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Students Will Become ‘Geohistorians’ in Kent State U. Cellphone Project

Thomas McNeal wants students to become “geohistorians.”

In the latest effort to turn cellphones into learning tools, his Geo-Historian project at Kent State University plans to put students to work creating multimedia content about historic sites.

The technology behind this idea is a program that ties the information to a bar code. Then you could leave that bar code on, say, the memorial commemorating the 1970 Kent State shootings. Visitors could get access to the student-produced audio and video clips by scanning the bar code with their cellphone cameras.

“All of the students have it now,” says Mr. McNeal, director of the desktop-videoconferencing project at Kent State’s Research Center for Educational Technology. “Instead of being afraid of it, we’re going to show teachers and parents that they can embrace this.”

Mr. McNeal is particularly interested in working with elementary- and secondary-school students, but plenty of other projects are exploring smartphones’ potential in higher education. You’ll find a list of them in the recently released “Horizon Report,” an annual guidebook to tech trends in education. The report named mobile computing one of the top two “technologies to watch” in the next year.

Mr. McNeal gave the geohistorian idea a try by creating a booklet filled with bar codes tied to the World War II Memorial in Washington, a project he described this week at the Ohio Educational Technology Conference. When visitors see a plaque about the home front, for example, they can scan the bar code on Mr. McNeal’s pamphlet and watch a clip from the 1940s of movie stars selling war bonds. You can watch a video about the Washington project here.

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