After years of leading field studies, instructors like us who long to ignite a passion for place in our students and to see them develop ownership of their experiences may have become discouraged at the results of our labors. How can students get to the real meaning of place when they aren’t even paying attention to some of the most basic details in the outings we organize for them? It is painful to construct the perfect walking tour and find no one remembers the work they have seen or can even decipher the notes they wrote during the exercise. That observations in the field are not remembered later is disturbing on its own. More so, students need these observational details to support higher-level thinking about the built environment.
Observational skills tied to discussions in the field taking photographs, making notes, constructing diagrams, and drawing sketches are used to build our students’ awareness of the issues of the contemporary city, an environment which all of our students must be familiar as emerging design professionals. For disillusioned instructors, Traveler may offer some hope. By increasing our ability to take the trip with us once it is over, and making those experiences easier to reflect on and share with others, it creates opportunities for efficiency in preparing for a trip, in conducting the field study, and in the debriefing afterward.
These observed benefits, coupled with the historically observed richness of field studies, means that mobile technologies like Traveler deserve further exploration, integration, evaluation and refinement for both educators and students alike. As educators and software developers embedded in higher education, we also see that architecture field studies are only one aspect of a much larger challenge to use technologies in ways that help students make better sense of the world they inhabit. And we are ready to rise to that challenge. Students are now arriving to higher education with great comfort and reliance on their mobile devices.
We aim to integrate, not ignore, this phenomenon and shape our pedagogy around effective experiences. We embrace the future of mobile media in this regard as new interfaces, devices, and connectivity are released into the market. We look forward to expanding Traveler for many other situations where better geographic reference can help produce insight. By continuing to develop 58 and find interesting ways to use apps like Traveler, we may be able to help students heighten and improve their geographic awareness in the classroom and beyond. We are confident that digital journaling is a suitable companion to lesson plans and learning objectives within design education and all students of the built environment.