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THE USE OF
MOBILE AND ONLINE TECHNOLOGY AS AN
EDUCATIONAL TOOL FOR DENTISTRY STUDENTS
A PILOT STUDY
UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN CAPE
FACULTY OF DENTISTRY
The goal of the Faculty of Dentistry is to teach and train students theoretical and
clinical skills that will enable them to provide a dental and oral health service to
the community to the best of their ability.
These students come from diverse backgrounds, with some of them having; little
or no access to internet resources; financial burdens and language barriers.
Students numbers per class range from 24-90 students.
Their learning environment consists of lecture venues, computer labs , labs, and
The students which I have targeted in this case study is the 2nd Oral Hygiene
students as this is essentially an experimental study and they are the smallest
group ( 24 students).
The course that I teach to them is essentially theoretical and it is designed to
prepare these students to identify periodontal diseases in order to treat patients
appropriately or refer these patients for appropriate treatment
INTENDED OUTCOMES OF THIS CASE STUDY
Additional or improved ways to reach these students that will
result in a continuous interactive process for the students.
This would include:
Active student / teacher participation
Instant student / teacher feedback
Instant peer feedback
Students have had limited clinical training so they find it extremely difficult to
link the theoretical components with the clinical teachings.
I spend 1.5 -2 hrs per week with them only providing theoretical input.
The rest of the week is spent emailing , sms ing or WhatsApping them with
regard to queries.
Communication with my students is done via Ikamva and Google drive to
provide additional input.
What is challenging about this current practice is the fact that it does not
really encourage interactive discussions or stimulating feedback by
I have over the years tried to implement ways to bridge this gap so that
teaching this course would capture their interest and thus encourage better
Previously I communicated with my students
via the E -teaching site of the University .
Ikamva in conjunction with Google docs is
currently being used by the students as
educational tools .
Their lecture materials, study guides, test
results, tutorials, tasks and announcements are
uploaded regularly on these sites
The development of ‘education on the go’ by using mobile phones and
similar devices has produced a new way for ‘providing learning’.
Wireless educational environments offer many informative possibilities that
are not easily attained in other learning environments. (Lui 2007)
Recent developments in mobile technology have allowed a range of mobile
technology that is of use to learning (Gupta & Koo 2010)
Using resources such as the internet will enhance learning as students
would be able to apply knowledge they have been taught to actual life
situations and as a result will also bring teachers and students together by
using interactive resources (Tiffin & Rajasingham 2003)
In a study done on “Comparison of WhatsApp with traditional SMS” it was
discovered that using both services was influenced by the following aspects: "cost,
intent, community, privacy, reliability and expectation” (Church and De Oliviera
Facebook was originally designed as a social website, but was discovered to have
enormous potential in education . Facebook also allows speedy access to internet
and it is free of charge. (Wang 2009)
It was revealed in a study that even though the use of mobile technology in Dental
Hygiene was still in its early years teachers and students felt that the use of mobile
technology could improve dental hygiene practice. (Tucci 2014)
The challenge of using technology in dental schools is that these schools have to
keep up and balance a multifaceted combination of activities. This includes clinical
care, teaching, researching and of course management.
Facebook's site designed specifically for mobile browsing. (Strickland 2007)
Before I attempted this case study I needed to
determine exactly if the students’ cellular phones
had the application that I wanted to use it for and
the ease of accessing internet resources
The results of the survey I did resulted in my
choice of tools to be investigated
SURVEY QUESTIONS AND RESULTS
Question that were asked included the following:
What are their learning preferences - 95.8 %
Is internet easily accessible – 100%
What type of phone do they have - 79% ( Smartphone) 21% ( Android phone)
Do their phones allow them access to sites such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook You tube,
Ikamva and Google Drive – 100%
Are they able to blog using their cell phone – 91 % (Yes) 9 % ( unanswered)
Which of the following sites is easier for them to access - 100% ( WhatsApp, Facebook,
Ikamva and Google drive)
Are internet sites accessible anywhere ( campus/home) - 91.6 ( Yes)
Do they encounter offline problems and how frequently - 83% ( hardly ever)
KEY POINTS FOR EFFECTIVE PRACTICE - WHATSAPP
One of the benefits of Whatsapp that its free of charge and try for the first year.
