I have used mobile phones to in Geography fieldwork on a number of occasions in the past. As mobile phones become more advanced and smart phones such as the iPhone become more common. I think there is even more potential to use these devices in Geography and other fieldwork to help aid learning and data collection. The below screenshots shows some of the iPhone Apps that I think would be useful for Geography Fieldwork.
Here are some examples how some of the applications for the iPhone could be used by students out in the field.
Taking Notes and Up-Loading Data to the Internet
The Notes feature that comes with the iPhone is a fantastic free application that I have been using a lot since getting my phone. It could be used out in the field for students to record data and when you have finished typing a note, you can send it directly to an email address.
However, there are also a number of good free applications for the iPhone that allow you to up-load straight to a blog. I currently use both the Typepad and Wordpress Application. This means that students could set up a fieldwork blog before they leave the classroom and up-load their data from their iPhone straight onto their on-line space. One back in class the blog could be further edited and tidied up.
The Camera and AirMe
The camera that is built into the iPhone is a useful application for students to take photographs in the field. Photographs can be emailed back to the class or they can be attached to Wordpress or Typepad posts and up-loaded to a fieldwork blog.
AirMe is an application that allows you to up-load photographs directly to Flickr. You can also choose to geo-tag your photographs and add current weather data if you want to. This is useful because the geo-tagged photographs appear on a Yahoo map, which can be included as part of the fieldwork enquiry or embedded into your fieldwork blog.
Maps, GPS and Track Me
I covered TrackMe in a separate post, but there is a lot of potential here to use TrackMe to accurately map things like footpaths, streams and other linier features.
The iPhone Maps are also a great tool to record data. Fieldwork sites can also be accurately marked with a pin. Students can take screen shots of the map (click here to find out how to take an iPhone screen shots) and then up-load this screen shot (its stored as a photograph) to the class fieldwork blog.
Students can also switch between maps and satellites images when trying to get an overall impression for the area and what it looks like. They can also take a screenshot of a satellite image and up-load it to the fieldwork blog.
On my iPhone I’ve also paid for the full GPS kit (this cost me about £5) its turns my phone into a fully functional GPS, which means I can plot direction, tracks and waypoints in the same way that I can with my normal handheld GPS.
Interviews and Voice Recording
VoiceNotes is a free iPhone application that turns your iPhone into a voice recorder. This would be useful in the field for students to record their own notes and fieldwork observations. It would also be useful when conducting interviews or asking questions to local people. VoiceNotes syncs with your computer when it is connected to a PC / Mac and you can download the audio file. The audio file to could be up-loaded to the class blog to turn it into a fieldwork podcast.
Data Gathering Tools
The stopwatch and timer in the clock application is useful for data collection. Working out the speed of a river, working out infiltration rates etc… if time data can be processed in the field using the calculator or graphic calculator applications and then stored or up-loaded on to the class fieldwork blog.
The Cardinal Application is good for working out direction (eg: orientation of slope, direction of flow of a river etc…)
Height above sea level can be recorded using the Altitude Application – in tests I’ve found this to be surprisingly accurate.
Slope, angle and gradient can be measured using the Clinometer Application – again in tests I’ve found this to be incredibly accurate.
To estimate the height of something (cliffs, sand dunes, buildings etc…) you can use the RularPhone. This has to be one of the most bizarre applications that I have ever seen, but it is again surprisingly accurate. You basically place a credit card against the object that you want to measure. You take a photography in the application and work out the height of the object in comparison to the credit card. I tried it with my garage door and it was pretty accurate!
Giving Instructions in the field
I think there is a lot of potential here for the iPhone being used to give instructions / re-capping fieldwork techniques, while the students are out in the field. For example, as long as there was a data signal students would be able to access the internet to find out the answers to questions. Information on how to conduct fieldwork techniques could also be provided to students via YouTube – as the iPhone comes with a You Tube player.
For more information on the use of mobile phones in Geography see: