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Exhilarating Learning on the edge

Fig.1. It felt like this even if it didn’t look like this.

I capsized four times this afternoon. The first I got over the side of the dinghy and righted without getting my feet wet; it is six or seven years since I did this crewing a Fireball. Even in a wetsuit the English Channel is cold enough early in the season. The second time I floundered into the drink and the mast ended up embedded in the mud – I had to be rescued. Ominously I’d been out all of six minutes. Was I up to helming a Laser in a Force 6 with a full sail? It took another 90 minutes before the next dunking; I was tired, cramp in one calf, both thighs shaking. By now I’d just about figured out how to wrestle with the gusting wind. I was also trying to get my hands swapped over effectively on ever tack and to keep my feet from being tied up in the mainsheet. Another hour before the fourth capsize: a proper dunking in which I fell overboard rather than the boat capsizing – I was grinning for ear to ear: still am. Like Tantric Sex? Hours of holding off the inevitable then woosh-bang-wallop. It’s the most fun I’ve had in ages. This sudden burst of enthusiasm for sport delivers on many fronts: exercise, fresh air, thrills, a mental and physical challenge … a modicum of risk and much more to do and learn before I take to the sea. In 10 days, potentially, I have my first club race. In the sea. With waves and tides and other boats. Unlike the brain, my muscles now need a day at least to recover – I feel like I’ve been on the rack.

I have a sailing Lasers guide on a Kindle. I read it before and after in the car, and flick through its pages in colour on an iPad before I go to sleep. The combination of trial and error, of applying lessons read, and picking up tips as I rig and go out will in time improve my skills. The next leap is to race: learning from the rear of the fleet trying to follow and copy the more experienced. It might not take too long; I did crew a Fireball in club races for a couple of years so I’ve been in the thick of it before.

I’ll watch some ‘how to … ‘ videos on YouTube too

What do we know about learner-types by studying museum visitors ?

Fig.1. From the paper LISTEN: augmented audio-augmented museum guide (c) Andreas Zimmermann, Andreas Lorenz (2008)

This is a paper presentation at a conference of a museum visitor guide system that uses a combination of tracking/observation and audio-artifacts to create a personalized visitor experience. The paper reveals the extent of trials, tests and adjusts as well as evaluation which in turn offer ways that a proposal might be in the form of a presentation of the platform or a workshop that might assess how visitors are profile at the start of their visit.

Fig.2 One of the many multimedia moments at the ‘In Flanders Fields’ museum, Ypres. C. 2013 In Flanders Fields

I had in mind some kind of open, mobile personalized learning for use by visitors to military museums, perhaps national trust properties and even battlefields.

Each of these offer very differ user experiences and expectations though. A literary research reveals that the planning for visitors to an exhibition, collection of curated events or gallery is complex and the history of using technology to support visitor experiences is lengthy.

The research for conference papers is approached from  two directions: the standard approach through the OU online library using terms such as ‘museum’ ‘elearning’ and ‘augmented’, while also drawing on personal knowledge of the many digital agencies based on the South Coast (profiles of these companies are available from the regional hi-tech association ‘Wired Sussex’).

Cogapp have been producing digital content for museums since the mid 1980s.

These and other agencies often present ‘papers’ at conferences, though the quality, in academic terms, of these presentations is sometimes questionable – is it promotion or is this the presentation of valid research?

Fig. 3 On Alcatraz. Following my audio guide, but too enthralled to be on site amongst a hubbub of people.

I can also draw upon a personal interest in museums, galleries, and other visitor attractions from national trust properties to battlefields all, or some of which, come with some kind of ‘guide’ – traditionally as a leaflet or guide book (Picasso Museum, Jean Miro), often with an audio guide (Alcatraz, Muir Woods, Royal Academy: Van Gogh, Bronzes), though increasingly from online resources with some attempts to use modern mobile devices (Design Museum, Tate Modern) or to personalize the experience (In Flanders Fields, Ypres). (Great North Museum)

There are major, global conferences on e-learning, some with an orientation towards, or significant presence from the museum sector. Over the last decade there has been considerable interest in improving, through personalization, the visitor experience.

