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Tablets for field research

June 20, 2011

iPad at Pompeii

A number of universities are now successfully using tablets as field research tools. At Duke University, Randy Riddle used iPads for ethnographic field research, and Jen’nan Reed incorporated them into a Global Health Research Methods course. At the University of Cincinnati’s Porta Stabia project, researchers use tablets to gather archaeological data about Pompeii:

The iPads helped us replace field notebooks, clipboards of forms, large drawing boards with piles of A3 paper for drawing, and even little things like calculators and To Do lists.

It’s not hard to appreciate the utility of a smallish, lightweight device that lets you

  • Record sound & video and take still photos,
  • Create and store drawings,
  • Fill out forms and gather survey data,
  • Use GPS to record locations,
  • Enter field notes, and
  • Search digitized reference books.
Right now, Apple has this market pretty much cornered with the iPad. That death grip is likely to loosen up as more Android-based devices appear.
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