Tuesday, August 07, 2007

About Wireless Handheld Devices in Education: Create-a-Scape and mscape

As I've mentioned before, the UK is often on the cutting edge of educational technology. Futurelab's "Create-A-Scape", an educational modification of Hewlett-Packard's mediascape software, gives students and teachers plenty of opportunities to explore the environment and be creative.

By the way, Create-A-Scape won the 2007 New Statesman New Media Award for Education.

If you haven't yet heard of this innovation, now is the time to learn, especially if you would like to create engaging educational experiences for your students. Integrating new technologies and applications takes time and thought, and the researchers, educational technologists, and educators at Futurelab have taken care of most of the groundwork.

What is a mediascape or mscape?

According to Futurelab's Create-a-Scape website, "A mediascape is composed of sounds, images and video placed outside in your local area. To see the images and video, and hear the sounds you need a handheld computer (PDA) and a pair of headphones. An optional GPS unit can automatically trigger the images, video and sounds in the right places."

"To create a mediascape, you start with a digital map of your local area. Using special, free software, you can attach digital sounds, pictures and video to places that you choose on the map (see below)."

"By going outside into the area the map covers, you can experience the mediascape. Using the handheld computer and headphones, you can hear the sounds and see the pictures and video in the places the author of the mediascape has put them. All sorts of exciting things can happen as you explore the mediascape."

Here is HP's promotional definition of a mediascape, a context-based application:

"Mediascapes are mobile, location-based experiences that incorporate digital media with the sights, sounds, and textures of the world around you. A mediascape blends digital images, video, audio and interactions with the physical landscape. Games, guided walks, tours, and destinations are among the mediascapes created to date. Download a mediascape onto a portable device, and see how your landscape comes alive as you move through the environment."

The mscapers website, a place where "mscapers" create and share mediascapes, offers free software. The wesbsite offers tutorials and demos. You'll need a Windows Mobile device with GPS to get started.

Here is a video clip from HP that shows people out and about engaged in mscaping:

If you are an educator who has used "Create-A-Scape", or if you are an mscaper, feel free to post your comments about your experiences.

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