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Locast H2flow: Creative Learning Tool for Participatory Urbanism

Pelin Arslan, Liselott Brunnberg, Federico Casalegno, Zoe Schladow Mobile Experience Laboratory @ Massachusetts Institute of Technology 20 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA 02142 { parslan, liselott, casalegno, schladow}@mit.edu

ABSTRACT This paper aims to show the contribution of participatory learning and co-design skills in making education more productive and personally fulfilling. The Locast H2flow Project is an educational learning experience for teenagers to develop an awareness of sustainable water usage in their community. The project incorporates the Locast platform as a tool for urban exploration, documentation, civic engagement, and ultimately participatory learning through technology. The Locast web and mobile application allows students to explore the issues surrounding water in their local context. This distributive approach further integrates the learning experience into the community through a hands-on workshop. Keywords Civic media generation, mobile narratives, guidance video recording, co-design methods, participatory workshop, user-generated context INTRODUCTION Locast is a location-based platform that combines distributed web and mobile applications to encourage active participation in the content-generation process. For H2flow project, Locast served as a tool to support the creative learning process. One of the key values of co-creation is that it “satisfies the need for creative activity while addressing the need for social interaction.” [1] Participatory media promotes these social practices and interactions. The development of a widespread participatory culture is affecting the expansion and enrichment of the public sphere [2]. Specifically, mobile communication is becoming a more effective instrument in strengthening civic bonds through the empowerment of individuals, the creation of ad-hoc LEAVE BLANK THE LAST 2.5 cm (1”) OF THE LEFT COLUMN ON THE FIRST PAGE FOR THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE.

networks, and the proliferation of information [3]. Kindberg et al. have schematized the motivations driving the use of camera phones for social, personal and affectiveoriented purposes [4]. Co-creative landscapes will require the creation and application of new tools, methods and methodologies for connecting, innovating, making, telling and sharing. These generative tools must be useful and usable for all types of people to provoke the imagination, stimulate ideation, stir emotions, discover unmet needs and facilitate the realization of future possibilities. [5] An alternative approach to integrating user requirements in the early stages of the design process is to engage them as partners in participatory workshops. [6] As in the educational context, learning is most effective when the learner is given the opportunity to actively participate in the experience and construct a meaningful product. [7]
Locast H2flow

Through a combination of web & mobile applications, the Locast H2flow Project allowed users to participate in their own content-generation process and enabled students to actively explore the topic of sustainable water use by creating location-based video reportages and documentaries in their communities. The platform offered a set of tools to recognize location, improve navigation and extend the amount of accessible, quality information in the community. Furthermore, H2flow guided research and helped students to document their exploration in real time and with geo-tags. The missions were designed to improve students understanding of water resources and sustainability in their community. Eight topics were explored in the following order: a) water resources in the city, b) bottled water consumption, c) the quality of tap water versus bottled water, d) the cost of buying bottled water, e) the taste of tap versus bottled water, f) the fabrication and transportation costs of bottled water, g) melting glaciers and the impact of C02 emissions on the climate, h) the future of water and global warming concerns. To complete a mission, a student is guided through the video creation process, and is given the opportunity to communicate their own interpretation of the topic to ultimately produce individual scenes of a larger narrative. Reportages were recorded and automatically

uploaded to the Locast H2flow website where they were located on a map based on where filming took place. Video segments are time stamped and viewers can comment or “like” them. Videos can be played by segments, by creator group or by individual mission. Collectively, the videos documented the local water situation as a dynamic story. The generic guidance modules were designed to provide structured yet general directions for certain tasks, i.e. to conduct an interview, make a video montage, to record Vox-pop (voice of the general public), or free style, which provides no direction or time limitation. Video guidance modules helped students navigate through the process and better organize the content, scene, camera angles, roles in the group, and other necessary tasks to complete a mission. METHODOLOGY Participatory and co-design methods were used to increase creativity in the design process. The project was structured in four steps including these methods to enhance creativity: Exploration, Concept Generation, Implementation and Achievement.
Exploration

Figure 1. Co-design workshop structure The workshop architecture was designed to share knowledge and stimulate collective creativity. [8] The codesign workshop was carried out in small, multidisciplinary teams. Group1. Computer science, interaction designer, architect Group2. Designer, educator, electronic engineer, software engineer Group3. Architect, construction engineer, software engineer. We came up with 3 different concepts using 4 steps for brainstorming. 1. 30 min. intensive brainstorming session on context, looking at the guideline questions created before the session to increase the idea generation phase (15min. for water, 15 min. for education) 30 min. clustering the ideas under common, intersecting topics 30min. creating a concept to be presented 15x3 min presentations to each group

