MOWECS  – Mobile Wireless Education in a Catering School

Investigating the best use of mobile wireless devices in a catering school for enhancing teaching on the field (in the kitchen and in the rooms) out of the classroom. The same result can be applied in the working environment for accessing "on the job" instructions.


Funded by HP and Siemens Mobile Communications


The SAFI school is an ELIS activity called "Istituto Professionale per i Servizi Alberghieri e di Ristorazione", recognized by the Italian Ministry of Education. As a catering school it started in 1964. The school is residential with 40 students in a college. It means that they are able to study and work in a real environment. They train themselves, together with professionals, caring for food, laundry and cleaning of a hall of Residence for students of the ELIS Vocational Training School.

The students are 14 to 19 years old and come mostly from small towns in the south of Italy where they have scarce possibilities of accessing higher education.

SAFI importance can be measured by a Google search on the words Istituto Professionale Alberghiero, where it ranks first (search performed on January 12, 2004).

The presence of  ELIS School in the same building enhances the project in the technology issues: the know-how of ELIS allows for a high quality implementation and management of the hardware and software involved.

Cedel – Cooperativa sociale educativa ELIS is a non profit institution dedicated to education, training and mentoring.

Project goal

            A catering school normally runs a good part of its teaching in a training environment. It is difficult to access textual or multimedia resources while in a kitchen or in a ironing room or in a bedroom. Books can be too heavy to carry, whiteboards cannot be placed where they are more needed, digital projectors and screens are almost impossible to integrate in a kitchen and cannot be carried along all the bedrooms. Therefore the introduction of  wireless mobile devices helps in providing the necessary information in any place.

            By using mobile devices, the students will be aware of their utility in a complex environment like a hotel, a residence or a tourist

resort. They will be able to suggest their future employers the use of wireless technology to ensure fast localization (by voice, with VoIP on the WLAN, or by instant messaging) and immediate access to useful information on the job.

Two possible scenarios in a hotel are:

The worker finds a beehive in a hotel room. Before calling a special team for removing it, he or she can browse the hotel intranet for specific information on the topic and how to handle the situation. If the employee is given Internet access, he or she can look for more instructions using a search engine.


The client in room 226 calls the concierge and tells him not to disturb him until 11:00. and later clean the armchair where he dropped some wine. The concierge updates the hotel intranet. When the worker starts cleaning the rooms in the second floor, she checks for special tasks on her palm computer and decides not to knock on room 226 until 11:30 and provides herself with the cleaning kit for leather. When she goes to the room, she takes a photo of the armchair with the built-in camera of her iPAQ before and after the cleaning to record the successful activity. She finally updates the intranet checking the status of the completed task and suggesting an addition to the cleaning instructions for better results.

By always having the complete situation of the hotel, she can plan her activities in the best way, optimizing her schedule.

Work is needed to prepare teaching material suitable for reading on a small screen or on a Tablet PC. Rugged cases should be provided for some environments in which the device is at risk of damage.

            The final goal is to demonstrate the feasibility of wireless mobile devices in a catering school and in general in on the job training.


      October 2004: Teaching how to use iPAQ and Tablet PC

      November 2004: Installation of the wireless access points

      December 2004: Preparation of teaching material including videos

      January 2004: Tests on delivering teaching content through iPAQ and Tablet PC

      February 2005: Start of routine activity in teaching with iPAQ and Tablet PC

      March 2005: First report

      March-July 2005: Revision of the methodology and new routine activities

      October 2005: Final report

Project activities

Installation of the wireless access points

            The first activity will be the installation of the access points in all laboratories and places where the students are supposed to use the

mobile devices. Test for interferences will be accomplished where there are strong power machines, such as lavatories.

Teaching how to use iPAQ and Tablet PC

            The teaching phase is not a simple one, because of the lack of familiarity with these new devices. As the students of SAFI come from small towns of southern Italy and mostly from low social levels, they are not used to have personal computer or electronic devices. The informatics lab of SAFI covers this lack of formation but there is a special need for training in the use of iPAQ's and Tablet PC's.

Preparation of teaching material including videos

            Texts, reports and scanned pictures will be prepared for the specific teaching on small displays. Some of the lessons in the classroom or in the working environment will be video recorded. Thus the students will be able to review what they learned using the iPAQ, at any time and in any place. A simple search system, derived from the one developed by Mediateca-ELIS will be used, in order to retrieve the proper information in a short time.

The availability of a digital camera attached to an iPAQ gives the chance of taking pictures of the peculiar situation in which a student is involved for further study or, for example, allows taking a photo of a special food preparation to compare it with the required one.

Tests on delivering teaching content through IPAQ and Tablet PC

            After preparing the teaching material, a period of testing will be necessary. Feedback from tutors, professors and students will be gathered to improve the production process.

The hardware and software infrastructure will be finalized in this period with the help of the Sistemi Informativi ELIS department.

The robustness of the device is an open issue. Using rugged cases or other protections we hope to reduce the risk of damaging the hardware during use in difficult environments.

In the final part of the tests we shall choose the educational content that can be successfully delivered to the students.

Voice over IP and Instant Messaging will also be enabled in order to provide a fast system for localization and contact with the students while they are working in different places.

Start of routine activity in teaching with IPAQ and Tablet PC

The routine activity means using the system for daily teaching. It will start at the beginning of an academic year and therefore will be included in the standard operations.

First report

            The first public report will be published on the project website and a request for comment will be launched.

Revision of the methodology and new routine activities

            After the general feedback and the evaluation by the board of teachers of SAFI school, a thorough revision of the methodology will be accomplished in order to allow a complete implementation of the system in the curriculum.

Final report

The final report will be published on the web and will contain all the experience gathered during the project.

Project outcomes

MOWECS will produce  a detailed report on the teaching activity using mobile devices in a complex environment. Suggestions about handling and care of the devices, experiences on interface for reading teaching material, performance evaluation and interference troubleshooting will be recorded.

The students will gain a thorough knowledge of how to access information on mobile wireless devices.

All the results and the on-going process will be published on the website



  • Marco Nicchi
  • Maria Cinque
  • Elisabetta Ciavarella 

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