Monday, 19 September 2011

Showcase Event Report 1

The Enhancing Fieldwork Learning showcase event took place this past weekend at Margam Discovery Centre and was a great success. Thank you to everyone who participated for making it such a good event.We hope to update the blog and website over the next few weeks with resources, links and comments from participants.

A taster of the event can be seen on this video produced by Chris Thomson from Netskills. The video was both recorded and edited on a Smartphone and took approximately 30 minutes to edit using Vimeo software (free).

Enhancing Fieldwork Learning from Chris Thomson on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Upcoming Conference Talks and Workshops

At least one of the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning team will be available to talk to at the following conferences and workshops where an oral presentation about the project will be given:

Teaching and learning for GEES students, Birmingham~ 30th June - 1st July

Effective Learning in Biosciences, Edinburgh~ 30th June - 1st July

Personal Learning Environments Conference, Southampton ~ 11th - 13th July.

Royal Geographic Society Conference, London ~ 31st August - 2nd September (Chairing and presenting: Enhancing Fieldwork Learning)

University of Chester Staff Conference, Chester, 14th September, 2011.

Enhancing Fieldwork Learning Showcase Event, Port Talbot, 16th-18th September, 2011 ** Click HERE to find out how to participate.

ISSOTL Conference, Milwaukee ~ 20th-23rd October 2011.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Using Livescribe in fieldwork

Livescribe pen and paper (Source)

Livescribe is an interactive Smartpen which allows you to take notes and record audio at the same time.

For a full demonstration, see the video below.

The Livescribe 8Gb Pulse is the most recent release of this Smartpen and costs around £160.

The pen makes use of special paper which can be purchased in notebooks for approximately £20 for 4 notebooks, not too much more than a standard notebook.

The benefits of using Livescribe in fieldwork are particularly apparent when interviewing.  Data can be quickly analysed and audio can be rapidly replayed in the field, which allows students to synthesise the data and identify areas which may require more data collection.

Upon loading the text and audio into the desktop version of Livescribe, the handwritten text is searchable. 

We expect this to be a key tool for enhancing fieldwork accessibility for students with additional needs.

We will be trialling the pen with a group of students in the next week or two who are visiting New York as part of their human geography programme, so check back for a update later this month.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Mid-week link up

Two useful links for Technology for Education enthusiasts this week:

Monday, 21 March 2011

Howgill Fells Fieldtrip: Using Video and thoughts for the future

A group of 20 final year Geography and Natural Hazards students from the University of Chester were taken to the Howgill Fells in Northern England as part of a one night, two day trip to study fluvial geomorphology and how climate has impacted this environment.

In addition to data gathering field techniques, we asked each group of students (6-8 per group) to produce two short videos using digital cameras and tripods provided by the University.  Firstly we asked that  they produce a video about one of the methods that they had used and secondly, we required a video describing the landscape around them. 

The first video required them to reflect on what they had done, why they had used that particular method and what data they had as a result of the method.

The second video required the students to reflect upon the "Cook's Tour" -style snippets that had been given to them throughout the day and also upon the data that they had gathered to make sense of their landscape.  The students worked together to decide on key descriptors of the landscape before videoing themselves talking. 

The students described the video as "fun" and it was a quick exercise for reflecting on the day and fieldwork whilst still in the field.  The group plans to watch the videos when back at the University which encourages repetition of key ideas that came from the day.

Staff members observed that some of the students found the concept of aggradation and incision in fluvial environments one of the more challenging ideas.  The Enhancing Fieldwork Learning team suggested that next time the trip runs, animations or short video clips of aggradation and incision could be loaded onto mp3 players (already available for student use in the Department of Geography and Development Studies, University of Chester) or Smartphones that are mp3 enabled (student-owned) so that students have another visual aid to help them with this concept, whilst in a dynamic landscape which is characteristic of aggradation and incision.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Geo-tagging for human geography

We recently trialled some geo-tagging software with a group of students on a fieldtrip to Devon. We suggested the idea, told them to download Flickr (free app) for their (personally-owned) iPhone and let them run with applying the idea to their project which was centred around the impact of second homes in the local area.

To promote inclusivity and roll this idea out further we have trialled some other software which reduces the dependence on smart phones.

We hope to publish our results and methodology for this resource in the near future.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Enhancing Fieldwork Learning: Dictation software

Enhancing Fieldwork Learning: Dictation software

Interesting! I have just installed the latest Dragon Dictate on my Mac Air. I am still training it for technical words and will report back on this for various configurations. The idea is to use it as a field notebook. However, it may suffer from ambient noise disturbing things (better noise cancelling mic other than the Plantronics one supplied might help). This could be a problem with wind noise in the field. However, the biggest problem for transcribing interviews will be the need to train the software for each user. I'll try this anyway and report back.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Dictation software

On Monday 21st February, six groups of students from the University of Chester interviewed various ethnic groups and refugee/asylum groups across the city.  The students were well prepared before they went, they knew what questions they wanted to ask the interviewees and had taken dictaphones with them to record the interviews.

Image from Dragon Dictation Website
One way in which technology may enhance the student learning experience is to use Dragon Dictation software so that the conversation is transcribed for them.  A possible pitfall is that not all of the words will be transcribed correctly as there will be new voices.  However an iPhone app is available for those who have access to an iPhone and although it is dependent on an internet (3G) signal, it would be useful for this type of fieldwork in the UK. I would be interested to see if and indeed how it might enhance the student learning experience.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

FSC Slapton Sands Fieldwork and Technology

 The single honours Geography and Natural Hazard Management students from the University of Chester spent seven days in the Field Studies Council centre in Slapton Sands, Devon experiencing a range of fieldwork. 

The first year students were taken on a "Cook's Tour" of the local area which included field teaching of coastal landforms and processes, understanding a local flood management scheme in the nearby village of Harbertonford  and experience of interviewing people in other local villages.  

The students then devised their own projects in small groups which had between 3 and 5 students

We had ideally hoped to trial some augmented reality apps for the iPhone but it seems that the free app we had planned to use has developed a number of bugs. We hope to revisit this in the future and in the meantime will continue a search for an established augmented reality app that we could use as part of the field course. 

We took four netbooks with us which were a big hit with the students, particularly during the evenings when work on group presentations were in full flow. We also hooked up a netbook to a printer which worked well for the most part, but as the netbooks currently have Open Office software, some of the student's documents were not compatible (pictures from documents were temporarily lost) as they had produced the documents in MS Word.  We would resolve this issue by either installing MS Office on the netbooks or asking the students to use the netbooks to create the documents in Open Office which would subsequently reduce the compatibility issues.

One group of students wanted to use a netbook in the field, but the ArcGIS software that was available was not powerful enough to complete the tasks that they required. A full version of ArcMap would be needed and it is likely that we will trial this in the future, however, we have to consider that the netbooks have limited memory (2Gb RAM) and limited hard drive space.  Ideally we wanted to use open source software where possibly, but understand that in some instances this may not be possible.   

Instead, the students used a laptop in the field instead and found it heavy and awkward but useful as they could change the attributes table of buildings at risk from flooding in the field, something which is traditionally done on paper and then edited in a GIS later on in the evening.  It is likely that they would have found the netbook much more portable and after some discussion, a tablet computer would be better for this type of exercise, something that the project team will consider for future trials. 

A special update on the use of Geotagging in the field will be on this blog later this week!