Field-based learning: multidisciplinary mobile mapping methods



This Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership and Cheril funded project is centered in the emerging and novel disciplinary field of Island Studies.

The challenge

Research methodologies in higher education vary from discipline to discipline, and from place to place. Field-based research in particular depends strongly upon the disciplinary position of participants. It is difficult for students to get acquainted with field-based methodologies. Students and researchers can now deploy digital mapping on mobile devices, using location-based services in novel ways to collect information, and interpret it during field work.

This cultural shift is being researched by the Charting the Digital ERC funded team. However, little is known about how students from different disciplines learn in the field, or about the role mobile digital technologies might play in this process. This project aims to address this knowledge gap, through a multidisciplinary and multi-national partnership.

The 'Go Go Gozo' project offers an innovative approach to bridge the 'knowledge-technology' gap in pedagogic practice in higher education. It aims to share best practice across disciplinary and national boundaries, bringing together research and pedagogy.

Key objectives

- to bring students from different contexts to the field, through blended mobility, where they will develop novel, digital, mobile and map-based research methods and skills;

- to assess the potential of playful, experiential and participatory learning in this context;

- to devise a course structure that facilitates interdisciplinary and multinational encounters in the real world beyond the academy;

- to evaluate impacts and benefits of these innovations vis a vis HE modernisation and quality improvement.

The Partnership delivers an ongoing field-based encounter between students and staff from different disciplines, bringing together students with academic researchers from Geography, Sociology, Development Studies, Geoinformatics, Game Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies and New Media Studies to explore the links between mapping, mobility and play.

Participants are drawn from Manchester and Warwick (UK), Malta, Utrecht (The Netherlands) and Olomouc (Czech Republic). They comprise 35 students at third year undergraduate/Masters level, together with seven academic staff and four postgraduate researchers.

Interplay delivers a focused learning opportunity, during which mobile and ICT technologies are deployed in location-based games to explore potential fieldwork methodologies. Students learn through playing these 'serious games' on the island of Gozo, chosen as an accessible 'doubly-insular' island, (subsidiary to the main island of the insular Maltese state), small-enough to serve as a game-board, but large enough to offer a rich diversity of experience.

Research methods

The project helps students to take control of their learning, exposing them to different ways of 'doing' research, involving complex learning, a participatory pedagogic encounter in the field, and a personalised progressive dialogue with research.

They select a research question, formulate independent research strategies, negotiate with students from different nations and disciplines, participate in a creative 'game jam' designing pedagogic structures, practice field techniques and reflect critically on methodologies, place and their chosen theme. These outcomes are brought together in peer, self and staff assessed group presentations.

The project builds on student field experience and delivers original ways of constructing knowledge based upon playful experiential learning, enhancing student experience across partner institutions, and across the wider world of higher education. It contributes to an on-going internationalisation and quality improvement by developing and reporting on field experiences, and increases student employability by developing practice-based digital research skills embedded in a progressive, student-owned experience of mobile digital mapping in the field.