Using mobile technologies in the history classroom

Mobile Learner in History

Using Mobile Technology in History education

In 2007 I led a Historical Association project on the use of emerging handheld technologies. The idea of the project was to look at the way in which technological advances could be used positively within the history classroom, or beyond. Technologies considered were quite literally any that were handheld, electronic, devices. Much of the work therefore revolved around PDA’s, early tablets, netbooks / chromebooks. Some consideration was also given to mobile phone use and technology companies came forward with examples of voting kits, gps kits, gaming devices, digital cameras and dictaphones.

In 2007 these technologies were on the cusp of making a breakthrough into the mainstream. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality was available. GPS was being used, with geocaching a fad among our Geography colleagues. Bluetooth was being used, with examples from the world of retail suggesting some interesting potential uses for ‘auto’ sending of audio-visual materials at key locations.

The primary function of many of these devices was communication. They were light, portable, reasonably powerful and, increasingly being seen, like it or not, in the hands of pupils. This led to three distinct views on things such as the mobile phone in relation to education. First, ‘ban them’ was a prevalent view of governing bodies, senior leaders and many teachers. They were quite simply viewed as a distraction. A contrasting group saw potential. The technology was available, it was being used in industry, it was being marketed as having cpd potential, so lets see what it can do. Ranging from ‘geeks’ who had the technical ability to design and use early ‘apps’ to teachers who were happy to embrace anything that had the potential to engage, this group was reasonably limited in number. The third group were those who were a little mystified by the culture shift that was taking place. Mobile phones in schools were still a relatively new thing. Investment in Interactive Whiteboards and Virtual Learning Environments had seen an element of ICT overload for some. It was quite simply an area that was either confusing, or just not an issue either way.

What’s interesting is that ten years after the end of this project, much of the technology available then, still isn’t regularly used now. Despite the leaps in the capabilities of mobile technologies, the actual usage of them, on the face of it, is little different. Common practice now may, for example, see a tablet or two in a classroom. They are generally used in much the same way as a PC would have been, just a little easier to move around with. You see more frequent use of apps, some excellent ones being developed, such as the Mozaic3D app reviewed by Glenn, or those suggested on his post about good Edtech Apps for Primary History.

Despite there clearly being some good usage, is this a case of an area being underdeveloped? The potential was there a decade ago, has progress been made? What still holds back the use of these technologies or ideas? Is it lack of equipment / training, or just that the available options offer little that can’t be achieved more easily through other teaching methods?

Mobile Learner in History

2008 Handout from the Schools HIstory Project Conference. Workshop was on the Historical Association project, including guiding delegates through some of the activities.

Why bother?

Consider this – for under £80 you can buy a Pocket PC with a processing speed of 400 MHz and 128Mb of RAM. That processor is faster and more efficient than the one used to control the first Space Shuttle flights. Most pupils have something this powerful sat in their bags. They want to use them. Why not let them?

Issues to overcome

As with any technology, pupils and staff need to be trained in the use of these devices. Even when using their own mobile phones for some of these ideas, there are pupils who won’t know how to do it in advance.

Enabling transfer of files between mobile devices and the network isn’t always as simple as you would want it to be. A good Wi-Fi connection and installation of active sync on the network eases this problem but there will be teething problems.

Where devices are distributed to all pupils in a school you’ll suffer the same problems that you do with any other equipment. They get forgotten, aren’t always charged, can get broken / stolen etc…

Appropriate usage. We can’t just let pupils loose with handheld devices. There needs to be agreement about what can and cannot be done in classrooms and pupils need to know what the rules / regulations are.
Where pupils own devices are being used, there is the issue of equality to consider. Not all pupils will have a device, or some will be ‘better’ than others.