The attraction of this paper, although it is limited to an audio platform whereas I had in mind something visual, the narrative from conception to testing, delivery and evaluation is thorough. It is insightful on studies of the museum visitor experience, curator relationships with artifacts, use and potential of audio and tracking/observation technology – both hardware and software (Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:391)

  • motion-tracked wireless headphones

  • current position

  • head orientation

  • individualized and location-aware soundscape

as well as content preparation and feedback on an iterative process.

These approaches will become increasingly sophisticated, discrete and effective for different visitor ‘types’, even reflecting how a person’s behaviour may change during the course of a visit. It is insightful to discover the degree of sophistication for understanding perception types (Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:391)

  • self-perception

  • visual

  • tactile space-perception

  • acoustic space-perception

And visitor types:

A definition of personalized (Zimmerman and Lorenz, 2008:394)

  • Adapts

  • Layers of information

  • Increasing levels of involvement

Pedagogical (Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:400)

  • increasing knowledge

  • increasing comprehension

  • considering the social context

McCarthy and McCarthy 2005 distinguish four types of learners:

  • imaginative

  • analytical

  • common sense

  • experimental

Gardner 1993 identifies seven:

  • linguistic

  • logical-mathematical

  • musical

  • bodily-kinesthetic

  • spatial

  • interpersonal

  • intrapersonal

Veron and Levasseur 1983 determined visiting styles based on observations of animals (Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:404):

  • ants (following the curator’s path)

  • fish (holistic point of view)

  • butterfly (interest in all exhibits without following the curator’s path)

  • grasshopper (interest only in specific exhibits)

leading to the Macke Laboratory outputs of:

  • sauntering: the visitor is slowly walking around with an excursive gaze.

  • goal-drive: the visitor displays a direct movement with the gaze directed towards a specific artwork.

  • standing, focussed: the visitor is standing with the gaze directed towards a specific artwork

  • standing, unfocused: the visitor is standing or sitting with an excursive gaze

(Zimmermann and Lorenz, 2008:409):

  • fact-orientatedputting a high eight on spoken text
  • emotionalprioritizing music pieces and sound effects
  • overview – focusing mainly in short sound entities

REFERENCES

Arnone, M, Small, R, Chauncey, S, & McKenna, H 2011, ‘Curiosity, interest and engagement in technology-pervasive learning environments: a new research agenda’, Educational Technology Research & Development, 59, 2, pp. 181-198, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Boehner, K, Gay, G, & Larkin, C 2005, ‘Drawing evaluation into design for mobile computing: a case study of the Renwick Gallery’s Hand Held Education Project’, International Journal On Digital Libraries, 5, 3, pp. 219-230, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Bohnert, F, Zukerman, I, Berkovsky, S, Baldwin, T, & Sonenberg, L 2008, ‘Using interest and transition models to predict visitor locations in museums’, AI Communications, 21, 2/3, pp. 195-202, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Brugnoli, M, Morabito, F, Bo, G, & Murelli, E 2006, ”Augmented itineraries’: Mobile services differentiating what museum has to offer’, Psychology Journal, 4, 3, pp. 311-335, PsycINFO, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Cocciolo, A, & Rabina, D 2013, ‘Does place affect user engagement and understanding?Mobile learner perceptions on the streets of New York’, Journal Of Documentation, 69, 1, pp. 98-120, Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Edwards, C 2013, ‘BETTER THAN REALITY?’, Engineering & Technology (17509637), 8, 4, pp. 28-31, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Forsyth E. AR U FEELING APPY? AUGMENTED REALITY, APPS AND MOBILE ACCESS TO LOCAL STUDIES INFORMATION. Aplis [serial online]. September 2011;24(3):125-132. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 5, 2013.

