Fire Island National Seashore’s interpretive division put iPads to the test at this year’s Junior Ranger Day event. Park staff helped children learn how to use book and app field guides to identifying Fire Island birds.
The idea for the “old school versus new school” program was based on the premise that the speed and ease of identification depends on a user’s familiarity with the identification tool, be it a field guide or iPad application. The “old school” identification tools used for this program were the Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America and Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region. These field guides were chosen because of their user-friendly color-coded tab indices. The Sibley eGuide iPad application was the “new school” field guide chosen because its “smart search” tool searches by distinguishing features, eliminating the need to know birds by group.
After introducing bird field guides and explaining their history, use, and importance, park staff spent time teaching participants to use the "old school" book version and the "new school" iPad application. Program participants were then split into teams and timed while using either identification tool. Children were equally successful using both the field guide and eGuide. For example, one team took about 52 seconds to use the Kaufman Guide and 43 to use the iPad, whereas, another team took 1:02 using Stokes and 1:14 with the iPad.
Both types of identification tools held the interest of program participants, but children were particularly entertained by the bird songs available with the Sibley eGuide. Adults accompanying children at Junior Ranger Day were interested in learning more about kid-friendly field guide apps available for smartphones and tablets. This program proved that children quickly learn to use identification tools aimed at an adult audience.