One of our first orientation activities for students was a self-guided tour of Larnaka, the city where we are living for a month this summer. A city of about 70,000, its coastal orientation is oriented to tourist circuits and vacationers: long promenade along a line of palm trees and sandy beach line with overpriced hotels and restaurants.
Over the years, we’ve sent students on a photo scavenger hunt on their first full day on the island. We typically give students a paper map of Larnaka. Students walk around and collect photos of places both historically significant and practically useful (e.g., the post office). Students become familiar immediately with the coastal area of the city, see parts of the older city, learn practical information, and get some photos of the city.
Here’s a snippet of the exercise:
Now, requiring that students use iPads for this small group exercise, on the one hand, does not really improve on the paper forms. Carrying around a 2 pound device is more burdensome than paper. But the iPads enhanced the experience with the potential for photographs and the maps.
If we had devices with 3G, we could have used the Map app consistently, but our wi-fi devices restricted internet access to the lobby of the hotel. Still, students did find a way around the problem of no connection: load the map of Larnaka at the appropriate resolution in the hotel lobby (when Wifi was available) and track location by the blue dot. There was, of course, no way of resizing the map during the tour without internet access. Walking around with an iPad makes one conspicuous, but it is much less so than opening up a huge tourist map to pinpoint one’s location.
Students took photographs with their own cameras, but could easily have taken them with the iPads. When we toured other sites on the island, in fact, I noticed students using the iPads for this purpose. In both the case of Tim at the Kolossi castle and Kaylee at the church of Ayios Ioannis Lambadistis (below), the iPads were a nice substitute for dead camera batteries.
We also used iPads in self-directed exercises in the museums. I transferred paper versions of the exercises into Dropbox. Students added the documents to “favorites” (so that they could access it without wifi), and then copied and answered the questions in the Notes app.
Below, students in the back courtyard of the Larnaka District Archaeological Museum.
Besides the map and photograph potential, the iPad improved the experience in one other way. When we ran guided historical tours of the city of Larnaka / Kition and the ancient site of Kourion, we made reference to a number of plans and maps of the sites to show how the topography had changed. We could have passed around paper maps and plans as we have done in the past, but there were multiple documents to keep track of. It was actually easier to transfer multiple PDFs of maps and plans and have students look at them through the Files app. This feature does have the potential to enhance our tours and presumably student learning. I could imagine, for example, a self-guided tour of Larnaka through a set of questions (as above) and these digital plans and maps.
Map of 19th century Larnaka in Nikolaou’s The Historical Topography of Kition
The downside to using iPads on tours was carrying around the 2 pounds in the heat of the day, the glare from the sun, and students being frequently distracted from the iPads by Cypriot lizards!
I think using these devices for tours has great potential for enhancing knowledge of the history of sites, especially if we can adopt apps and structure exercises that make use of the best features of the iPads.