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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?

Mobile learning at the Museum of London: QR codes and NFCs

Fig.1. YouTube video for the Museum of London‘s NFC initiative in 2011

Having picked through links that came to a dead end in a fascinating paper on the variety of technologies and tactics being used by museums in relation to mobile learning I started to see and read more and more about the use of QR codes (those matrix two-dimensional bar codes you use with a smartphone) and NFC ‘Near Field Communication‘ which is becoming an industry in its own right.

Having been kept awake at night about a need for ‘constructing knowledge’ rather than being fed it I knew that visitors, students especially, need to engage with their surroundings by somehow seeking and constructing their own views.

Without QR and NFC the simplest expression of this is taking notes, and or photographs of exhibits – not just selfies with a mummy or your mates. Possibly doing bits of video. And from these images cutting/editing and pasting a few entries in a blog, Prezi or SlideShare. QR and NFC feed the visitor controlled and curated bite-size nuggets, so more than just a snap shot, you can have audio and video files, as well as more images and text.

Fig.2. South Downs Way QR Code.

Successful trials mean that these have spread. Funny I’ve not noticed them living in Lewes and walking the dog most days on the South Downs. I’ll take a look. NFCs have been used extensively, for 90 exhibits, at the Museum of London – so a visit is required. Though I won’t be ditching my iPhone. Apple does not support NFC believing that the technology is still in its infancy … like Flash, like Betamax and VHS, and all that stuff, a battle will be fought over the NFC benchmark.

So 60% penetration of smartphones in the population … most of all of which can use a QR code, but less using a early version of NFCs. My experience?

Fig.3. QR Codes at the Design Museum

Last year a visit to the Design Museum I found the ‘Visualizing the mind’ exhibition littered with QR codes.

They didn’t work. Just as well they had ample computers. How often do organisations jump on the IT bandwagon only for a couple of wheels to fall off further down the road?

Fig.4. Evie

Meanwhile I’m off to walk the dog .. then using a trip to see Gravity at the Odeon Leicester Square with my kids to include an educational tour to the Museum of London (always handy to have a teenager around when using mobile technology).
REFERENCE

‘REPORTING RESEARCH’ 2013, Interpretation Journal, 18, 1, pp. 4-7, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 November 2013.

QR codes and NFC

Fig.1. YouTube video for the Museum of London’s NFC initiative in 2011

Having picked through links that came to a dead end in a fascinating paper on the variety of technologies and tactics being used by museums in relation to mobile learning I started to see and read more and more about the use of QR codes (those matrix two-dimensional barcodes you use with a smartphone) and NFC ‘Near Field Communication’ which is becoming an industry in its own right.

Having been kept awake at night about a need for ‘constructing knowledge’ rather than being fed it I knew that visitors, students especially, need to engage with their surroundings by somehow seeking and constructing their own views.

Without QR and NFC the simplest expression of this is taking notes, and or photographs of exhibits – not just selfies with a mummy or your mates. Possibly doing bits of video. And from these images cutting/editing and pasting a few entries in a blog, Prezi or SlideShare. QR and NFC feed the visitor controlled and curated bite-size nugets, so more than just a snap shot, you can have audio and video files, as well as more images and text.

Fig.2. South Downs Way QR Code.

Successful trials mean that these have spread. Funny I’ve not noticed them living in Lewes and walking the dog most days on the South Downs. I’ll take a look. NFCs have been used extensively, for 90 exhibits, at the Museum of London – so a visit is required. Though I won’t be ditching my iPhone. Apple does not support NFC believing that the technology is still in its infancy … like Flash, like Betamax and VHS, and all that stuff, a battle will be fought over the NFC benchmark.

So 60% penetration of smartphones in the population … most of all of which can use a QR code, but less using a early version of NFCs. My experience?

Fig.3. QR Codes at the Deisgn Museum

Last year a visit to the Design Museum I found the ‘Visualizing the mind’ exhibition littered with QR codes.

They didn’t work. Just as well they had ample computers. How often do organisations jump on the IT bandwagon only for a couple of wheels to fall off further down the road?