The exploration phase included secondary and primary research methods. Secondary research includes the summary, collection and synthesis of existing research on water and environmental related technologies, water consumption and use, water problems from related conferences and seminars, and research on youth and sustainable education programs in science museums. Web based research data was continuously shared among team members via the MEL wiki page, which increased the active participation between group members. As primary research, some team members visited water-related and participatory learning-related events (Maker Faire in New York) and an interview was conducted on the education of teens about sustainability issues with the director of e-inc Learning and Action Center in Boston.
Concept Development

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The concept development phase was centered around a codesign workshop carried out with members of the Mobile Experience Lab. During the concept development phase, several methods increased participation and the creation of ideas, namely a brainstorming session using co-design methods, and a screening of a water documentary to increase understanding and discussion of concepts. The team members had meetings with outside collaborators such as Stanford Makers Play Lab, Computation Group and the Green Home Alliance energy project to brainstorm the available technologies and concepts. A screening of the documentary, “Flow” directed by Irena Salina, was a stimulating event for the team members to generate ideas. The film concentrates on the privatization of water, which prioritizes profits over the availability of clean water for people and the environment.

The first group created 3 different scenarios, while the second group focused on the experience part with a more particular concept like smell. The third group was more focused on learning within the community. After the brainstorming session, the teams commented on the various concepts and redesigned the ideas to make them more feasible. The ideas were structured according to the number of students involved, hardware and software requirements and what to ask to ask of the students. All proposals were shared in a Google document so that all group members could edit and contribute, and a Survey Monkey survey was used to rate the projects technological, economical, and general feasibility for youths.

Scenarios (Carroll 2002) were used to visualize the different suggested use cases of Locast in the community. [9]

Figure 2. Tool for guided video recording on mobile application
Implementation

RESULTS The results of the participatory workshop were evaluated by observations, before and after questionnaires, and focus group discussions. Observational sheets were prepared for shadowing students during the workshop. During observation, several issues were considered: the setting of the mission, group dynamics and behaviors of the participants, activities and interactions done by the user, and the duration and frequency of making errors while using the application. Focus group questions were asked to evaluate the user experience during the workshop. At the end of the workshop, an interview was conducted with the students’ teacher to discuss the usefulness of the workshop in the learning process and to analyze the Locast experiment from a technological, didactic and methodological point of view, as well as the possibility of integrating Locast into the school curriculum.
Workshop Outcomes

The participatory workshop was implemented on 17th of January 2011 at ENAIP (Ente Acli Istruzione Professonale) in Arco, Italy. The workshop involved 20 students divided into 4 groups between the ages of 15 and 17, who were studying at a professional high school. The school’s education system did not include any participatory or team based learning activities. The implementation phase involved a weeklong participatory workshop, divided into a 1-day introduction to the workshop, 3 days of data collection, and a 1-day evaluation and discussion of results. The students’ involvement lasted 3 days: • 1st day: Locast technology and tools were presented through an interactive explanation. The aim and the agenda of the workshop were explained by showing the video animation the bottled water story by Annie Leonard, which concerns water consumption and its impact. For the second half of the day, students worked on a test mission outside the school. • 2nd day: students completed missions on water and local water resources through further research, local surveying, and interviews. 3rd day: time dedicated to the final results of the usergenerated documentaries and evaluation of the content, technology and the user experience after using the Locast application.

The results of our research showed interesting conclusions on our methodology. Results obtained from observational notes, focus groups and before and after questionnaires. Some conclusions and recommendations are summarized below: 1. By exploring the water consumption and distribution cycle, students developed an awareness of water in Trento and beyond, and believed they were able to make smarter, more sustainable decisions in the future. 90 percent understood the missions. Their perception of water consumption has changed after completing all the missions through using the Locast application. All the students moderately or fully showed their participation in this project. The teens enjoyed working in groups, especially doing a field study outside the class when they interviewed people and could ask questions.

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4. They found the most interesting guidance modules to be Interview and Vox-pop (Voice of the general public), where they could go out into the city and ask residents questions, create their own scene and organize the roles in groups. Using the mobile phone and interview template, students learned how to properly conduct an interview. 5. While completing the missions, depending on the content, students sometimes preferred to use the freestyle template in order to express their creativity without any constraints. (eg. Future mission where they need to express their ideas on what will happen in 2020 in Trento if the local glaciers will melt.)

