This post is in response to some of the questions being asked for Week 2 of the #MobiMOOC open course on mobile learning, in case you just stumbled here and don’t know why I am answering questions that nobody was asking. What do you really want to do with mobile learning? Now this is the real question. We are all pragmatic souls (those working in education) and all desire to link pedagogy to best practice, to link activities to real learning, to avoid a technological determinism in regards to particular brands, platforms, or code. In short, we want to realize the maximum potential of the maximum number of people with the minimal of resources. Ideally, this potential can be realized in a self-sustaining, self-regulating, sustainable sort of way.  

But that minimizes the stretch, the real reach out there to the cosmos, to yank something triumphant from the noise. Can you hear the music swelling in the background? What do I really want from mobile? I want a world and a learning ecosystem where the learner can write large, assemble, and reassemble their world. I want a mobile learning system that allows students to write their notes across buildings (virtual graffiti), to represent their learning in images, audio, video, and text and kinesthetically slot those into their environment. I want the record of a place to be available as layers, a flipbook of progress through time at a particular location. I want to see all the poetry, literature, and history written at a locale, for a locale. I want to see it at night, during the day, in winter and summer. I want to know what stood here in 1900 as well as 2011. I want that all available through mobile. And I want to be able to assemble all of this knowledge, interaction, into a learning representation. A book. A paper. A presentation. Art. It might sound like gobbledygook, but I am basically talking about augmented reality applications, Layar and their ilk. Harness that with annotation tools, places that record thoughts, ideas, notes, on the object itself (and perhaps even linked to the object-a memory for buildings, structures as well as people). I had tried to map this out a bit with New York City as a backdrop.

So that is what I want. A learning ecosystem of mobile (ubiquitous) technology allowing for a layered interaction with space and time. I think the learning potential is enormous and the technology is just about there. Is this accessible for developing nations? No. Is it even accessible for established learning communities? No, not really. Will schools suddenly start sending their students through the streets of the urban jungle recording and documenting, constructing and presenting? Not yet. But it is there if we want it to be. And at some point, presumably, accessible by good portions of the globe. Now is this the project I am going to be working on in the near future? No. I will and want to work on development projects linking networks of scholars, learners, and practitioners in knowledge exchanges via SMS. I want to do this in urban school districts here in the US and in developing nations. But my eye will be on this augmented reality future, however surreal it might seem. Here are some resources if anyone is interested.

  • Carter, S.; Churchill, E.; Denoue, L.; Helfman, J.; & Nelson, L. (2004). Digital graffiti: public annotation of multimedia content.  CHI ‘04 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems.
  • de Souza e Silva, A. & Sutko, D. (ed.) (2009). Digital Cityscapes: merging digital and urban playspaces. New York: Peter Lang.
  • Gemeinboeck, P.; Dong A. & Veronesi, F. (2007). Who writes the city? Mobile Media 2007, University of Sydney, Australia, University of Sydney.
  • iTacitus – Intelligent Tourism and Cultural Information through Ubiquitous Services. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from
  • Layar. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from
  • Museum of London – Streetmuseum app. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from
  • Wikitude World Browser. Retrieved December 10, 2010, from

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.

2 thoughts on “#MobiMOOC Week 2: What I really want from mobile”
  1. Nice post and I too want that same access to content and ability to create it in various spaces.This moment I am typing this on my Droid keyboard and it is a bit small for tons of words. Part of my goals in this class include using mobile divives to access and do the work. The size of the keyboard is one challenge I have with this particular device. An iPad would be better for writing but it would limit my mobility as no data plan on the pad.Anyway I guess my point was that there are some challenges even to those of us that have all the tools. But that does not mean we stop trying.Tomorrow I am going to a short video at the now snowy Grand Canyon with this phone. Your vision is coming. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  2. Thanks for the response, Todd. I agree with you completely that keyboard size is a real detriment to longer text entries, but perhaps mobile is better suited to voice dictation? There are a few apps that try (relatively accurately) to transcribe voice on mobile and that can be a real boon to longer entries/posts from the field. Lots of potential there. I think the pieces are there, but as you said the challenges of coordinating it all together still loom. I imagine we will see some monumental improvements in the next few years. Curious to see the video from the Grand Canyon! I have never been there.

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