After that you can extend your subscription at a cost of 0.99 USD per annum.
WhatsApp allows Students and teachers to interact in a more informal way
resulting in better communication between student /teacher
WhatsApp requires mobile phone internet connectivity to send and receive
messages , pictures, audio and voice messages with ease and this is all free as
long as you don’t exceed your data limit
One of the major problems that WhatsApp users experience though is that it can
intrude on a teachers family/work time. For that reason limits should be set as to
availability of teachers’ to interact with students.
WhatsApp has the following affordances which will assist me in teaching my
Instant text messaging to my students for e.g. announcements,
Sending images, video messaging, audio messages to my students pertaining
to their course at no extra cost
Adding my 24 students to a group and engaging them in group chats (e.g.
tutorials or case study discussions)
KEY POINTS FOR EFFECTIVE PRACTICE -FACEBOOK
Facebook's video application is similar in many ways to YouTube. Members can
upload videos in almost every format, but Facebook requests that all files remain
below 100 megabytes and that videos be shorter than two minutes. Facebook
converts videos into the flash (.flv) format.
With the groups application, you can join other members' interest groups or you
can create one of your own.
The posted items application can be used to post videos to your profile. All you
have to do is enter the Web page's URL into the post field on Facebook. The
application generates a thumbnail of the target page that acts as a hyperlink.
Facebook's site designed specifically for mobile browsing.
Facebook has the following affordances which will assist me in teaching my
Adding students to a closed group and presenting multimedia learning materials to
Engaging students in interactive peer to peer discussions in small groups or whole
SURVEY AFTER TRIAL
Was it easy accessing information( e.g. videos, audio messages etc ) on WhatsApp - 100%
Was it easy accessing information( e.g. videos, audio messages etc ) on Facebook - 100%
Do you think WhatsApp or Facebook as an educational tool will enhance learning for you -95.8
Did you encounter offline problems while using these resources -79.1%
Which of these tools do you think will encourage better learning and would you prefer to be
Both - 100%
Students really excited about using these tools for educational purposes
Some commented that’ Using these tools have resulted in more interactive peer/peer /teacher
discussions’ and ‘ WhatsApp was very convenient and easily accessible’
In conclusion I would like to say that this case study has opened
up lots of avenues for me to improve teaching and enhance
The positive feedback from my surveys with my group of students
has encouraged me to investigate even more improved ways of
using technology to encourage better learning
WhatsApp worked well together with Facebook and Ikamva
Quite a number of my students are not from the Western Cape so
It is an excellent communication tool; easily accessible and more
convenient to use
Church, K & De Oliviera, R. (2013). What’s up with WhatsApp?
Comparing Mobile Instant Messaging Behaviors with Traditional
SMS. MobileHCI’, August 27-30, Munich, Germany.
Gupta, B & Koo, Y. (2010). Applications of Mobile Learning in Higher
Education: An Empirical Study. International Journal of Information
and Communication Technology Education,
Lui, T.C. (2007). Teaching in a wireless environment: A case study.
Educational Technology and Society, 10(1)107 -123.
Rajasingham, L. (2011). Will Mobile Learning Bring a Paradigm
Shift in Higher Education?” Education Research International,
vol.2011, Article ID 528495, 10 pages, 2011. Doi:
Schleyer et al. (2012) Journal of Dental Education. January 1,
volume 76, no 1, 142-153
Strickland, Jonathan. "How Facebook Works" 10 December
networking/networks/facebook.htm> 12 May 2014.
Tiffin, J.,& Rajasingham(2003), The global Virtual University,
Routledge, New York, NY,USA
Tucci, L. (2014) Mobile Technology in Dental Hygiene and Practice.
Digital Thesis Room.http:hdl.handle.net/10791/36
Wang,Q. 2009. Affordances of Facebook for learning.International
Journal of Continiung Engineering Education and Life Long
Learning.Vol 19.Nos 2 / 3. 247-255