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LocaLearn - a Tool for Educational Discovery in the Local Urban Environment

Liselott Brunnberg, Pelin Arslan, Federico Casalegno

Mobile Experience Laboratory @ Massachusetts Institute of Technology 20 Ames Street, Cambridge, MA 02142 {liselott, parslan, casalegno}

ABSTRACT In this paper we present a learning tool for educational discovery in the local urban environment. Challenged by missions and guided by video templates on a mobile phone, students construct documentaries about topics within their local context, with the end goal of furthering their comprehension of a topic as it relates to their community. Through this exploration process, we aim to encourages civic engagement and foster a contextual, collaborative and constructive learning environment. The tool addresses the challenge to scaffold and control the learning process when education is moved out of the traditional class room setting. It further addresses the potential of using mobile media as a tool for educational reflection. We demonstrate the applicability of the tool by presenting an implementation aimed to teach the participants about global and local issues related to sustainable water use. Moreover, we will present a deployment of the implementation with a class of high school students in Italy and provide initial user feedback on the learning experience. The user feedback suggests that guided mobile video creation can be used as a powerful tool within contextual learning. Students, at the end of the use had gained a better understanding of their citys and their own water usage, and felt better prepared to make sustainable decisions. KEYWORDS

Contextual learning, design, mobile, narratives, video, sustainability

As mobile devices with high-quality recording abilities proliferate, they are being increasingly utilized by young people to produce media content that is then uploaded, shared, and disseminated on social networks and other online distribution sites, such as Facebook, YouTube, Bambuser, Flickr etc. However, it has been observed that a gap exists between these informal learning activities, and media education in a formal educational environment (Bull, 2008). The intellectual and creative process inherent in media creation lends itself well towards engaging students within learning experiences, especially those centered on locally relevant topics. By providing the learner with the tools to creatively construct content there is an opportunity to deepen the understanding of the topic. Or as Seymour Papert (1980) pointed out in his Constructionism theory, learning is most effective when the learner is given the opportunity to experience by doing and constructing a meaningful product. Another strength of using mobile devices within education is the possibility to learn in context. Hence, the education can be moved from a formalized class room setting to a physical context where the learning objective might make more sense. By learning in physical context a learner can easier relate information to their own personal frame of reference. However, when learning in a classroom, the teacher has full control over the learning process. The same degree of control does not apply when the students are by them self outside a formalized class-room setting. How to scaffold and moderate the learning process provides an important challenge within mobile and contextual learning (Frohberg,, 2009). Consequently, an educational tool for mobile and contextual learning has to provide sufficient guidance such that the student makes sense of the leaning process and its goals. In this paper we present a tool aimed to engage students in educational discovery through mobile video production. The tool promotes an explorative and contextualized learning approach in which students discover and explore assigned topics within their own local environment, such as their school, neighborhood, community and city. The tool provides support to scaffold and control the learning process by the means of assigned missions and templates for video recording. Apart from an introduction to the learning tool we will in this paper also present a use case that demonstrates how the concept of missions and video templates can enable and control a contextual, collaborative and constructive learning process. This use case is designed with the objective to educate teenagers on sustainable water use. By using mobile video as medium the students engage in a learning-process where the end product are set to be a documentary communicating the tought topic. Finally we will present the results from a three days workshop where a class of teenagers used the technology. During the workshop the

students worked in groups, learning through various means such as conducting interviews, surveying questions to the public, and engaging in role-playing scenarios where they took the role as e.g. reporters, environmental activists, or private water company owners. This narrative exploration process taught the participants about global and local issues related to environmental impact of bottled water consumption and the predicted future of natural water resources. By exploring the topic in context, it contributed to an increased awareness and discovery of local matters, thus providing the students with a contextualized perspective on this global issue.

