Annotating and mLearning

Annotating and mLearning

The use case as described in these posts, and the diverse requirements that define this use case, betray a deceptively simple learning activity: to take canonical literature into the fields that it describes, to annotate it across modes, and to make use of these annotations as compositions, whether as geocaches or otherwise. The pedagogical use case is grounded in socialized, experiential learning theory; the activities themselves ascribe to rigorous models of reflective practice. The use case parallels existing formal curricula in the South Korean context and can be incorporated into existing assessment mechanisms. From the pedagogical perspective, this is a robust and dynamic learning activity.

Yet the simplicity that emerges from the learning fails to translate to the annotative model; it is here where we see great need for further research and development. As defined in this research, the annotation involves several discrete activities. The first is the ability to georeference a historical map producing a reference layer in our preferred map application and enable a bridge between location names mentioned in the text and modern names of these locations. As our text was written during a historical period not reflected on modern maps, it is necessary to georeference a historical map allowing users to locate places referenced in the text–places that may no longer exist or may now go by different names–in the modern world. Seoul in 1931 is a dramatically different urban space than Seoul in 2015; colonization, war, and modernization have made historical accuracy elusive. While this step might seem a bit superfluous to the remaining learning activities, it must be accounted for and made accessible for those wishing to design these learning activities. We need to know where these places really are if we are to do any sort of meaningful annotation.

The remaining requirements speak to the annotation itself: the ability to annotate with different mediums (text, images, video, etc.) and the ability to annotate across mediums (from maps to canonical text) and this is where the potential contribution of the project emerges. Experimentation with several available annotation applications has revealed that there is no one solution that will satisfies the requirements above. However, the Open Annotation standard itself is certainly sufficient to enable annotations beyond text (media, such as video or images) and to enable associations between our text and map mediums. The latter being a critical requirement, one from which much of the learning activity described in this research pivots. A byproduct of relying on an open standard is the ability to share the results of the exercise with a wider audience and to enable collaboration with other learners also working on the same text. We are hoping for either an expansion of the existing tools so that they support these new use cases or perhaps the creation of a new tool that is uniquely suited for our activities.

Finally, following the familiar principles of geocaching, users in the field should be able to search this data and create new data using their own location. Although outside the scope of this project, this is the logical next step pedagogically. The geocaches are composed collaboratively across a range of modes and media: text, audio, video, image, GPS. The groups are then responsible for embedding the geocaches in the local environment (by drawing on GPS) along with finding aids. Groups of students in future classes or cohorts can find these embedded (digital) geocaches, collect the compositions from each, log their discoveries, and re-assemble the novel, but that is a bit outside the scope of the use case described here. So this learning is about several strands of activity: collecting, composing, geocaching, finding, and recomposing. All working in concert somehow.

Yet what this research attempts to demonstrate is that these requirements are not met cohesively enough to warrant employing them for the use case described in this project. As the purpose of this research is to detail the annotative requirements presented by this use case and to critique the current annotative landscape to identify whether those requirements can be convincingly met with current standards and applications, it is important to note the further development that is required to effectively operationalize this project for teachers and students. All of these requirements must be met within a single environment: an application, a set of applications cobbled together as a toolkit of sorts, or some such variation.

It is critical that learners move seamlessly between text, media, and map in their excursions through the urban space; it is critical that these annotations are reusable as compositions or geocaches. Without this seamless movement, the learning momentum loses steam and opportunities for linking activities cognitively are missed. One activity is disassociated from the other when all are supposed to work together. Space is reduced to binaries of here/there or then/now when all could be working in tandem. There is real opportunity to link text to media to place in meaningful ways but we aren’t quite there yet, though.

So we encourage you to experiment a bit yourselves with some of the resources below. Contact us if interested in discussing more, or if you know of some resource or project we missed. Until then….

-David Fox and Michael Gallagher



By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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