On the train to the Personal Learning Environments in Active field Science Evaluation (PLEASE) Advisory Board meeting in Birmingham. We’ve been asked to do some pre-meeting work by completing a Theory of Change components framework at the start of the project. Here are my thoughts under the three headings we’ve been asked to address:
Current Situation - This is based on my last experience of leading a student field course in 2007.
1. Fieldwork required a lot of pre-field planning and bulky resources to be transported:
2. Mobile library of books, papers, and maps.
3. A range of personal field equipment e.g. notebooks, cameras, compass, clinometers, hammer, trowels, knife, etc.
4. Extensive pre-field work planning assuming no information would be available in the field.
5. Assume little communication with the Department back home.
6. Takes time to make field data available, usually weeks/months, following field trip.
7. Paranoid about losing data in the field e.g. film canisters or memory cards, written notes, physical samples, etc.
8. Any students left back at the Department are ‘in the dark’ about what is going on in the field and little news in general back at the Department, so not doesn’t contribute to research culture in real time.
9. Difficult for students and tutors to communicate with each other in real time if not together in the field i.e. students undertaking lone field work (e.g. dissertation), or staff undertaking field research.
10. Only some regard for the environmental impact and sustainability of field work.
Desired Outcomes - I would appreciate guidance on how to:
1. Better communicate in real time in the field, including lecturing to and from the field.
2. Optimise and integrate the use of gadgets and equipment.
3. Optimise and integrate the use of online social media platforms.
4. Use field work in distance learning courses.
5. Convert real field work to virtual field work.
6. Archive field data and experience.
7. Share field resources e.g. as Open Educational Resources (OERs).
8. Maximise and integrate information collected e.g. geotagging, date, location.
9. Maximise the value of field learning under financial constraints i.e. value for money and value addedness.
10. Conduct more sustainable field work.
Longer-term impact - In the long-term I would like to see:
1. Wider use of field work in Higher Education as a learning device.
2. Better live communication between students and tutors to and from the field location.
3. An enhanced culture of sharing field resources e.g. OERs.
4. Growth in field work archives e.g. data, location details, including logistics.
5. Better integration of field work with teaching and learning situations e.g. go live to students in the field whilst in a lecture with other students. It would be great to ‘blur the boundaries’ between different Teaching and Learning contexts.
6. Field research for developing deep and autonomous learners with tutor and peer support.
7. All field work conducted with regard to the environment and sustainable development.