School Pupils Take COBWEB Out Into the Field

School Pupils undertake pond dipping as part of the FieldTrip in the Dyfi Biosphere

On Monday 7th July the COBWEB team were delighted to see our prototype app for collecting biodiversity data – one of three use cases the project is exploring – undergoing some extreme testing from young citizens of the Dyfi Biosphere. 

The event, which took place at the RSPB’s Ynys Hir Reserve, brought together 53 school pupils aged 11 and 12 from Ysgol Bro Ddyfi along with five of their teachers, experienced RSPB staff, and members of the COBWEB team to test the app as part of a fieldtrip on invertebrates. Pupils, working in groups of 4, spent the day searching for invertebrates and recording their findings using both the prototype app and bilingual (English and Welsh) paper forms. 

Date entry forms with phone and collected invertebrate.
The RSPB Ynys Hir Reserve, which sits at the heart of the Biosphere, includes a diverse range of habitats including woodland and salt marshes, enabling the children to explore a wide range of invertebrates from wood lice to Damselflies, butterflies and water scorpians. There was also plentiful opportunity to observe (and fend off) horseflies and for close encounters with local vertebrates including fish, toads, and many bird species. Whilst the groups were not recording these vertebrates, much of the value of the data they were collecting – on insects, arachnids, molluscs, myriapods and crustaceans – is as an indicator of the health of other species that depend upon these plentiful invertebrates for their food.  

A group pond dips at the Ynys Hir Reserve Groups listen to an expert from the RSPB explain the Invertebrate activities.
The day proved to be an excellent test of the COBWEB prototype app with most pupils very happy to explore, test out and give very honest and helpful feedback on what did or did not work well for them. We have been testing the app with a range of small groups in the Dyfi and Greek Biospheres, with organisations including Dyfi Woodlands and Outward Bound, and a previous testing day at Ysgol Bro Ddyfi, but this was the first time we had run such a large scale test of the technology in the field. 

A pupil enters data on a phone using the COBWEB prototype app.

The COBWEB team were very encouraged by the usability of the app and by the positive comments received for the prototype but there were also lots of areas for improvement – which is part of why it is so important to run field testing with the local community like this. As a result of the Bro Ddyfi fieldtrip the COBWEB team are now looking at improvements to the interface and functionality of the app, particularly around improving the user experience where GPS is performing less reliably. We are also exploring some of the ideas the children had for the presentation of data entry fields in the app. 

A pupil examines an invertebrate he has collected
The COBWEB team would like to thank all of those involved in organising and taking part in this event, in particular the RSPB staff who were fantastic expert guides and hosts to us at the Ynys Hir reserve, and most of all the staff and brilliantly enthusiastic students of Ysgol Bro Ddyfi for being such fantastic and patient testers. We found the event hugely useful for our development of the COBWEB app and look forward to further collaborations with both Ysgol Bro Ddyfi and the RSPB as the project progresses.

Pupils collect data using smart phones at the Ynys Hir Reserve Pupils enter data into both the COBWEB phone app and paper forms.
Find out more

The COBWEB Team welcome feedback on all of the above resources as we are keen to run similar field testing in future. We are also very happy for others, including schools and community groups, to make use of these resources. 

We would like to acknowledge that creation of these materials would not have been possible without the contribution of the Ysgol Bro Ddyfi teaching staff. The design of the data collection sheet was partly inspired by the OPAL project’s learning materials and the design of the exercise was partly influenced by the resources available through BBC Bitesize on curriculum content and levels. 



Thursday, July 24, 2014 – 10:00

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