‘Gadget overload’
Hard to control and regulate the use of Bluetooth / Infrared.
Mobiles are banned in school…

Examples based on applications commonly found on mobile phones / PDA’s

Voice recorder

1. Regular homework task: record an overview of the main things you have learnt in today’s lesson. Why? Simple but effective way of recording and storing learning over a sequence of lessons. Can be stored on a memory card or transferred onto a computer at home or in school. Acts as a handy tool for revision purposes with exam classes and provides a resource that is easy to use when comparing a series of events.
2. Answering questions orally. In theory it’s just a ‘different’ way of tackling a question. This can be useful with pupils who often fail to add sufficient detail into written answers, as most of these pupils actually say a lot more than they would write – which can then lead to comparisons between written and oral work and AFL activities designed to improve the quality of written work.
3. Use it as a Dictaphone. Simply record key points in a lesson, note page references etc when researching or record ideas / experiences whilst on an educational visit.
4. Recording and reflecting on Role-play / Active Learning. When all the desks have been moved to one side, or you’ve taken the class to the hall to do a simulation, things like pens and paper get in the way. Simply get pupils to record their thoughts, involvement etc for playback later. Saves time, can be done quickly without ‘getting in the way’ and ensures that the key points are available in the follow session.
5. Oral History projects. An easy way to get pupils working on local history or family history. Devise a series of questions with a class, and then ask them to interview parents / grandparents. Use voice recorder to record the answers. These can then be added to an Oral History archive on the school network or website. I’ve done this with Year 7 on a citizenship project and Year 9 are currently working on this as part of a project on the 1960’s.
6. Create voiceovers. Provide pupils with a series of images or video clips and set them the task of recording a ‘documentary style’ or ‘newsreader style’ voiceover.
7. Recreate historic speeches. It’s easy enough to download speeches from the likes of Churchill but obviously less so for the likes of Elizabeth I… so get the pupils to recreate the speeches themselves. Apart from the potential for this to be great fun, it offers a chance to look at things such as the mood and tone of a speech which can link in with more traditional work conducted in the classroom.
Camera function
8. The class have brainstormed an idea or concept and the board is filled with ideas. You now need to move on though, so the board will be wiped, the flipchart turned or a new image projected… so the pupils won’t be able to see the ideas that they’ve come up with. Solution? Simple – take a photo of the notes, save it and use it as and when needed in the lesson.
9. Take photographs to illustrate different stages of a process. This is an ideal way of recording the way that pupils have undertaken a creative activity, but can also be applied to planning an essay or recording features and functions of effective collaborative work.
10. History outside the classroom. Identify local buildings and / or sites of relevance to classroom studies and set homework tasks that include photographing these sites. There are many ways of incorporating this into a scheme of work. For example, looking at the Industrial Revolution, pupils have looked at maps and census data, and are asked to take photographs of buildings from different time periods to add to an enlarged map of the area. For my students this involves virtually no effort at all, as they have to walk past the relevant buildings to get into and out of school.
11. Incorporate the use of the camera function into educational visits. A simple way of recording the site without having to carry around lots of additional equipment.
12. If pupils can take photos, they can also view them. Make photographs and visual sources available to pupils for storage on phones / PDA’s. A simple way of making them more familiar with a range of visual sources.
13. Encourage pupils to upload photographs they take whist on holiday, on a weekend break or simply out with friends onto the school website or network. Offer the ability to tag them, annotate them with voice or text notes, or to pose a question about the photograph. Why? This encourages enquiring minds, allows unexpected finds to be utilised within the classroom and enables the pupil to learn about things that interest, and are of immediate relevance, to them.
14. Make a departmental calendar accessible to pupils via active sync. A really simple way of allowing pupils to access a course overview, details of deadlines, exams, visits etc. More effective than a planner as they’re unlikely to lose the phone and, unlike planners, the calendar will offer reminders!
15. Get pupils to create a ‘to do’ list when working on a project or coursework.
16. Use the calendar function to store lesson notes. These are easily synchronised with computers at home or in school to make planning easily accessible wherever you want to work.
17. Use to synchronise a Google account with a PDA.


18. Register a Twitter account. Pass on details to pupils and let them ‘follow’ your tips throughout the course. This allows you to send them key points on a regular basis, revision notes and updates about deadlines etc.

19. Some schools have software that automatically sends a text message to parents when a pupil is absent. The same software can be used to send information about visits, exam dates, coursework deadlines etc. Whilst there is a cost to the school involved, this is a relatively easy way of ensuring that very important information gets to parents.

