Teaching Practice while Developing Practice: Mobile Computing at the Gabii Project Field School

Presenter: Rachel Opitz (University of Arkansas)

Mobile tablets are increasingly commonplace on excavations, and (optimistically) rapidly on pace to be pervasive. They open a world of possibilities for collecting and sharing better information in better ways. Taking advantage of the possibilities afforded by the new tools that continue to appear on the market (3D on mobile! Real time sync! IR photography!) is what gets many of us excited and we want to make the most of what mobile tablets have to offer. Trying out new recording strategies and techniques and continually improving our digital field practice are essential to bringing mobile digital technologies onto excavations. For projects run as field schools, where students are actively engaged in the recording process, this poses certain challenges. We’re trying to teach students what to do in the field, and how the documentation system works, and why we record what we record, often while learning ourselves or changing our strategies. For someone trying to take on the deluge of practical information (e.g. how to trowel, the difference between ceramic and tufa, what “compactness” and “sorting” mean) the deluge of excavation minutiae (something as small as re-ordering the boxes on the digital context sheet) can introduce significant confusion. Add to this a variety of different learning styles, levels of experience, and inherent levels of comfort with technology that are inevitable within a large group and a real challenge emerges. How can we best push forward, implementing new technologies and methods, and continually challenging ourselves while providing a valuable learning experience for students?