(by Andrew Merryweather - @merryux - our UX guru)
The iPad, loaded up with a few off-the-shelf apps, is revolutionising the way archaeological digs are run.
As an ex-archaeologist I keep an eye on digital trends in the digging world, and came across a great post on Apple.com about an old friend and colleague Dr Steven Ellis of the University of Cincinatti and his digitally-enhanced fieldwork at Pompeii. He is using iPads, with simple off-the-shelf apps to collect data in a simpler, and more shareable manner than ever before.
Computers and archaeology have a long history, but excavators have been waiting for mobile tech to hit the right balance of portability, usability and power to really have a big impact on the way they conduct fieldwork. The latest generation of mobile devices, and especially the iPad, has hit the sweetspot.
Ellis credits the introduction of six iPad devices at Pompeii with helping his team solve one of the most difficult problems of archaeological fieldwork: how to efficiently and accurately record the complex information they encounter in the trenches.
This kind of digital data collection could be a learning opportunity in the making. There's a chain ready to be created which takes live data from field projects (in any scientific discipline, not just archaeology), being captured by fieldworkers on iPads, iPhones, and other devices, and feeding it up to a web site, from where it could be pulled directly into a classroom.
It's not hard to imagine a collection of classrooms 'partnering' a dig, and getting data piped straight from the trench to a few iPads of their own. Activities could be built around looking at the latest photos and maps each day, discussing the latest finds, following the life of the project from start to finish.
M-learning with a twist?
If you like the sound of this, please also check out Nick Short’s work at the Royal Veterinary College. He is using Android devices, and off-the-shelf Google tools to support Vets in Africa collect and share some extremely valuable data