Field Based Wireless Networks
GeoPads in the field can be connected through a local-area network (LAN). The LAN is established with long-range Wi-Fi omni antennas to create an ad-hoc wide area local network. Classroom management and collaboration software needs to be loaded onto each pen tablet to allow communication among students and instructors over the range of the field area. Field based networking facilitates interaction among students in the field, and between students and instructors, and is capable of overcoming issues of distance between instructors and students that can severely impede instruction in field courses. The communication capability facilitates activities in which students work in groups to solve field problems.
Classroom management and collaboration software provides instructors the ability to interact with students individually, as pre-defined groups, or with the whole class. The instructor at one location can remotely view the student's display and control a student's computer in real time at another location to show alternatives to their mapping; an audio connection is available so that the student and instructor can discuss problems while viewing and interacting on the student's computer. Physical interactions with the students by an instructor will still be necessary, but will be more efficient because the tablet communication hardware and software will allow the instructor to evaluate who needs the most urgent help and where to find her/him. Instructors can also send periodic messages to all students, especially helpful in situations where a single student's question might benefit the group as a whole.