20. Returning to twitter. Use the ability to respond to ‘tweets’ (messages) to encourage debate about events. This will incur a cost if the pupils are using their own phones but in Wi-Fi enabled schools, or when using PDA’s, it is possible to utilise internet connectivity to participate without any cost involved.

Bluetooth / Sync

21. Many types of digital file will work on a PDA / Mobile device. This allows pupils to access a wide range of resources via Active Sync, Bluetooth or a wireless network. This can enable easy differentiation of resources, makes supplementary resources easy to provide and can result in different learning preferences being easily catered for.

22. Homework / Coursework collection. An easy way to get digital copies of pupils work. Simply assign a folder to the class and get them to transfer it by a given deadline. Saves on paper and when combined with other tools, helps to streamline feedback and any resulting editing of work etc.

23. Bluetooth lesson updates. If you’re working against the clock, doing quizzes or just want to add a ‘random’ effect to a lesson, set up a Bluetooth group on your PDA / phone and send messages as and when you want to. This works well with simulations in which you want pupils to have to deal with the uncertainties faced by people during a sequence of events – so when simulating the Russian Revolution, you can suddenly ‘announce’ via Bluetooth that Lenin has returned, that the Winter palace has been stormed etc…

24. Establish groups within wireless sync based on learning needs. This allows you to send differentiated materials quickly and effectively. For an introduction to Wi-Fi synchronisation, see this page –

25. Wireless synchronisation can allow pupils screens to be accessed and projected by the teacher. This has all sorts of uses, ranging from the ability to ‘show off’ good work, peer / group reflection based on work produced etc.

Video Recorder

26. Create a video diary. These work very well on residential visits but are also very useful as a means of self review and / or peer assessment.

27. The historical ‘happy slap’. Pupils act out famous events in the style of a ‘happy slapping’ video. This adds a great deal of humour into a lesson and can be remarkably accurate! Examples from the MWS GCSE (Studying Russia: Rasputin’s death; The Bolshevik Seizure of power; Stalin takes control (lots of ‘slapping’ there!)

28. Allow pupils to use video recorder as you model work on the board. Simple way of making sure that they can access your guidance.

29. As with the Camera function, make use of the Video Recorder whilst on educational visits.

30. Ask groups to work on presenting and recoding the same content in different ways in order to develop their understanding of how and why there are different interpretations of the same event. This is highly adaptable: pupils in different parts of the room recording a re-enactment or demonstration. Project each video and compare them – if set up properly, there will be significant differences between the ‘views’ that have been recorded.


31. Use map.lib files to provide ‘sat nav’ style routes around historical sites. This allows you to use any image as a basis for a visit, so old maps, photos etc can be used instead of an up to date OS map.

32. Utilise free products such as create-a-scape to generate virtual tours around sites that include music, photos, video files, notes and activities.

33. Local History. Combine current and old OS maps to provide students with the opportunity to see how the local area has changed. This can be done using overlays in create-a-scape and / or through use of other GPS based systems such as WildKey or Aegis.

34. Create a scavenger hunt around the outside of school. Have physical clues placed around the site, along with clues that are linked to locations on GPS. This allows pupils to be given a series of problem solving exercises and can replicate a series of events / situations from the past. For example: Year 10 students about to study the Home Front in WW2. Scavenger hunt around school takes them to external locations and presents them with a) an example of how the area may have been affected by wartime regulations (so, the Kitchen has rationing to contend with, for example. b) a series of artefacts, sources or audio-visual resources and c) a clue to help them answer a ‘Big Question’. (And yes, you can track the little darlings around the site to make sure they haven’t just nipped off for a cig!)

35. Mapping and surveying a historic site. Instead of getting the pupils to use a map to get around a site, get them to create it. Very easy to do and there are lots of ways of using the GPS generated map in follow up activities. For example, if doing this at a Castle, you could build up a series of layers showing how the Castle changed over time; in an Industrial area you could generate a series of maps, showing buildings of a certain age – which can then have census data attached to them.

