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The Benefits of Geo-Tagging and Microblogging in m-Learning: a Use Case

The Benefits of Geo-Tagging and Microblogging in m-Learning: a Use Case

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Publication presented at MindTrek 2009 conference
Publication presented at MindTrek 2009 conference

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The Benefits of Geo-Tagging and Microbloggingin m-Learning: a Use Case
Christian Safran
Institute for Information Systemsand Computer MediaGraz University of TechnologyInffeldgasse 16c, A-8010 Graz,Austria+43 (316) 873 5668
csafran@tugraz.atVictor Manuel Garcia-Barrios
Institute for Information Systemsand Computer MediaGraz University of TechnologyInffeldgasse 16c, A-8010 Graz,Austria+43 (316) 873 5640
vgarcia@iicm.eduMartin Ebner
Social Learning / Computer andInformation SystemsGraz University of TechnologyInffeldgasse 16c, A-8010 Graz,Austria+43 (316) 873 5640
martin.ebner@tugraz.at
ABSTRACT
 The recent years have shown the remarkable potential use of Web2.0 technologies in education, especially in the context of informal learning. The application of 
Wikis
for collaborative work is one example for this theory applied. The support of learning inthose fields of education, which are strongly based on visuallocation-based information, could also benefit from
Geo-Tagging 
,a technique that has become popular lately. This paper presentsfirst development results on the combination of these twoconcepts into a geospatial Wiki for higher education,
TUGeoWiki
.Our solution proposal supports mobile scenarios where textualdata and images are managed and retrieved during
m-Learning 
 
in-the-field 
as well as some desktop scenarios in the context of 
collaborative e-Learning 
. Within this scope, one critical issuearises while adding and updating textual information via thecollaborative interface, which can be cumbersome in mobilescenarios. To solve this problem, we integrated another popular concept into our solution approach,
Microblogging 
. Thus, theinformation pushed via short messages from mobile clients or microblogging tools to our m-Learning environment enables thecreation of 
Wiki-Micropages
as basis for subsequent collaborativelearning scenarios.
Categories and Subject Descriptors
 H.3.5 [
Information Storage and Retrieval
]: Online InformationServices – 
Web-based services
H.5.3 [
Information Interfaces and Presentation
]: Group andOrganization Interfaces – 
Computer-supported cooperative work 
K.3.1 [
Computers and Education
]: Computer Uses in Education – 
Collaborative learning 
General Terms
 Design, Experimentation.
Keywords
 m-Learning, Wiki, microblogging, geotagging.
1.
 
INTRODUCTION
A remarkable movement towards geo-locating software hasoccurred in the last months, marking a renaissance of location- based mobile applications. One of the reasons is the availability of a variety of mobile devices providing integrated GPS
1
receivers.Another reason is the rising number of mashup applicationsaccessing freely available mapping material via Web services, andthus providing added value for geospatial information. Almost in parallel, Geotagging appeared. This technique denotes themarking of a digital resource with geographical coordinates and ismostly used for images. In the case of images these coordinatescan be integrated into the image by using a set of Exif 
2
Besidesvaluable discussion about privacy issues, this additionally markedinformation offers new possibilities for teaching and learning,especially in fields which strongly depend on geolocated data,such as civil engineering, geosciences or archaeology. Thecombination of geotagging with other technologies connected toWeb 2.0 provides a further contribution to e-Learning 2.0, asdefined by Stephen Downes [1].This paper gives a short overview on a solution to enhancelearning by integrating (mobile) geotagging of images withcollaborative authoring. The implementation of our solution proposal, called TUGeoWiki, supports m-Learning in reference totwo scenarios: (i) a
mobile application scenario
, which focuses oninformation retrieval and real-time sharing of resources, and (ii) a
desktop application scenario
, which supports informal e-Learning by providing a collaborative authoring tool. For the concrete fieldsof education mentioned above, TUGeoWiki represents a tool that
1
GPS - Global Positioning System
2
Exif – Exchangeable Image File Format
Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for  personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies arenot made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and thatcopies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copyotherwise, or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists,requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.
MindTrek 2009
, September 30
th
-October 2
nd
2009, Tampere, FINLAND.Copyright 2009 ACM 978-1-60558-633-5/09/09…$10.00.
Originally published at: Safran, C., Garcia-Barrios, V.M.; Ebner, M. (2009) TheBenefits of Geo Tagging and Microblogging in m-Learning: a Use Case, inProceedings of ACM Academic MindTrek 2009 - Everyday Life in the UbiquitousArea, MindTrek 2009, Tampere, Finland, p. 135-141, 2009
 
supports field trips and excursions from the preparation phase,throughout the field trip itself and until the review.It is worth mentioning at this point that so far, only using theWeb-based collaborative interface for the provision of textualinformation in mobile scenarios has shown to be cumbersome.Thus, to solve these user interaction problems within the mobilescenario, we propose to incorporate the novel Web 2.0 concept of Microblogging into the work with a Wiki.The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. First sometopics of interest in the context of this research are presented anddiscussed in relation with TUGeoWiki. Subsequently thedevelopment and functionality of the TUGeoWiki are presentedand design decisions explained. The next chapter is focussed onthe expansion of the existing solution with the integration of microblogging. Finally a summary and some outlook on futurework are given.
2.
 
