (citations)

To develop this idea further a series of paper games were designed to explore students' skill in detecting rhymes from a group of English language songs the students were familiar with. As a control, the students were also given a test with one song that was unfamiliar to them.

The results were published in Becoming Better Versed: Towards the Design of a Popular Music-based Rhyming Game for Disadvantaged Youths

Following the paper games, the UK team visited the Philippines to help run workshops with teachers and students. For these workshops, a simple website was created to digital interaction with the games. The workshops built upon work previously carried out in the Philippines between January and March 2018 and attempted to answer two types of question.

Engagement: lyrics as a means of literacy development and whether or not it had any validity in terms of student engagement with English language. Specifically, the question was framed in terms of "do children have fun playing with English song lyrics?"

Literacy: questions relating to the literacy difficulties of the tasks the children were presented with through the games. The idea here was to get a sense of the extent to which the children could complete the tasks, and where the boundaries were (e.g. what tasks, or parts of a task, were too difficult).

Observations suggested that students were highly engaged. Quiz results analysis, though not complete, does show that many students were able to complete the game tasks successfully, though as expected to varying degrees given that the students were heterogeneous with respect to age and academic grade. The UK observed directly that students have a high level of background knowledge for English language pop music. The students also enjoyed and were able to re-write well known pop songs and perform them to their peers. The particular challenge the students were set was to make their own version of a self-selected song funny or nonsensical, working in small teams. The use of humour was the basis of the project as initially conceived (Yuill and Oakhill, 1988); we have thus been able to retain the initial goals but through the frame of popular music rather than joking riddles (which have culturally specific boundaries that might limit their transferability).

In the past few weeks we have extended the exploration of music and humour by exploring Filipino battle rap. Battle rap offers a potentially unique way to engage in English language in the Philippines. Although the reasons why are not fully clear (to our knowledge) the Philippines has largest online and (anecdotally) offline battle rap leagues. The Philippines has had the first hip-hop music scene in Asia, largely due to the country's historical connections with the United Sates. Rap music released in the Philippines has appeared in different languages or dialects (in addition to English) such as Tagalog, Chavacano, Cebuano and Illocano.The Fliptop Battle League has over 3m subscribers and 1.2 billion views on its YouTube channel. This is six times more that the largest U.S rap battle league. The main language used is Tagalog but the most successful battle rappers are able to perform in English. Their English competence is sufficiently good that they have completed internationally against native-English speakers (Loony, Protégé). The existence of relatively young Filipinos, from disadvantaged backgrounds, who have reached such a high level of skill in English can serve as an example. Indeed, the use of hip hop in creating positive English speaker identities has a precedent in some work done in Hong Kong in 2012. Hip Hop and English Language Learning (ELL): Empowering Youth with Positive English Speaker Identities; (Angel Lin, University of Hong Kong.2012.

The implications of English language battle raps as a valid medium are substantial. It offers perhaps the possibility for future software that lets Filipino and native-English speakers responds to the same language games based on shared music; the software would in this instance need to adapt the degree of difficulty and/or support according to the user's proficiency and progress. Furthermore, the software design could encourage collaboration wherever possible so that Filipino and English students became peer learners. In this instance, the native-English speaking students could take on mentoring roles and there is an argument that this type of learning environment can benefit both the students giving and receiving help. (Topping (2005) Trends in Peer Learning, Educational Psychology,25:6, 631-645)

United Kingdom
In parallel with the work in the Philippines, the JOLLY project has also held workshops in the UK. Music formed the basis of the project but with an emphasis on hip hop rather than pop music. The reason for using hip hop is that (i) it is probably the most popular music genre among the target age group and (ii) it often features highly complex rhyme schemes and/or wordplay.

The workshops in the UK initially involved classroom observations as well as playing a creative writing game. The students at the school we visited had been studying Shakespeare's Othello and exploring vocabulary and well as poetic choices. In under 8 minutes the students created original text that made the case that Iago's honesty did him little goo good. The text had to use a number of mandatory words but was otherwise unrestricted.

Further workshops that will build on this game by using (i) music videos as well as curriculum material and (ii) co-designing mockups and prototype software. These workshops are due to commence in January 2019. The goal of the workshops is to involve students in the design of software that uses the hip hop videos as a trigger for the students to produce their own creative texts in response to the video. The questions we will explore include:

Duration of the videos and what level of support student to successfully create texts
What types of feedback students need to support their text creation
Mechanisms for feedback such as teacher led, peer-to-peer of software determined (AI)
The extent to which self-autonomy in the selection of the videos is important for the student experience?

The above questions are illustrative. Our research questions will also take into account the perspectives of teachers as well as students. We believe this is important because by encouraging students to create texts in response to music they are enjoy it is possible to explore issues around motivation and self-confidence. While these are not the focus of JOLLY, they are issues we need to take into account given the known links between motivation and task performance


To date the JOLLY project has produced two papers which will be presented at the 26th International Conference on Computers in Education (ICCE 2018)

Towards the Development of a Computer-based Game for Phonemic Awareness

Becoming Better Versed: Towards the Design of a Popular Music-based Rhyming Game for
Disadvantaged Youths

Engagement Activities

As a result of the project we are engaging with a social impact charity called Lives Not Knives to run after school literacy workshops similar that use songs to build literacy skills. The workshops will be aimed at disadvantaged young people that the charity works with and initially run for 6 weeks from January 2019. The workshops will use prototype software to explore the students' creative writing in response to (student selected) songs. In addition, the workshops will be linked to the UK curriculum for English literature and language in that students will be challenged to use poetic and other formal literary techniques within the texts that they create. At the end of the pilot the participants will publicly perform their work before an invited audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018