[image title=”Crabeater Seal” size=”medium” align=”right” icon=”zoom” lightbox=”true” autoHeight=”true”]http://sites.nicholas.duke.edu/digital/files/2010/12/crabbiecloseup.jpg[/image]Over the past few years there has been a tremendous increase in the use of mobile electronic devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablet computers by the general public. Nowhere is this more evident than on college campuses across the United States where students rely on iPads, smartphones and laptops to stay connected. To take advantage of this, the Digital Sea Monsters Project team is redeveloping course materials for an undergraduate course taught at Duke called Marine Megafauna. We will create a novel ‘digital textbook’ for the course that will integrate photos, videos and audio teaching tools and serve it to students in a digital form optimized for mobile devices, in particular the Apple iPad. Eventually, this ‘textbook’ will take the form of an integrative native mobile device application that would integrate inspirational e-book type content (including great photos and illustrations), local and online video examples, scholarly research articles as well as some interactive simulations/ animations of animal behavior. Since students depend so heavily on this technology already, the use of rich media and mobile devices for coursework is a great way to increase student involvement and get students excited about the course. We chose the Apple iPad because tablet computers hold great promise for this type of endeavor. The iPad is light and easy to use and can display a wide range of information – from traditional powerpoint “slides” to high-definition video and interactive diagrams. They can also be used to interact with other class participants in real-time and to tap into external sources of information at any time, providing significant opportunities for just-in-time learning. These devices also provide opportunities for students to learn about digital applications that may be useful for academic careers such as bibliographic management software.
In addition to the textbook part of the project (available to students in the Marine Megafauna course), this application also has a public component geared towards marine education. We realize that the general public, like University students, are also increasing their use of mobile electronic devices like the iPad and that these devices provide a new way to reach the general public and teach them about marine megafauna like humpback whales, penguins, albatross, tube worms and spinner dolphins. This public part of the project will be released as a set of 52 species profiles, each entry being a new “Megafauna of the Week.” We are working with experts to create species profiles that include text information in addition to various forms of multimedia.