TOPICS IN CONTEXT
The development of TUGeoWiki was based on related work fromthree areas: geotagged images, Wikis for collaborative learning,and mobile learning.In subjects like civil engineering, geosciences, architecture etc.higher education is strongly based on visual information. As pointed out by Brohn, the
“language of intuition is visual, just asthe language of analysis is abstract and symbolic”
[2]. Takingcivil engineering as an example for such a subject, severalresearch activities have been able to point out the importance of visualisations, animations, as well as interactions for civilengineering [3-5]. Especially for explanations of highly complexengineering models, new technologies offered a completelydifferent way of teaching and learning. Still, visualisations lackedat one particular point: the connection of the abstract engineeringmodel and the real world. The major competence of any practicalengineer is assumed to be the capability of abstracting anappropriate model from nature in order to develop a quantifiablemathematical model. This allows us to state that the knowledgeabout the particular environment where a building will be placedis highly important. Hence, a connection of visualisations andreal-world locations can be achieved by using geotagged images.Considering another relevant topic, Wikis, as online collaborationtools, were introduced by Leuf and Cunningham in 1995 [6]. Theterm itself is derived from the Hawaiian word
wikiwiki
, meaning
quick 
. The technology has been designed to provide a simple toolfor knowledge management, which places at the disposal of allusers a smart possibility to mutually create and edit contentonline. In addition, individual users may use the functionality of version history to retrace all content modifications and, if desired,revert to earlier content versions. As such, a Wiki is an easy-to-use application for the collaborative management of onlinecontent. These characteristics have made Wikis a tool of choice ininformal learning [7]. The importance of Wikis in e-Learning haslead Stephen Downes to list them as one of the basic technologiesof e-Learning 2.0 [1].
Mobile learning 
(abbreviated,
m-Learning 
) is the combination of e-Learning and mobile computing, and promises the access toapplications that support learning anywhere, anytime [8].Meanwhile, due to technological progress, hardware is considereda solved problem. However, innovative, affordable and usablesoftware remains the greatest challenge. Handhelds, for example,should support project-based learning in context, that is, using themobile device as an integral part of a learning activity
 
[9]
.
One of the central advantages of mobile learning is ongoing assessmentand possible feedback, as demonstrated in [10]. In higher education, m-Learning is especially interesting for fields of studywhich rely on education
on-site
respectively
in-the-field 
. Oneexample for the use of mobile technologies for teaching purposesis the EU research project RAFT (Remote Accessible Field Trips),which was conducted from 2002 to 2005. The target of this project was the support of school classes with virtual excursionsusing portable Internet-conferencing tools [11].
3.
 
A GEOSPATIAL WIKI FOR M-LEARNING
The previous chapters introduced two relevant aspects: theimportance of visual information, particularly location-relatedvisual information, for several fields of education as well as theadvantages of collaborative learning with Wikis. Along theselines, this chapter introduces firstly the most relevant traits of the proposed solution, and gives then an overview over the solutionitself, TUGeoWiki.
3.1
 
Why lightweight, geotagged and mobile?
In order to combine the two aforementioned technologicalaspects, we designed and developed a solution approach for a
lightweight 
,
 geotagging-based 
and
mobile
learning environmentapplying a geospatial Wiki.The term
lightweight 
expresses our efforts to implement only the basic features of a geographical information system (GIS) for learning, namely (a) collecting, and (b) displaying geotagged data(also as map overlays). We consider further features of GIS, suchas data analysis and modelling, to be out-of-scope, as they areonly necessary for geosciences professionals. Moreover, our notion of 
lightweight 
embraces also our intent towardsunobtrusive user interaction features based on well-knownsoftware practices. Especially as far as the technology acceptanceof mobile applications is concerned,
lightweight 
also refers to theoverall costs, as low-cost applications with low maintenanceefforts have turned out to be best accepted [12].Further, our solution proposal concentrates on location-relatedinformation, and thus on learning scenarios where suchinformation is an essential part of the curriculum. In those cased,students can benefit from a clearly defined relation of learningmaterial to a geographic location (
 geotagging-based 
).Finally, the term
mobile
describes our intention to offer access toinformation and learning material “in-the-field” in order toenhance “on-site learning” whenever applicable. It is worthstating at this point that within the context of our solutionapproach, we focus on mobile phones and PDAs
3
instead of other mobile technologies in order to stick with the primary goal of alightweight system, as such devices are widespread and handy tocarry in the field. Moreover, the user of mobile technology shouldenable us to foster collaborative activities of learners wherever  possible, whenever possible.
3.2
 
