This blog reports on a recently completed Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) study developed in conjunction with Associate Professor Chris Eames from Waikato University (Eames & Aguayo, 2019). In this study we investigated how education outside the classroom (EOTC) learning experiences can be designed to incorporate mobile technologies to enhance student development of marine ecological literacy. It involved designing a Mixed Reality intervention (Figure 1) based on a BYOD (bring your own device) framework for use by a class of senior primary students, their teacher and their parents before, during and after a visit to Goat Island and the Goat Island Marine Discovery Centre.

Figure 1. Mixed Reality intervention, based on the immersion continuum from Milgram and Kishino (1994).


This study had the following aims:

  • To examine the ecoliteracy outcomes in one classroom of a primary school from a unit on marine reserves incorporating an EOTC learning activity prior to a mobile learning intervention. It would provide a baseline on possible ecoliteracy achievement without a focus on mobile learning;
  • To examine how the research team construct a BYOD (bring your own device) mobile learning framework, and work together in a collaborative online research forum, i.e. the Research into Ecoliteracy Enhancement Forum (REEF), involving the school teacher and the Discovery Centre educator as the practitioner partners of the research, a marine scientist as advisor, a mobile learning designer, and the researchers as facilitators;
  • To examine what elements and design principles the online research forum REEF recommend for a BYOD framework for mobile learning to inform a teaching unit incorporating a visit to a BYOD free-choice learning setting;
  • To examine whether the Mixed Reality  intervention informed by the BYOD framework with the second cycle of teaching the same marine reserves unit, and post-EOTC online reinforcement activities, can bring about enhanced ecoliteracy outcomes for students and their parents.

Why is this research important?

An understanding of how mobile technology can be integrated into the teaching and learning of science and sustainability education that incorporates EOTC learning contexts is of strategic importance to education in New Zealand and elsewhere. Mobile learning tools, affordances and experiences can be shaped to offer ideal conditions for EOTC. Promoting knowledge and favourable attitudes towards science and socio-ecological sustainability, through the use of technology and experiences of place, can contribute to the achievement of success for all learners and their ability to contribute to the wellbeing of New Zealand.

What we did

We developed an educational Mixed Reality intervention (see CfLAT Blog on ‘Defining Mixed Reality’) Called Pipi’s World (Figure 2) based on mobile learning that engaged a class of primary students, their teacher and their parents in developing marine ecological literacy. We first examined ecoliteracy outcomes from a unit on marine reserves prior to any mobile learning intervention. Outcomes from this phase informed the development of a BYOD (bring your own device) framework by an online research forum of partners (REEF). Using a design-based research methodology, we then tested the BYOD mobile learning framework in practice during the second cycle of teaching the same marine reserves unit and focused on student and parent learning before, during, and after their visit to a free-choice learning setting. Data were gathered through pre and post questionnaires, observations, interviews and digital interactions to analyse the experiences of students and parents during the visit, the co-construction process around mobile learning, and the learning outcomes from the intervention as a whole. Data analysis was structured around a socio-cultural activity theory analytical framework. Quantitative data were processed using SPSS software to produce descriptive statistics. Qualitative data were thematically analysed against the BYOD framework. The research team collaborated in the analysis the findings to derive conclusions from the study.

Figure 2. Pipi’s World Mixed Reality intervention.

What we found

  • A purposely designed mobile learning framework was key to informing the development of a Mixed Reality (MR) intervention, which created an immersion continuum (between real and digital) for students, from snorkeling in a marine reserve to Augmented Reality games and a Virtual Reality experience.
  • The MR intervention highly engaged students in learning through a self-directed (heutagogical) approach which enabled learning connections to be made between the marine reserve and associated visitor centre, and the classroom after the visit. Training in heutagogy using mobile tools is important to maximise learning and teaching outcomes for students, teachers and EOTC educators.
  • Evidence suggests that knowledge and attitude development occurred for students, and there was subsequent adoption of environmentally-friendly behaviour related to plastic pollution, which appeared to be connected to learning through the MR intervention.

For more information

Visit the TLRI Project website:


Eames, C. and Aguayo, C. (2019) Designing mobile learning with education outside the classroom to enhance marine ecological literacy. Teaching and Learning Research Initiative, Wellington: TLRI, pp. 1–20. Available:

Milgram, P. and Kishino, F. (1994) ‘A taxonomy of mixed reality visual displays’, IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Information and Systems, vol. 77, no. 12, pp. 1321–1329.

-Dr Claudio Aguayo