36. Data logging exercises can be embedded into GPS based tasks. Whilst this is more commonly used in Geographical or Scientific surveys there are instances when it is of use in historical field work.
Windows Mobile – Office applications

37. You can import class lists into excel and use mobile office to record attendance, punctuality and assessment levels. This makes registration outside the classroom nice and easy, and pupil details can also be imported to ensure that you have contact and medical details available when on educational visits.

38. Provide PowerPoint guides to historic sites for pupils to refer to whilst on an educational visit. This could simply be a series of notes, questions or images relating to different elements of the visit. This can easily be combined with other uses of mobile devices – a slide asking pupils to take a photograph at a specified point, for example.

39. Generic writing frames can easily be made available for storage and use on PDA’s. These can be simply used as reference points by pupils completing the work on paper, or used in digital format which also enables pupils to transfer work to computers outside the classroom.

40. Text editing exercises work well on PDA’s in much the same way as they would on PC’s or paper. As with other examples, the main advantage here is that pupils can then access the files again both inside and outside of the classroom.

41. In simple terms, if it works on MS Office, it’s likely to be accessible on the latest mobile office platforms. For files that don’t transfer, it is usually possible to convert the file to a compatible format. Main drawback I’ve had is that PowerPoint will allow Read access but, on my OS at least, not ‘write’ capability, though there are other programmes available that can do similar.

Games for mobile phones

42. There are many games available for mobile devices. Many of these are designed to stimulate thinking and improve memory. Whilst not necessarily ‘history’ based, they are quite useful in terms of engaging pupils and might be appropriate as ‘bell tasks’ or, more likely, as brain training type activities in tutor periods.

43. Some LEA’s will fund the purchase of games / packages for PDA’s. If this is the case, it may be worth looking at strategy games based on historical events as they can help pupils to understand the complexities of earlier civilisations etc.

44. As a different way of challenging and engaging pupils, you could ask them to try and create their own history based game for mobile phones. There are a number of websites that provide tips on how to create your own game – many of which are baffling – but this one is accessible to most IT literate pupils:

Mobile web

45. Mobile blogs are relatively straight forward to set up. WordPress based blog sites can have a ‘mobile plug-in’ added which ensures the site is fast loading and accessible on most mobile devices, whilst the site can retain a ‘snazzy’ theme when viewed on a ‘normal’ computer. These can allow pupils to comment on a range of issues, ask questions of contribute to debates whether they are in, or outside the classroom.

46. In Wi-Fi enabled schools, provide a series of ‘mobile web’ links for pupils to make use of on PDA’s / Wi-Fi enabled mobile phones. This ensures that pupils don’t waste lots of time trying to find mobile compatible websites, and that they don’t end up scrolling through lots of navigation pages before finding anything of use.

47. Use poll plug-ins on a mobile blog. These can be used as an alternative ‘voting mechanism’, can be used to gather pupil views or could simply be an enrichment tool used to generate interest.

48. Wiki’s are increasingly popular with pupils. There are mobile friendly wiki’s available which can allow pupils to work on a wiki based site on a PDA or mobile device.

49. Mobile Instant Messenger. Several instant messaging programmes have been adapted for use with mobile technology. These can be used to generate debates between classes; can be used to check a pupil’s progress whilst on a scavenger hunt around school or whilst in the library and can be used for discussion and debate with classes and colleagues in other schools.

50. Using twitter, students can complete a paragraph/point/model answer on a topic. This would be completed in a linear fashion with each student waiting until the student above them in the reply chain has posted. Answers then can be uploaded to a wiki for wider publication.

51. In a Wi-Fi enabled school it’s possible to access VLE’s, Moodle and Sam Learning etc via a handheld device. Whilst these vary greatly in terms of mobile accessibility, the ability to access them without needing to book an IT room does increase opportunities to make use of these systems. (Moodle works reasonably well on PDA’s at my school).

52. Not necessarily mobile specific, though it makes sense to ensure that it can be done on a mobile device: establish community discussion areas in which local history groups, community groups and parents can contribute their thoughts and ideas about different historical issues. This simply makes it easier for people from outside of school to be involved and will, hopefully, help to make sure that pupils understand the importance and relevancy of History within the community.

