Google Goggles will rock m-learning.

8 12 2009

Back in 2006, I made some predictions about where mobile learning might be heading, including the use of augmented reality or “Heads Up” data displays to provide information on a learner’s environment and allow learning “in situ,”.  Augmented reality has recently really taken off during 2009, with a number of apps on various GPS-enabled mobile phones (notably the iPhone) providing information layered over a camera view of the world; one example of this is the Layar application.

I also predicted the use of image recognition that would effectively enable “visual searches” of objects and images in the real world (and indeed, I reiterated this belief in a comment just yesterday on Stephen Downes’ blog).  Want to know more information on that bridge over there?  No worries!  Just point your camera at it, and image recognition will provide some suggestions on appropriate websites to look at.

When I blogged that idea, however, I’m not sure I expected this technology to actually become available quite so fast.  Today, Google announced a new beta application they’ve coined “Google Goggles“.  And guess what?  Their concept illustrations even features a bridge as the subject of their illustrated example – even if it is an American one rather than an Australian one. 🙂


The official Google site for the project (which is still in development) provides a number of ways Goggles can be used to accomplish a “visual search”, including landmarks, books, contact information, artwork, places, logos, and even wine labels (which I anticipate could go much further, to cover product packaging more broadly).

So why is this a significant development for m-learning?  Because this innovation will enable learners to “explore” the physical world without assuming any prior knowledge.  If you know absolutely nothing about an object, Goggles will provide you with a start.  Here’s an example: you’re studying industrial design, and you happen to spot a rather nicely-designed chair.  However, there’s no information on the chair about who designed it.  How do you find out some information about the chair, which you’d like to note as an influence in your own designs?  A textual search is useless, but a visual search would allow you to take a photo of the chair and let Google’s servers offer some suggestions about who might have manufactured, designed, or sold it.  Ditto unusual insects, species of tree, graphic designs, sculptures, or whatever you might happen to by interested in learning.

Just watch this space.  I think Google Goggles is going to rock m-learning…

(via Mobility Site)

Create Mobile Websites with Wirenode

26 05 2008

I’ve previously written about Winksite, a service that allows users to create free mobile websites using a CMS-like interface (simply switching on or off various tools and editing options).  Now there’s a new free mobile web site hosting and authoring service called Wirenode, which (instead of a CMS-like, “Web 1.0” interface) uses a Web 2.0/AJAX interface to create mobile websites and integrate Web 2.0 services including Twitter, LinkedIn, RSS, image galleries, or other “widgets”.  The integration also works back into Web 2.0, with a Wirenode widget available for Facebook and Mobile Facebook.  Awesome!

Mobile Pages - iPhone
Unlike Winksite, which is almost completely textual in both content and presentation, Wirenode incorporates media and interactivity, which may even be uploaded by the user, and there’s even an analytics tool for users who like to see how many visitors/students are checking out their mobile site.

It’s a terrific tool to help teachers or students create and present information in a mobile format, and a must-see for other educators interested in utilising mobile devices for enhancing and supporting teaching and learning.

(via Learning Elearning)

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Using Animoto to create short videos for mobile

5 12 2007

Animoto is an online site that will automatically analyse your images and music, and then composite them for you into a dynamic video with professional transitions and effects. It supports direct retrieval from other social web tools such as Facebook, Picasa or Flickr, so if you’ve already uploaded your photos, there’s no need to find and upload them again.

The results are stunning – the site has been created by professional video producers, and the transitions are timed nicely with the mood, tempo and beat of each musical accompaniment. Here’s a demonstration of what is produced – this example was put together on-the-fly at a live event, so it’s a good example of what can be done in very little time and without much effort: – a video of photos from the E-Learning 07 event held earlier this year at the University of NSW, created by Jo Kay:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="449" height="315" wmode="transparent" /]

(Alternate link:

You can make unlimited videos, but with a free account you’re limited to 30 second videos. You can pay for a premium access ($3 per video or $30 per year) and Animoto will generate unlimited-length videos.

The thing is, the best videos on mobile devices are high-impact, short ones! If you or your learners are creating content for mobile devices, 30 seconds is perfect (though I can see myself getting a premium account so I can use this as a presentation tool!). Short videos are engaging to watch on mobile devices, and can be quickly shared or downloaded; and the developers of Animoto are currently working on tools to allow users to download videos directly to mobile devices such as mobile phones an iPods (both “coming soon” according to their FAQs).

