Affective domain learning assessment and evaluation of iNaturalist

My sense in the ethnobotany classroom was that the brief use of iNaturalist was engaging for the students and contributed positively to the course. I wanted, however, a better handle on student reactions to iNaturalist, especially given that some students without smartphones only participated as a member of a group with a student who did have a smartphone. A survey was given to the 22 students present on the last day of class. Two of the 24 students were absent.

The first question asked, "What did you learn from your use of iNaturalist?" All 22 students responded that they had learned from their exposure to the app. This is somewhat interesting as some groups were using PlantNet on the day which we used the apps, and a number of students had no smartphone. In general the students reported that the app was helpful in identify plants and in learning plant names.

When asked if use of iNaturalist should be expanded in future terms, 21 of the 22 students responded positively saying that yes, use of the technology should be expanded in future terms. One student felt that the current level of usage - a single day to gather data, a single day to report on their experience with the app - was sufficient.

SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany has no pre-requisites and presumes no botanic knowledge prior to the course. The class is designed as a freshmen year three credit science without laboratory course. At other institutions ethnobotany is a junior course with biology and botany pre-requisites. The college here is a two year institution, a third year ethnobotany is not an option. And the loss of local cultural plant knowledge is real, hence the presence of the course. As a result, the course teaches both diversity (taxonomy of plants) and cultural use knowledge. Hence the "SC/SS" designation. Half the science of  botanical diversity and half the cultural uses of plants. In a course that only examined the cultural uses of plants, iNaturalist would not seem to have any useful role. In a course that includes botanic diversity, iNaturalist is a natural fit.

I wanted to know whether the students also felt that iNaturalist belongs in the course.  Twenty-one of the 22 students felt that iNaturalist belonged in the ethnobotany course. The one dissent was a student who noted, "No,... it could be helpful for all other users. Those who avoid unwanted species. For example, KCSO." KCSO is an environmental organization and I suspect the reference is to identifying alien invasive species.

The curriculum in the course is very full, expanding the use of iNaturalist would have to come at the expense of other material already in the course. The material that could be jettisoned with the least learning impact are five days during the term spent tending to and cleaning up three different ethnogardens on the campus. Clean up work often involves using machetes to take down the tropical paddle grass. The last question asked "I am considering dropping some or all of the gardening/cleaning exercises and replacing them with work involving iNaturalist. Is this a good idea? Why?"

Replace ethnogardening with iNaturalist?

Only one in five students favored replacement of the outdoor work with iNaturalist. Some of the responses, however, suggested that a few students misunderstood this to mean that all outdoor activities including hikes were to be replaced by working with technology. There was a still a fairly clear call to retain garden cleaning in the curriculum.

Underneath this particular question is a concern that I have had as the years pass - some students are less and less capable at machete work, and working safely with machetes. Out here farming is done by hand with machetes, and some students start working with machetes from when they are rather young. Other students rarely work with a machete. At present the work is optional, students can use a machete or not.

Ultimately concerns of safety may outweigh other considerations, and there is limited learning to be done while swinging machetes.

Appendix: Specific student answers

What did you learn from your use of iNaturalist?

  • I know some of the scientific names and also species names of each plants that I haven't know the name of
  • I learn a lot from it, i took a pictures of some plants that I don't know the species name of those plants and it show me what kind of species is that..Not only plants but includes insects, animals, and human being
  • I learn many different kinds of plant from this iNaturalist app
  • I learn the names of places that I am not familiar with
  • I learned that it tells you the name of the plants every time you post and it is very useful
  • I learned the names of different types of plants and what they looked like
  • I learned the scientific names of plants
  • I'm still learning. So what really did I learn from this app will be how to upload pictures
  • I've learned the name of different plants while using it
  • iNat was overall a useful tool in identifying not only plants, but also a wide variety of insects, animals, etc. It boasts a large collection of numerous species
  • iNaturalist benefits or gives out the proper name for a plant more than PlantNet
  • iNaturalist gives us an easier way to identify plants that we do not know
  • iNaturalist is a very interesting app
  • iNaturalist is the most important thing because it was help me to learn more different thing
  • iNaturalist is very useful because it helps identify many things that I don't know, also it helps identify the location of where the plant was grown.
  • iNaturalist makes students identify plants easier
  • It can identify plant along with animals and other living things
  • It's pretty much useful but when it comes out with no results of some other plants it wouldn't give you a second or another option for us to go and find what we are looking for and ti would only give us what was found but not in full.
  • Name of the same species of the photo we uploaded
  • Plants are very diverse but when you find connections you can identify as a single group or family haring certain Latin names. It is a useful too to identify both plants and animals
  • Plants, animals, bugs. It basically help us identify things faster
  • You need strong WiFi for it to work faster and properly. Most plants are already identified.

