Using Mobile Devices on Excursions & Field Trips

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How often have you been on an excursion with your students and you see students from other schools walking around with worksheets on clipboards?

Have you created worksheets to justify the educational purpose of your excursion?

I know personally that my students hate the idea of worksheets when they’re walking around a new environment that isn’t at school. That could be related to their age group, as I mainly teach 15-18 year old boys in practical based subjects like woodwork and construction.

However, I do want to able to justify my excursions and I do want to know what my students gained from their day away from school. One way of doing this is to harness their attachment to their mobile devices, namely their phones. It’s a camera, video and voice recorder and with the power built into the latest devices, small content creation tools.

Let me just say that at the beginning of every year I actively encourage my students to install the Edmodo app onto their device. I encourage them to use their device as a learning tool, because it means that they have a capture device, word processor, camera and content creation tool with them at all times, and with the addition of Edmodo, they have a means of handing their work directly to me no matter where they are. My students love the fact that I am giving them ‘permission’ to use their phones in class.

Because I do this, when we go on excursions I create an Edmodo group for the trip and I create small activities for them that they can use their device to do. I find that if I create a selection of activities for them to choose from, I can cater to the differing learning styles of my students.

  • Some, but not many, like to write a recount of their day. They can use Pages, Word, Notes or Google-Docs to do this and make them presentable for submitting.
  • Many like to create slide shows of photos with descriptions of what they saw. Again, Google-slides, Keynote, PowerPoint and apps like ExplainEverything allow them to do this.
  • Some enjoy recording videos and editing them together. Some even include a round-up of their day where they talk to the camera. iMovie and any number of free video editing apps can allow them to make very attractive and engaging short videos.

I don’t know about you, but my students will often describe to me what they did all day, breath by breath, on the train trip back to school. I believe that while this is awesome, it’s often a lost opportunity for them to demonstrate their learning to others, not just me. This is why I encourage creating video or voice recordings which they can turn in via Edmodo posts. Being video or voice, it also means that you can capture the excitement and engagement of the student, which a written report just can’t convey.

Using Edmodo, I can also cater to the student’s level of “outgoing-ness”. Students who are very outgoing can post directly to the group wall so that all their classmates can see what they did. Students who are a bit more reserved can turn them in directly to me to satisfy the task requirements without the fear of peer judgement.

I also use Edmodo to engage with the students throughout the day. I’ll take photos and videos of things that I see and post them to the group wall. I’ll then pose questions to see if the students can tell me where I am, kind of like a treasure hunt. It also gets them to travel more around large events instead of just staying at one display all day. I’ve had some students post their own videos back when they get to the same place. Some enjoy the fact that they “found me”.

This type of use of mobile devices may not work so well with younger students, but with mid to late teens who often want to feel more independent, activities like what I’ve mentioned above, allow them to engage with their surroundings and the learning process in a less formal way. And because it encourages them to “play” with their phone, they feel more enticed towards “doing the work”.

Using worksheets often places an expectation that it must be all filled in by the end of the event. Making use of mobile devices & Edmodo means that some of the activities can carry over to school after the excursion is finished, for example, the editing and sharing of videos. You can have a lesson where you recap the day, viewing videos, photos and slideshows submitted to the Edmodo group. This not only legitimises the excursion and the activities that you set, but it allows the students to see things from the excursion that they maybe didn’t get to experience due to time or they just didn’t come across them because they were involved with something elsewhere.

I guess my final points on this post are this:

  • Mobile devices are here to stay.
  • They are getting more powerful and more useful with every updated model.
  • They fit in a pocket.
  • They’ve almost become an indispensable extension to our body! (How many people do you know who freak out if they can’t find their phone?)
  • Many students have devices of their own.
  • There’s an “app for that”, and Edmodo is one of them
  • Today’s learners have grown up in a world of connected devices. They don’t “remember a time” when mobile devices didn’t exist. Why wouldn’t you use them in your teaching?
  • They’re “mobile”, so why shouldn’t you use them when you venture out of the school?

Have you used mobile devices on excursions? Share your experiences in the comments.

Mr B

 

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