Gaved, M, Collins, T, Mulholland, P, Kerawalla, L, Jones, A, Scanlon, E, Littleton, K, Blake, C, Petrou, M, Clough, G, & Twiner, A 2010, ‘Using netbooks to support mobile learners’ investigations across activities and places’, Open Learning, 25, 3, pp. 187-200, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Jarrier, E, & Bourgeon-Renault, D 2012, ‘Impact of Mediation Devices on the Museum Visit Experience and on Visitors’ Behavioural Intentions’, International Journal Of Arts Management, 15, 1, pp. 18-29, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Marchetti, E, & Valente, A 2012, ‘Diachronic Perspective and Interaction: New Directions for Innovation in Historical Museums’, International Journal Of Technology, Knowledge & Society, 8, 6, pp. 131-143, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Mengmeng, L, Hiroaki, O, Bin, H, Noriko, U, & Kousuke, M 2013, ‘Context-aware and Personalization Method in Ubiquitous Learning Log System’, Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 16, 3, pp. 362-373, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

McAndrew, P, Taylor, J, & Clow, D 2010, ‘Facing the challenge in evaluating technology use in mobile environments’, Open Learning, 25, 3, pp. 233-249, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Semper, R, & Spasojevic, M 2002, ‘The Electronic Guidebook: Using Portable Devices and a Wireless Web-Based Network to Extend the Museum Experience’, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

STOICA, A, & AVOURIS, N 2010, ‘AN ARCHITECTURE TO SUPPORT PERSONALIZED INTERACTION ACROSS MULTIPLE DIGITALLY AUGMENTED SPACES’, International Journal On Artificial Intelligence Tools, 19, 2, pp. 137-158, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

Zaharias P, Michael D, Chrysanthou Y. Learning through Multi-touch Interfaces in Museum Exhibits: An Empirical Investigation. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society [serial online]. July 2013;16(3):374-384. Available from: Academic Search Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 5, 2013.

Zimmermann, A, & Lorenz, A 2008, ‘LISTEN: a user-adaptive audio-augmented museum guide’, User Modeling & User-Adapted Interaction, 18, 5, pp. 389-416, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 November 2013.

LINKS:

Recommended: MIT’s sixth sense device. Do you know about it? Here’s a link to it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ig2RSID-kn8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Acoustics DE

Advanced real-time tracking

Leveraging mobile technologies and Web 2.0 tools to engage those with an interest in the centenary of the First World War in the stories of the people of the era using strategically placed Quick Response codes.

Jonathan Vernon at the Design Museum. J F Vernon (2011)

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Fig. 1. Lewes War Memorial, East Sussex, England     J F Vernon (2011)

The problem with war memorials is that those named on them risk becoming forgotten words on a list.

By using the Web we can find out who these people named on the war memorials were and where they lived; we can try to put a face to the name and a story to the name  … and then we can share what we find.

There are more than 54,000 war memorials in Great Britain, most of these put up after the First World War. There is barely a community without one. Significant interest already exists, especially as we approach the centenary of the First World War making this initiative a potentially easy one to add to what is already taking place.

Fig. 2. British Legion Poppy featuring a Quick Response Code

In his 2011 book ‘The Digital Scholar’ Martin Weller  shares the thoughts of Brian Lamb to describe those technologies that ‘lend themselves to … the networked and open approach’ as ‘fast, cheap and out of control’.

It was with this in mind, taking an interest in the centenary of the First World War and obsession with war memorials that I started to think about using Quick Response codes as a personalised entry point to the Web that anyone could generate in order to share a story about someone who served in the conflict, and to do so both online and on the street.

Quick Response codes are fast, they are free and their potential in learning has yet to be realised.

Worn in this way, featured in the center of your commemoration Poppy, you can share directly with others the person whose life you wish to remember, as well as directing people to the content online and inviting them to ‘adopt’ a name from a war memorial themselves. Though exploiting the Web, this is designed as a ‘blended’ experience that uses face-to-face, community and classroom experiences, as well as taking people outside to monuments, buildings, streets and battlefields.

                                                                                  Esponsorvik (2014 )

Fig. 3. Toyota Quick Response Code and Using a TV remote control Espensorvik. Flickr

‘QR codes’ are a product of the car manufacturing industry. Faced with increasingly complex components, Denso, a supplier to Toyota, came up with what is a 2 dimensional bar code in the 1990s (Denso, 2010). Made free of patent, and using free software anyone can now generate their own unique QR code. You can even print them out on standardised sticky label stationery.