This would work really well as a tool for generating learner-created content. Imagine a construction student tasked with creating an item for their e-portfolio, or to start off a class presentation. They may not (and probably do not) have any idea how to put together a video (even if you give them a free video editor). But they probably DO know how to take photos and upload files – which is all they have to do to use Animoto. Because the site does the compositing for them, they don’t need to know video editing to create a terrific presentation or portfolio piece, that they can then take around with them on their mobile phone, USB memory stick or media player.

This is a really cool tool for mobile learning!

(Props to Harriet for sharing!)

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Getting Answers on the go!

8 10 2007

Just a few days ago, Yahoo! Search announced that they would be integrating Yahoo! Answers with their mobile search service.

Yahoo! Answers is a website where you can ask *any* question (well, within reason) and have it answered by a community of over 95 million users worldwide.  I explored this concept in depth earlier this year, rising to one of the highest ranking members on Yahoo! Answers in Australia (and even being profiled on the Yahoo! Answers Australia blog).

In general, a question posed on Yahoo! Answers will get replies within a matter of a few minutes, from a range of opinions, ranging from genuine experts through to users trying to “game” the system (users get “points” for replying, so there can be a number of junk replies to any given question).

My thoughts at the time were that this “informal learning” paradigm would be well suited to the mobile medium – short questions and brief answers, with an around-the-clock, global answering community.  However, at that time, the service was not yet mobile – accessing Yahoo! Answers on a PDA browser was pretty much impossible, let alone a mobile phone.

Yahoo! Search’s latest announcement means that the brief answers submitted to Yahoo! Answers will now be accessible using mobile search… which brings part of the Yahoo! Answers paradigm to mobile devices.  It’s only a matter of time now before users should be able to submit questions for answering using the mobile devices too. 🙂

Keep an eye out… in the future, Yahoo! Answers may provide you with a personalised question-and-answer service in the palm of your hand. 🙂

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A Bit of Personal Reflection: Facebook as a Learning Tool?

30 08 2007

Sue’s comment to this blog post about Mobile Facebook, asking for ideas on how Facebook could be used as a learning tool, prompted me to experiment with the possibilities in Facebook and Facebook Mobile.


But while both Facebook and blogs owe their original pedigree primarily to social (as distinct to working or studying) motivations, I’ve grappled with some initial reservations, thinking about opening my existing Facebook profile to my colleagues across the Australian (and International) Flexible Learning Community.

It’s not that I don’t trust y’all with all of the details I have posted in my private profile. Okay, actually, maybe I don’t. 🙂

The solution, of course, is simple – create a whole seperate profile to log into during work hours – a professional Facebook presence, devoid of (too) personal revelations and socialising temptations. Just as a savvy blogger will have a separate personal blog and a professional blog (and never the twain shall meet), so too is it a good idea to create a seperate account on Facebook that is designed to enable communications and professional networks, without the colourful clamour of Facebook friends.

I guess I will have to do a similar kind of thing with most of these social web tools, despite the inconvenience of having to have seperate passwords and administration for each one. Indeed, it’s looking as if I’m actually creating two completely different worlds online: a network of professional social sites, and a network of personal social sites… two very different mes, with the occasional convergence (e.g. my Flickr account).

Right. Hopefully, that was the hard part. Now to figure out the best ways to use my (Serious) Facebook – and (Serious) Facebook Mobile – accounts, to support and enhance learning… hmmm. Featuring news, RSS feeds, and surveys, Jacinta Gascoigne‘s Facebook page appears to be a good place to start…

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Mobile Blogging + GPS data = Locoblog

13 08 2007

LocoBlog Homepage

Further extending the concept of blogging beyond blogging mobile-ly (moblogging), Locoblog automatically uses embedded GPS data in uploaded images to associate each image with a location as soon as it is uploaded; these locations are then viewable on a Google Maps map embedded in a viewer’s web browser, where they can be browsed sequentially or visually (using the map).

It’s a pretty neat concept, although I’d like to see several few features added to make it a really *great* tool:

  1. The ability to add text to an uploaded image to provide commentary and context for the images
  2. The ability to add a textual description and sample image for each “journey” and display these chonologically, to allow the various journeys to be browsed like blog posts
  3. The ability to either personalise the presentation and content of each blog; or syndicate/embed the locoblog content in another, customisable blog (e.g. WordPress).
  4. RSS Syndication for each blog.

Despite having some limitations, it’s worth checking out if you have a GPS-enabled mobile or an external Bluetooth GPS receiver.

