School field trips could get a whole lot more exciting, if a program being launched by the Brookfield Zoo proves successful.

The Chicago-based zoo is creating a Tablet PC program in conjunction with the Chicago Public Schools to provide a more accessible educational experience for students with disabilities.

Before, during field trips to the Brookfield Zoo, students would use pencils and paper to make animal observations and were limited to the information their own class gathered. But now students can use a Motion Computing M1300 Tablet PC–distributed by the zoo–to record their observations.

First, students will learn how to use the three-pound, 12-inch screen Tablet PCs. Then, they will observe animal behavior and enter the data they collect into the device.

“Because our students must carry their supplies as they walk through the zoo to complete their assignments, ultra-mobile technology is important to the success of our program,” said Ann Roth, Brookfield Zoo’s access coordinator and manager of the “Every Student is a Scientist” project.

With Tablet PCs, students can adjust the computers’ sound and images based on their needs. For example, the device includes a Microsoft Magnifier application, speech recognition software, and a customized narrative audio program so it can magnify the text displayed on the screen, read that text aloud, or convert audio portions of the program to text.

The results will be copied to the zoo’s server and made available to teachers so they can use the materials when they return to the classroom. Because the data are digitized and available online, teachers can look at their own classrooms’ and other schools’ aggregate data in different slices to identify trends and apply the information to other activities, zoo officials said.

Microsoft and regional systems integrator Quilogy are sponsoring the Brookfield Zoo project, which is funded by a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Sciences.

See these related links:

Brookfield Zoo
http://www.brookfieldzoo.org

Motion Computing
http://www.motioncomputing.com