Fig. 4. Google Search ‘Quick Response Codes Education Images’ (2014)

There are a myriad of uses for QR codes, from embedding information that is read and stored by the device to a quick link to rich content online. Barrett, 2012). The interest here is to use QR codes to link to learning resources, in mobile, or ‘m-learning’ contexts in particular and for users to both read and write such context.

I liken QR codes to using your phone as a remote control to click to a TV channel (Fig 3) . You point a smartphone, or tablet at the QR code to read it and go instantly, pretty much, to a web page.

Their use in education in the last decade has been limited. ‘Refereed (sic) papers are few’ (Gradel & Edson, 2012), but between these and other published reports, suggestions can be made regarding their strengths or weaknesses.

If QR codes are to be used successfully then champions need to be identified to take up the cause in schools, colleges and local associations. Whilst QR codes use the power of the Web to connect people to rich content, that they may create themselves, a good deal of thoughtful planning will be necessary ‘in the classroom’, not just explaining how to make use of QR codes, but also working them in, where appropriate to current learning schedules where QR codes used in this way will meet clear learning objectives. Support online could be provided in a short eLearning module.

What has been shown repeatedly, in museums and ‘out in the field’, is that simply ‘put out there’ the QR codes are ignored (Gradel & Edson, 2012). An innovation such as this requires considerable promotion and support.  This makes the idea of wearing your own QR code on a Commemoration Poppy all the more appealing, as each person becomes an ambassador on the ground, for that nugget of information, especially if they are responsible for creating and hosting that content.

The opportunity exists, therefore, mentored and guided by educators, with support online, for schools, colleges and associations to engage people in bringing the stories of those named on our war memorials alive. In this way a deeper and more meaningful connection is made with the past and our relationship to it.

Copyright © 2010, The New York Times Company. Photography by Jim Wilson

Fig. 5. Handheld curator:  IPod Touches and visitors at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (The New York Times)

According to the 2009 Horizon report (Horizon, 2009) the following would be of growing significance in teaching: mobile devices, clouding computing and the personal web. As an innovative approach, QR codes exploit all three of these developments.

Use of QR codes in learning however has had mixed results. Simply putting a QR code in front of a museum artifact, as they’ve done at the Museum of London and did at the Design Museum does not work (Vernon, 2013)  – there is plenty already, there is little to attract or promote their use, not everyone has a smartphone or tablet of course and the technology is often not robust – ‘out of use’ signs are familiar. Outdoors QR codes added to signs in the South Downs National Park, for example, barely received a view a day during a three month trial and in some instances there was no signal at all (Kerry-Bedel 2011; South Downs, 2012).

Where QR codes have been successful is in targeted learning experiences in schools (Tucker, 2011; Gradel & Edson, 2012), where the affordances of the QR code have been exploited to form part of an engaging, constructive and collective learning experience. To be effective this initiative with war memorials requires galvanising people to take part in a joint exercise – easier with a class in school or college, less easy with the general public unless it is through a national, regional or local community association or interest group.

Examples where QR codes work include where participants are ‘equipped’, and where they can take an active role, such as in ‘on the spot’ surveys or quizzes, where they are prompted into cooperative learning and where timely ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ are given. (Awano, 2007: Information Standards Committee 2008; So 2008; Robinson, 2010; Hicks & Sinkinson, 2011; Ryerson Library & Archives, 2012.)

K Lepi (2012)Copyright 2013 © Edudemic All rights reserved

Fig 6 . A Simple Guide to Four Complex  Learning Theories. Lepi (2012)

The theory behind the idea of using QR codes in a mobile and open way, is that in the digital age ‘connectivism’ is the ‘modus operandi’. In this diagram (Fig. 5)  from Edudemic (Edudemic 2012) traditional and digital theories are concerned. All are relevant, each has its place, with the digital environment offering new and additional approaches to learning.