53. Provide students with a list of recommended newsfeeds / RSS feeds that are relevant to their studies.


54. Point pupils at relevant free e-books. There are many history related e-books available which cater for pupils of all ages and abilities. These range from free downloads from University sites, such as through to children’s books such as the ones available on

55. Download Microsoft Reader and set pupils the task of writing their own e-book.

56. Use Microsoft Reader’s e-book writing functions to enable PDA friendly learning diaries to be maintained by students.

57. Ask pupils to write or record reviews of e-books you refer them to. It illustrates their understanding, makes them actually read the book and can lead to discussion about the validity of arguments put forward.

Media Player

58. Many mobile phones come with software that converts audio and video for playback on the device. Utilise this software to create mobile friendly video and audio that can be made available to pupils. This helps to personalise learning and makes resources more accessible to students wanting to use them at home.

59. Subscribe to podcasts related to your teaching. This is an easy way of getting up to date research and information that you can use to inform planning.

60. Give pupils details of podcasts that relate to your schemes of work.

61. Make lesson resources available. For example, video starters that I have created and put onto the schoolhistory YouTube group have been converted into 3gp (mobile friendly format) and are available to pupils to refer to.

62. Challenge the pupils to create mobile friendly overviews and revision materials. A session using moviemaker, Audacity or other software in an IT room could result in a wealth of good resources being shared between classes.

63. Make use of free services such as Shoutcast ( to allow pupils to create their own radio station. This could be used in the run up to exams to broadcast revision tips previously created by pupils, which would be accessible via mobile devices.

64. Record lesson introductions or plenary sessions using a video camera or microphone. Save these in a mobile friendly format and make them accessible via the school network and / or website.

65. Microsoft Photostory enables easy creation of audio-visual slideshows that can be exported in a mobile friendly format. These provide a simple and effective way of providing course overviews, or allowing pupils to present a narrative in a different format.

66. Wafer thin walls are a problem at my school. Squashed between 2 other rooms we often find that noise, even when it’s a ‘productive buzz’ can be distracting at times. Allowing pupils to listen to music whilst they work – at a sensible volume, and only when appropriate to the task – can help pupils to focus.

67. Provide pupils with music that is from the period being studied. As above, it helps to block out unwanted noises from elsewhere whilst also enhancing a pupils sense of period.

Diagrams / Concept Mapping

68. The annotation tool on a PDA makes concept mapping relatively straight forward to do and save on a PDA. You can install specialist software for this, but I’ve found that the mobile programme ‘Image Maker’ (mobile version of paint) has done the job well enough.

69. 3D concept mapping is available via the ‘net. Some of these sites appear to have a lot of potential for history students and have the potential to be useful applications for mobile learners. (Note: I’ve not tried this, just been told about it –

70. Use sync or the mobile web to provide access to graphical organisers.


71. Provide assessment rubrics / criteria in a mobile friendly format on your server. This allows students to access criteria and take it anywhere with them. Handy for those students who panic before exams and it allows parents to see how their child will be assessed, ensuring that they are better informed when assisting pupils with homework etc.

72. Video record feedback being given about a range of pieces of work. Save these in mp4 or 3gp format. Make these available to pupils as part of an assessment portfolio. Over time, this can build up to cover many assessment tasks with responses at various levels. This is little different to the theory behind many existing departmental practices – though in this case, the pupils can see and hear feedback, and take it away to reflect upon.

73. A logical follow on to the previous suggestion: pupils’ video record peer and / or self reviews of assessed work, taking on board feedback provided by the teacher in the assessment portfolio. These can be used for discussion about targets for improvement, added to the assessment portfolio and referred back to when the same concept or skill is next assessed.

74. Many of the tasks that pupils can use a mobile device for can form part of an assessment activity. Photographs and video clips can be incorporated into projects, voice recorded statements can be used to assess pupil understanding of events and the outcomes of participation in GPS based activities can also be used for assessment purposes.

75. Knowledge can easily be tested via mobile devices. Whilst there are clearly limitations to the benefits of quick tests, they are things that pupils are familiar with, and can be accessed via the mobile web. On a simple level, these can allow checking of understanding of key words, chronological order and dates etc. These can be done via use of sites such as BBC bitesize, or via mobile web friendly quiz generators.


