Using a mobile app to connect teachers to the science of paleontology

Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Geological Society of America Annual Meeting






Indianapolis, IN

Publication Date



As access to mobile technology improves, mobile apps are increasingly being used in classrooms. In this study, twenty-five educators (4 elementary school, 10 middle school, 10 high school, 1 museum) were subdivided into three groups and used a prototype of the myFOSSIL App, a mobile application that is being designed to support public participation in paleontological scientific research. The goal for the App is to promote increased participation in paleontology, increase engagement with a younger audience, and broaden participation of underrepresented youth. In this study, teachers who were part of a paleontology-specific professional development experience used the myFOSSIL App and an associated collaboration guide. Each subgroup visited one of three field sites and documented their finds and experiences while using the App. This study explores the relationship between the usability of the App with the collaboration script and key social paleontology outcomes for each field site context. The purpose of studying usability is to understand how users interact with products in order to improve design. Findings included high satisfaction coupled with low difficulty of use, regardless of field site, along with a high degree of success for feeling like a practicing paleontologist. Data shows that independent of location and guide, the app, when used in conjunction with the collaboration guide, supports social paleontological practice across contexts as evidenced by the similar number of posts (both specimen and methods/location) per participant. Of the posts uploaded by the participants, nearly half were pictures of authentic paleontological practices and the location. This study has implications for anyone interested in outreach, but in particular, those interested in applying and using citizen science, in working with K-12 educators, and finally, those who wish to design, implement, and/or study science-specific mobile apps with educators.

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