(by Fabia Jeddere-Fisher)
After some initial exuberance with the idea of using an app to lead the students round the outdoor museum, St Fagans; our next thoughts were “But there’s barely any phone reception, let alone WiFi. Will this work?”
But! Fear not. The app allows you to pre-load the walk while you have WiFi, and then re-sync, when you’re back in WiFi range, provided the walker has saved their changes as they walk round. So, knowing this, I ploughed on with the development of the walk.
To create a walk on the app, I needed the following:
- A good understanding of the way the app is structured (Oliver Haslam has some great templates and guides on this);
- An Android device (FET Project Room have Nexus Tablets which you can book out);
- The knowledge of what information to put into the app (I extracted this from the brains of Dr Danny Elvidge!!); and finally,
- Some time to copy and paste the info into the app.
As a complete beginner, I estimate it took about a day of my time from my initial conversation with Oli, to me making the final tweaks after we did the test walk. Now I’ve done it once, I think it will only take me a couple of hours to create another one from a walk concept, to completion.
Things that worked really well
- Really userfriendly and intuitive for students to use.
- Students did not require much briefing on how to use the app so they quickly went off and enjoyed the site.
- The in-built, or ‘native’, tasks are simple and easy to set up.
- There is an option to embed a Google Form which looks very smart, and then you can ask more complex questions, and gather results through Google Drive, however it does rely on having a (data or WiFi) Internet connection while you’re out and about.
- GPS built into the device still allows Google maps to work, even though there is no Internet connection.
- The “zones” can be placed either by entering longitude and latitude coordinates (taken from Google maps), or by using your finger to drop a pin on the map where the zone is.
- In cases where the walk has WiFi/Data connection, the author can be viewing the walkers completing the walk as they go round, thus seeing if there were any issues with the app, or certain locations.
- The student-generated results from the walk exported into Google Drive as a Google Sheet and can be downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet.
- As a back-up, I was able to book out some (Android) Nexus Tablets from the Project Room in Q Block and preload the walks on there with generic Gmail accounts, so any students without the app could still test out the walk. This was great as a backup, but it did take a bit of time to set up, so only worth doing if it’s your first time running the walks and you need a back-up!
“Overall, I would totally recommend field trip/module leaders considering using this app to engage the students, and enable more student-led discovery of a site, or a topic.”
Things that don’t work so well
(and should either be improved for a new version of the app, or considered when designing a walk)
- Doesn’t yet work on iPhone or Windows phones. That’s ok if you’re expecting walkers to complete it as a group, but if it’s individual then it would be very limiting.
- The app can ONLY be accessed via an Android device, which means that when you’re creating a walk, you have to copy and paste your text from a word doc to the app, and doing this on a small tablet can be a bit frustrating. Being able to create walk via a web browser on a PC would make it far easier to create walks.
- The zone locations need to be quite broad as different devices, even being held by the same person, will record slightly different GPS locations, so the zones work best with about 15m diameter. Therefore, works well if bringing the student to an approximate location (i.e. within 15 metres), but not if you need them to find a very specific sign/object. This would need a bit more prompting from the information within the zone.
- Quality of the survey/test results are basic. This is fine for evaluating student engagement, but I don’t think it would be suitable for any level of marked assessment.
- The in-built, or ‘native’, tasks are somewhat limited. The free text and multiple choice questions are surveys rather than quizzes/tests, so there is no automated feedback to the user.