76. My mixed ability Year 7 group range from several pupils working below Level 3 to pupils who are highly capable and confident learners. The use of PDA’s on a wireless network allows distribution of differentiated resources and support materials with relative ease. The main benefit here is that I can send audio files, which means that pupils can ‘get on’ with work without having to wait for me to be available if I’m working with other pupils.

77. Provide a range of resources of different types and difficulty levels for a series of lessons. Include audio-visual resources alongside e-books, sources in MSWord and web links. If structured appropriately and guidance is given, this allows pupils to access support materials suited to their needs and preferences.

78. Use the Social Networking potential of mobile technologies to engage pupils in discussion and debate with students of a similar level from other classes or schools. This can stretch the highest achievers and enables lower attainers to discuss historical events in an arena in which they are not going to be overwhelmed.

79. Differentiated Bingo. Pupils receive differentiated key words and definitions on a sheet, and a bingo card that has definitions noted in squares. Teacher beams keywords via PDA. The rest is the same as normal bingo… why use a PDA? It’s certainly not something that ‘must’ be done on a PDA / phone. It’s useful as an exercise that familiarises pupils with the way that PDA’s can interact though – and developing the skills required to make good use of handheld devices is very important if they are to have a positive impact.

80. Make use of Quizzler. This is a downloadable quiz generator that works on a PDA. Easy to create quizzes, and they are accessible on the handheld device, which is currently not the case with some other quiz making products.

81. Gifted and Talented students can be challenged to create their own historical survey of an area or site. This can be done quite easily using software such as create-a-scape ( or Expedition ES (

82. Use translator software to allow students to access, translate and use primary documents in other languages. (Thanks to Charlotte in my Year 7 group for that idea!)

83. Create a basic timeline. Ask pupils to add content to it after each lesson, based on the work that they have done. This enables them to record their learning, reinforces their understanding of where things fit in chronologically and provides a self created resource that can later be adapted, reviewed or improved.

Ensuring pace and engagement

84. Use your mobile device as a remote control for any networked device. See this site for a ‘how to’ or this site which features a download that enables this –

85. An adaptation of Paul Ginnis’ ‘Back to Back’ activity (see Class and teacher make use of mobile messenger. Teacher provides a clue about an image or event. Pupils work in groups and can ask one question per group after each clue is given. Each group then draw the image based on the clues that the teacher has given, and the answers to the questions. Images can be beamed to the Interactive whiteboard for whole class analysis. Compare with the original image. Then pair up groups of pupils and get them to repeat the exercise. Advantage of using the PDA’s – when doing this ‘back to back’ lots of pupils ‘take a peek’ at the image, spoiling the exercise!

86. An adaptation of Paul Ginnis’ ‘Broken Pieces’ activity (see Provide pairs of pupils with one segment each of the Bayeux Tapestry, with a caption, on their PDA’s. Challenge the class to work out what order the images should go in: but with the following rules – a) You cannot physically give your information to anyone else. Nor can you take anyone’s. B) You cannot move or leave your seat, except for one person who may be asked by the group to write notes on the board / flipchart. C) From time to time the teacher will let you know how long is left, and will remind you of the rules if they are being broken. Apart from this, you have to organise yourselves. Advantage of using PDA’s: Paul Ginnis’ outline of the activity makes it clear that this is a quite challenging problem solving exercise. The use of PDA’s here provides additional mechanisms through which the pupils can establish what order the images should be placed in.

87. Stimulating simulations. Provide a series of supplementary resources for groups completing this activity ( in a synchronised folder. (One sub folder per group, to keep it relevant and specific to them). Once pupils have digested the information, move into the simulation. Provide the situation updates via beamed updates, so that none of the groups has any forewarning of the pace at which the ‘situation’ is going to change. This increases the pace of the activity, prevents you having to run around the room throwing out pieces of paper and makes the activity as fast (or slow) as you want it to be.

