Being a Geographer: the role of mobile, scripted inquiry in mediating embodied meaning-making during Geography fieldtrips

Kerawalla, Lucinda; Scanlon, Eileen; Jones, Ann; Littleton, Karen; Mulholland, Paul; Collins, Trevor; Twiner, Alison; Clough, Gill; Blake, Canan; Petrou, Marilena; Conole, Grainne and Gaved, Mark (2010). Being a Geographer: the role of mobile, scripted inquiry in mediating embodied meaning-making during Geography fieldtrips. In: 9th World Conference on Mobile and Contextual Learning (mlearn 2010), 19-22 Oct 2010, Valletta, Malta.


Geography fieldtrips are described often in terms of providing learners with first hand experience of the natural world. However, this perspective of fieldtrips takes for granted that learners will engage in certain types of ‘given’ practices, such as data collection, writing notes and the taking of photographs, and fails to look closely at such activities in terms of how they constitute what it means to be a Geographer and to engage in evidence-based inquiry. We report on two studies carried out in 2008 and 2009 by the Personal Inquiry project which has developed the notion of scripted inquiry learning to support students and teachers through the inquiry process. The scripts are web-based and hence accessible via mobile technologies during fieldtrips. Each study was carried out with a large cohort of 14-15 year old school students investigating urban heat islands. Our analysis of transcripts of their dialogue during the fieldtrips draws upon the work of Goodwin (2003). Our findings illustrate how the software-nQuire- mediated the students’ engagement in a process of embodied meaning-making which involved, for example, dialogically transforming their environment into semiotic objects (e.g. building materials and traffic pollution) and physically interacting with the environment so as to describe it in terms of evidence using appropriate terminology (e.g. degrees Celsius and carbon monoxide levels) and in so doing defining what they understand to be the features of an urban heat island and what it is to investigate them. We conclude that nQuire supported the students in defining, organising, recording and storing their data and helped the students to organise the data collection process; it supported them through the process of becoming and being Geographers.

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