iPhones and Outdoor Learning Part 1

24 July 2009 · 4 comments

in Digital & ICT Outdoors

Last term, as a temporary Support for Learning Teacher I found my iPhone surprisingly useful in many ways. Being a technophobe, I had not downloaded any additional “apps” but what came with my smart phone was surprisingly easy to use and helpful:

  1. When going off-site the iPhone could be used when the radios didn’t work. The simplicity of the interface allowed me to phone classroom assistants with other groups of children, the school office and depute head teacher very quickly and easily compared to my old mobile phone. The touch technology is marvellous and so simple. Other phones seem clunky by comparison. Speed can be essential in an emergency and the iPhone rises to the challenge.
  2. The calculator is big, clear and easy to use. By turning the iPhone horizontally, a scientific calculator appears. Thus this makes the iPhone especially useful for secondary school teachers outside. Trigonometry and trees, here we come!
  3. The stopwatch and count down were great for sports day practices and activities which involved timing children or events and processes. I have used these functions on watches and mobile phones but the iPhone is a dream by comparison. No more frantic pressing of buttons several times to clear the screen and re-start.
  4. The digital voice recorder is simple to use and can be used many ways by children and adults alike. It can act as a prompt when observing children, rather than making written notes. Children can record sounds heard outside, poems or descriptions of local places and events. The possibilities here are varied, open-ended and endless.
  5. Children and adults find the touch screen great to use. The children really like and want to work with an iPhone. It’s a hook or motivator for learning – indoors or out.
  6. The camera takes surprisingly decent photos and downloading them onto my MacBook is very quick and straightforward. My MacBook immediately allows the photos to be presented in a slideshow with accompanying music. That’s cool!
  7. The daily weather forecast can be set for my local town – Inverurie. The children enjoyed this facility to work out what to bring for working outside in the week ahead.

Of course there are always minuses as well as pluses. First of all, iPhone’s are expensive. They do not like getting wet so using them outdoors in wet weather or near water is a risk. The Google maps facility is good in that you can locate where you are but Google Earth has to be installed to enjoy the satellite view. I’m still trying to work out how they can be used with a whole class rather than with individual or small groups of children in an outdoor situation. The “gather round and look here” approach is useless given the size of the phone (outdoor plasma screens here we come – for that purpose). Any ideas or suggestions are VERY welcome.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John July 25, 2009 at 09:16

Hi Juliet,
There is a huge potential for the iphone in education and, in my opinion, especially for outdoor education. I’ve use one for a year now, quite a lot of it outside in Scottish weather and it has been safe and sound. Some of the GPS apps are wonderful and could be used for trips excursions and outdoor activities.
With the right cables you can show some of your content on a TV and plasma, but as far as I remember this is limited to pics and video not much use in class.

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CreativeSTAR July 25, 2009 at 09:42

Hi John

Having had a quick look at your profile and seen your IT experience I’m SO SO pleased to hear you say this. My hunch is that the iPhone with its apps is the shape of things to come. Also recently I was asked to do a brief mapping exercise for LTS about outdoor learning and the CfE EOs. Because of netbooks and smart phones, etc I found it hard to find any technology EO which had to be undertaken indoors.

I decided to break my musings on iPhones into 3 parts because I’ve written so much! Part 3 is going to be about the apps I’ve found particularly interesting (out in 2 weeks as I blog weekly). If you have an specific apps that you’ve found interesting, fun or useful, I think anyone else reading this blog would be interested to know.

Alan aka Geoblogs on Twitter has been helpful in pointing me in the direction of other blogs which have commented on iPhones in schools.

Thanks again
Juliet

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John July 25, 2009 at 10:11

Hi Juliet,
I’ll look forward to reading the posts. I’ve blogged about various iphone things: posts tagged iphone. Ollie Bray has a lot more. I only used the iphone once GPS MathTracks before I left the classroom. For what it is worthy favourite apps are , mail (combined with, camera, voice recorder and a posterous blog), Trails, TweetDeck and netNewWire.
I’ve blogged with my class quite a few trips and think an iPhone would be great for class trip blogs.

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CreativeSTAR July 25, 2009 at 14:06

Hi John

I think the uses you mention are good ones and you compliment rather than repeat what Ollie Bray has suggested. His blog postings make for good reading.

I particularly like some apps in that they can be used as “before” and “after” activities. I also think that the free apps are helpful as possible home based activities for keen parents! So I see the iPhone bridging a number of areas that complement the use of outdoor places and spaces. It’s a useful tool for making connections per se.

Thanks again for your comments.

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