Student experiential education outdoors inTexas’ watersheds can be enhanced by targeted use of mobile devices such as smartphones and pads. Students can access information to augment their outdoors experience or use the devices to store information about the outdoors experience that can be used later in classroom or after-school learning, thus extending the outdoors experience.
Access to educational information on mobile devices is relatively easy and can be controlled by instructors where there is connectivity for the devices to the internet. But outdoors experiences may take place where there is no access to Wi-Fi or cellular networks. This creates complications but need not preempt use of mobile devises to aid educational experiences outdoors.
A new application for use in mobile devices in outdoors education is under development by H2O atTexasStateUniversitythrough the university’s enterprise systems development group. By using this application, educational materials will be accessed through association with the mobile device’s global positioning unit (GPS). The GPS does not depend on access to Wi-Fi or cellular networks.
As students and teachers travel over a trail, over water, on an island, along a stream bank, or anywhere else outdoors, as they reach specific way-points the mobile device will display preselected content based on the student’s location.
For example, consider a group of middle-school students on a field trip to the island used by Texas A&M Coastal Studies Program educators inAransasBayfor teaching about bays and estuaries. As the students walk the educational tour route on the island, different content will appear on mobile devices carried by students. In one protected shallow-water location it may be a short video about cranes, while at another location where fish are often seen darting through the water it may be a quick quiz about the food chain involving redfish, while at another where there are several species of plants present it may be a photo identification key that allows students to identify the species of plants found at that exact location. In another area students may be provided access to a journal page where they may write thoughts about their experience.
The new app is expected to receive it first test by students and adult learners visiting the watershed and sinkhole overlooking the San Marcos Springs which form the headwaters of the San Marcos River.
* * *
H2O (Headwaters to Ocean) is a cooperative project sponsored by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University and funding partner, the Ewing Halsell Foundation which supports the project H2O. H2O is an experiential, technology-enhanced education program focused on water, from headwaters to the ocean (http://www.water-texas.org)