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Sept. 2006 -- HP and Futurelab, a nonprofit learning company, have launched a free resource for schools that lets students and teachers create digital, mobile, multimedia experiences known as mediascapes to provide location-based learning.

The tool, Create-A-Scape, combines hands-on activity with state-of-the-art mobile technology in a way that allows students aged 10 and older to learn while exploring their surroundings, using handheld computers.

Using the mediascape authoring kit developed by HP Laboratories in Bristol (UK), teachers and pupils can place media files such as sounds and images, in a location to blend in an augment a physical area. Associated software, loaded onto HP iPAQs or other handheld computers equipped with GPS satellite positioning, allows the user to automatically access the different media files as they move from place to place.

The Create-A-Scape website contains everything users need to get started.

One instructor has already used Create-A-Scape to produce a ‘moonwalk' mediascape. The moonwalk is based on a map of the Alphonsus Crater, found on the Earth's moon, superimposed onto a school playing field. Students, equipped with PDAs and two-way radios, set off to explore the ‘crater' with a number of tasks to complete before their ‘oxygen supplies' run out.

"It has been fantastic to see the technology play a real role in bringing education to life," said Phil Stenton, manager of the HP Labs team that created the software. HP Labs has previously used the mediascape technology to create experiences for tourism, games, art and history.

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