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Trying out Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for M-Learning

7 08 2007

Global Positioning Systems, or GPS, provide a means of determining a person’s location and altitude on earth to within a metre or so. They are commonly used in car navigation systems to allow the driver to receive instructions to a location, but they have other applications which are being pursued by other mobile device manufacturers such as camera makers (to enable photos to be tagged with location data about where the image was taken) and mobile phone manufactuers.

Nokia, in particular, has recently invested millions of dollars in GPS research as well as buying a number of companies associated with GPS technologies, and have started introducing GPS as a built-in feature in some of their handsets.

I recently acquired a Nokia 6110 Navigator – a slim slider phone with a large screen and built-in 2 megapixel digital camera – for free, when I renewed my A$49-a-month Optus contract, and having now used it for a month or so, it’s probably the best phone I’ve owned for years. This handset features a built-in GPS receiver, which allows me to get free voice directions when I’m driving, cycling, or walking around, as well as a full visual map display. It’s as good as many dedicated in-car GPS systems I’ve played with.

Nokia 6110 Navigator (slide open)___Nokia 6110 Navigator

Because the GPS is built on the Symbian Operating System used in most Nokias, the GPS can also be extended to work with third-party applications… and this is where it starts to get interesting for m-learning. Applications can be developed for this phone which utilise the GPS system for recording location data.

One application I’ve played with is Sports Tracker, a free application from Nokia Research Labs. This allows me to record my workouts – walking, cycling, skiing or jogging, for example – and analyse the data later. The application also displays real-time performance graphs, such as my speed at various points in the route, in both numerical and graphical form. This requires surprisingly little memory to accomplish; a 1-hour session takes only 45kB of data to record on my phone.

SportsTracker___Tracking my journey

An application like this would be immediately useful for learners in any field where analysing location, speed, or altitude over time would be useful; those involved in the Sports/Fitness industries, aviation, or delivery services, for example.

What makes the application even more useful, however, is that the data can be exported in various formats, including the industry-standard GPX format. This means that I can use the GPS data to accurately determine exactly where media I create has been created. For example, using the free progam GPicSync, from Google, I can determine the locations of my photos along my route, and view the context of the images using Google Earth‘s 2D and 3D views, which allow panning, zooming, and rotation.

This application makes GPS useful for many other areas of learning, including sciences such as forestry, botany, zoology, biology, environmental science and forensics; as well as some you might not immediately think of such as marketing and advertising (taking pictures of advertisements and their locations), architecture, and logistics.

2D view in Google Earth, showing my walking route and the locations of the photos I took. Other data can be superimposed such as roads, points of interest, and other locations in Google Earth:

2D view in Google Earth

3D view in Google Earth. 3D is activated using the controls visible in the top right corner of this image. You can pan, zoom, and rotate the image to see “around” 3D objects.

3D view in Google Earth___View can be Rotated and Zoomed

If a number of photos are taken in one location (or close to each other) they can overlap; Google Earth “splits” these when you click on the overlapping icons to make selecting the phto you’re interested in easy:

Handling of Overlapping Photo Icons

Clicking on a photo icon brings up a view of the photo taken at a location:

Viewing images in Google Earth

Update: You can now download a demo of a Google Earth KML file with GPS-tagged photos in my file-sharing box in the right margin: the file is called “Mogo Zoo Google Earth”

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The "Mobile Learning" Gadget Giveaway!

17 03 2007

In a fortnight, the Mobile Learning blog (right here!) will be turning one year old! To celebrate, I’m giving away some free m-learning gear, and entry is open to anyone in the world (prizes include postage).

Up for grabs are five portable digital MP3/WMA player/recorders, each of which also includes FM radio and file storage (USB memory stick) capability. Using a built-in microphone, they record audio with noise reduction to compressed format, enabling them to hold up to 36 hours of recorded audio, and have a small LCD screen which can display embedded ID3 information (such as artist and track title) and even song lyrics (or the text of podcasts). Battery life is rated at approx. 10 hours of usage on a single AAA battery, and I’m including two batteries with each prize pack to get you started. iPod-style earbuds are also included in the prize pack, as well as a CD of drivers and software to use with your player.