88. Supporting the ideas put forward by Paul Ginnis in his marketplace activity (see: Provide audio-visual materials to groups to support Stage 2 of the activity. Stage 4 – one pupil per group can be assigned the task of entering answers to questions on a class forum, or mobile blog. These could then form part of group discussions in Stage 5. Why use PDA’s here? In my school, its the only way in which I can make audio-visual resources available to all groups. Otherwise, it would be one laptop to split between all of the groups – which wouldn’t work very well!

89. Use the countdown function on a mobile phone / PDA to set time limits on activities.

90. Make a range of puzzles, codes and anagrams available for pupils to access. Use these as a ‘bell task’ with the first pupil to crack each puzzle correctly being rewarded. This allows learning to begin as soon as a pupil is in the room (or on route to the lesson if the corridors are calm enough!)

91. Group based ‘battleships’ quiz. Each group has a simple decision to make: do they answer themselves for one point, or beam a question to another group… if that group gets it wrong, they lose a turn and the first group gets double points. Very simple and needs refining but it adds a competitive element to a revision quiz.

Enhancing fieldwork

92. Provide schedules for longer visits for students to access on handheld devices.

93. Use a range of the features available to pupils to record the visit. For example, I’m planning for year 8 pupils to work in pairs on a local visit. One pupil will use a GPS guide to locate things; the other will record findings using the camera and video functions. This can be combined with good old fashioned handouts / worksheets to make the process as streamlined as possible ( as they’d not need to switch applications at all) or a list of tasks / notes could be provided as a file to store on the PDA.

94. Hide and Seek. Another use of GPS. See this site for an example of how it can be done –

95. Google maps is available for many mobile phones and PDA’s. This can be used in numerous ways. See this site fior details of how to install google maps onto a handheld device –

96. Mapping your community ( This activity can easily be adapted to suit the needs of the history curriculum.

Learning inside and outside the classroom

97. Local History Month (May)
Preparatory task(s):
• Photograph a building of Historical relevance in the area that you live.
• Use sound recorder to record a short statement about the building. This could include statements about when it was built, what it was used for, who built it, when its usage changed or why it is important.
• In Word, make a note of the location of the building.
In class:
• We will share the images and sound recordings and discuss the types of buildings and the roles that they have had in our local history.
• The images, sound files and location statements will then be collated on the network.
• Groups of pupils will then work on creating short guides to areas. This will involve using laptops and PDA’s to create short mobile friendly html pages about each area or building.
• The completed webpage’s will be collated into a PDA friendly website.
Additional activities:
• A sample of these pages will be incorporated into a virtual tour of historic Bradford.
• This virtual tour will be accompanied by a series of short activities / quizzes designed to test understanding of the role and significance of key individuals, industries and events in our local area.

98. Who Do We Think We Are? (1) (June)
PDA based materials to support the Historical Association / Royal Geographical Society ‘Who do we think we are?’ citizenship themed week.
• Use the questions suggested on to devise a series of questions that pupils think will help to gauge a good understanding of people’s views about the area. (Focus on Themes 2 and 3)
• Use voice recorder / Video recorder to record answers to individual questions. (Select 2 or 3 questions per week to focus on)
• Use a selection of the recorded answers in lessons to focus discussion about themes and to enable comparisons to be made. Theme 3 is directly linked to current teaching in RE lessons; Theme 2 has relevance to areas of the History and Geography curriculum.
• Collate responses on network. Organise these by theme or question. These can then be used at a later stage to allow Oral Archives to be utilised when exploring key issues in lessons.

99. Who Do We Think We Are? (2) (June)
How has Bradford changed in the past 50 years?
• Following on from the themes in the wdwtwa project, develop a series of questions with classes that will provide an overview of what life is / was like for youngsters at any given time in the past 50 years. Questions based around experiences of life at the age of 11/12. These could focus on leisure, education, lifestyles, fashion etc.
• Repeat use of voice recorder / Video Recorder to record answers to the questions. (It would be handy if pupils could note the age of the people they are asking, so that a later comparative study can be made of developments in any area over time).
• Collate the recordings onto the network and organise by theme and / or decade being referred to.
• Pupils then create a mobile presentation outlining changes in Bradford over the past 50 years based on the responses that they and other pupils have acquired.


