[More live blogging from Gemma from the MCN 2010 conference, ‘I/O: The Museum Inside-Out/Outside-In’ in Austin, Texas, to help MCGers keep up with the news and exciting research being shared at the conference.]

THATcamp unconference session: Mobile technology and the school field trip: can it work? – Wendy Jones and Jennifer Sly 30/10

Minnesota History Centre, wanted to look at 21st century learners, AKA the digital native, and work out how to serve them, their parents and their teachers.  They are building a new exhibit and working out how to embed the mobile experience into it.  The aim is to create a transformative learning experience.

The history centre wanted to find out how kids naturally behave and what are their needs.

They are conducting research through 4th to 8th grade teacher focus groups, parent-chaperone focus groups (those who accompany kids on trips), and focus groups with kids.  The next piece of research will be to go into classrooms to test the other end of the experience, namely what happens back in the classroom.

Focus groups with teachers asked them about how their learners have changed over the last 10 years.  Most teachers took 2-3 field tips per year. This figure is about average across the USA.  Teachers even fundraise so they can take their students on field trips.

Their first finding is that their learners feel it is more about style than content.  Children now have less of an attention span, if tasks are too hard, children are not interested and if it is too easy the kids feel insulted.  Children respond better to the same text from a book projected onto a screen.  Children struggle to imagine stories, they can remix from movies but struggle to create something original.  Some research suggests children’s brains today are neurologically different because of their exposure to and use of technology.

Children consume mobile content through their phones and apps, but most teenagers don’t yet have smartphones, so can’t create apps for them yet.  Phones banned in schools, but that’s an advantage because they are taboo, the kids will be really excited about using their phones for learning.  Most important skills identified by teachers for their students is ‘critical thinking and problem solving’.

Parents felt the most important skills for their children was social skills.  They don’t have any preparation for the trip but they are a key player in the experience.

Kids are most engaged when they get to touch things, make their own choices and collaborate in groups.

Mobile apps fall into four categories: guide and focus eg maps, record and collect eg ookl, think and solve eg kids trying to find the answers and then create and share eg use photos they took during trips, make into a scrapbook and then show it to their parents.

Did some testing and found QR codes were very successful, kids scanned them and enjoyed hunting them out.  When educators posed questions the kids preferred to record their answers as audio rather than write them.