printed survey of volunteer educators at the Plantations who work directly with the targeted user audience. Like reaction to "Cornucopia," many expressed strong enthusiasm for the prototype, although many said that it would not be suitable for every visitor. One visitor noted a positive use of a similar system at an art museum. They suggest that the application can provide more in-depth information than the labeling systems, and more timely information than printed resources. They saw value in handheld computer presentation of plant locations, images, taxonomies, historical and care information, and sources for purchasing plants. Other visitors were less enthusiastic, saying "It could spoil the joys of wandering in a garden," or "I wouldn't want it to get in the way of us and the garden."
Through evaluation of two pilot applications, the research team has learned much about the appropriate design of mobile computing to support field experiences. For example, while the field assistant should leverage the appropriate strengths of the field environment (i.e., the ability to gather and analyze data right in the field), designers should not neglect including traditional resources that can be accessed from the field. Data from Maize DB for genetics students or Gray's Anatomy for medical students, for example can be liberating when extended to the field setting.
Planning for these systems needs to be heavily user-based. Rather than seeking to develop monolithic tools presumed to work for all needs (like a textbook), creators of the mobile future need to design powerful, easy-to-use design tools that allow experts (such as teachers or museum docents) to shape the technology for their unique needs. Design templates and mechanisms for incorporating other databases will be important areas of future research in this project. A priority now is to consider what makes field study attractive and valuable to begin with, independent of new technologies, which we can learn from educators who do a considerable amount of work in field environments.
Mobile computers have made valuable contributions to several industries and the list of new applications continues to grow. Explorations by researchers of the contributions these devices can make within the education community can set educators off on the right path.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the work and assistance of our colleagues and students: Gale Halpern, Daniel Allen, Richard Marisa, Lindsay Hamilton, Gisclerc Morisset, Jon Griffin, Donald Rakow, Margaret Smith, Christine Doell, Noni Korf, Carolyn Yaeger, Dorothy Reddington, John Morse, Mary Hirshfeld and Krissy Faust.
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