Field work is common practice in many of the programmes taught in the Faculty of Environment and Technology at UWE Bristol. Field work engages learners in authentic activities, helping them to experience and appreciate the environments they will (hopefully) work in after graduation, and learn how to deal with the situations, issues, people and ideas they will encounter in their professional lives.
From a student’s perspective, however, undertaking field work is not always problem free. It can be difficult to hear the lecturer speaking, for example, particularly if you are on a busy street corner or on a windy remote moor. Equally, if you are the lecturer straining your voice and struggling to be heard, field work can be quite a challenge.
Using a new app, In The Zone, learning materials and tasks designed to facilitate learning can be delivered to students’ smartphones when (and only when) they visit locations specified beforehand by the lecturer. So straining to hear or be heard is no longer necessary.
Students use the app on their smartphone to navigate to zones shown on the live map and when they arrive ‘in the zone’ the learning materials and tasks prepared especially for that zone pop up on their screen. Learning materials can include text, images, audio and video. Tasks built into the app for students include multiple-choice survey questions, free text entry questions, and photograph tasks.
Content submitted by learners in response to these tasks is immediately available in the Google Drive of the author of the walk (usually the lecturer) and from there it can be instantly shared with others (e.g. students back in the class or learners anywhere else in the world) if desired. This may lead to previously inconceivable, potentially transformative, learning experiences for tutors and students alike – field research, remote analysis and visualisation of data could be done all at the same time, for example.
Another significant feature of In The Zone is the ability for lecturers to embed content and interactivity from elsewhere on the web, which greatly expands the range of materials and tasks students can be presented with. For example, Google Forms, Padlet walls, Twitter streams, Xerte learning objects, YouTube and Vimeo videos and many other web-based learning activities can made available to students via the app.
In The Zone is based on an idea by Oliver Haslam from FET’s Learning Innovation Unit and has been developed by the PlayWest Enterprise Studio, also based in FET. It is available for use by UWE staff and students. At present, seven lecturers from three of UWE’s faculties are taking part in the project and will be creating walks for their students to undertake from September 2018.
If you are interested in a demonstration of the app or would like to discuss how you could use In The Zone with your students, please contact Oliver Haslam.