Using Location-Based Services to Fill Our Brains, Not Just Our Bellies

Mobile Strategy, Newsletter, Pedagogy and Learning Comments (0)

Are we frivolously using location-based services such as Foursquare, Gowalla, or Yelp? It seems that in today’s culture, we mainly use them to let our friends know what we’re eating or drinking, what movies we’re seeing, or what gym we’ve decided to work out at. That’s all well and good, but there’s not a whole lot of meaning behind these activities beyond the initial social sharing.

Our team thinks that maybe there’s a way to look at these activities on a deeper level. Instead of just telling our friends where we’re eating, what if we had a way to tell our friends about how the taste buds on the tongue picked up certain flavors? Or perhaps how the chef used molecular gastronomy to affect the flavor, texture and composition of the plate we’ve just enjoyed. More than just telling our friends we’re drinking a beer, why not explain how that beer was brewed or how to enjoy it more by complementing it with certain artisanal foods? When we’re at the gym, maybe a veteran of the bench told us that lifting faster utilizes fast-twitch muscles and gives us a better workout. Perhaps our visit to the museum was punctuated with a better understanding of how the artist’s natural surroundings and family life had informed their sense of color and contour. There are reasons, meanings and context behind everything we do. Finding them out, exploring and logging them should be part of our lives. This is real learning.

Think about pieces of information you remember or learn from any seemingly innocuous interaction with people, places, and things.

Say, for example, you were touring the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis when you learned that the famous Clydesdales were originally given to August Busch from his sons in 1933 to celebrate the repeal of Prohibition. This is the key learning point you may have picked up in this event at this location. Additionally, you may have been with your family and enjoyed watching your children pet the nose of the giant horse. This provides a visceral pneumonic. Maybe you had saved up an entire year to fly your family to the Gateway to the West to spend your weeklong vacation there. This helps increase the perceived value or importance of the interactions in which you participate. And finally, let’s say you had visited the brewery during the day, knowing that you and your family would be attending Game 7 of the World Series that night. This helps contextualize the event in relation to another, providing one more touchstone.

We believe associating this type of metadata about a learning event is beneficial to learning. It provides a foundation, a grounding, and an indelible mark in your personal learning scrapbook.

Maybe location-based services can capture this material and assist you in producing linkages that enhance your retention. Instead of just saying that you learned about Clydesdales, you also learned about the brewery’s history, the heritage of the horses and perhaps many other items of interest, all tagged with categories or a taxonomy that you create. The location-based service, then, could map the collective data geospatially. For instance, maybe red indicates food and beverage, yellow indicates history, green is used for sports and blue for animals. Doing this for hundreds, thousands, and even millions of people would yield some captivating maps. How could these be interpreted? Would we see gravity wells of art and culture? Huge swatches of seemingly empty areas could be filled with the communal knowledge gained, all networked via time, space and topic.

Consider the activity maps generated by the people of London after uploading their pictures to Flickr and/or posting a message to Twitter. Eric Fischer, the programmer and designer for that map, also produced this map showing which type of person took a picture – a local or a tourist.

Looking at these maps, we start to ask these questions: Where does learning take place? Who are people with when they learn? What sorts of tags and events correlate or differentiate people with or from others?

We think that location-based services have the potential to be effective learning applications, but they need a push in the right direction. Think less about Foursquare mayorships and Gowalla badges for a moment while you log your activities and consider a learning event that could be tied to the instance. Once you start getting into the habit of this, consider whether it’s improving cognition and retention of the information gained while you logged the event.

What do you think? Does time and space help you remember? Do these metadata bits deserve to be recorded to help you recall? Float is interested in hearing stories about this concept, so send them on!

Sign up now for our free webinar: Exploring ROI for Mobile Learning

We’re continuing our free webinar series, Mobile Learning Conversations, by discussing the return on investment (ROI) of mobile learning solutions. The session will be hosted by two mobile learning experts: Float senior analyst and CEO of i5 Research Gary Woodill and Float mobile strategist Jeff Tillett. The webinar is Wednesday, Nov. 9, and begins at 1 p.m. EST / 12 p.m. CST.

“This session is about the costs and benefits of mobile learning, and would be useful to anyone at the point of researching or planning to implement a mobile learning system for their employees,” said Float senior analyst Gary Woodill, Ed.D. “This is definitely a session for decision makers, and they can join the conversation as it is in progress, or follow up with us later.”

Registered participants will be able to download a white paper authored by Woodill. For more information, read our blog and then register for the session This white paper normally sells for $225, so register today to get a great value and take in the information for yourself.

Update: RabbleBrowser 2.0 hits App Store

We’re happy to announce an update to our collaborative Web browsing app, RabbleBrowser™.

In addition to letting users print and share images, documents, multimedia and bookmarks directly from the iPad, the 2.0 version of the app now lets users share files using Dropbox.

Unlike basic presentation apps, RabbleBrowser™ enables a facilitator to guide an unlimited number of people through a Web browsing session or demonstration on iPads connected through a shared Wi-Fi or Bluetooth network. The app is even social, letting you share URLs via email, Facebook and Twitter.

“RabbleBrowser 2.0 is the ultimate collaboration tool for classrooms, meetings, trade shows, presentations and just about any group environment you can think of,” said Float Managing Director Chad Udell. “For the first time ever, you have a group presentation tool combined with a shared Web browsing tool for an even more powerful collaborative experience. On top of that, the added functionality and integration with features like Dropbox provide an ideal setup for when you need to work with or present to those around you.”

RabbleBrowser™ 2.0 is available for purchase in the App Store for $1.99.

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On November 7, 2011
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