TUGeoWiki
Our solution approach, the TUGeoWiki system, is a geospatialWeb-based mobile application that aims at supporting the learning
3
PDA - Personal Digital Assistant
 
scenarios given so far. This section gives an overview on the mainfeatures of the system, for more details please refer to [13]. TheTUGeoWiki system is based on the well-known open sourceMediaWiki implementation. We have chosen MediaWiki for tworeasons.First, it provides two well-defined mechanisms for extension of functionality:
 special pages
and
templates
.
Special pages
are pages without Wiki content, which are generated on demand andare used to provide additional tools for users, e.g., file upload[14].
Templates
are pages created for transclusion purposes, andusually contain repetitive materials or blocks of information (e.g.,infoboxes) [15].And second, the user interface of MediaWiki is probably the best-known Wiki user interface, among others, due to the immensely broad use and high popularity of Wikipedia [16].TUGeoWiki modifies the MediaWiki paradigm of 
 pages
for theindividual entries in order to define
 places,
which are relayed togeographical coordinates, and thus represent real-world
locations
.In our terminology
 place
thus defines the entity in the system,while
location
denoted the actual geographical entity. Thismodification is achieved by using MediaWiki’s
 special pages
tocreate location-based entries as well as templates to display them.Figure 1 depicts the concept of creating a
 place
. These templatesare designed as mashups, thus extending the Wiki entries withmapping material from Google Maps or Microsoft Live SearchMaps. Additionally, a hyperlink to the MediaWiki extension
Geohack 
provides access to numerous other map sources [17].
Figure 1: General notion for creating places in TUGeoWiki
This Wiki application can be used in classroom or remote learningscenarios to provide a tool for collaborative activities ongeospatial information, resulting in two application scenarios: a“desktop application scenario” and a “mobile applicationscenario”.The
desktop application scenario
is based on collaborativeauthoring with the Wiki and fosters
 process-oriented learning 
and
task-based learning.
Possible use cases in this context are the preparation for field trips as well as post-processing and review of the information gained in such an excursion. The focus of thisscenario is set on collaborative authoring in order to supportinformal learning on the topics of such an excursion.The
mobile application scenario
provides access to the learner’scurrent location by querying internal or external GPS sensors. Thecoordinates retrieved from the GPS sensors are used inTUGeoWiki to search for 
 places
in the vicinity of the currentlocation or to create a new
 place
in the Wiki and startcollaborative learning about the topics of the current location. Themain goal behind this scenario is to satisfy an information-need
 just-in-time
concerning the current location as well as enabling
real-time
sharing of resources (mainly images) concerning thelocation. Due to the restrictions of the user interface (cf. i.e. [18]),collaborative authoring in this mobile scenario is a non-trivialtask, and thus the editorial work on
 places
has been restricted toThe
mobile application scenario
provides access to the learner’scurrent location by querying internal or external GPS sensors. Thecoordinates retrieved from the GPS sensors are used inTUGeoWiki to search for 
 places
in the vicinity of the currentlocation or to create a new
 place
in the Wiki and startcollaborative learning about the topics of the current location. Themain goal behind this scenario is to satisfy an information need
 just-in-time
concerning the current location as well as enabling
real-time
sharing of resources (mainly images) concerning thelocation. Due to the restrictions of the user interface (cf. i.e. [18]),collaborative authoring in this mobile scenario is a non-trivialtask, and thus the editorial work on
 places
has been restricted tothe creation and annotation of so-called
 place stubs
. Place stubs(also called
article stubs
) can be seen as temporary mini-placeobjects that learners use at their mobile devices, and after submitting them to the Wiki server, they can be described in moredetail. Additionally for the mobile application scenario,TUGeoWiki provides a feature to create geotagged images withthe mobile phone’s camera and embeds the GPS coordinates inthe Exif headers of the image files. In a separate step, theseimages (or images created with any other application for geotagging images) can be uploaded and relayed to existing
 places
or used to provide an article stub for a new
 place
in anarbitrary location around the corresponding coordinates.We have stipulated these two aforementioned scenarios in order toimprove learning activities
in-the-field 
and
on-site
by supportingseveral steps in such learning journeys, i.e., activities before andafter the journey with the desktop scenario and activities duringthe journey with the mobile scenario.The component architecture of the TUGeoWiki system as well asthe interactions among the individual parts (with focus on themobile scenario) is shown in Figure 2. The mobile device (mobile phone or PDA) is equipped with the TUGeoWiki client and aWeb browser. The client retrieves the current coordinates of thedevice either from an internal GPS sensor, or, via Bluetooth, froman external sensor.The client relays requests for upload of images to the mobile browser or directly to a server side
application programming interface
(API). Requests for information about the currentlocation or requests for creating a new
 place
for the currentlocation are always relayed to the mobile browser. The browser ismainly used to access the adapted MediaWiki on the TUGeoWikiserver side, which shares a common database with the API. For each new entry, the Wiki displays a
 place
template, which embedsa Google Map, and links (relaying the
 place
’s coordinates) to the
Geohack 
extension as well as Google Maps and Microsoft LiveSearch Maps.

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