Use of mobile device apps to reinforce field-based learning
A suite of food web apps have been developed for iPhone and iPad by The Centre for Learning Technology (CLT) at The University of Western Australia (UWA) and made freely available through iTunes. The apps allow school users to construct food webs using a set of organisms that include producers, herbivores and carnivores.
The apps focus on native Australian, and in some cases Western Australian (WA) species and currently showcase four contrasting ecosystems in WA. Ecosystems featured are a tropical savannah (Kimberley region), a freshwater wetland (Herdsman Lake) in metropolitan Perth, a jarrah forest in the Perth hills and the Perth coastal marine environment.
The apps are aimed at Year 7 students (12 years) and target the Australian National Curriculum in Biological Sciences. As well as introducing students to unique Australian plants and animals, the app encourage students to think about trophic connections between organisms and how energy flows through an ecosystem. An introduced species can be added to each of the food webs so students can understand how invaders, for example cane toads, disrupt food webs.
The apps allow students to explore inaccessible ecosystems and are designed to complement field trips thereby reinforcing field-based practical learning experiences.
Evaluation of the apps is underway. Teachers will be surveyed regarding app usability and value of the apps as learning tools in the context of the learning objectives of the Australian curriculum.
Partner organisations involved in app development include the SPICE program within CLT at UWA, WA Gould League Inc at Herdsman Lake, Oceans Institute UWA and the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife.
A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.