SMILE: Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment

What is SMILE?

SMILE turns a traditional classroom into a highly interactive learning environment by engaging students in critical reasoning and problem solving while enabling them to generate, share, and evaluate multimedia-rich inquiries.

Related video: SMILE Webinar Recording with Paul Kim


Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment (SMILE) is basically an assessment/inquiry maker which allows students to quickly create own inquiries or homework items based on their own learning for the day.


Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment (SMILE) is basically an assessment/inquiry maker which allows students to quickly create own inquiries or homework items based on their own learning for the day. For example, students can freely take a photo (Shown in Figure 1) of a diagram or any other object from their own textbooks or any phenomena discovered in their school garden or lab and create a homework item.

All student-created multimedia inquiry items can be tagged by the generator, but rated by peers to indicate how relevant or useful the item is to their own learning. Obviously, teachers or facilitators could decide to review the student-generated homework items from the homework pool, weed out the ones that may not be relevant and leave only the ones that are highly useful or ones with highest student ratings (i.e., rules could be made at the local level).

The SMILE application enables homework generation, completion and competition game during class. It offers opportunity to review what students learned in class and organize them and create their own inquires from them. Moreover, all student-generated questions are instantly collected, passed out to the whole class and all students are supposed to take a quiz created by all students and also give rating to each question based on standard rule made by local level. After students’ answers are submitted, they can review their results immediately. Through creating own question and sharing it with peers, students are able to check their understanding of what they learned for the day and compensate their lack of learning from peers’ questions. The instant activity blocks students’ learning of the day from fading away and after activity a teacher can give more additional information and detailed explanations to the class which helps them improve their understandings a lot. Quiz activity is controlled by teacher’s application so that students can not get distracted and do other actions. The current prototype of this application supports group/classroom level but village/school level, or community/school district level will be supported soon. Also, it enables a facilitator or teacher to map each inquiry or homework item with appropriate learning standard classifications. The former application is inside the classroom activity and the latter one is outside the classroom activity. The latter application enables students or teachers freely have access to SMILE server regardless of time and place if they have mobile devices. Basically, all homework items created by students are saved on SMILE server, and students can create their own homework items and upload them to the server. Also, they are able to solve homework items connected to the server. Teachers can review all homework items and manage all items to be high quality by seeding out ones which are not relevant to subject or have low-rating by peers from the server. In-out school network system offers continuous learning to all students and then they can pay attention to their own learning saving time and effort, and finally, are more likely to get better understandings of what they learned inside and outside the classroom.

The immediate advantages of SMILE are in that it...

  1. involves the learners themselves in the reflection and generation of own learning stimuli and inquiries;
  2. makes it possible to have anytime/anywhere homework/inquiry generation possibility (where there is an opportunistic learning moment);
  3. empowers the learner to generate and incorporate mobile multimedia objects from own environment;
  4. allows the learn to rate peer-inquiries based on own assessment of the merit;
  5. enables a collective management of homework quality;
  6. enables any group or organization to track the academic performance of the learner at a granular (based on learning standards) level;
  7. makes it possible to conduct a variety of comparison analyses for benchmarking purposes;
  8. creates a competition or collaboration game environment.


SMILE is composed of teacher’s application and student’s application. Teacher’s application was developed using Java language and it works on web-based system which Java is installed in. To support ad-hoc network environment, XMPP server such as openfire and apache were installed at the server and both applications also include Junction library developed by Stanford Engineering School. All users connected to the server have same environment, in short all students are controlled do same action. Only teacher’s application can manage the each step of the activity happening at SMILE. On the contrary, student’s application can do action sent from teacher’s message.

  1. Teacher’s Application

    • GUI (Graphic User Interface)-based application and it works in any system which Java can be installed in such as desktop, laptop and net book.
    • Server IP is fixed but it is changeable and a teacher can change the path of Apache directory if the path is different from the fixed one.
    • This application supports two ways for a quiz activity: first one is to let students create their own inquires, share, solve and get the result of the quiz during class and other one is using saved questions. As for the latter one, a teacher can freely select the quiz set from the server and pass it out to the whole class.
    • A teacher can use time-limit quiz way inserting time limit at the application (Optional).
    • This activity is composed of four states: connection to the server, making question, solving questions and seeing the results. A teacher is able to see the current status from the activity flow and each state button is disabled after the state is over.
    • At student status window, a teacher can check each student’s submission of the question and answers of the quiz, and final score. A teacher is also able to see total numbers of students joined the quiz, ones of students submit the question, and ones of students submit answers.
    • Score board window shows each student’s final score and right answer, his/her answer and his/her rating about each question.
    • Top score window is for noticing top score winners. A teacher can see who get highest score at the quiz and who get highest rating on their own questions.
    • Question status window includes the following information: as for each question, who created, how many students get right answers, and what ratings this question get. Moreover, if clicking each question, a teacher can see real question at question window. After getting result, more detailed information is added to original question.
    • If clicking save questions, student-created questions are saved and they can be used for future class or other students.
  2. Student's Application

    • To join this activity, students are supposed to insert their name and server IP which is usually fixed but if server IP is different from fixed one, change it to the right IP address. If clicking login button, this application connect to the junction server and all students’ applications are under same environment according to the teacher’s application.
    • At main window, as shown in Figure 5 there are three buttons: Make your question, Solve questions, and See results. Each action button is automatically enabled so that students can not do different actions without a teacher’s direction.
    • Each student’s application receives the message from teacher’s application, and action button is enabled and then each student goes to each action status by clicking the button. The first action is making own question.
    • At making question state, students can generate their own inquires adding images related to the inquiry. At that time, students can use the pictures saved already or take a picture from their materials or everything around them. Currently, students can create multiple-choice question for supporting instant grading system. Using preview function, students can preview their own questions before submission.
    • If clicking post button, newly-created question is given to the server and the application comes back to the main window.
    • After getting message “Solve Questions” from the teacher’s application, the next button is enabled. All students are under solving questions state.
    • Students can freely go to next or previous question and also check answer and rating. Before submitting answer sheet, students can not escape from this activity.
    • Accidental logoff may happen anytime but student’s application can join the activity is going on because the server is broadcasting the current state to all students’ application at regular interval.
    • After all students submit their answer sheets, see result button is enabled and students can see their own result of quiz. As figure 9 shows, main result window includes total score and correct or wrong information for each question.
    • If clicking detail button, students can check each question’s detailed information: correct answer, number correct people, average rating and my answer.
    • Winner page has information about the winner with highest score at the quiz and the owner with highest average rating for their own-created question.
    • If seeing the results is over, all activities of SMILE end.

Future Studies

Current SMILE will be expanded to an application which enables accessibility to quizzes outside the classroom. Anytime Homework application enables students and teachers have access to SMILE server regardless of the time and place. This application offers different access permission to both students and teachers. Students enjoy individual quiz activity by solving question items saved on the server and also they generate their own questions and upload them to the server anytime. A teacher is also able to have access to SMILE server and manage the quality of homework items saved on the server by removing the questions items with low rating or are less relevant to class-curriculum. Figure 15 represents next version of SMILE including Anytime homework and Junction quiz applications.

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