Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 111–124 | Cite as

Enhancing learning: a study of how mobile devices can facilitate sensemaking

  • Yvonne RogersEmail author
  • Kay Connelly
  • William Hazlewood
  • Lenore Tedesco
Original Article


Mobile technologies are increasingly being promoted as tools to enhance learning. They can be used to augment ongoing activities, such as exploring outdoors, by enabling users to move back and forth between the physical environment and a variety of digital resources and representations. In so doing, they have the potential to facilitate sensemaking activities, where people seek to find structure in an uncertain situation through using a combination of information, communication and computation. However, continuous switching of attention between different representations and activities can be distracting. Our research is concerned with how mobile devices can be used to engender collaborative sensemaking activities during scientific tasks. We present two studies showing how different versions of a mobile learning application, LillyPad, were used by teams to make sense of their ongoing observations, when measuring the effects of different planting methods for an environmental restoration site. The findings show marked differences in the amount and type of sensemaking. We discuss reasons for this in terms of task demands and workload, information type and distribution of devices.


Collaboration Mobile learning Mobile technologies Sensemaking 



We thank the Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, the Rotary Club of Indianapolis and the Pervasive Technology Labs, Indiana University for funding the project. We are indebted to Andrew J. Kurtz and Josh Hursey for programming and helping with the design of the application. Thanks also to Bob E. Hall, Kara Salazar and Polly Baker at IUPUI, Tammy Toscos, Allen Lee, CJ Fleck, Nick Gentille and Anne Stephenson at IUB and Paul Marshall at the OU for their various contributions. Finally, we thank all the team leaders, students and volunteers who participated in the measuring days.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yvonne Rogers
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Kay Connelly
    • 1
  • William Hazlewood
    • 1
  • Lenore Tedesco
    • 3
  1. 1.Indiana UniversitySchool of InformaticsBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of ComputingOpen UniversityMilton KeynesUK
  3. 3.Center for Earth and Environmental ScienceIndiana University-Purdue UniversityIndianapolisUSA

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