Abstract This paper develops a mobile learning system for scaffolding students learning about bird-watching. The aim is to construct an outdoor mobile-learning activity using up-to-date wireless technology. The proposed Bird-Watching Learning (BWL) system is designed using a wireless mobile ad-hoc network. In the BWL system, each learner has a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) with a Wi-Fi-based (IEEE 802.11b) wireless network card. The BWL system offers a mobile learning system which supports the students learning through scaffolding. The aim of a formative evaluation was twofold: to explore the possible roles and scaffolding aids that the mobile learning device offers for bird-watching activities and to investigate whether student learning benefited from the mobility, portability, and individualisation of the mobile learning device.