Mobile Video Blog Exchange : Learning Media for Children in Underserved Communities
Stay out of the way! My kid is video blogging through a phone! A lesson learned from math tutoring social media for children in underserved communities


The current trends in social network media, coupled with increasingly advanced and ubiquitous mobile technology, point towards great potential for their use in learning support and in “deconstructing the digital divide.” This project explores how a mobile video blogging model embedded in a learning support community can address the learning needs of underperforming students of low socioeconomic status. In this project, various mobile video recording approaches were analyzed, and some blogging strategies were linked to higher learning outcomes. Although a few challenges and issues were identified, the mobile video blogging community was generally found to be a viable learning support tool for children in underserved communities.

go to top


In recent years, mobile devices such as smart phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and ultra mobile or tablet PCs have garnered significant interest from educators because of their increasing computing power, portability, affordability, and ubiquitous accessibility. M-learning (mobile learning), as a promising education model to promote and support adaptive, investigative, communicative, collaborative, and experiential learning activities, proposes a wide variety of interactive learning environments in which teaching and learning can thrive (Laurillard, 2007).
Particularly, today’s smartphones are mini multimedia computers. They are generally equipped with 3G and WiFi internet connectivity, a multi-megapixel camera, and Bluetooth for wireless peripheral device interconnectivity. Smartphones with digital media storage at a gigabyte level can capture or play back most standard audio, image, and video formats. Embedded sensors such as accelerometer, compass, and GPS generate and enable a whole new set of creative media and interaction possibilities, which can be integrated into online media and social networking sites. Therefore, the ubiquitous mobile connection to exponentially growing Web 2.0 social media services (e.g., Flickr, YouTube, blogs, MySpace, Facebook, Kyte, GPS storyteller, etc.) and collaborative communication and user generated content creation capabilities of these mobile devices make them versatile learning resources for facilitating constructivist learning environments across multiple learning contexts (Cochrane, 2008).
At the same time, with the rapid advancement of mobile computing and Web communication technology, perhaps a new possibility for deconstructing the digital divide in schools may be emerging. Warschauer et al (2004) argued that the social embeddedness of technology provides a fertile ground for technology-based innovation in schools to flourish. He further claimed that one must school-based technical innovation requires guaging the level of ubiquitous accessibility of computing power and Internet access, and providing adequate level of support for academic activities in school as well as at home. Therefore, finding a technology model that may ignite high degrees of ubiquitous accessibility and thereby foster learning in school and everywhere else has become our utmost concern.
Recognizing the importance of access to information technology in mitigating or enhancing widening societal gaps, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) division of the US Department of Commerce has published vital data related to the status of the digital divide in a recent report (Dutta-Bergman, 2005). This report has also promoted the availability of publically accessible computers connected to the Internet (Dutta-Bergman, 2005). However, accessing computers publicly is hardly more effective than using a personal mobile computing device. In the age of the Web 2.0, such a device can be equipped with various inquiry tools and online communities of resources to enable autonomous learning opportunities, which can be profoundly woven into daily lives and routines.
This project explores the potential of a specific mobile Web2.0 tool--video blogging-embedded in a learning support community, as a means of addressing learning needs among underperforming students of low socioeconomic status. It describes a qualitative study implemented with 5th grade students in an elementary school, and discusses the observations and lessons learned.

go to top



Among many Web 2.0 tools, blogging for teaching and learning has been gaining much momentum amongst educators (Educause, 2005). In an educational context, blogging has been used as an online reflective journal by students and teachers. In many cases, it is employed by teachers seeking to form a collaborative online community (Farmer, 2004). In addition to community building, blogging often demonstrates distributed cognition, collective intelligence, or group creativity for various purposes and scenarios.
Panday (2007) highlights the following skills that can be enhanced through blogging in the education context:

• Sharing — thoughts, concepts, experiences, and knowledge.
• Analyzing - peer comments, suggestions, hypotheses, and solutions.
• Reflecting — critiquing, writing, questioning, and reacting.
• Reading – reflection notes, evaluation remarks, and encyclopedias (e.g., Wikipedia).
• Communication – text, audio, video, Twitter, and PowerPoint presentations.
• Record keeping — descriptions, manuals, and FAQs.
• Collaboration — peers, experts, and mentors around the world.