The work presented in this paper is above all related to the research area of mobile and contextual learning. Mobile learning is an extensive research field and a range of projects explore the prospect to incorporate the physical context into the learning experience. Several projects use for example the museum as physical context for mobile learning by providing the learners with an electronic guide (e.g. Bo, 2005; Proctor & Burton, 2004). Another emerging area makes use of the neighborhood as learning context. Paulo et al. (2008) explore the option to turn the mobile devices in to a networked measuring instrument. By taking the role as citizen scientists the learner can use the tool to investigate issues related to environmental sustainability by measuring for example air quality. The mobile technology support learning activities by measuring and visualizing the sensory data for the user. At the same time as the above projects make interesting use of physical context within educational practice they dont address the issue of control. It is here interesting to take a look at pervasive games designed for learning purposes. Pervasive games incorporate the players physical context into the learning experience and provide rules and goals to engage the user i n the experience. Hence, it provides valuable insights on how to scaffold a learning experience in physical context where motivation and education are important factors. The aim of the pervasive game Power Agent is to motivate and educate teenagers towards energy conservation in the home (Gustafsson & Bang, 2008). The player is a secret energy agent with a mobile phone as his/her main tool. Through the mobile interface the player receives assignments to save the world from an energy crisis by saving energy in their own home. The game is connected t o the households automatic electricity meter reading equipment via the cell network, and this setup makes it possible to use actual consumption data in the game. When players turn on and off electrical appliances in their homes they receive feedback on their actions within the game. Results from a deployment suggest that the game concept, and hence the use of phone generated assignments, was highly efficient in motivating and engaging the players and their families to change their daily energy consumption patterns during the game sessions. Also the game Mad City Mystery (Squire & Jan, 2007) takes a guided inquiry approach to learning within physical context. It is designed for Earth science students and through the course of the game, players talk to virtual characters to learn life histories and access documents describing chemicals, conduct simulated tests for PCBs, TCE, and mercury, and must piece together an argument about the cause of the death. Mad City Mystery also introduces another important factor, namely the design for communication and collaboration. As Schn (1983) points out, working together can improve the reflection on action. Consequently, collaboration among learners is important when learning in context. During the course of the Mad City Mystery game the students collaborate and communicate in groups by taking on different roles. By playing as doctors, environmental scientists, and government officials, they investigate the topic from different perspectives and collect different pieces of information to solve the mystery. The projects presented above scaffold the learning process such that it enables guided and situated reflection , individually or in groups. However, the students are left without any meaningful product as result of their efforts. As earlier mentioned, by providing the learner with the tools to creatively construct content there is an opportunity to deepen the understanding of the topic. In our case we explore the use of mobile video. Content construction of mobile video is earlier explored in the MoViE project (Tuomi & Multisilta, 2010). MoViE is a social mobile service that enables users to create video stories using their mobile phones. It was deployed with 8th and 9th grade students that used MoViE as a mobile video blogging research instrument to learn about Biology and Geography. The students first got to know the subject with the help of ordinary textbooks and the Internet, then they planned a manuscript for the mobile videos. They could use the MoViE application to upload videos, create remixes, watch videos, rate videos and reply to a video with their own video. The study shows that students became more active performers and participators in the classroom. Consequently, it indicates a positive use of mobile video as part of the education. However, the project does not explore the use of video as a tool for contextual learning. Neither does if explore the design challenge to scaffold the leaning process outside the formal class room setting. We believe that by providing sufficient scaffolding of the learning process, mobile video creation can be used as a powerful tool to engage the student in a creative and collaborative learning experience in context. In the next sections we will present the learning tool and how it is design to guide and control the learning process and motivate the creation of a meaningful product.


The educational tool described in this paper enables a contextualized, collaborative and constructive learning experience that addresses the needs of students as well as teachers. It combines web and mobile applications to allow for geo-located video production and sharing. By using the mobile application on an Android phone the students can record geo-referenced video content that instantly can be shared with other students on a community website. The tool addresses the challenge to scaffold the learning process when education is taking place outside the formal classroom setting by introducing the concepts of missions and video recording templates as learning formats. More precisely, the mobile application scaffolds and moderates the learning process by providing missions to complete as well as video templates that guide the students during each mission and structure the individual videos themselves. A video template is comprised of a set of shots, where each shot consists of a direction and duration (see figure 1).