Whilst traditional learning methods have their role in schools, lecture halls and with mature students too, the complete learning package requires a level and quality of interaction and connectedness that can only be achieved on the Web and be effective where the body of learners is large and their approach is open and shared so that knowledge acquisition comes through the challenges and rewards of such intercourse.

Connections won’t occur however unless they are nurtured. By way of example, wishing to support and promote the combat memoirs of my late grandfather John Arthur Wilson MM (Vernon, 2012) a number of organisations will be approached up and down the UK in relation to his experiences in the Durham Light Infantry, Machine Gun Corps and Royal Air Force. The Web will both help identify, forge and maintain and develop first and subsequent connections in what would hopefully be, to be effective, a two way, shared, open and reciprocal relationship. The beauty of having content  already online is that others can quickly view it and images, text and sound files, even video, adjusted to suit different audiences, or uses – and used freely where appropriate copyright permissions are given.

JFVernon 2010 from statistics from Jakob Nielsen (1999)

Fig 7 . Creators, commentators and readers – how use of the Web stacks up. Vernon (2010) after Nielsen (1999)

This degree of connectedness does not come naturally. Just as there can be no expectation that people will use a QR code because it is there – they won’t. With an innovative approach such as this promotion is crucial. Significant time, thought and effort need to be put into letting people know what is taking place and supporting their participation.

Only a fraction of a population are naturally inclined to generate content.

Jakob Nielsen (1999) would suggest that as few as 1% create content (Fig. 6). If content is therefore to be created by participants then very large numbers need to be made aware of the initiative. Online, openness helps when it is massive. Participation is improved where it is supported and moderated. Creators, commentators and readers each have a role to play.

The balance needs to be found between the qualities of a tool that is fast and cheap and where out of control means that something isn’t used in a way to benefit a formal learning requirement. On the one hand those who want to generate content can be encouraged to do so, while in a formal setting the intention would that everyone generates content of some form in order to receive feedback and assessment.

J F Vernon (2011) 

Fig 8. The Newcastle War Memorial by Sir William Goscombe John RA

The potential weakness of using QR codes are the requirement for participants to have a suitable device, say a smartphone or tablet and the possible communication fees when connecting away from a free wi-fi source – which is likely to be the case at a war memorial (Gradel & Edson, 2012).

Reading from and using a smartphone or tablet may also present accessibility issues, from the need for dexterity and reading content that isn’t offered in alternative forms, such as text sizes and background or audio alternatives.

There are many examples where local councils feel a war memorial or building is so important that they have invested in information placards on site (Fig. 7). As commemoration of those who served and died in the First World War is of local and national interest funding is potentially available to help support initiatives such as these through the Heritage Lottery Fund, while organisations such as the Western Front Association have funding for branch activities too.

If permission is required for personalisation of a British Legion poppy using a QR code, then alternatives may be required, from working with other suitable groups such as the Imperial War Museum or Western Front Association to putting the QR code on a badge instead.

Where used in the field it is likely that a teacher would put out sets of QR coded markers in advance and collect them afterwards. Where a photograph in a town featuring before and after views permission may also be required if any kind of QR coded plaque or poster is to be put up. Other inventive ways to use a QR code would be to attach them to an obstacle course like trench experience where each code triggers elements of a task, sound effects or narrative in keeping with the setting.  By way of example, at the ‘In Flanders Museum’ in Ypres a number of exhibits require the visitor to duck, crawl or crane their neck before supporting audio or lighting is triggered by a Near Field code in a bracelet.

  J F Vernon (1989-2014)

Fig. 9. The memoir of a Machine Gunner and RFC Fighter Pilot. ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendaele’

In his 2011 book ‘The Digital Scholar’ Martin Weller shares the ideas of Robert Capps (2009) who coined the term ‘the good enough revolution’ – in relation to creating and sharing content in an open culture. This precludes being prescriptive or from expecting perfection.

Whilst output on the First World War from the BBC, the Imperial War Museum or the Open University should understandably attain a certain professional standard, the kind of creation required of those research names on war memorials should take inspiration from that is more than just ‘good enough, from ‘pinning’ names from a war memorial to a home address, to ‘pinning’ submitted World War One photographs to Google maps over former battlefields, as well as numerous inventive YouTube videos and memoirs presented as blogs.

