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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 July, 2003, 08:16 GMT 09:16 UK
Pupils learn in wi-fi wood
Girls taking part in the Ambient Wood Project
The pupils carry radios and handheld computers
If you go down to the woods in southern England, you may be surprised to find a group of pupils armed with the latest handheld gadgets.

The children have been given personal digital assistants (PDAs) and pocket radios to track down and record plants and wildlife.

They have been taking part in a scheme called the Ambient Wood Project, which looks at how technology can best be used to teach schoolchildren about ecology.

"It could help get people interested in nature because nowadays people are just sitting of the couch watching TV a lot," said Harry, one of the pupils who took part in the scheme.

The Ambient Wood Project was initially set up just over a year ago and involves academics from around the UK.

The aim is to find out the best ways of using the latest digital devices to teach children about the world around them.

Wi-fi wood

For the project, a wireless network has been set up in a wood in Sussex on the south coast of England.

Girls taking part in the Ambient Wood Project
Back at base they can compare notes
Schoolchildren with PDAs and walkie talkies are encouraged to explore the wood, reporting back about wildlife or plants they see along the way.

In the latest trial in late June, pupils from the Varndean school in Brighton spend three days exploring the worlds in pairs.

"When they found something, they described it to someone back at the den, which means they had to verbally describe very carefully what they found," explained superviser Rowanne Fleck.

"They then got a little message on their screens which gave them a little more information and acted as a record of what they found in the wood," she told the BBC programme, Go Digital.

The feedback from the children has been overwhelming positive, with the students embracing this new way of learning about the environment.

"It is a brilliant way of linking technology with the ecology," said technology analyst Bill Thompson.

"It gets away from the idea that using technology in education is about sitting students in front of a computer and getting them typing on keyboards."

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