Figure 1. Screenshot of mobile phone: video template consisting of 8 shots

Figure 2. Students recording videos

The directions are displayed on the screen of the mobile device while a user is shooting a video, along with a progress bar indicating the time remaining of the shot. The duration can be infinite (), a maximum time ( n) or a set time, depending on the character of the displayed direction. As such, a video template act as an automatic editing tool and also give the ability to dictate creative aspects, such as camera angles, or guide the content of the video itself, giving instructions to students for how to fulfill certain roles or what topics to speak on. Hence, it functions as an instructive tool which assists the students not only in the learning process but also in the creation of a meaningful product through media production. When the student has recorded all the shots of a template, the videos can be uploaded to the server by simply pressing a Publish button. Once published, the geo-located video clips become available on the web site and can be viewed on a map or played in a narrative sequence. The website provides for further reflection and education in the classroom setting, and also a means to share content to a greater audience. In addition to an interface for content sharing the website also provides a customized interface for the administrators (e.g. teachers), allowing them to create missions and their associated templates. Consequently, it functions as a general learning platform that easily can be tailored to fit specific learning objectives (Giusti, 2012). When the administrator creates or modifies missions and templates on the content management site they are automatically uploaded to the phones that are paired to the website and made avaliable in the mobile application. In the next section we will present an implemented use case which illustrate the applicability of the tool.


The use case was implemented for an educational workshop involving a class of high school students in Northern Italy. The workshop aimed to teach the students about global and local issues related to sustainable water use such as environmental impact of bottled water consumption and the predicted future of glaciers and other natural water resources (Brunnberg et al, 2011). Through their participation the students were involved in the creation of a video documentary centered on the subject matter. The students cooperated in groups of four to five persons, and conducted interviews, surveyed questions to the public, and participated in role-playing scenarios, where they took the role as reporters, environmental activists or private water company owners (figure 2). Through this creative and exploratory process, students studied the topic from a multiple perspectives: private versus public water, CO2 emission, climate change and melting glaciers as well as cultural value of water for the local community.

4.2 Missions
When opening the mobile application the students were presented with a list of seven missions, each dealing with diverse but interconnected aspects of sustaiable water use. Upon selecting a mission, an introductory video dealing with the subject was played and at the end of the video the student received an assignment. To complete the mission the students were not only required to investigate and solve the assignment, but also to record video content such that it composed a scene in the documentary. Consequently, when the group had completed all missions the produced documentary would be composed of seven interconnecting scenes presenting the topic based on the students investigations and their own interpretation and understanding of the matter.

4.3 Video Templates

Figure 3. Mission page

Figure 4. Video recording templates

During a mission the students made use of video templates to accomplish their assigment. Video templates were meant to control the learning process by guiding the investigation and the creation of the video itself. According to Sharples et al. (2007) the level of control is an important challenge for any learning process. Learners are not homogenous, but individuals having different creative abilities and needs for guidance. Consequently, it is necessary to provide freedom for creativity while still providing guidance by scaffolding the activities. With this in mind we experimented with different types of templates that the students could choose from during a mission. When the students pressed the record button they were presented with a list of six video templates to choose from, one specific for the mission and five generic which applied to all missions (see figure 3). Mission specific templates provided detailed step-by-step guidance of what to film. The generic templates were available within all missions and provide structured but only general directions for certain tasks, i.e. to conduct an interview, make a video montage, to record a Vox-pop (voice of the general public). The missions also included the option of a freestyle template, which provided no directions or time limits during the video recording. Depending on the mission and how a student choosed to approach it, different templates would work better than others; therefore, students were challenged to select a template that best corresponds to their conceptualization of the mission. Students could optionally make use several templates to compose more than one video to submit to a mission. When the students had recorded all of the shots in the selected templates (that is, completed the mission), they could choose to uploaded the recorded videos to the server. Once uploaded, it became available on the website where all the video clips produced by a group of students could be viewed on the map or sequentially, forming a dynamically generated video documentary.