Now with the increased ubiquity of mobile digital cameras, it has become relatively easy to share and comment on snippets of asynchronous raw video footages online. Video blogging is thus a natural progression from text blogging. Parker and Pfeiffer (2005) assert that video blogging “allows all sorts of communities to build automated aggregates of their members’ footage—combining soapboxing, distributed discussion, and the social cohesion of blogging with the vibrant, immediate honesty of video.”
Obviously, the tools needed to create video blogs are becoming more common, less expensive, and better known to students (Educause, 2005). However, in spite of the potential of video blogging to add media-rich dimensions to teaching and learning, its use has thus far not been extensively explored.
Inequality in education is a crucial social issue and an important topic of research in the United States and many other countries around the world. Cheng (2001) describes huge gaps in academic achievements that have been observed in the United States in correlation to race and socioeconomic status (SES). If computers and the Internet were distributed equally and used well, they could be viewed as powerful tools to increase learning opportunities among marginalized students and provide greater access to a broader information society (Cummins & Sayers, 1995). nonetheless However, children from low-income and high-income homes face high disparities in their access to home computers (Becker, 2000).

Research Method

With the ubiquity and multi-functionality of mobile phones coupled with the convergence of Web2.0 services, mobile phones offer a fresh opportunity to address the educational issues and challenges surrounding digital access for underserved children. This study was designed to ascertain the value of a mobile learning community system. The system enabled a volunteer tutor to provide timely assistance to 5th grade low-SES students outside of the school environment to complement efforts in the classroom in the teaching of mathematics.
The study was conducted in an elementary school, located in California, with a significant proportion of low SES students. Participants in this research were six 5th grade students and their parents/caregivers who volunteered to participate in the study. The participating students were on an either free or reduced price lunch program. The volunteer tutor was a college graduate who had experiences in tutoring students with math problems.

Figure 1: The Kyte application installed on a video-enabled mobile phone

Video blogging mobile technology and software applications. For video recording and uploading, an existing application called Kyte was used, with video-enabled mobile phones. A screenshot of the Kyte mobile phone application is shown in Figure 1. Kyte is an application that can be installed on mobile phones, allowing video capturing and live streaming. Content streamed on Kyte can be viewed either over the Internet or from the mobile phone. This in essence removes the need for a computer and Internet connection, as long as the user has a mobile phone in hand. A specific mobile learning community channel was created on the Kyte website for students to upload their captured content and for volunteers to review them and answer in the format of mobile videos.
Experimental Design. Participants were provided with a video-enabled mobile phone and an accompanying unlimited data plan. The phone provided a telecommunications network, camera, video camera, and Internet browser. There was no restriction on the use of any features or applications of the phone during the study period. Students were able to use the phone anywhere, anytime, and anyhow. For the convenience of recording, a phone stand was also given to the student so that they were able to set up the phone anywhere while they were recording video footage.
Over a period of three weeks, whenever students encountered problems in completing their daily mathematics homework, they recorded their attempt at solving each mathematics problem on video (as illustrated in Figure 2), and uploaded their video to the Kyte video blogging site via the mobile phone.

Figure2: Participants engaged in video blogging

These videos were viewed by a volunteering mobile tutor, who subsequently recorded videos to address the problems raised, and uploaded the videos to the same channel. Given that all the problem and solution videos were uploaded to a central repository accessible by all students involved in the study, students were free to view videos submitted by their classmates as well as examine the solution or answer videos posted by the volunteering tutor. Students were also able to search videos by entering keyword tags such as textbook name, page number, and problem number. Screenshots of the Kyte mobile phone application, with the repertoire of videos available, are illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure3: Kyte application for videoblogging, showing options for uploaded problem and solution video

