Breaking out of the classroom – Part 2: into the wild

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Following on from last week’s post about breaking out using digital tools, this week I’d like to offer some thoughts around getting out into the open, and how you can take technology with you. Some of you may have read about Danny Arati and Ash Merchant’s talk at the recent Fujitsu event (and a few of you might have been there in person) so you will know that one of the pillars of tech in education they talked about was ubiquity – that’s to say having ‘anything, anywhere, anytime’.

It’s not quite that simple. Every teacher reading this will know that mobiles in the classroom can be a disruption, but hopefully you’ll also know that if used correctly, they are one of the most powerful learning tools a student has. We’ll be looking at some of our favourite apps in later posts.

For now I’d like to illustrate one example of breaking out – the mobile science lab. Imagine being able to take the science lesson out into the field – literally. Or down to the river. Or the woods. What’s stopping you taking web access down there too? Worried about equipment getting dirty or damaged? No connectivity? Battery life not up to scratch? We’re working on it.

Take something like our Classmate PC. This is designed as a rugged, affordable 2-in-1 device with specific software for education. It’s tough and water resistant, plus there are affordable accessories you can plug in to make it into a mobile lab. Stick a 50p temperature probe on there and you’ve got a mobile thermometer. There’s also a simple magnifier attachment for the webcam to turn it into a microscope. Learners can run experiments and examine the world around them using one device – but what if they want to save their data to the cloud, or check online what kind of insect they’re looking at?

Well now you’ve got products like our Education Content Access Point. It’s a box the size of a smoke alarm that can act as a WiFi point if plugged into your school’s network or as a 3G hotspot if you’re roaming beyond the range of the network. And it has a 5-hour battery life. Even without internet connectivity, teachers can load learning materials onto it via USB and the class can still access that by connecting via WiFi.

These are products designed for the developing world – to bring technology to areas with poorer infrastructure and less money – but there’s absolutely no reason why teachers in the UK can’t use the same technology to engage their learners in the world around them.

How are you taking technology outside the classroom? Want to find out more? Let us know in the comments below, or via our Twitter or Facebook page.