Cellphone Anthropology

DePaul professors are always looking for innovative ways to inspire students and enhance their educational experience. Learn more about Associate Professor Jane Baxter’s unique approach to mobile learning in the video above and post below.

While cellphones offer new educational possibilities inside the classroom, their portability also makes them excellent candidates for learning outside the traditional walls of the classroom. Jane Baxter, an associate professor of anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, sent her students into the wider community armed with cellphones during two recent Discover Chicago and Explore Chicago courses. “I have always believed in meeting students where they are in terms of technology, and right now, they are on their phones,” she explains.

In both classes, students utilized the Evernote app to geotag data points, take photos, write notes and record sounds. “Mobile learning was a natural fit, because portable technology could facilitate the type of information gathering I already ask students to do,” Baxter notes. After collecting various anthropological data, the students in the Discover Chicago course created a visitor’s guide to Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in Oak Park, Ill., while the Explore Chicago students collaborated on walking tours of Oak Woods Cemetery.

“Cellphones are an easy, accessible and familiar tool that students always have with them,” Baxter says. “Using mobile technology for learning purposes is a small shift, rather than a big leap.” For many DePaul students, instantaneously sharing experiences in words and images, whether through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or texting, is a daily practice. Asking students to photograph interesting architectural elements or make an audio recording of birds chirping in the cemetery builds on skills they already possess, while also introducing them to new forms of information. “Students commented that the mobile learning exercise showed I had thought about what would work best for them as students, and they appreciated that,” Baxter notes.

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