Using mobile technology to engage students in inquiry-based learning

Prof. Chris Buddle, who teaches ENVB 222: St Lawrence Ecosystems, is undertaking a change in his course teaching strategies as part of his focus on helping students to develop an understanding of research.  One of the critical learning activities is a field trip early in their first term. 



This exercise, highlighted in the Documentary Series: Sowing the seeds of inquiry, focuses on analyzing diversity within a particular area of the forest floor.  The students work in teams and make observations; they note their observations on paper and refer to these for subsequent work. This inquiry approach has been limited by the inability to communicate and collaborate while in the field.  To explore the potential of mobile technology, Prof. Buddle will be integrating tablets into the field experience. Each student received a tablet computer* (Android system) for the three weeks of the field component. As well, each team received a mobile hub to enable Internet access while in the field (the Morgan Arboretum).

According to the 2012 ECAR survey, mobile technology in general, including tablets, is the aspect of information technology that students are most interested in.  This project will allow a focused view of the impact of a communication enabled tablet on both the students’ learning experience and the instructor’s planning and instructional processes

*Toshiba Canada has been an active partner from the inception of this project and has provided extensive logistical and technical support.  We would like to particularly thank Ginette Dufort of Toshiba Canada for her commitment to creating and exploring innovative educational opportunities.  We would also like to acknowledge the support of Bell Canada for the mobile hubs. The McGill Library and Network and Communication Services have provided equipment loans, technical support and video services.


Ken DrydenPhoto: Owen Egan

Ken Dryden

Professor of Practice, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada

Ken Dryden was a Member of Parliament and was Minister of Social Development in the Martin government.  He played goal for the Montreal Canadiens during the 1970s, during which time the team won six Stanley Cups, and was a member of Team Canada 1972.  He is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame and Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, and is the author of six books, including The Game and, most recently, Becoming Canada.  He teaches at McGill, Calgary, Ryerson and Saskatchewan universities.  He and his wife, Lynda, live in Toronto and have two children.

Elena Bennett

Elena Bennett

Associate Professor, Department of Natural Resource Sciences & McGill School of Environment

Dr. Elena Bennett received her BA in Biology and Environmental Studies from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1994, earned her MSc in Land Resources in 1999 (U. Wisconsin) and her PhD in Limnology and Marine Sciences in 2002 (U. Wisconsin). She is respected as an expert in ecosystem services (benefits that people obtain from nature) and is co-chair of the international project ecoSERVICES, which aims to set the research agenda for ecosystem services for the coming decade.  She has received over $2 million in grants to support her research, and published over 75 peer-reviewed articles on her work. Dr. Bennett was a Leopold Leadership Fellow (2012), and received training from this group in leadership and communication, and was recently named a Trottier Public Policy Professor (2013-2014).  She won the Macdonald Campus Award for (Undergraduate) Teaching Excellence in 2012 and the Carrie M. Derick Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision in 2013.

Alan ChenPhoto: Manli Que

Alan Chen

Undergraduate student, Interfaculty Program in Sustainability, Science and Society

Alan works as the Director for the McGill Spaces Project, a collaborative placemaking organization that seeks to reimagine underused campus spaces on McGill's downtown campus and transform them into vibrant community engagement hubs. While pursuing an honours degree in Sustainability and Urban Systems at McGill, Alan also sits as a member of the McGill Sustainability Projects Fund Working Group which works to assess sustainability project funding applications. Alan is an infectiously enthusiastic individual that delights in complexity and nurtures an earnest intent to create positive change. He is profoundly passionate about sustainability and its intersections with urban design, social innovation, and their roles together in building strong communities.


McGill University is located on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. McGill honours, recognizes and respects these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we meet today.