Integrating Research and Education > Teaching with GeoPads > How to Use GeoPads > Selecting Hardware and Software

Selecting Hardware and Software

First, GeoPad, is not a specific brand or device, rather, it is a short-hand term coined to refer to the general combination of information technology that we feel has reached a level of maturity which provides attainable improvements and enhancements in teaching and learning for the Earth sciences, particularly in the field. A "GeoPad" is a pen-enabled computing device (i.e., a Windows XP Tablet PC) that is ruggedized, water-proof, and dust-proof and provides an outdoor-viewable display, wireless networking, and GPS. It has sufficient memory, disk space, computational horsepower and screen real-estate, to support the desired activities. It can run necessary software including GIS and an electronic notebook (i.e., OneNote), which provide a place to record, manipulate, and interpret data and observations in a variety of unified spatial and temporal contexts. Also, it is composed of readily available, off-the-shelf components, which can be easily incorporated into existing teaching and information technology support infrastructures.

Second, the specific hardware and software you select should be dependent on the learning goals and outcomes you plan to address through GeoPad-enabled activities. Budgetary constraints are also often an unwelcome, but important factor.

The basic design requirements of the GeoPad and GeoPocket are derived from the needs of students and instructors for field-based access to information technology. These requirements lead to two basic overall goals:

To meet these goals and satisfy an appropriate set of requirements, we suggest considering the following key characteristics in selecting hardware and software for GeoPads and GeoPockets. The list we generate at this workshop is based on a wide array of experiences. Cost itself is certainly a key criteria as well, though it can be highly variable depending on what trade-offs you are prepared to make.

For a comparative review of field-based information technology, see: Clegg, P., Bruciatelli, L., Domingos, F., Jones, R.R., DeDonatis, M., Wilson, R.W. , 2006, Digital geological mapping with tablet PC and PDQA: A comparison, Computers & Geosciences, v. 32, p. 1682-1698.

Open-source versus proprietary software

Generalized versus niche software (i.e., ArcGIS versus MapIt, GeoMapper)


Outdoor-viewable screen

Intuitive, pen-based user interfaces

Screen Resolution


Customizable GIS

Wireless Networking

Data ports (e.g., USB, Firewire, serial, PC-MCIA, CF, SD)



Other Considerations

Other Useful Information

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