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MERLOT II


    

Peer Review


Leafsnap

by Peter Belhumeur
 

Ratings

Overall Rating:

5 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.75 stars
Reviewed: Jun 25, 2012 by Teacher Education
Overview: Leafsnap is the first in a series of electronic field guides. This free mobile app helps identify tree species from photographs of their leaves and contains beautiful high-resolution images of their flowers, fruit, petiole, seeds, and bark. Leafsnap currently includes the trees of New York City and Washington, D.C., and will soon grow to cover the trees of the entire continental United States. This website shows the tree species included in Leafsnap, the collections of its users, and the team of research volunteers working to produce it. It is NOT the app itself, rather it is the database the app uses for its tree identification.
Learning Goals: Learners will be able to identify trees based on the leaves as well as stages of growth in the tree’s production of seeds. Learners will be able to locate trees indigenous to their geographic area. Learners will develop a deeper understand of how to use visual data to determine where a tree is in its reproductive cycle.
Target Student Population: K-12 students; college and university students; those interested in nature.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Basic computer, digital photography, and mobile app skills.
Type of Material: a collection and a reference material
Recommended Uses: For K-12 students: (1) reference material to id trees, their leaves and seeds (2) field guide to develop a list of trees indigenous to area when students go on a nature walk (3) design a dichotomous key to access specific leaves quickly in the database (although the app replaces the traditional dichotomous key, designing one requires higher order thinking skills for students) For undergrad & graduate students and others: (1) group leaves by shapes and other characteristics to develop algorithms for identification (2) resource to practice scientific illustration (3) resource to develop individual or group digital botanical collections
Technical Requirements: any Internet browser (for the free app you need access to an iPhone or iPad with a camera)

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: incredible detail in digital images inclusion of images of not only the leaf but the flower, subsequent seed and even bark of each tree
Concerns: • Website has ads.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: • Introduction clearly sets the stage. • As an instructor this site would be very easy to use to locate materials for an assignment or supplemental materials (both individual and group).• Great device to get students out in the field and excited about environmental science while using devices that many are familiar with. Although this is not the app, it provides insight into how an app can be designed to use a database in science. It encourages the public to become voluntary botanists and participate in building the digital collection.
Concerns: None

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.75 stars
Strengths: • Extremely easy to access website. • Website FAQ offers help with setting up free account and taking quality photos for recognition.• Easy to navigate and use.
Concerns: • Currently only available for iPhone and iPad but they are working on Android app and possibly making it available for computer use. On the Collectors' map, when one clicks on a place, the message "unlabeled image photographed at" appears. It would be useful to have the image identified as well as the name of the collector and the exact location where the images were taken.

Other Issues and Comments: A very useful app for environmental science fieldwork. Students could enjoy taking photos and identifying different tree species where they live as well as areas they travel to within the U.S. since more data from the entire U.S. will be included. A must have for every nature enthusiast!