5. USER STUDY 5.1 Method and Setting

The implemented prototype was deployed and evaluated during an educational workshop with twenty participating students. The class was in the first of five years of high school at a professional school, where students were technically trained with either a mechanical or electrical focus. The students were all males, and fourteen years of age aside from a few who had been held back in school. The class teacher divided the students into four groups with one student in each group appointed as a leader. Each group received a mobile phone with the application installed. The workshop was not officially integrated into the school curriculum, thus time available for its deployment was limited and took place during three school days in one week. During the first workshop day, the students were introduced to the project and received instruction on how to use the tool. After this two-hour introduction, students spent the remainder of the day working in their groups to accomplish missions. A researcher shadowed each group to observe and document group dynamics, activities, interactions, the students engagement or issues with the technology. The next workshop day began with a short class discussing their experiences and thoughts about the technology and program. After, the class viewed a film

featuring a selection of videos created during the previous workshop day. The remainder of this second workshop day was also spent working in the assigned groups to accomplish missions. The final day was devoted to user feedback. The students first completed a post-experience questionnaire and then took part in focus group discussions. Additionally, the teacher was interviewed regarding the use and potential of the tool as part of the education. Due to the limited time frame, aspects of the concept and design could not be evaluated, such as interaction with the website or impact and results from extended use. However, the study provided valuable insights of the learning process and potential of the tool. In the next section we will present results from the user study based on the observations, questionnaires, focus groups and feedback from the teacher.

5.2 Results
During the workshop the students were on their own without any guidance or directions from a teacher. Instead, the missions and video templates in the mobile application provided the main mechanism for guiding the students and controlling the learning process. Consequently, it were important that these control mechanisms were easy for the students to understand, were motivating to use and that they provided interesting and relevant content. The results from the study are in the subsequent text divided in three sections, i.e. learning in context, collaboration and the construction of a meaningful product.

5.2.2 Learning in context

In order to experiment with different learning contexts the missions were taking place in varied settings. Some of the missions had students going around the town to record footage while other missions were carried out inside the classroom or on the campus. For the first scene in the documentary the students were taught about natural water resources in the region, such as nearby glaciers, their provision of clean drinking water to the town and their role in the production of hydroelectric power. Their mission was to create a small video portrait of water where thy would show and tell us about its source, use and presence in the city. For this mission the teacher, along with a local expert on water and geography had selected a set of locations: old fountains for drinking and washing clothing, a channel transporting water from the mountain, and a hydroelectric plant. Consequently, each group was given a specific site to explore and film. One group by chance met a man and his elderly mother who were well informed about the old fountain they visited. The students conducted an interview and recorded video while the couple explained the fountains history, showing old pictures and reading old poetry about the fountain. This encounter made an excellent impression on the students and helped them to realize that there were many interesting things they did not know about their small town. During the second and third missions the students were free to choose locations by themselves. The second mission was to investigate and explain water consumption in their town: did citizens prefer bottled or tap water? Consequently, all the groups were downtown speaking with local residents and visitors. Many of the students did Vox-pop's, that is, a series of short interviews in public space where each person is asked the same question and the aim is to get a variety of answers and opinions on any given subject. The third mission focused on water purity, asking students to investigate the quality of tap water in their town. One group conducted an interview with a local chef devoted to serving tap water in his restaurant. Another group conducted an interview with a local water activist, who they happened to meet when recording a vox-pop during the second mission. Another group surveyed people downtown asking them whether they felt tap or bottled water was cleaner, and discussed water purity regulations with a local police officer. The final group made a short role-play scenario around the facts listed on a bottled water label. For the fifth mission, the students came back to school for a water taste test. Each group received three samples of water: two from purchased bottles and one from the tap. Few of the students could discern the tap water sample, and many were surprised by the lack of perceptible difference. The following workshop day the students carried out missions six and seven. The local expert on water and geography was present during this session. For mission six, which concerned global warming and melting glaciers, the students received a small booklet that the expert had written as well as a map displaying the surrounding glaciers and their names. Students went outside for this mission, but remained on the schools campus because of limited time; however, the snowcapped mountain range surrounding the town provided a perfect backdrop for the students footage when they were urged to present the local glaciers and their current situation. During the last mission, the students stayed inside the classroom and were expected to investigate, imagine, and report on the prospect of their town in 2050. The local expert was now available to answer questions or be interviewed by students. Several groups were inspired by the mission template to divide themselves into different roles (such as an activist, a private water company owner, a citizen, a politician, etc.) and perform a panel discussion. The post-experience questionnaire revealed that 90% of the students felt that they generally understood the missions. Only one student marked negative on this question and one student did not answer. More detailed questions reveal how they

