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Pen-based or touch-sensitive computing will only get better, and we are eager to see the new models of tablet devices.In this article we discuss three courses taught at three colleges.
The course looks at population growth, plant species interaction, and community patterns of species or groups of species.
Within a framework of evolutionary theory we take advantage of local habitats and organisms as examples for studying interactions between plant organisms distributed in space and time.
"In our drive to educate our students for the real world by providing internships, undergraduate STEM research experiences, and high-tech opportunities for learning, such as Second Life and podcasts, we have somehow forgotten the educational potential of our backyards." Our article focuses on mobile computing with a tablet PC, drawing from over five years of experience teaching with tablets in outdoor, field-based classes.
We discuss three classes — Environmental Science, Ecology, and Biology — in which we tap the "educational potential of our backyards."Loading mobile tablet PCs with scientific visualization software, classes can be taught outside, field methods demonstrated, and data collected in real time using the tablet's stylus or pen.
The skill portion of the second pairing teaches students spatial analysis tools such as interpolation and contouring.
These skills are then used to map lead contamination of urban soils (see Figure 2, an interpolated map of soil lead concentrations around Appleton prepared by students in spring 2009), which leads to hypothesis formulation on the sources of contamination and ultimately suggestions for mitigation.
(Figure 1 shows students preparing for field work with a tablet PC, an attached GPS receiver — noted by the yellow circle above the student wearing a cap — and other data-collection devices.) These "tech skills" exercises are paired with "application"-type exercises where students use the tools to analyze environmental data.
The application portion reinforces the technology skills and employs them to answer relevant questions in environmental science.
The technology of mobile computing has broad application in the field sciences.
In the field and in the geographic context, patterns emerge and are observed, such as a change in soil-type coinciding with a marked change in vegetation, and data can be reliably verified without waiting to go to a computer lab.