Enhancing Children's Learning Experiences by Integrating Outdoor and Classroom Activities
Interaction Technology Laboratory, Department of Frontier Informatics
Graduate School of Frontire Sciences, The University of Tokyo
Principal Investigator: Masanori Sugimoto (sugi [atmark] itl.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp)
Project members: Pamera Ravasio, Hitoshi Enjoji, Sosuke Miura
PROJECT ABSTRACT: A system called SketchMap for supporting children's outdoor/classroom learning is described. They use a tablet PC augmented with a GPS receiver and a USB camera, and are asked to draw a map in an outdoor environment. During the map creation tasks, they can easily record what they have found by drawing it or by capturing it in an image, a sound, or a video. The maps created by children are used for enhancing their further learning in their classroom. By allowing individual children to share their own outdoor experiences through the maps, SketchMap supports children's collaborative knowledge sharing and construction processes. The SketchMap project is in progress. The current version of SketchMap has been used in classes of "Safety Map" and "Nature Exploration" in a Japanese elementary school.
Impact on Children Learning / Instructor Teaching

Figure 1. How learning changes by integrating classroom and outdoor activities

In conventional classrooms in Japanese elementary schools, children are asked to learn knowledge from textbook / teachers in classrooms, conduct fieldwork surveys (e.g. visit factories), or look for related information at libraries or web pages for investigative learning. In these activities, children use paper and pencil in some case, and computers in other cases. Experiences or information gained through these activities are not linked together, and therefore, it is difficult to utilize them in order to contextualize their learning in an easy manner. The proposed system makes it possible to digitally record experiences and information acquired by children through their outdoor and classroom activities. The seamless integration of outdoor and classroom activities allows children to (1) share individual children's information and knowledge with others, and (2) discuss with others by reflecting their outdoor and classroom activities.
The proposed system that fully utilizes mobile and wireless technologies allows children to share and reuse their learning outcomes based on their learning context. Thus, a model of a course with the proposed system will change from the "knowledge transmission" from teachers to children, to "collaborative knowledge construction" with children and schoolteachers.
Figure 2. An overview of SketchMap
Technology Implementation
SketchMap is composed of multiple client computers (tablet PC) and a server computer. The client computer is used to support children in creating a map in an outdoor environment, and the server computer is mainly used for supporting children's individual / collaborative learning using the maps in their classroom. The details are summarized as follows:

Figure 3. Hardware (above) and software (below) of the SketchMap client

Figure 4. Web interfaces for annotations in the SketchMap server: indivudual learners' map (above) and Google map (below).
Implication for Higher Education
Although Sketchmap has been evaluated by elementary school teachers and children, we believe that the basic idea and functions of the system is applicable to higher education. For example, Using Sketchmap in university classes, such as urban planning and environmental issues, wil be possible by augmenting the system with computer simulation software, and so on.
Publications (selected)
The SketchMap project has been supported by HP Technology for Teaching Grant Initiative.