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The PlaceTools project seeks to clarify how our perceptions of places are shaped by how we approach them. We want to understand how new tools can enhance our direct experience of places, increase efficient data collection and leverage the usability of collected information.

We have used architectural design classes as vehicles for trying out and observing different methods for examining places. University of Oregon (UO) architecture students have used different techniques to record and understand the existing environments, as a prelude to designing for these places.

We started with traditional techniques of sketching and photography to reveal factors critical for new tools. These methods connected our investigation to the scholarship of representation and helped us catalog kinds of place information and phases of the collection, analysis and presentation process. Observations are summarized in Capturing Place, published at CAAD Futures 2001 in the Netherlands.

During 2002-2003, with the help of a UO Educational Technology Curriculum Development grant, we have been looking at how digital tools could help in the field collection of information. After selecting a variety of new mobile tools for collecting visual and spatial information, we have tested them in a variety of small group contexts. The intentions of how mobile tools could improve education are articulated in the grant proposal.

Because of the experimental nature and logistical complexity of the tools, we have continued small trials of several tools rather than widespread deployment of a single technology. Interim results were recorded in Fall 2002.

Practical considerations for using mobile digital tools in an educational setting are summarized in a paper for CAADRIA 2003, "Using Mobile Tools for Learning About Places".