iPhones and Outdoor Learning Part 4

22 August 2009 · 0 comments

in Digital & ICT Outdoors, Science Outdoors

So here’s last iPhone posting I’ll be doing for a while!

Nature Apps

There are a couple of bird apps which give bird sounds, e.g. Bird Sounds and Cheap Chirp. The free versions give a small selection which are OK but not ideal as the choice of birds seems decidedly random. So a child or class listening may hear very nice kingfisher or green woodpeckers, but unlikely to be able to see them from their school grounds. At the moment I’m sticking to my RSPB Bird Sounds CD.

At the moment there aren’t many other nature or field study guides for the UK which have been launched as apps. The only one I could find was Butterflies of Britain and Ireland which looked super but cost £9.99 to download along with a high crash potential according to the reviews. So I’ll stay with my butterfly book.

Another field of apps covers the sounds of nature for relaxation purposes. Commuters can blissfully sink into the sounds of the rainforest or ocean waves rather than listen to the tanoy speaker which tells of delays at Waterloo Station. But this is also fabby for outdoor learning.

Custom Sounds of Nature app has several choices where not only can you listen to a thunderstorm but choose the elements you want to hear, e.g. soft rain, heavy rain, thunder and wind. For dramatic play or a creative outdoor corner, the sound effects can add to the imaginative play or bring a story alive.

Nature Space gives you specific relaxation tips which can aid “Magic Spot” times outside. This is where the children find their special place and have opportunities to return there for reflective thoughts or calm individual activities outside.

Weather Apps

There are 100’s of weather apps available. The choice is mindboggling. The prices vary wildly from free to several pounds. The consistent number one seller this year has been Weatherpro which gives you most of the information you are likely to need with primary school students. I have mine linked to Aberdeen and I am told the weather conditions, what temperature it is and what temperature it feels like, relative humidity, dewpoint, a five-day forecast, windspeed and gust strength, and atmospheric pressure. Other pages give me radar and satellite pictures that are time related. Naturally this information is available for other worldwide locations too.

There are other apps which are weather measurement tools. Wind Meter does what it says and can be a useful comparison to measurements recorded with an anemometer. There are thermometers and other gadgets to suit your interests, projects or tastes.

Astronomy Apps

These are also prevalent and, again, deciding which ones you need can be tricky and possibly an expensive piece of guesswork. I plumped for Pocket Universe which uses GPS to locate my position. This means it can display the sky as it is outside my house rather than simply for the Northern Hemisphere. It gives the rising and setting times of the sun, moon and several planets. I find this app very appealing. It also means that it is easier to work out the constellations especially if you begin just as it gets dark and the stars appear. There’s lots of different info and news that’s accessible via the website too. I did download Stars which is a free app and discovered why (ie it’s not very good compared to Pocket Universe).

Reference Apps

There are several useful guide books which are handy for being outdoors. The Knot Guide app is terrific. All the first aid ones are created for other countries so the advice must be taken bearing this in mind. The Survival Pocket Reference app is like any survival book…lots of tips and info but US based and bare on essential details. Thus not all the information is relevant. Basically I wouldn’t feel reassured having this app and being lost in the jungle. However there’s some good ideas which children might enjoy trying out as part of a Forest School or similar session.

So as the school term has now begun, if you are a primary or nursery teacher who is lucky enough to have an iPhone, I hope you will thoroughly enjoy hours of outdoor activities that iPhone apps can encourage. Have your Light Saber app ready and may the force be with you!

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