Using Mobile Devices to Enhance Fieldwork Learning — ASN Events

Using Mobile Devices to Enhance Fieldwork Learning (13722)

Derek France 1 , Alice L Mauchline 2 , Julian R Park 2 , Katharine Welsh 1 , Victoria Powell 1 , William B Whalley 3
  1. University of Chester, Chester, United Kingdom
  2. University of Reading, Reading, UK
  3. University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Mobile technologies are increasingly affordable and popularity and their use have grown significantly in recent years.  Within a higher education learning context, these technologies provide an excellent opportunity to enhance student learning and engage students in research. As part of a 3 year UK Higher Education Academy project on Enhancing Fieldwork learning, iPads were just one of many devices which were used to facilitate mobile learning in the field and this will be the device which will be the focus of this research.

Over the course of 2012 - 13, questionnaires and focus groups were conducted with groups of students from first year undergraduates to postgraduates on six field courses (3 UK, 2 European and 1 USA based = total 220 students) to investigate student perceptions and learning experiences of using iPads during fieldwork.  The different fieldwork environments and assessment regimes provided a diverse range of information about how students perceive the benefits and drawbacks of using these mobile learning devices. 

Initially, students used the iPads to take photographs, video, browse the web, enter raw data and as a tool to aid student reflection, through tweets and short videos. Students reported on the pitfalls (e.g. 3G connection) and practical aspects (e.g. easy to use; saves time) as well as intellectual benefits (e.g. aided real-time fieldwork reflections).  The devices also facilitated engagement and group interactions and helped develop graduate level skills such as rapid information gathering, networking, creativity, digital literacies, reflection and independent learning. Students did need some assistance in showing what tools/Apps can be of benefit, especially where there is no/limited internet or 3G connection. Some of the negative themes will also be considered and are centred around iPad usage in urban settings and the cost of the device.

One of the key messages that this paper will demonstrate to the delegates is the range and potential of mobile devices for flexible learning outside a normal classroom based environment. Mobile devices can encourage and foster group interactions, real-time data collection and analysis and an improvement in overall digital literacy for students. Delegates must be aware however that there are potential pitfalls that must be mitigated against to use mobile devices effectively on fieldwork.