Experiences of using mobile technologies and virtual field tours in Physical Geography: implications for hydrology education
- 1School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
- 2Department of Geography, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand
- 3Marlin Productions Ltd., Birmingham, UK
Abstract. Education in hydrology is changing rapidly due to diversification of students, emergent major scientific and practical challenges that our discipline must engage with, shifting pedagogic ideas and higher education environments, the need for students to develop new discipline specific and transferrable skills, and the advent of innovative technologies for learning and teaching. This paper focuses on new technologies in the context of learning and teaching in Physical Geography and reflects on the implications of our experiences for education in hydrology. We evaluate the experience of designing and trialling novel mobile technology-based field exercises and a virtual field tour for a Year 1 undergraduate Physical Geography module at a UK university. The new exercises are based on using and obtaining spatial data, operation of meteorological equipment (explained using an interactive DVD), and include introductions to global positioning systems (GPS) and geographical information systems (GIS). The technology and exercises were well received in a pilot study and subsequent rolling-out to the full student cohort (∼150 students). A statistically significant improvement in marks was observed following the redesign. Although the students enjoyed using mobile technology, the increased interactivity and opportunity for peer learning were considered to be the primary benefits by students. This is reinforced further by student preference for the new interactive virtual field tour over the previous "show-and-tell" field exercise. Despite the new exercises having many advantages, exercise development was not trivial due to the high start-up costs, the need for provision of sufficient technical support and the relative difficulty of making year-to-year changes (to the virtual field tour in particular). Our experiences are highly relevant to the implementation of novel learning and teaching technologies in hydrology education.