100. Access E-CPD resources such as the new modules on the HA website whilst on the move.

101. Download and store training related podcasts and videos to a handheld device.

102. Record or note your own T&L ideas on a handheld device.

Overview of educational products available for PDA’s / Mobile phones

The following companies / products have been involved in the HA handheld devices project in some way.

Aegis Aegis produce software that was primary designed for use in Geography departments. However, they are eager to trial uses of the package within History. The software can be used on networked PC’s and also has the ability to export files to a PDA, which would enable activities to be constructed for use on field trips, or as homework exercises.
Steljes Steljes produce a range of handheld devices. They have offered a great deal of advice and guidance.
Promethean Promethean have launched activexpression which is a handheld device that interacts with the Interactive Whiteboard.
LP+ LP+ provide a range of packages including LP Mobile. is a mobile learning platform. The director of the site has worked with project participants on previous projects and has offered to assist in the development of mobile projects, along with providing access to mobile learning platforms for project participants.
Student Documenter This product enables distribution and collection of files from your network to hand held devices such as Smartphone’s or PDA’s.
Luecker Interactive Luecker Interactive created many of the interactive games on the BBC website.

Other useful links – hosts a vast array of ideas for the use of mobile devices in all subject areas. The site has a very useful forum and has a number of free downloads that are worth having a look at. – mentioned elsewhere in this document. A simple way to create a GPS based tour. – covers a wide range of technology based learning issues, including handheld learning. – Becta have conducted a number of research projects relating to handheld learning and are involved in developing resources and ideas. Search the site for ‘handheld’ or ‘mobile’ and you’ll get lots of results! – examples of handheld learning in the United States. – an overview of the way that one school has approached the use of handheld devices. – covers a range of subject areas. There are lesson plans on the site that show how handheld devices are integrated alongside other T&L ideas. – a large selection of links to sites and resources relating to handheld learning. – maths and science activities designed for use on handheld devices. Though the ideas are for other subject areas, many are adaptable and all help to illustrate the way that activities can be designed for use on handheld devices.

Creating a GPS based activity

There are several ways of doing this. The easiest that I have come across to date is outlined below.

Go to
Select ‘Make a Media Scape’
From the options, select ‘MScape wizards’
Read the background information, then select ‘make your own mediascape’
You have four options, all of which are easy to use. When planning at home or in school, you can make really good use of audio-visual files to enhance the GPS tour that you will create. In order to show you just how simple the task can be, I’ll suggest that you select ‘my favourite places’
Within the following menu, select ‘history’
Fill in the form with whatever details you want to include.
You will be asked to review the information before being asked to choose a location. If you want to create something that you can download and test whilst at the SHP Conference, enter the postcode LS18 5HD. Zooming in should result in the screen looking something like this:

You can then select up to 10 locations to add to your tour. To do this, double click on the map at the location that you want to add. Doing this will bring up this box:

You can use the ‘This place is special’ box to add detail about a location, or to set a task for that location.
You can use the ‘How do you get there’ box to give directions if it’s a straightforward tour, or to offer a few clues if you are creating a scavenger hunt or puzzle based activity.
– Locations need to be 25m apart so that there is no GPS overlap.
– Tends not to work inside!
What does it look like?
On a PDA, this wizard will create a series of directions that appear in a simple user interface (which works in an easy to install player)
The following is a sequence of screen shots showing what a tour taking you around Trinity building would look like on a PDA:
This is a tour at its most simple. You can embed images, maps, video and activities to make the activity more engaging and relevant.
Have a look at the library of activities at for examples of how this can be achieved. Most of the activities are transferable to other locations. You’d simply need to alter the GPS locations in the files to make them work in a location close to you – including your own school grounds. For example: work that m LEA ICT consultant has done in school means that next year, I’ll be able to use his GPS co-ordinates of the school; embed a new range of images and transform the site into a virtual monastery for Year 7, Bradford circa 1800 for Year 8 and London in the Blitz for Year 10. Alternatively, I could use the GPS tags to reposition an existing mediascape onto my school site, therefore making the games and puzzles on the mediascape site usable in my own school.

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