Field Network System (FNS) Project


The Field Network System project is a collaboration with the Field Studies Council (FSC) to produce a portable web server and network to support outdoor learning. The project will involve Chris Valentine, Damian Dadswell and myself from the Open University (OU); and Sam Rudd (Curriculum Development Manager), James Drever (IT Manager), Javi Hidalgo (Network Manager) and Jim Wright (Education Team Leader, Preston Montford Field Centre) from the FSC.

The idea for the project came about over a year ago at a showcase event at the Margam Field Centre organised by the HEA’s Enhancing Fieldwork Learning project. John Lea and I where there demonstrating the work we’d been doing in the Enabling Remote Activity project to provide a portable network to improve the accessibility of OU fieldwork courses for mobility impaired students. Julian Cremona (from the Dale Fort Field Studies Centre) was demonstrating the work he had been doing with students in Singapore, using iPads and Google Docs as a way of collating and sharing field data. The idea behind the ‘Field Network System’ was to put the two together, so that students could use the web browser on a mobile device to access a local web server that would guide them to collect their field data, collate the data across groups and provide instant visualisations while still in the field without an internet connection.

Of the wide range of activities the FSC centres support, we decided to work initially with the FSC team at Preston Montford to develop a few example case studies. This would enable us to create a generic system that could then be adapted for use in some of the other FSC centres (or by other groups through the OU’s OpenScience Lab). The two topics we’ll be working on will be ‘ponds’ and ‘rivers’, where we can draw on existing teaching materials for UK primary and secondary school levels as well as adult groups. We will trial the system with FSC staff and visitors as part of an iterative development cycle. The prototype will be designed and developed in the next couple of months, with field trials and further development running between April and June 2013.

The OU team are being funded by the Wolfson Foundation through the OpenScience Lab.