perceived the individual missions. According to the results, the most interesting missions in terms of the subject matter and their learning were missions one and two, which received the most votes. For many of the students, these two missions were also the easiest to understand. The mission they indicated as most fun was above all mission two, which received half of the students votes. The focus group discussions provide further information on mission preference. Both focus groups mentioned the first and the last missions as their favorites because they liked interviewing people and learning about the city (mission 1) and role-playing and discussion (mission 7). They said their least favorite missions were mission three and mission seven because they were boring and hard to research and interview people about . Mission three, which concerned water purity, was difficult for the students because the mission-specific template requested that students use a computer to research information, but computers and other researching tools were not available during this day. As a result, students had to be more creative, but with less guidance and lacking the content to comprehensively respond to the mission, some student groups floundered. Mission seven was challenging for many of the students. They had limited time, were confined to the schools campus, and did not understand the mission content (CO2 emissions, global warming, and melting glaciers) as well as some of the earlier missions (water resources, bottled versus tap water, etc). Mission five, the taste test, was not particularly favorable or unfavorable to the students. One focus group mentioned that although the missions material was easily comprehensible and of some interest, they preferred missions that took place outdoors and provided more opportunity for exploration. The questionnaire also revealed that most of the students believed they learned a lot about water during the workshop. The focus groups provided further insights into what they learned. During these discussions, they claimed to have learned about: Focus group 1
I) II) III) I) II) III) How fountains had developed in their town Glaciers and Carbon dioxide emission That their town has high quality tap water and that most residents prefer to drink it over bottled water. It is good to drink tap water and that glaciers are in danger How to conduct interviews How to use mobile phone to record video

Focus group 2

The focus groups further revealed that most of the students enjoyed learning about water within the context of their city. They appreciated discovering where their water comes from and that their town has particularly high quality water. Above all, the students felt they learned most by conducting interviews with people in the area, discovering what the locals knew about water, and surveying water assumptions and preferences. The students believed their perception of water consumption and local resources changed and they from now on would avoid drinking bottled water. In the future, they would like to use the technology to learn more about other topics in their community, such as local history or pollution. It is also worth to notice that students that generally had a low level of focus when participating in class-room activities actively used the tool and engage in the workshop activities. The teacher recommended that the tool should not be introduced as a topic by itself but rather be integrated in the general school agenda. In Italy the school agenda contain four to five big themes per year, such as renewable energies, science etc. By integrating it as an complementing tool within these themes would allow for a longer period of use and a better understanding of its actual potential.

5.2.3 Collaboration
The students were divided in groups of four to five persons. Based on our own observations and feedback from the teacher we can conclude that the size of the groups worked well. The missions usually triggered discussions within the groups. Not seldom we observed the students vividly discuss how to solve a task, what to film, what to say in front of the camera or who to interview. According to the teacher, the fact that they were forced to use the same device within the group created very good spirit in the classroom. The teacher particularly appreciated the fact that the students, by acting in separate groups, learn and experienced different things that they later could share with the rest of the class. He also appreciated that this experience could shared on the Internet and not just within the school. The tool guided the students to take different roles, both implicitly and explicitly. Overall, one students always had to take the role as cameraman and one as the reporter. Occasionally, the templates themselves guided the students to take roles such as e.g. environmental activist, private company owner or citizen. We observed that the students actively discussed in the group how to divide the roles and they usually took turns to be in front of the camera. We observed great differences in how students handled this task, especially when acting as the reporter. Some participants were very comfortable and had an easier time improvising while others struggled with the role and often looked for precise instructions on what to say and how to act. The teacher explained that by taking on roles and perform in front of the camera the students overcome a lot of shyness and

insecurities, which is very important. We also observed that taking on roles motivated the students to participate. Students that did not have a role sometimes ended up being passive and did not engage in the discussions.

