OLTD Final Assignment – Researching and Refining

I spent the bulk of my lunch hour today on a google expedition, trying to figure out what types of experiences people have had using mobile technology, and how this might facilitate student’s learning.  I’m not so sure that the “self directed field trip” exists in the form that i conceptualized it, but there are many examples out there of how tablets and smart-phones have enriched learning experiences in the field.

Shauna Ullman is a grade 3 teacher in Vancouver, and she brought along her classroom’s iPads to document their participation in the “Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup”.  Her class came away with a great document of their day, and students were able to create reflections of their time spent in the field, when their experiences were fresh in their minds.  Shuana’s blog post can be found here.  Another third grade class took their iPad along to a trip to the Museum, taking pictures of their journey.  Once they returned the pictures were imported into a slideshow, and students took turns narrating each slide.  Their video can be found here.  It is activities like these that show just how useful mobile tech can be in capturing that spark we feel when first encountering something new and exciting.  Having the ability to record one’s initial reactions to powerful learning environments makes for a richer representation of student learning.  I still frequently sub in classrooms where the favourite journal topic is to write about what happened over the weekend.  This invariably results in groans from many of the students who feel like the weekend was eons ago, even if the activity is proposed on a Monday morning.  How different those same journal entires would be if they could be updated in real time, as events were unfolding, or directly after!

As my search continued I discovered that there is a specific name for what I am researching.  Instead of typing in “mobile technology that facilitates student learning” I could just type in “m-learning” and get links that were much closer to my desired topic of inquiry.  M-Learning is described in this paper as “Any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies”.  This was a step in the right direction, and I felt a sense of satisfaction in having a short hand term for describing my topic of investigation.

Next I stumbled across google’s “Field Trip” Android app, which is the closest I’ve come so far to finding something that accomplishes the self directed, infield learning that I am looking for.  I have not tried it out yet, but it seems like it could be a useful piece in this puzzle I am trying to assemble.  “Field Trip” uses the GPS data of your current location and references this with numerous databases provided by companies such as Arcadia,Thrillist, Food Network and  Zagat to provide you with interesting bits of history, food options, local artists, and places of interest surrounding your current location.  While not necessarily tailored to an elementary or middle school classroom environment, certain features, especially historical and environmental landmarks, would provide exciting learning activities.  This is the kind of app I had in my head when I started thinking about this assignment.  While not a perfect fit, it provides a framework for possible educational specific alternatives.

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