I had a look through itunes apps on my ipad and find there are quite a few software tools out there for classroom observations, with ipad app options to link data collected on the ipad with PC resident main archive. Examples include classroom mosaic, ecove – general, special ed., administrator, esl., assessa+/ faculty tools, reflect live, lessonnote and tower mobile / randa tower. Most ipad apps are free but will only really work if they are synched to the PC or Mac based central repository. Therefore, the apps are for ease of data collection.
In the main, the tools revolve around checklists and collation methods for later discussions with indvidual teachers or for comparisons of teachers' classroom teaching across subject or year levels. I can work out that the tools will provide for consistency of data gathering. However, in professional development for teaching, it is the 'conversation' and reflection on the data that are important rather than the actual quantitative findings from how software collects and collates the data. The tools can also be useful for research data collection. But again with proviso to ensure it augments qualitative data, for example videos of class activities.
Seeing these tools are being now used in a 'mobile learning' way does provide some good ideas on how to use similar approaches to help students learn. They provide for a means for students to gather data from field trips, labs, practical workshops etc. and have the data collated for later followup, discussion, analysis etc.