George Lucas Educational Foundation

Taking Technology Outdoors

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Illustration of a device framing a landscape

One of the beauties of mobile technologies is that they are precisely that - mobile. You can take them on long bus rides. You can use them to take photos. If you’ve got a wireless connection or cellular data, you can connect to the internet. All of this in a device that is small enough to fit into your backpack. So, tablet devices like the iPad make fantastic tools to take along on excursions - especially when you modernise the excursions from the old ‘fill in the answer sheets’ and making them a little more interesting by making the learning more authentic and real.

Let me give you an example: at the Apple Distinguished Educator Institute in July 2014, we had the opportunity to be Citizen Scientists for a couple of days. This means that we used our iPads to do a range of different things like:

  • Track the prevalence of the Gold Spotted Oak Borer - using a specially made app for the purpose.
  • Identify local species of birds and other wildlife - using the iNaturalist app.
  • Design our own plankton phylum, using 123D Creature.
  • Use a ProScope to look at microscopic creatures through our iPads.
  • Use sensors with the iPads to measure pH and conductivity in water.

These are all really simple examples, but what they do is transform what can essentially be quite a passive experience - listening, watching, looking - to something that is much more interactive - we became creators of knowledge, rather than simply consumers of it. Do you have any suggestions for how you've used mobile technologies on field trips?

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Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

I've used iPads with second grade to have students who are learning about trees document the presence of coniferous and deciduous trees around our school by taking pictures of them, creating collages, and explaining how they know we have that kind of tree.

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