by Charlie Turner
IET-Academic Technology Services (ATS) and the School of Education hosted a weeklong workshop on the UC Davis campus in June. The goal of the workshop was to teach participants how to develop distributed, collaboration applications using iOS devices (i.e. iPhones, iPads, iPods) as clients and a system called NetLogo as the central collaboration and communication server.
Led by Charlie Turner, a group of NetLogo enthusiasts from UC Davis and other universities explored mobile client development, distributed collaboration, and learning environments. Participants left the hands-on workshop with fully functioning iOS clients of their own design and implementation.
For additional details on the technology, see the Technology Details section below.
For additional information on iOS development or any of the related technology, contact Charlie Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about UC Davis’ Academic & Research Programming services, visit ats.ucdavis.edu/programming.
UC Davis has developed an experimental software environment that allows researchers to seamlessly combine a number of powerful teaching and research tools: NetLogo; GeoGebra; inexpensive handheld, location-aware, mobile devices (e.g. iPhone and iPad); and web-based applications. We integrate and configure these technologies to quickly develop learning activities that can move seamless between the classroom and the outside world. The integrated system supports the needs of students, teachers, and educational researchers. In the figure below, teachers control activities from the NetLogo server on their laptop (A); students participate by way of applications on their mobile devices (B); researchers collect time-sequences data on either the server or the clients. Local connectivity is established using dedicated classroom wireless networks or globally using a device’s service provider to gain Internet access.
Activities originate from within the NetLogo server, a programmable modeling environment on the teacher’s laptop. NetLogo has been used for years to experiment with emergent behavior in large systems of independently operating software entities (agents). The HubNet system within NetLogo allows one to run participatory distributed activities in which individuals (students) act as agents, controlling parts of the activity or simulation from their own devices. NetLogo allows researchers to extend the core system with custom extensions, two of which are central to our work: the geographic information system (GIS) extension and the HubNetWeb extension. We use the GIS extension to develop activities that display the locations of students on top of publically available maps. The HubNetWeb extension, developed by researchers at Northwestern, extends the HubNet system to the emerging WebSocket technology, allowing us to connect low-cost, highly programmable clients (e.g. iPhones and iPads) into the NetLogo activity. The WebSocket protocol’s bi-directional nature, ability to tunnel through firewalls, and low per-message overhead, make it ideal for implementing highly responsive collaboration environments between groups of students.