REFERENCE

Awano, Y (2007). Brief pictorial description of new mobile technologies used in cultural institutions in Japan. The Journal of Museum Education, 32(1), 17-25

Barrett, T (2012). 50 Interesting ways to use QR codes to support learning. (Last accessed 6th Feb 2014  https://docs.google.com/present/edit?id=0AclS3lrlFkCIZGhuMnZjdjVfNzY1aHNkdzV4Y3I&hl=en_GB&authkey=COX05IsF

Denso (2010a). QR Code Standardization. (Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.denso-wave.com/qrcode/qrstandard-e.html )

Edudemic. Traditional Learning Theories. (Accessed 19th April 2013) http://edudemic.com/2012/12/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/

Gradel, K., & Edson, A. J. (2012). Higher ed QR code resource guide.

Hicks, A., & Sinkinson, C. (2011). Situated questions and answers: Responding to library users with QR codes. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(1), 60–69.

Horizon Report 2009 (2009) Educause (Accessed 14th Feb 2014 http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/2009-horizon-report )

Information Standards Committee (2008) Section 3: QR code, Synthesis Journal. (From http://www.itsc.org.sg/pdf/synthesis08/Three_QR_Code.pdf )

Kerry-Bedel, A (2011) Smartphone technology – the future of heritage interpretation: Its in conservation (Accessed 14th February 2014 http://www.kbstconsulting.co.uk/QR/images/ITIC.pdf )

Lepi, K (2012) A Simple Guide To 4 Complex Learning Theories. Edudemic eMagazine 24th December 2012. (Accessed 14th February 2014. http://www.edudemic.com/a-simple-guide-to-4-complex-learning-theories/ )

New York Times. The Best Tour Guide May Be in Your Purse. Article by Keith Schneider. 18 March 2010. Copyright © 2010, The New York Times Company http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/arts/artsspecial/18SMART.html

Nielsen, J (1999) Web Usability

Robinson, K. (2010). Mobile phones and libraries: Experimenting with the technology. ALISS Quarterly, 5(3), 21–22

Ryerson University Library & Archives (2012). QR codes. Retrieved 6th Feb 2014, from http://www.ryerson.ca/library/qr/.

So, S. (2008). A Study on the Acceptance of Mobile Phones for Teaching and Learning with a group of Pre-service teachers in Hong Kong. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange, 1(1), 81-92.

South Downs (2012)  Use of QR Codes (Accessed 14 Feb 2014 http://southdownsforum.ning.com/forum/topics/signposting-and-qr-codes )

Tucker, A. (2011). What are those checkerboard things? How QR codes can enrich student projects. Tech Directions, 71(4), 14-16.

Vernon J.F. (2012) (Blog Post)  (Accessed 14th February 2014 http://machineguncorps.com/jack-wilson-mm/ )

Vernon, J.F. (2013) (Blog Post) Mobile learning at the Museum of London: QR codes and NFCs (Accessed 14th February 2014) http://mymindbursts.com/2013/11/10/molqr1/

Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Scholarly Practice. 5% Loc 239 of 4873

 

Repetition or re-visiting is vital.

From E-Learning III

Repetition or re-visiting is vital.

We cannot help but change our perspective as we gain more experience, insights and knowledge. We need repetition in order to get ‘stuff’ into the deeper recesses of our brains where wonders are worked. Therefore, far better to exposure to brilliance often, rather than giving them something less than brilliant simply because it is new, or an alternative. If nothing else Web 2.0 ought to be giving students the chance to find and limit themselves to the best.

Book or eBook? A case of apples vs. oranges or analogue vs. digital?

Fig. 1. Learning in the digital age. J F Vernon (2013)

You’re missing a trick if you’re ignoring eBooks.

My experience studying at postgraduate level over the last four years, first with the Open University and now with the University of Birmingham as well is that we need to consider and experience the affordances of both.

