Posterous (et al) for mobile learning
In response to one of the learning activities for the #MobiMOOC course being conducted now (wiki or follow #MobiMooc or the Google Group), I am attempting in this post to show how I would use an mlearning tool (QR code, audio/video) for learning.
I had done some work awhile back on creating a skeleton of a course design for a project I work on (JSTOR Plant Science), a project dedicated to plant scientists, plant taxonomists, and the rapid identification and classification of all the world’s plant biodiversity. It is wonderful to see the network of scientists performing their work, but I had wanted to create some accompanying materials for teachers and students who wanted to explore these a bit more in their courses. Generally, this information was aimed at novice level learners (thinking primarily secondary school), but as this is a field science, it seemed entirely appropriate to have elements of mobility laced throughout the course design. To get people into nature to perform natural science, that sort of thing. How can one fully understand plant life without actually touching the thing? The texture alone is a worthy topic of investigation.
I threw all of the skeleton onto a Wiki (Course Design: Plant Science), which is still there, half-completed. Now the course is a lot more rigid than I would design normally, but that owes a lot to the scientific rigor of the discipline itself. It is less about applications of the plants and more directed towards the taxonomic classification of them. So there a lot of potential threshold elements that need to be addressed and surpassed for students to really think like scientists, to explore with that kind of exactitude (and without boring them).
One of the lessons, more of a reflective/constructive activity, involved the students in the field (ie, outside the school) armed with any mobile device that allowed for photos to be taken and sent. Basically, the goal was to have the students choose a plant they saw, send it to a centralized datastore (blog or wiki instance) along with descriptions, locations (ideally GPS coordinates, but manual descriptions are sufficient). The students would then collect around this data instance and discuss individual plants, how they are classified, where they are found.
For this, I would use Posterous (although Tumblr is probably sufficient as well) as it allows for multiple authors to post to collected spaces. The students could all post their images and descriptions from their mobile devices while in the field. Data could be discussed when they had returned or even remotely as well (via automated SMS messages once the blog was updated; students could then respond to each other’s posts to discuss or avoid duplicates). I imagine it would also be possible (if GPS was enabled) to automatically plot these entries onto a map (Posterous automatically will add photos to a centralized Flickr account as well and that then could be plotted, perhaps).