Does iNaturalist belong in the ethnobotany course?

  • It does, because it helps people to know and understand some plants
  • No, as I said before, it could be helpful for all other users. Those who avoid unwanted species. For example, KCSO [environmental organizations]
  • Of course it belongs in the class, because it helps the students to identify the exact names of the plants
  • Yes, because ethnobotany is the study of plants and iNaturalist is the app that helps us find some information about plants. 
  • Yes, because iNaturalist could help identify plants that a student is unfamiliar with
  • Yes, because it can help both the teacher and students
  • Yes, because it is a very helpful tool in identifying and grouping all sorts of plats and animals in nature
  • yes, because it is mostly about plants and ethnobotany is usually the study of plants
  • Yes, because it is somehow related to ethnobotany
  • Yes, because it tells you the name of plants and uses
  • Yes, because it was help us to learn easier
  • yes, because some of the pictures that are uploaded in the app are also show p in the ethnobotany class
  • Yes, because the class is usually talking about identifying trees and species and this app is perfect for the class
  • Yes, because we tend to identify the plant's names easily
  • Yes, easy way to learn plant names. Something to keep around just in case we need help identifying plants/species
  • Yes, it briefly explains the name of the plant thus helping students identify plants faster
  • yes, it can be a very useful tool to go hand in had with ethnobotany course
  • yes, it can help students to learn more about plants
  • Yes, it helps the student even the instructor to know the name, and the identification of a plant
  • Yes, since ethnobotany is all about plant, iNaturalist solves the problem of naming plants critically
  • Yes, since ethnobotany is the study of plants then we should use iNaturalist because iNaturalist helps identify which tree is which
  • Yes, so students can use it to learn the name of the plants that are unfamiliar to them

I am considering dropping some or all of the gardening/cleaning exercises and replacing them with work involving iNaturalist. Is this a good idea? Why?

  • Fairly, hands on plus iNaturalist makes students learn faster
  • For my answer im going to say yes because for me when its raining and the grass is wet and we go outside to clean and my body is going to have rash. So, that’s the only reason i say Yes. 
  • I am not sure, because we did't use the app for he whole semester so I can't say yes or no for this question but I think it's good to use the app and also the gardening/cleaning exercises
  • I think so because it helps you learn more of the plants real names.
  • Maybe
  • Maybe, because the gardening and cleaning exercises also help students learn more about plants
  • No and also yes. No because some cases students won't be able to find the name of some plants but by using iNaturalist it will easily identify the plants. Yes, because it will be good for the student to grow or plant the plants instead of just knowing their name.
  • No, because it can be done at the same time
  • No, because some students tend to learn more when they're being physically active
  • No, because we also learn new plant names
  • No, gardening/cleaning exercises is indeed needed in ethnobotany not everything can be done by iNaturalist
  • No, it's good that we go out there and learn while cleaning up. Its fun, good experience, and health beneficial
  • No, outdoor work can be beneficial
  • No, personally I don't want to because I want to keep and learn more of them
  • No. Cleaning is a must because plants are important and has to be taken care of. Plus, some students don't have a cell phone or internet connection.
  • Not really, it is important to actually go out and see certain plants and learn
  • Of course, it would be a great practice and again, for the next students to form more of our works
  • Why not include both? It's one thing to use iNaturalist to learn more about ethnobotany but the gardening/cleaning exercises were just as fun especially the walked we would take around the forest
  • Yes, because it was help student learn faster


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