Central College Nottingham, in the United Kingdom, has tested Near Field Communication (NFC), smart posters and smartphones to help teach English as Foreign Language (EFL) students.
A blog entry posted by Simon Wardman, an EFL teacher at Central College Nottingham and one of the project’s initiators, explained that the NFC-enabled scavenger hunts were designed to provide the students with information regarding language outside the classroom, in a contextualized way. When students found and scanned the posters, which featured NFC tags, they were linked to the English definitions of nearby objects, hosted on a crowd-sourced dictionary known as Toponimo. From there, the students were required to make a collaborative decision about the most appropriate meaning of the word, relevant to its context. The NFC project followed an earlier one that leveraged QR codes, which can also be read via smartphones.
The downside, Wardman wrote in his article, “is that you need to download special software before you can use them, fiddle around on your phone to get to the right app and the results are all too frequently underwhelming. QR codes may have their function, but the reality is that they’re often tricky and frustrating to use.” Those limitations, he wrote, caused students to skip the exercise. Thomas Sweeney, a researcher from the University of Nottingham’s Learning Science Research Institute, suggested NFC RFID technology to Wardman, and helped him set up the NFC trial. The tags used for the project were RapidNFC 29mm Round Clear NFC Tags, made with NXP Semiconductors NTAG203 NFC chips featuring 137 bytes of usable memory, according to Sweeney (who also co-wrote the article with Wardman). The software for the project was custom-written and runs natively on Android, Sweeney says.