Fig. 2. EBook vs. the Book. It’s largely down to context – do you read on the go, or in a library? Have you got shelf space?

I will own the book and the eBook in some circumstances as they offer a different experience and options.

If you are studying a subject in a social context online it helps to be able to share what you find and think as you read. I did this with Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ and found he was reading along through Twitter and my blog. I find where I have the printed book that I take photos of pages, mash these up and then share online – or resort to pen, paper and note taking in the traditional, lonely way. Then there are the huge tomes, some of the history books I am getting through right now that run to 900 pages – it is so much easier to carry around on the iPad. Using an eBook I highlight by themes of my choosing, add notes, Tweet short passages, seek out threads on single characters, link directly to references and post mash-ups from screen-grabs rather than photos straight into a e-portfolio so that the idea or issues are tagged and ready for later use.

Non-fiction books will become like some LPs of the past – do you want all the tracks or just your choice?

If I can buy 12 chapters of a book for £8.99 on Kindle, when will I be able to buy for 99p that one chapter I need? Speaking to a senior engineer from Amazon over the summer (old friends who moved to Silicon Valley twenty years ago) he wondered if the ‘transformative’ period for books was about to occur, just as it has occurred with music.

There will be a better, personalised hybrid form in due course, several of which I have tried. So far they have been marred by only one thing – poor content, the clickable, multimedia, well linked experience is apt for the 21st century.

Fig. 3. Mash-up from Martin Weller’s book ‘The Digital Scholar’ using the App ‘Studio’ to add text and icons to a cropped grab of a page.

Nothing replaces scholarship though , it’s just going to take a while to make the transition.

Add a QR Code here

I would like everyone to adopt a veteran from the First World War – whether their name is featured on a memorial or not, whether they survived or not. Participants create any kind of online commemoration (blog would be easy, or video, or podcast, or slide show) – likely to be of a distant family member (great grandfather, great uncle, great great aunt) or someone from a person’s immediate community (lived in their house – spooky). A community of interested people may then build around a specific town/village, railway station of post office memorial, for example. Schools may find the stories of and pictures of combatants.

Museum of London: QR codes


The last couple of months have led me to QR codes and their potential for use in museums on site visits and walks. I’ve had to do a couple of these to gain a full insight. At the Museum of London they also use NFC or ‘Near Field Codes’. As I don’t have an Android phone these were redundant. The few dozen examples of NFC codes were sponsored by Nokia. I saw no one, at a busy museum getting out their phone to use these (they operate like an Oyster card – you tap/touch to create the link), nor did anyone else use the QR codes The museum visit is rich enough without the need for ‘links away’. I can take an hour, a couple at most, in places like this. Today I was engaged for three and a half hours and skipped lunch. I was enthralled and drawn in. The design of the journey through the exhibit is a challenge – trying to second guess such a variety of visitor interests. Today there were several distinct groups – the elderly retired, some apparently on an organised trip and primary school children split into five or six classes … and a few older students, possibly A’Level, and some language students (these groups far smaller) and a group of young adults with learning difficulties. The layout is like a visit to Ikea – it snakes around. There is ample space (for crowds) and I armed myself with a chair so that I could, frequently, stop to take in an exhibit, to watch a video, to complete an exercise or to play with the artefacts: touch, buttons, interaction and so on. And to try some of these QR codes. In each case I got user generated style video – so by, apparently, a visitor, typically young, with attitude and from an ethnic minority. This, on reflection, gave a sharp, necessary and insightful contrast to the exhibits. I came away though thinking it was unnecessary, that at such a richly resourced and planned location QR codes would serve a better purpose on the street, or in particular, adding considerable and necessary colour to a battlefield tour – where generally there is little more than a plaque.

City Stories: city guides for the Web 2.0 empowered

Fig.1. CityStories for mobile

City Stories are files of content, like popdcasts with text and audio, with images and video, linked to a map that spots each ‘talk’ and tracks your position.

Fig.2. Where the walking starts and ends

Reading about this online and taking a look is one thing. Going to London to walk the talk is another experience entirely. The immediate and obvious point is the context. You aren’t looking or listening to this content at a desk at home, but on the move. I get my bearings at a Patisiere Valerie in Holborn then head down the road to Queen’s Square and a hub of hospitals that have been growing up here for centuries.

