Field research tool developed for UW instructors

In the fall of 2013, in collaboration with Seth McGee and the BioCore program, the UW Mobile Learning Incubator (MLI) developed and evaluated a mobile app for identifying prairie plants. Faster and more accurate for users than a traditional dichotomous key of field guide, the program quickly filters down to potential matches based on choosing a few simple plant attributes.

By leveraging human skills at visual pattern recognition, and computing’s ability to sort and filter, this work will be foundational in developing an EI-funded field research tool for all sorts of identification and assessment activities — a spreadsheet-driven platform that will let any faculty or student apply their own identification and assessment problems to it to quickly and inexpensively create their own specialized Field Research tool that can run on any mobile or computer browser.

The Mobile Learning Incubator is currently exploring three primary themes: (1) Learning Through Field Research, (2) Learning Through Design, and (3) Games and Learning. By creating reusable tools, research and pilot data that inspire ideas and collaboration around mobile technology for blended learning, it provides an easy entry point for faculty interested in producing a mobile learning project.

Instructors, like Seth McGee, are working with MLI to harness the technology students have in their pockets. Mark Berres in Animal Science/Zoology, works with MLI to examine how game mechanics influence learners’ accuracy and participation in bird identification. Cathy Middlecamp is developing a Sustainability game for campus with MLI.

As more MLI projects are developed, UW instructors have access to an increasingly rich ecosystem of methods, prototypes and tools for mobile learning. To learn more or explore options for your own course, visit or contact David Gagnon.