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Deploying iPads in planning processes – Follow Ohio State’s experiment

This fall is an exciting time. I’m teaching, along with Jason Sudy, a fantastic studio (CRP 4910: Realizing the Plan) this fall that is focused on using ipads as a principal data collection tool in a campus master plan.  As many know I’m a technology enthusiast and I’m always thinking about great ways to integrate technology in the classroom.

Ohio State’s Digital First Initiative has been focusing on bringing more technology into every aspect of academia. I’m part of the advisory board and am the lead for the College of Engineering. This spring the College decided to invest in pilot ipad projects. We are supporting an inverted classroom in electrical and computer engineering, for example. The other pilot was to provide $30,000 to support the use of ipads in city and regional planning. This started over the summer with a project, led by Professor Charisma Acey, taking ipads into the field in Ghana. She shared her lessons learned this summer. Given her success I decided to give it a whirl.

I started with a simple proposition. How can I create a public engagement and field data collection process that can be entirely captured via ipad? How can I do this with minimizing the number of apps needed to accomplish this? How can we create and document processes so that the everyday planner could take what we have done in studio and take it out into the their practice?

It’s with those questions in mind that I set to work. This is a work in process and we are experimenting as we go along. So far we have set up the studio with just five apps, three of which are on every ipad (Photos, Safari and Mail). We are using dropbox, a free file sharing software. Dropbox is being used to transfer photos and other field data into a series of folders that are shared by everyone in the studio and our planning task force. The key app we are using is GISPro. Yes, it’s pricy at $300. However, we are gaining the ability to capture geocoded data, connect points to survey data, and lots of other spatial data out in the field. We can then export jpgs, shape files, and spreadsheet files for later analysis.

We then built a series of secure webpages that allow the studio team to connect through wifi and simply enter data as they move through a building. The studio team will be talking to users and asking them for feedback on their experience in the building. Team members will just enter the survey data as they go.As another example, in the image to the left, the students will be determining the occupancy in each facility. They just select the building, the floor, start a new sample and then they simply enter the number of people occupying a room and add any notes. If they observe anything interesting, they can move to the GIS Pro app.

The GIS Pro app identifies the current location and then with a quick tap of the finger the studio team member can lock in on the most accurate location within a building. They can then take a picture, enter descriptive information. And there is a survey tool that can be customized allowing for the capture of conditions information, for example. It’s easy to imagine how this could be easily adapted to other types of data collection. We are working out a protocol to complete origin/destination studies, asking users to describe how they got to campus and how they moved through the campus throughout the day. This can be mapped by simply moving your finger across the map, recording the various destinations along the way. This will allow us to more accurately capture the routes that pedestrians and cyclists take throughout the campus.

This studio will allow us to experiment with taking traditional planning tools, such as surveys, origin/destination studies, photo documentation, etc and take it to a new level through mobile technology. Studio starts on Monday. Stay tuned for updates on how these tools and protocols work. One of the students in the studio will be blogging our progress!



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