Making geography mobile: using location aware technology to improve student performance in physical geography

Pamela Cowan, Ryan Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the increased availability of new technologies, geography educators are revisiting their pedagogical approaches to teaching and calling for opportunities to share local and international practices which will enhance the learning experience and improve students’ performance. This paper reports on the use of handheld mobile devices, fitted with GPS, by secondary (high) school pupils in geography. Two location-aware activities were completed over one academic year (one per semester) and pre-test and post-test scores for both topics revealed a statistically significant increase in pupils’ performance as measured by the standard national assessments. A learner centred educational approach was adopted with the first mobile learning activity being created by the teacher as an exemplar of effective mobile learning design. Pupils built on their experiences of using mobile learning when they were required to created their own location aware learning task for peer use. An analysis of the qualitative data from the pupils’ journals, group diaries and focus group interviews revealed the five pillars of learner centred education are addressed when using location aware technologies and the use of handheld mobile devices offered greater flexibility and autonomy to the pupils thus altering the level of power and control away from the teacher. Due to the relatively small number of participants in the study, the results are more informative than generalisable however in light of the growing interest in geo-spatial technologies in geography education, this paper offers encouragement and insight into the use of location aware technology in a compulsory school context
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-105
JournalJ-Reading - Journal of Research and Didactics in Geography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2013


  • location aware technology, geo-spatial activities, geography pedagogy, secondary education, student performance


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