Case study: Student-created multimedia field notes

Tools used


Dr Kirk Sides,


“City Futures: Migration, citizenship and planetary change” is a Bristol Futures optional unit.  Students explore urban surroundings in Bristol in engaged field study throughout the unit, venturing out to various sites at which podcast lectures have been filmed and accessing these learning materials in situ. Using phones students also collect their own multimedia “field notes” which form the basis for weekly workshop discussions as well as informing the group video presentations which are part of the assessment.

What was done

Screenshot of Padlet board containing images of Bristol harbourside

In the weekly course readings and videos students were presented with topics and themes to reflect on and explore in the city. They were asked individually to take photos or short videos from around the city which were then used as stimuli for discussion in the face-to-face workshops, where the material students themselves had gathered helped exploration of the course themes. Capture and analysis of visual material in this way was also designed to help students with their main assignment for the unit which was a group video. To capture these multimedia “field notes” students used Padlet, a simple collaborative application for gathering and sharing text, images, video or files. Kirk created a Padlet “Board” for different themes in the course, and these were embedded in the relevant sections of the Blackboard course.

What went well

  • The exercise itself, of taking visual field notes which were then uploaded to Padlet, allowed students to extrapolate from course material, and discover for themselves how themes and issues can be seen happening in the city of Bristol. In this way, Padlet allows for an application of course content outside the classroom, and on an individual student basis.
  • The activity provided plenty of student-generated material to use in the workshops
  • It gave students a sense of ownership, as they had taken the pictures or videos used
  • The practice of visual analysis of their multimedia field notes, eg explaining why they took certain photos, helped students with development of the final group videos in which they were creating a critical narrativ

Future plans for improvement

  • Next time students will be asked to add a short textual description and interpretation when uploading their field notes. This will help to introduce the resources in workshops in cases where the actual author might not be present, and hopefully will also help generate even more discussion as it will provide a richer initial stimulus
  • Extend use of Padlet (increasing the School Padlet licence to allow more use beyond the free version) as a way to practice storyboarding for the videos and to help students start formulating ideas for the videos earlier