Fig.4. Evie

Meanwhile I’m off to walk the dog .. then using a trip to see Gravity at the Odeon Leicester Square with my kids to include an educational tour to the Museum of London (always handy to have a teenager around when using mobile technology).

REFERENCE

‘REPORTING RESEARCH’ 2013, Interpretation Journal, 18, 1, pp. 4-7, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 10 November 2013.

How can the gallery or museum visit be personalised and augmented to make first impressions last?

Fig.1. Miro – Barcelona

A lifelong love in art galleries yet I still feel unmoved (most of the time) by galleries and museums, possibly because I expect the gentle, guiding voice of my late mother at my shoulder (artist, art historian, Mum).

What could be a more personalised visit than to have someone who knows you so well point things out, guide you to things that will interest or irritate, then offer an insight – invariably linked to ‘what do you do next?’ i.e. look, learn then apply.

I take heart from the exceptions, only two visits I can think of though:

‘In Flanders Fields’ – you need a day to yourself to take this in. The most shocking moment entering a funnel like fixture, looking around then twisting your head up to see sets of photographs of mutilated combatants. It put your physically in a demanding postion to view them. Then the multi-media displays, not just actors giving accounts, but the ultimate before and after shots of places using satelitte images and old aerial photos.

‘Alcatraz’ – on many levels the visit irritated me, partly the Disneyfication and advance booking, then the many layers of the islands as bird sanctuary, prison and Native American conquest. What impressed though was the brilliant audio guide – BBC at its very best might be the way to describe it. Very carefully and sensitively juxtapositioning of interviews with former inmates, guards, and family members of guards/governor which between them created a sense or atmosphere of the place like some kind of hideous monastic retreat.

So how do we ‘recreate’ battlefields” We have the 750th of the Battle of Lewes here in East Sussex next year, as well as us all having five or more years of the run up to, the war and aftermath of 1914-1918.

The opportunity exists to use smart devices to give visitors and pilgrims an enhanced, personalised and lasting memory of these places – but how?

E-learning and m-learning, even i-learning? Just ‘learning’ will do

If someone as high profile as Agnes Kukulska-Hulme (Professor of Learning Technology & Communication, Open University) believes the qualifying adjective ‘mobile’ or ‘m’ will soon be defunct, then surely she would support the idea of that the ‘e’ will eventually be dropped from e-learning?
Practioners and professionals, like students, must familiarise themselves with all the tools.
‘E’ is a fact of learning life, Agnes Kukulska-Hulme (2010) is quoted thus in the JISC Mobile and Wireless Technologies Review, “Mobile learning is here to stay, even if in a few years’ time it may no longer be distinguishable from ‘just learning’.”
At what point is m-learning, which is a subset of e-learning, which is a subset of learning, just learning? Or just a life of learning?

6 Types of Learning

Six different types of learning

‘Categories of Activity’

1) Behaviourist-type

2) Constructivist

3) Situated

4) Collaborative

5) Informal and lifelong

6) Support or coordination

Spontaneous communication and collaboration, e.g. one-to-one or one-to-may by texting or mobile phones, by sending a message to a forum or blog while travelling.

e.g. Childhood journeys. Taking octogenarians home through mobile devices.

REFERENCE

Naismith, L., Lonsdale, P., Vavoula, G. and Sharples, M. (2004) Literature Review in Mobile Technologies and Learning, Report 11 for Futurelab. Online. Available.

Creative Problem Solving Technique Library Metaplan

I knew a Metaplan moderator well and become familiar with the technique which he taught in moderated groups all across Europe (in several languages).

  • Cards of various shapes and sizes
  • A logical process

REFERENCE

Schnelle, E. (1979) The Metaplan Method: communication Tools for Planning and Learning Groups.

Business Week (1976) Industrial Edition, N0, 2436, 14 June 1976, p. 90G

‘The Providence Plan’ (1994) http:qqq.brown.edu/Departments/Taubman_Center/plan.ecap_ch2.html

Smartphone survey questions & results

Smartphone survey questions & results.

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