Pond-dipping at a field studies centre has been given a hi-tech boost by a batch of handheld computers.

Children from St Thomas More Primary School, in Kidlington, have been visiting Hill End field studies centre, in Farmoor, on a weekly basis as part of an science project.

Last week, they were given the chance to try out five personal digital assistants loaded with special Wild Key software - designed for investigating wildlife.

Headteacher Claire Robinson said once pupils had found a specimen the PDAs would identify and photograph it, create a GPS location, and then transmit all the data back to a base station.

She added: "It's more than space age pond-dipping - you can look at trees, bugs, mini-beasts and all sorts of things."

She said the scheme also improved teamwork and speaking and listening skills.

Pupil Sian Dempster said: "I really enjoy being outdoors at Hill End. We learn something different every time."

Daniel Murray added: "I love going to Hill End, because we do things that we can't do in class.

"The new gadgets we used this week are really cool. You find a creature and can identify it by answering lots of questions. It was a great afternoon - really interesting and exciting."

Funding for the PDAs, which cost £2,500, was raised by the school and £1,000 was contributed by educational group the Edina Trust.

The PDAs will also be available for other visitors to the centre, which is working with the school to find the money to buy 10 more.

Laurence Bee, Hill End's environmental studies officer, said: "The children were really hands on with it, taking records which they were able to download and using the equipment very effectively."