Using a digital audio player exactly like this, you could create and deliver m-learning strategies such as these (jut for starters):

  • record an audio podcast, and make it available via your blog or iTunes
  • record a class or lecture, and make it available to your students via your organisation’s Online Learning System or web site
  • download and listen to a podcast
  • download an audio e-book or convert a CD e-book to mp3 and listen to it while you’re jogging, cooking, or just about anywere
  • tune in to an informatiove FM radio program; you could even record it for later review or for sharing with others who may be interested in the material
  • plug your player into a friend’s computer to give them a copy of any of your audio learning resources
  • copy other files to your player to transport between desktop PCs or to share with other learners
  • capture learner assessment, such as a client interview or an oral quiz, for later review by yourself or the learner

But hey, I won’t get offended or anything if you just want to use it to enjoy your music on the move. 🙂 Entry is open to anyone around the world. But to win one of these players, you’ll have to Get Social:

  1. You’ll need an account in a “social web” (Web 2.0) site such as a blog, wiki, Flickr account, or MySpace page (to mention but a few of the thousands of options!). Only entries created and hosted using a social web site will be considered for a prize
  2. Create an entry or a piece of content that links to your favourite post here in the Mobile Learning Blog, and say why it’s your favourite. There are now over 200 posts here to choose from! I will give extra credit to creative or innovative entries; and to mobile-capable entries (such as podcasts or mobile web pages).
  3. When you’ve finished your entry, add a comment to this competition page with a link or URL to your entry (so I can find it!).

That’s it! Entries close 6th April 2007, and I will choose and announce the winners the following week. Good luck, and have fun getting social! If this competition gets a good response, I’ll post more competitions like this in future.

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Tocmag: Mobile Phone "Magazines"

7 11 2006

Tocmag is a new Web 2.0 tool that allows users to develop short (6 page) multimedia “magazines” for mobile phones. Each magazine can incorporate text, images, audio and video, and can be downloaded to mobile phones and stored as a “Java Game” – allowing a learner to access the mag later without re-downloading or re-connecting. By incorporating a range of media into small content modules like this, teachers could quite easily use this platform to develop digital mobile “Learning Objects” for delivery to mobile phones and PDAs.

Because each mag can be created and downloaded for free to an unlimited number of mobile phones, this makes Tocmag a potentially useful new tool for educators interested in delivering rich media content to learners (or, indeed, for getting learners to assemble their own Tocmags for themselves and each other).

The mags utilise the Java 2 Mobile Edition (J2ME) platform – found in the vast majority of mobile phones and smartphones – so most learners should have no trouble accessing the content.

(via Pocket Picks)

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M-Learning 2.0… it starts here

13 07 2006

Although we’re still at the early stages of mobile phone based collaborative learning, I’ve just experienced the most promising sign to date that Mobile Learning is on its way to becoming integrated with Web 2.0. Winksite is a service that allows users to easily create highly functional mobile portals, with customised informational resources (“channels”), including a number of provided services:

  • Announcements: Post announcements to the portal – which can be syndicated elsewhere via full RSS support
  • Core: Post content pages – a place to put information to be made available as mobile content. Appears to only support text content at this time but can be syndicated via RSS
  • Agenda: A mobile calendar feature
  • Blog: A mobile, text-based blog that can be syndicated via RSS, and can also grab content from all major blog sites and products if your blog is maintained elsewhere
  • Journal: haven’t played with this yet… can be syndicated via RSS
  • Syndicated Feeds: Displays RSS feeds from any source
  • Syndicated Events: Displays RSS event feeds from any RSS event source
  • Field Reports: Allows all users to text-moblog entries to the portal
  • Notes: Creates notes which can be viewed publicly or set to private (admin only)
  • Chat: Interactive, mobile, real-time chat. Awesome. Chat rooms can be syndicated via RSS
  • Forum: Discussion board, can be set to allow users to add their own topics. Topics can be syndicated via RSS
  • Surveys: Results can be viewed in real time as people respond.
  • Zine: haven’t played with this yet…
  • Guestbook: Get user feedback on your portal!
  • Links: Best reserved only for other links that can also be viewed on a mobile device.

Testing the interface (using both my cell phone and the built-in previewer) made me completely confident that the portal performs very well on mobile devices. This is no clumsy work-around to extend Web 2.0 fuctionality to mobile devices, but a custom tool for supporting true information, collaboration – and learning – mobility. There’s even a function to have your portal’s details converted into all major 2D-Barcode formats (mCode, Semacode and QRCode, illustrated on the right).

With such fantastic functionality already in place in Winksite, it appears that specialist tools for mobile teaching and learning could be just around the corner: mobile assessment, gradebooks, and group tools.

If you’d like to try out some of the tools available in Winksite, I’ve just started building a mobile portal on Mobile Learning, for educators. It’s accessible through your normal web browser, or through your mobile device, at It’s already got quite a lot of functionality for you to try, and I’ll continue to update it regularly – so check back!

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