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!

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