When you hear about an educational technology project that’s described as being inspired by Treasure Hunt, ‘… but without the helicopter’ then you know that it’s probably something slightly out of the ordinary.  And ‘Out There and In Here’ is certainly an interesting experiment in making use of educational technology in some innovative ways.  This week’s Coffee Morning session from Anne Adams and Tim Coughlan from the Institute of Educational Technology certainly demonstrated a fascinating approach to carrying out geology field trips, talking about the ‘Out There and In Here’ project which was a collaboration between IET, KMi, the Pervasive Lab, the Science Faculty, Microsoft and OOKL.

Out Here and In There project http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/otih/

Out Here and In There project http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/otih/

Essentially the project ‘Out There and In Here’ looked at carrying out a geology field trip with two teams of postgrad students and instructors.  One team located back at base (the ‘In Here’ team), the other out in the field (‘Out There’).   In part the project was aiming to look at alternatives to field trips, which can be expensive, logistically difficult and not suitable for all students.  But it was also looking at the way the teams interacted, how the dynamics of the learning experience was changed, and how technology can support the learning.

Using laptops, phones and video cameras the teams tried to work together to establish and test several hypotheses.  The ‘Out There’ team used cameras and laptops to record images and data that could be accessed by the team back at base. The ‘In Here’ team used projectors, resources tables and an interactive tabletop to keep track of what was going on.    It was interesting to see how the groups worked together and the dynamics at play.  Both teams seemed to find the exercise challenging and it led to a very different learning experience, particularly in the way that it forced the participants to reflect on what they were doing.  It was interesting that there seemed to be considerable potential for misunderstandings and miscommunication and the project team are looking at how other technologies can help support this type of exercise.

It was a fascinating approach and it’s interesting the way that mobile technology now has the ability to allow this real-time interaction to take place.  I suppose that the most obvious  exponent of this type of real-time interaction now is the military, where video-surveillance, radio and global positionning systems are increasingly being used to allow commanders to direct military operations remotely.  While geology field trips aren’t going to have the range of technology that the military has access to at their disposal, I wonder if  some of the experience the military has with these systems may have any lessons for this type of project in the education sector.

I also started to think about how this type of technology might connect with the work that academic libraries do.  There’s a couple of areas that come to mind – firstly around the management of the data that is being created by the exercise – and secondly around facilitating access to data or information that might be of use to either of the teams.  Is it too much of a stretch to envisage this sort of exercise being supported by a remote librarian who can help with the stream of data coming from and going to the teams?  Ensuring that data is being curated appropriately and connections are made with other data that may be of use to the teams?  All-in-all a fascinating and thought-provoking session.