The system was designed according to different video template options such as interviews, vox pop, and free style. Role-playing method was also a motivating tool to engage the teens in discussion.

6. The students had usability and user interface problems while working with the application, such as time frame restraint problems, finding the right content for completing the missions, thinking of a title for the project on the mobile phone and selecting the desired

template. The students gave us some feedback regarding the usability aspects of the application and needed additional features like zoom and a more motivating intro voice. 7. The students were frustrated/dissapointed every time they make a mistake, especially due to problems with technical issues, publishing cast, sycronizing the video content, click on wrong button, low battery, etc. Depending on the mission and the selected guidance module, time intervals proved to be inappropriate with the given task, ex: asking and answering a question, which limits the creation process of user content. These issues decreased the creativity and increased negative attitudes amongst the students. 8. The teens had difficulties organizing the initial work for the mission. There could have been more introductory information on the mission page or on the specific template page where it explains the necassary materials and roles of the mission. This might also increase the creativity and help provoke discussion for organizing their work beforehand. 9. Most of the teens were able to understand the application and found it innovative and useful. They liked the idea of being able to watch their own videos and see the fruition of their work in a final product.

planning and design were based predominantly on secondary research and our own educational experiences. It would have been useful to include more teachers and educational experts from the beginning to add the classroom perspective. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The H2flow Project is a collaborative research project between the MIT Mobile Experience Lab, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, and the Museo Tridentino di Scienza Naturali in Trento, Italy. The project is developed as a part of Green Home Alliance project. We would like to thank all collaborators at ENAIP (Ente Acli Istruzione Professonale). Thanks to MIT Mobile Experience Lab team and researchers who contributed to the workshop, in particular Steve Pomeroy as mobile developer and Amar Boghani as web developer of Locast platform. REFERENCES 1. Sanders, L & Simons, G. 'A Social Vision for Value Co-creation in Design', viewed 03 Feb 2010, http://www.maketools.com/pdfs/Social_Vision_for_Value_ CoCreation_in_Design.pdf, 2009. 2. Jenkins, H. White paper: Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, 2006. Available online at http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/files/working/NMLWhi tePaper.pdf (accessed January 2010) 3. Hermanns, H. Mobile Democracy: Mobile Phones as Democratic Tools. In: Politics, Volume 28 Issue 2, Pages 74 - 82. Political Studies Association and Blackwell Publishing, 2008. 4. Kindberg, T., Spasojevic, M., Fleck, R., Sellen, A., The Ubiquitous Camera: An In-depth Study of Camera Phone Use. In: IEEE Pervasive Computing. IEEE Educational Activities Department, Piscataway, NJ, USA, 2005. 5. Sanders, E.B., Co-creation through generative design thinking, IASDR (International Association of Societies of Design Research), Seoul, Korea, 2009. 6. Sanders, E.B. and U. Dandavate, “Design for Experiencing: New Tools”, in Overbeeke, C.J. e P. Hekkert, Proceedings of the First International Conference on Design and Emotion, TU Delft, 1999. 7. Papert, S. Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas. Basic Books, I nc., NY,USA, 1980. 8. Leonard Burton, D. e W. Swap, When sparks fly: Igniting creativity in groups, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1999 9. Carroll, J. M., “Scenarios and Design Cognition,” APCHI2002, Oct.23-26, Beijing, China: 23-46, 2002.

10. The teens worked much better in several small groups than in one or two large groups. Working in small groups helped them to divide the work, and made them self-discipline each other. DISCUSSION The Locast platform enables users to generate content and share their own stories. The system makes users, in this case students, active participants in the production process. In the case of H2flow, this approach stimulated creativity by allowing hands-on learning. It also adds an imaginative approach for the learning process encouraging civic engagement and participatory urbanism. The project has the potential to expand as a curriculum activity in schools in the Trento region. The Locast platform was designed to be easily paired with external hardware such as wearable devices, environmental sensors, and other highly specific electronics that improve its potential. An open-API philosophy makes Locast an ideal platform to be implemented in a number of different educational contexts. All these technical abilities may extend the application area to be applied in various educational contexts and be used as an integrated learning tool in school programs. During research phase and concept generation, we were unable to involve educators or instructors with relative experience. Because of this, the educational aspects of