Many organizations are involved in teaching and learning through the use of fieldwork. These include not only academic subjects with a significant fieldwork component, but many professional organizations, for example those concerned with environmental management. Fieldwork is costly in terms of educators and learners' time and financial resources and there is thus a concern to obtain the maximum productivity from time spent in the field. There has been a longstanding interest in using technology to enhance the learning experience, although this has sometimes been focused on the use of specific new portable computing devices or the replacement of fieldwork activities with additional computer-based learning. A very important aspect of fieldwork learning is the ability to visualize landscapes under circumstances different to those in which they are being visited – for example to imagine a river channel from a different perspective, in flood conditions, or at a previous time period. In each of these situations there is enormous potential for using mobile technology to deliver such visualizations to the learner in the field. However, experience suggests that teachers and learners are readily distracted by the need to interact with the technology and the learning experience is easily hampered by difficulties of interaction with unfamiliar devices.
This project drew together geographers, cognitive psychologists and learning technologists in order to address the issue of how most effectively to deliver visualization that supports learning in fieldwork situations. In particular, this short project brought together an extended team of interdisciplinary collaborators to establish a set of learning objectives for landscape visualization and then undertake a short demonstrator project whereby two demonstrator learning objects were be offered to geography students as part of their scheduled fieldwork activities. This afforded the opportunity for the learning technologist and cognitive psychologist to go into the field alongside the students and more fully understand their learning processes. Their commentary on these demonstrators were then be reported back to a second meeting of the stakeholder group in order to establish preliminary guidance on the design of technology-enhanced fieldwork materials and to develop an interdisciplinary research agenda with much broader application to maximizing the productivity of learners' time in the field.