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The Traveler and tablets available for field studies

Contributed by: Kyle Parker
Published: Wednesday, 13 August 2014 8:30 AM
The Traveler, a mobile app developed at Ball State, is available again this year for faculty to use as part of their field trips and study abroad programs.

Traveler features the integration of captured photos, short videos, drawn sketches, recorded audio files, quick location markers, and GPS tracking into a package that allows the user to organize information and media in an efficient and travel-friendly interface. With Google Maps built into the app, users can retrace their steps, noting the locations where photos and other media assets were collected and the path traveled along the way. This makes each student’s path personal, and establishes the trip as a series of experiences of movement through time and space. At the end of the trip, the student has created a richly annotated path layered over Google Maps.

Upon returning to the classroom, this annotated path becomes a powerful reference. Students can access the map to remind themselves of where they’ve been and what they saw. For an immersive, virtual experience with contextual 3D buildings, the path can be "played" back in Google Earth on the device, or viewed and shared via the web. Having this personalized travel journey documented gives students a way to engage aspects of the cultural landscape well after the field trip has concluded, and may support rich and collaborative debriefings upon return to the classroom or studio.

Our first trip was to Chicago with the CAP first year studio, and since then more than 60 students from architecture, family and consumer sciences, humanities, and journalism have visited 5 continents and more than 35 countries, recording over 100,000 miles of traveled paths and gathering more than 25,000 media assets totaling almost 80GB. And the numbers continue to increase and more field study programs embrace the app. As an instructor, you will have access to all of the data collected by the students on your trip, which opens up the door for numerous possibilities for publication, presentation, and dissemination.

Beyond the university, Traveler has enjoyed amazing success: over 100,000 downloads from the Google Play Store; mentions on Lonely Planet, Samsung Portugal, and several other international outlets; numerous papers and presentations; and an upcoming chapter in a book to be published by Carnegie Mellon University.

Whether a short walk to Christy Woods to record and document plant specimens, or a semester long trip around the world, Traveler was designed to compliment and add value to the teaching and learning experience. 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.

As part of this opportunity, students are able to borrow a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet to use on these trips, or they can install Traveler on their own Android device. At this time, Traveler is not available for the iPhone or iPad.

If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact Kyle Parker ( Tablets are available in limited supplies, and will be available on a first-come basis. To read more about the app, there’s a wealth of info available on our Google+ page.