update: Learning across contexts – mobile for fieldwork

An update of the use of the mobile technologies for field work is available at http://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/files/2012/09/Npton-Case-Study-EnvSci-Julie-Usher-and-Janet-Jackson-2011-2012.pdf


Intended outcomes

 To enable students to quickly and easily document 
findings and ideas in the field 
 To enable the student to access resources electronically
and re-use data in other learning contexts



Process

Trial use of mobile technology on two field trips, to Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve in December 2011 and to Stonehenge in February 2012. For both trips, the tutor set up a group blog in NILE, and asked the students to record their findings on site using mobile devices, and post them to the blog for 
discussion.

The Wicken Fen field trip formed part of a second year module on Habitat Ecology and Management. Students were asked to observe and record details of the wetland habitat and share their observations with the group. They also planned to use GPS to tag the exact locations of their images and notes, to share with the wider community via Flickr, an image sharing site.



Benefits and Challenges

A feedback survey revealed that students enjoyed using the devices, particularly for photography and video, which 
helped them to record a lot of data very easily. 80% of the students said that the app was ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’ to use. 

Connectivity was a real challenge, particularly for the Wicken Fen trip where there was very little mobile signal. This was challenging  partly because of student expectations – when handed an internet enabled device, they expected to be able to connect and start accessing information. The purpose of the trip though was for them to record their own data, and be creators rather than consumers, so expectations needed to be clearly set!

Connectivity was also an issue for the GPS tagging of resources, and for some apps, like Dragon Dictation, which relied on data connection or stored information in the cloud. The weather on the Wicken Fen trip was also a challenge, particularly for those using touch screen devices!


Key points

 Framing the device is crucial – explain why you want students 
to use it and what value it can add for their learning.
 Allow students to experiment – some even recorded their 
stakeholder roleplays on site!
 Inclusion is important. Make sure you have loan devices for 
those that don’t have their own.




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