Data collection. Data was collected from the same students over 3-week periods. The sources of data for this study are as follows:
  1. Student questionnaires. Before the start of the study, students were asked to fill in a questionnaire to gauge their level of interest in mathematics, their study habits, and any problems they faced when approaching mathematics. They were also asked about their strategies for resolving problems that they encountered when attempting their homework.
  2. Adult questionnaires. The parents or caregivers of the students were also asked to fill in a questionnaire before the start of the study. The purpose of the questionnaire was to attain an understanding of the home context of each student in the study, and the level of adult involvement in the students’ attempts at resolving homework problems.
  3. Student interviews. After the three-week period, the students were interviewed individually to obtain feedback and insights on whether the approach had helped in their efforts to master mathematics.
  4. Video artifacts. The videos uploaded by the students provided a rich source of data. These video artifacts were carefully studied to identify possible patterns in usage trends, problem topics, and the nature of the problems for which help was sought.
  5. Teacher interviews. As this was a study on whether mobile tutoring was useful in supplementing student learning, the teacher played the role of an observer. Interviews were conducted with the teacher after the study to obtain her views on the impact of the mobile video blogging applications.


Range and profile of questions uploaded by students. Over the 3-week period, students uploaded a total of 59 videos, and the mobile tutor followed up with 46 videos of worked solutions. The questions that were raised through the video blogs were mostly aligned with the topics being covered in class and the homework worksheets that the students were working on at home. There were, however, some instances where students raised questions that were not a part of their homework assignment, but, instead, were often questions about procedure, learning resources, or technical issues (For detailed result, see Table1).

Observations of how students used video blogging. This study also yielded interesting data on how students presented their problems in their video blogs. In the post-study interviews, students were asked whether they started to do the questions, and encountered difficulties (“got stuck”) along the way, or whether they did not know how to start. Most students responded that they attempted the question first, and came to a point where they “got stuck.” When asked further about why they thought they “got stuck,” a frequent response was that they did not think that they could solve the question from the beginning. Such responses are indicative of a low level of self-efficacy. In sum, most students did not seem to be able to identify the cause of their inability to solve a problem. An example of a typical exchange between student and interviewer is below.

Interviewer : Do you start working first, and then find that you are stuck, or you don’t even start?
Student 006 : I sometimes start, or sometimes I don’t start. Sometimes I try to do it.
Interviewer : Why do you think you get stuck?
Student 006 : ‘cos (pause) I’m not doing it right.
Interviewer : Is it because you don’t understand the question?
Student 006: I often don’t understand the question.

Consistent with the interviews, as all the video artifacts were closely examined, four types of approaches could be observed:
  1. “Step-by-step articulation.” Students who adopted this approach to problem presentation actually recorded on video, step-by-step, their attempt at solving the problem and thinking aloud in the process while articulating the reason for each step taken. In these video blogs, the students stopped at the point where they encountered difficulties, and subsequently articulated a specific problem they had in their attempt. This approach was expected to yield the highest learning outcomes, as a step-by-step articulation showed the highest level of metacognition. The mobile tutor’s response could then directly address the area of issue. Unfortunately, only about 15% of the uploaded videos were presented using this approach.
  2. “Writing and reading.” This approach was the most commonly adopted one – about 66% of the uploaded videos were done using this approach. Here, students merely wrote out the problem question on video, while reading out the problem statement. Consequently, each video blog was very short – up to about 30 seconds in length – and did not shed clear light on the specific areas of concern or difficulties that the student had.
  3. “Checking if it’s right.” This was an interesting approach observed, as the students were initially instructed to upload video blogs of questions that they had problems with. Some of the video blogs (7%) actually showed the students’ attempts at the questions, followed by the question, “Is this right?”
  4. “Video of workbook.” This approach was taken by two students who had made the least effort in explaining their problems. These students did not write out the question in their video blogs – they merely focused the camera on their workbook and captured the actual questions straight from the workbook, while reading the questions out aloud. This approach also did not shed much light on the students’ specific issue areas.

