GeoSciTeach app: Easy to use

During their experience at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, both students and teachers talked about how easy the app was to use, and to navigate around.

From the students perspective:

Interviewer: Good. I’m glad. And how long do you think it kind of took you before you knew your way around..

Student: Not long..about five minutes..

Interviewer: So quite quick learning time?

Student: I got it in five minutes.

Interviewer: And would you use it again?

Student: Yeah I would use it again.

Interviewer: You would? And how would you kind of like use it if you were on your own..

Student: I would like you know..

Interviewer: Or with Mum and Dad or something..

Student: Yeah I would use the map to help me know where the countries are.

And from the teacher’s perspective:

Interviewer: That’s ok it was a really broad one. How long do you think it would take the kids to learn it?

Teacher: Five minutes

Interviewer: Five minutes. That’s really interesting because everyone has said five.

Teacher: How long did I take? I think I took fifteen, which means the children will take five.

(Teacher & Interviewer laugh)

Interviewer: A third as long. Alright thanks.

Posted in GeoSciTeach app, Participant design and usability, Project progress & update, User experience, What do teachers & students think | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using the video and YouTube features

A student talks to the researcher about how they used video and YouTube features on the GeoSciTeach app during their experience at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

Interviewer: So were there any other bits on the app that you tried out.

Student: I tried out. I tried the descriptions thing, describing the plants, you know the area the atmosphere, the place.

Interviewer: Now would you have thought about that if you hadn’t had the app

Student: Um no (laughs)

Interviewer: What about the video. Did the video help you at all?

Student: Yeah the video helped me too.

Interviewer: So what did you do with the video?

Student: I like…you know the big stuff the big plants I took a video of them, because I couldn’t fit the picture in to the you know camera.

Interviewer: Right.

Student: So I used the video to video the whole thing.

Interviewer: Ok. So we had a bit of trouble with one of the youtube videos.

Student: Yeah it wasn’t loading. I think it was the network.

Interviewer: But did you watch it? Was that helpful?

[link to video:]

Student: Yeah it was because when the flower eats the insect…it’s like really weird.

Interviewer: Yeah yeah yeah right.

Student: And a flower was like really slippery. One of the plants was really slippery.

Interviewer: Would you have got from being in the room just on your own? Unless you had the video with you..

Student: I needed the video. It was really helpful..

Posted in GeoSciTeach app, Participant design and usability, Project progress & update, User experience, What do teachers & students think | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is GeoSciTeach for?

Developed for use in secondary school (ages 11-18 years), GeoSciTeach is specifically designed to be used by both teachers and students in science classes. Being fully customisable means teachers are able to modify and adapt the application to meet the needs of their students, whether it be Year 7 (11-12 year olds) carrying out ecological studies around the school grounds, or post-16 year olds investigating the shapes of molecules as they consider chemical reactions.

GeoSciTeach is straightforward to use, even for teachers with limited knowledge of digital technologies and, due to its intuitive nature, something which students quickly adapt to using, both inside and outside of the classroom. It gives both teachers and students the opportunity to engage with ideas about how we visualise things on maps, in models and two-and three-dimensional representations. Students are able to collect data and manipulate it in new ways, developing their spatial skills as well as enhancing their understanding of scientific phenomena.

But GeoSciTeach isn’t just for the Science Classroom. The nature of the application lends itself to wider use within schools, for example a History topic looking at epidemics and John Snow’s work on cholera or a modern language lesson looking at language use throughout the world and their derivation. In a wider sense, it also encourages cross-curricular fertilisation and could easily support collapsed project days.

Posted in GeoSciTeach - what is it; who is it for, Participant design and usability | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

GeoSciTeach and Ideas about pedagogy

Understanding science can be hard, not just because of the vocabulary used to described and explain scientific concepts but also abstract ideas often used to explain scientific phenomena. For example, it is a real challenge for adults and children alike to make sense of the size of the Universe, the vastness of geological time or what an atom might really look like.

School science also often suffers from the problem of disengagement by students and can be perceived as boring, unintelligible and not having any relevance to young people. Hands-on learning with digital technologies has been shown to help children engage with science by making the experience of data collection more real but also helping to make abstract ideas more tangible and meaningful.

Being fully customisable, teachers are able to modify the GeoSciTeach app to meet the specific needs of their students and design activities which are tailored for their curriculum.  This means differentiation is easy and learning can be personalised, allow students to take ownership of their work and make meaning that is relevant to them.

The app allows students to collect large data sets and then analyse them, both individually and in collaboration with one another. Manipulation of the data is easy and helps students with modelling and graphical skills as well as making sense of layering processes and temporal changes. GeoSciTeach allows data to be collected and tagged to specific locations. This means that both abiotic and biotic data may be automatically linked to places in both space and time. The data can then be used to make sense of certain scientific phenomena and be manipulated to model and make predictions.

The app is very versatile and can be adapted to be used in a vast array of scientific (and wider educational) contexts. Its strength lies in how it helps support student geospatial and spatial thinking, ideas which are central to science. This can be on the macro scale, for example making sense of maps and representations in two-dimensions, through to the micro scale, for example t modelling molecular shapes and interactions.  In addition, in the broader sense, the app lends itself to developing skills in the understanding of the nature science. For example, how new technology is involved in the collection and analysis of data, how it can be used to evaluate the ‘scientific method’ and its role in collaborative learning and sharing of ideas.