Fig.3. Where’s the value in information that already exists?

There’s no longer any excuse to get lost in London? And not more call for a GPS tracker?

Fig. 4. Where am I?

I put on headphones and become another pedestrian lost to the world, though probably taking more interest in my local surroundings than most. 

Fig.5. Queen Square Gardens

I start in Queen Square Gardens. I find the audio guide somewhat eclectic though. It is sponsored by the Wellcome Foundation and has a medical theme, but the narrator sweaps up random historical tidbits from far and wide – we go from the first houses and first hospital in the square, with quotes from letters or diaries and then it is mentioned that a Zeplin dropped a bomb in the square during the First World War and that people sheltered below the square in a shelter during the Second.

Fig. 6 Where a Zepllin dropped its bomb on 8th September 1915

It harmed no one, though it left its mark.

And this commenced my search for this plaque to the Zeplin bomb, which I finally located, under dust and leaves and barely legible having by now found so much more that I wanted information on that this audio guide didn’t provide. Of the 32 garden benches in the square only one does not have a dedication on it: most are to residents, some I would understand were treated in one of the several hospitals around the square, as well as memorials to former consultants, doctors and nurses. Poignantly, one to a person mudered in the London bombings. 

Fig.7. One of the more poignant of some 28+ plaques commemorating those with a connection to the square – this is where ‘pinned’ augmented media can tell a story.

These are many interesting human stories here, non of which are explored. 

Fig.8. Another local resident remembered

Such this memorial to a cat, as well as assorted other memorials, few of which explain themselves and none of which are mentioned in this audio tour.

It’s as if the guide was written without actually standing in the square, looking around and as a radio broadcaster would do, give some colour and background to what you can see as you turn on the spot, or follow the path around the square. To miss something out is to say something, just as it says something to put it in.

My interest and disappointment here is that I thought there would be a set of QR codes around a trial of 3 miles and at each one I’d call up the link to information that would, if I looked around me, would inform me of what I was seeing and what is going on behind the scenes. It could offer a soundscape of a different era. Memorable insights. Something to encourage me to start a journey, to want to find out more. I didn’t. I expected more on the Great Ormond Street Chidlren’s hospital but got less than I’d get from a quick Google to Wikipedia or YouTube. It did take me to Thomas Corram’s Foundling Hospital

Fig. 9. Thomas Corram’s Founding Hospital Museum 

CONCLUSION

The opportunity to create highly relevant, engaging, memorable, award-winning mobile learning exists. The above was created using the open software from WordPress. The research needs to go beyond the obvious, beyond the everyday guidebook or wikipedia. You need to knock on a few doors, get some local colour, hear from people who live in the square … or lived in the square. And if you want to do a ‘drama reconstruction’ then get the investment for a proper soundscape, actor(s) and script. Leaving questions unanswered is fine – it is easier enough to research further.

Most fundamentally, who is your audience for this?

There are three kinds of people in this part of London: UCL students, patients and visitors to the many hospitals and those working in the hospitals and universities. Many will have a smartphone. IF they know what a QR code is then I’d expected to see this placed in opportune spots like miniature versions of those blue plaques you find on houses.

Fig. 9 Plaques today, engraved QR codes of NFCs tomorrow?

Isn’t Google running something with Google Maps where you can pin content, audio and video, to a GPS location?

Your museum visit is mine

This is what I have been after. Tools that enhance the visitor experience while allowing further aggregation of that person’s visit to create a personal and constructed version of events. This ties into learning theories related to ‘cognitive construction’ rather than a behaviorist or didactic, spoon-fed, top down approach to learning. From a plethora of platforms will Google inevitably take over, translating the macro level Google Maps into micro level google guides? Much more from Google too.

At what point will people jostling to hold up their device interfere with the collective experience? How do you cater for those without one of these? The audio-guide or leaflet. Might content be produced to suit primary, secondary and tertiary visitors?

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