5.2.4 Constructing a meaningful product

The teens enjoyed working with mobile phones as tools for learning, and they were proud of their ability to learn and utilize the technology. The results form the questionnaire show that the majority of the students found the mobile application easy to use. Sixteen of the twenty students marked that they were able to learn and fully understand its use. An important function of the tool is to give the students the opportunity to be creative and to construct a meaningful product as part of the learning process. The study reveals that it was inspiring for the students to have the ability to produce content and immediately see the result on the mobile device. According to the teacher the tool brought forward their creative side. They liked to be creative by setting up the scenes, organizing the roles in the group, and filming the videos in different ways. During the focus group the students mentioned that they got very motivated and wanted to produce something cool, because they knew it would be shown for the other students in the class. Video templates were designed to guide the investigation and the creation of the video itself. When designing the templates we aimed to find solutions that targeted a varying need for creative freedom and guidelines. This need was also confirmed by the study. We could observe that some teens required step-by-step instructions while others preferred the freedom to improvise and discover by chance. During the focus groups we asked the students what templates they preferred to use during the video recording. Here, the test group was rather split. In one of the focus groups the students preferred the mission specific template to accomplish their missions. However, they also mentioned that in the last mission (where they were filming a panel discussion) it was more convenient to use the freestyle because they could discuss and film in a limitless time frame. In the other focus group only two students preferred the mission specific template. The rest of the group preferred more freedom when recording their videos, six of the students even mentioned that they the preferred to use the one shot freestyle template, which provides no structure at all. Although some of the students mentioned that they used different camera angles, especially when being instructed by the shot directions on the screen the results indicate that the students did not quite comprehend the concept of creating a documentary with interconnected scenes, short video clips and varied camera angles. However, this is not surprising considering the short time frame they had to explore the technology. Nevertheless, the students were able to create interesting video content on the individual sub-topics. Consequently, the technology worked as a tool for learning and reflection also at a more simplistic level, allowing for multiple levels of engagement in the learning experience. We believe that an extra level of complexity, specifically having to think about the overall narrative and topic framework, will allow for greater reflection in a broader context will produce a more compelling end result.

5.2.5 Summary of initial user feedback

Our user study provides initial feedback on the use of the learning tool and how our implemented design managed to scaffold and guide contextual learning, collaboration and the construction of a meaningful product. We will here summaries the main findings of the user study: Using the mobile phone and digital media as part of the education was appreciated among the teenagers and they had no problem understanding the technique of using the tool. To scaffold the learning experience through the use of missions and video templates not only worked, but also motivated participants to explore the topic in their local environment, inspired collaboration and help the students to create an interesting result. It was clear that the teens enjoyed working in groups to collaboratively create video content, and enjoyed sharing their work with their classmates. Knowing that the result would be shown to the others incentivized their efforts to produce something special. In general, the students enjoyed being able to learn outside of the classroom and they claimed it made them want to try harder than when they sat in the classroom, listening to a professor. They liked learning about water in their own town and it helped them relate to the topic on a personal level. We noticed that their discoveries left a stronger impression the more they engaged with their local community. Chance encounters with knowledgeable locals made the greatest impression on the students. In these instances, students felt they had learned something special and were eager to share this experience with the others. The tool bridged a gap between different age groups in the community Teens that usually had a low level of focus actively engaged in a motivated fashion. Roles motivated the student to participate It is important to provide video templates that support a varying need for creative freedom and guidelines. The limited time available for the workshop made it difficult to convey the concept of a narrative and consequently the

intention to construct a video documentary as product of the learning process. Despite, the individual video scenes turned out to be meaningful products by themselves

This paper contributes with insights on how to design for collaborative construction of narrative video content within a mobile and contextual learning environment. The result benefits the research field of mobile learning. We have presented a tool for enhancing learning through guided video creation. Students who partook in a 3-days workshop had the opportunity to use the tool to explore water within their local context. Although facets of the process and technology could be reworked to strengthen the experience, by the end of the workshop, students had gained a better understanding of their cit ys and their own water usage. The tool illustrates how geo-referenced media has the potential to create strong links between people, places, and information. For future tests we would like to examine how the generated media can be used in the classroom for further reflection on the topic. While our implemented use case explored water and water resources, the program and technology could be applied to numerous topics to encourage learning and civic engagement in other ways.

This research project is done within the Green Connected Home Alliance, between MIT Mobile Experience Lab and the Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Italy. We thank the Swedish Research Council for partly funding this research. We also thank our research partner the MTSN Museo tridentino di scienze naturali, and the School ENAIP Trentino, Italy.

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