Sense-it: A Smartphone Toolkit for Citizen Inquiry Learning

Sharples, Mike; Aristeidou, Maria; Villasclaras-Fernández, Eloy; Herodotou, Christothea and Scanlon, Eileen (2015). Sense-it: A Smartphone Toolkit for Citizen Inquiry Learning. In: The Mobile Learning Voyage – From Small Ripples to Massive Open Waters (Brown, Tom H. and van der Merwe, Herman J. eds.), Communications in Computer and Information Science, pp. 366–377.



We describe a toolkit for Android smartphones and tablets that enables a user to access all the sensors available on the device. Data from individual sensors can be viewed as dynamic graphs. Output from one or more sensors can be recorded to a spreadsheet, with the sampling rate set by the learner. As a tool for inquiry learning, the sensors can be linked to ‘missions’ on the nQuire-it website, allowing learners to sample and share data for collaborative crowd-sourced investigations.

Four nQuire-it missions have employed the sensor toolkit for investigating environmental noise, sunlight levels, air pressure and rainfall, and the speed of lifts (elevators). These four investigations represent a variety of methods to initiate, orchestrate and conclude inquiry science learning. Two of the missions are in the context of a study to develop a community of inquiry around weather and meteorology. The others are intended to engage members of the public in practical science activities. Analysis of the missions and the associated online discussions reveals that the Sense-it toolkit can be adopted for practical and engaging science investigations, though the issue of calibrating sensors on personal devices needs to be addressed.

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