A tabulation of the different approaches is presented in Table 2. From the breakdown of the percentage of videos in which students adopted the various approaches, it is apparent that the “Writing and reading” approach was the most commonly adopted one. The video blogs uploaded by the student with screen name “MN” were all presented using the “Writing and reading” approach. A detailed analysis of this student’s video blogs shows that while she obtained the answers to the questions that she uploaded, she did not seem to have learned the underlying concepts and principles. Consequently, she uploaded at least 3 videos seeking help on similar multiplication problems. Comparative analysis with the student “KX,” who uploaded all his videos via the “Step-by-step Articulation” approach, did yield more conclusive data. All of the videos uploaded by “KX” showed detailed steps and clear articulation of the areas of issue that he had.

Key Impact of Technology Use. One of the key propositions of this study was to investigate the appropriateness of the mobile phone as a supplementary learning tool to address the learning needs of the underserved and underachieving students in the community. Observations of video artifacts and feedback from students reveal that technology served as a powerful motivational tool. The mobile technology provided an essential gateway through which the students gained access to direct, personalized help with their academic challenges.
According to the result, the mobile phone with Internet connection and the Kyte application helped students with low SES environments circumvent the need for a home computer. Furthermore, the phone provided a convenient and ubiquitous access point to an online tutor who provided personalized and directed help.

Technological and logistical challenges of the study. During this study various technological and logistical challenges have also surfaced that need to be addressed in the future iteration of the research. One of the students had great difficulty with doing video blogging. His phone system seemed unstable, and he apparently deleted few of his videos even though he uploaded them. Also, he added it takes time to upload a video. It is speculated that the cell phone signal might have been weak where he attempted to access the Internet.
A second technological and logistical challenge was that students needed to be informed about when to check the blog site for the mobile tutor’s response to his question. It was important for the students to check the videos uploaded by the tutor. Failure to do so in a timely manner would defeat the purpose of the mobile tutoring system.
It would be useful to build an automated texting service into the video blogging system to inform users of new videos that have been uploaded or the uploading of similar questions or answers.
It is apparent that Kyte is not the ideal system to use for the purpose of mobile tutoring, although it has served its purposes in this study. There are a number of improvements that can be made, such assorting or classifying the problem, tagging the problem with the phone keyboard, commenting in some length, automatically notifying when a relevant video is uploaded, searching based on keywords, and rating answers based on helpfulness. Overall, more computer intelligence in content management may be needed for a video blogging site to grow into an effective learning support service.

Future Work

This project has sought to establish the potential applications of video blogging in a mobile tutoring environment. It has described the implementation of a preliminary study to explore mobile Web 2.0 applications in addressing learning needs amongst students of low SES, and has presented various learning points emerging from the study. Moving forward, a more extensive research study will be designed, taking into account the logistical and technological issues surfaced from this initial study. Indeed, this approach in the use of mobile technologies presents myriad opportunities for progressive education. It may also have direct implications on the role of teachers in the classrooms of the future, as aptly articulated by the teacher involved in this study:
I believe that we will be using more of the mobile learning tools in the future. Students’ questions uploaded will help me (in return, to) design teaching based on the students’ gaps and skills.
Furthermore, this study has potential implications on the use of mobile phones as a viable alternative to the computer to address the learning needs in underserved communities, to provide access to learning resources that may address the achievement gap that has plagued the United States and countries around the world.
It is possible that the present study indicates a possible way to expand student zones of development using mobile technology, despite differing cognitive levels. In the future, as we develop greater understanding of the learning possibilities of mobile technologies, there might be numerous high performing students from high SES communities volunteering as tutors to help the underachieving students in low SES communities. When that happens, it will be a demonstration of ZPD (zone of proximal development) expansion based on differential SES levels; it could lend insight into how unfortunate children can excel with the assistance of more fortunate children.

Go to top


Faculty Former Members  

Dr. Paul, Kim
  Gloria Lim
Chen Kee Ng
Claudia Olacireguie
Shawn Kim


Go to top

"Mobile Video Blog Exchange: Learning Media for Children in Underserved Communities " is the subproject of POMI in Education.