Posted in GeoSciTeach app, Geospatial in science education, Project progress & update | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Android and agile development

While there is no denying the fact that the Apple store has a developer-store trust model which has distinct advantages when it comes to dealing with malicious apps, the more trusting approach adopted for the Android market is a major asset for mobile development teams which follow an agile approach in their work. The main reason for this is the minimal time between publishing a new version of an app and the app becoming available to end users. In contrast, the lag between submission and update for apps on iOS is measured in months rather than minutes.

In GeoSciTeach we used this feature to pursue a rapid release schedule, which in fact accelerated to several updates per day near major dates such as user experience workshops and other fieldwork tasks. Using the statistics feature of the market, we were also able to monitor our users, probe those less quick to respond to changes, and quickly identify and fix critical bugs that led to the app aborting. Although such updating is probably somewhat less dynamic compared to the web, it is nevertheless a hugely useful feature and the system overall is dependable across devices and platforms.

On the latter point, we have not experienced any difficulties in using the apps across a variety of devices (Google ADP1, HTC Desire, HTC Desire HD, HTC Wildfire, Motorola Milestone 2, ZTE Blade and others provided by the volunteer testers) and the app scaled nicely without any modifications on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

However, Android has many more goodies for experimentation with users. Though the tight integration of Google Analytics it is possible to record and analyse every user action, so that the effects of every modification can be evaluated though meaningful metrics.

We will be looking at this for the final version of the app, which will hopefully lead us towards beta testing. Although the combination of market and analytics seems to fall just short of allowing full A/B testing, it should still be a major addition to our toolset for testing.

Posted in GeoSciTeach app, Project progress & update, Technical Development | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

In creating a customisable smart phone application for GIS supported teaching and learning there has been a selection of operating systems of which could be used. The main smart phone operating systems as of the duration of the project according to and Gartner were:

Thus the largest market share of late has been with the Android OS with a 43% share of worldwide in 2011 Q2 smart phone sales to end users.

Using the Android OS the GIS application has been able to access the smart phone features like internet, camera, GPS and accelerometer capabilities with ease which allow a more complex and interesting application to be developed.

Android success has been achieved from a large set of devices from many different phone manufactories which include HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericson, LG and Motorola.  This makes the writing and testing of an application potentially more difficult as an application is to work on all of these devices. This has not been an issue during the development of the GIS application as the Android platform has managed the issue of fragmentation well. With the number devices used in testing the GIS application there has not been a problem of fragmentation.

For the GIS application using Android has been beneficial as with a larger variety of devices provides a greater reach in user base for the GIS application. The Android platform is available not only expensive high end phones but also to mid to low priced phones which are more accessible with the young.

As well as having a large variety of users who can assess an Android application, the Android OS has been good to write software on with the platform providing full APIs with open access to the hardware that is present on the phone. There is also the added benefit of no licensing, distribution, or development fees for developers.

Posted on by georges1978 | Leave a comment

Understanding patterns using data linked to geospatial representations

The transcription below is interesting as it shows that patterns of understanding are broadened and simplified using data linked to geospatial representations.

Interview 3: School Pupil. Girl aged 12/13.

Interviewer: So what did you think then of using the app?

Participant: Um I thought it was really helpful.

 Interviewer: How?

Participant: Um because it was telling me where it had come from and what part of the world, and what country.

Interviewer: Ok did you see any patterns to places that you were tagging photos to?

Participant: Yeah well, most of the plants came from the middle area, from the equator.

Interviewer: From the Equator yeah? And then you were saying to me that they started to..go from where?

Participant: Yeah from the end..

Interviewer: Do you know what that’s called? That whole area.. (looking at google maps)

Participant: United States.

Interviewer: That’s one of the countries. So if we had Canada, United States, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, all that big bit what’s that called?

Participant: Um er.

Interviewer: It’s’s not a test..

Participant: Is it like Europe and like…

Interviewer: Yeah right…it’s called the Americas

Participant: Yeah right the Americas. I saw it from the other plants that said the ‘Americas’.

Posted in Geospatial in science education, Participant design and usability, User experience, What do teachers & students think | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Creating the GeoSciTeach Configuration App

To configure the GeoSciTeach application a separate Android application named GSCIConfig was created. The GSCIConfig application works by creating a XML file. The XML file contains the details of the customisable sections which are to be enabled or disabled within the main GeoSciTeach application. The main GeoSciTeach application attempts to read this XML file (created by GSCIConfig) on start up. If a customisation XML file is found on the device and successfully read, the file is parsed and the dictionary as defined in the XML is read and stored for use by the main GeoSciTeach application.

Within the main GeoSciTeach application is a local copy of the XML file. This local XML (used as default) contains all the default setting of the customisation values for the application. This local XML is used when a XML file as created by GSCIConfig is not found.

Below is an example local default XML dictionary which shows the default configurable values of the GeoSciTeach application and the format of the XML which is read by the GeoSciTeach application:



      <string>Why and how do humans use plants?</string>


















































If a GSCIConfig XML file has been detected in the start up of the GeoSciTeach application this local XML is overridden and all values from the GSCIConfig XML file are used.

The GSCIConfig application provides functionally to either:

  • ·         Create a new XML
  • ·         Edit an existing customisation XML

In providing the functionally to edit an existing customisation XML the GSCIConfig attempts to read the XML file which has been created previously. Only when a XML is successfully read and parsed will the option to edit the customisation XML be enabled.

Posted in Project progress & update, Technical Development | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Customise an activity: Here’s a walkthrough

Using GeoSciTeacher:

Posted in GeoSciTeach app, How to use GeoSciTeach, Project progress & update, Technical Development | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here’s the link to our source code

Posted in Technical Development | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment