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The Benefits of Geo-Tagging and Microblogging

in m-Learning: a Use Case

Christian Safran Victor Manuel Garcia- Martin Ebner
Originally published at: Safran, C.,Barrios
Garcia-Barrios, V.M.; Ebner, M. (2009) The
Institute for Information Systems Institute for Information
Benefits of Geo Tagging and Microblogging Systems Social
in m-Learning: a Learning
Use Case,/ Computer
in and
and Computer Media and Computer Media Information Systems
Proceedings of ACM Academic
Graz University of Technology
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Graz University of Technology
in the Ubiquitous
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ABSTRACT General Terms

The recent years have shown the remarkable potential use of Web
2.0 technologies in education, especially in the context of Design, Experimentation.
informal learning. The application of Wikis for collaborative work
is one example for this theory applied. The support of learning in Keywords
those fields of education, which are strongly based on visual m-Learning, Wiki, microblogging, geotagging.
location-based information, could also benefit from Geo-Tagging,
a technique that has become popular lately. This paper presents
first development results on the combination of these two
A remarkable movement towards geo-locating software has
concepts into a geospatial Wiki for higher education, TUGeoWiki.
occurred in the last months, marking a renaissance of location-
Our solution proposal supports mobile scenarios where textual
based mobile applications. One of the reasons is the availability of
data and images are managed and retrieved during m-Learning in-
a variety of mobile devices providing integrated GPS1 receivers.
the-field as well as some desktop scenarios in the context of
Another reason is the rising number of mashup applications
collaborative e-Learning. Within this scope, one critical issue
accessing freely available mapping material via Web services, and
arises while adding and updating textual information via the
collaborative interface, which can be cumbersome in mobile thus providing added value for geospatial information. Almost in
scenarios. To solve this problem, we integrated another popular parallel, Geotagging appeared. This technique denotes the
marking of a digital resource with geographical coordinates and is
concept into our solution approach, Microblogging. Thus, the
mostly used for images. In the case of images these coordinates
information pushed via short messages from mobile clients or
can be integrated into the image by using a set of Exif2 Besides
microblogging tools to our m-Learning environment enables the
valuable discussion about privacy issues, this additionally marked
creation of Wiki-Micropages as basis for subsequent collaborative
information offers new possibilities for teaching and learning,
learning scenarios.
especially in fields which strongly depend on geolocated data,
such as civil engineering, geosciences or archaeology. The
Categories and Subject Descriptors combination of geotagging with other technologies connected to
H.3.5 [Information Storage and Retrieval]: Online Information Web 2.0 provides a further contribution to e-Learning 2.0, as
Services – Web-based services defined by Stephen Downes [1].
H.5.3 [Information Interfaces and Presentation]: Group and This paper gives a short overview on a solution to enhance
Organization Interfaces – Computer-supported cooperative work learning by integrating (mobile) geotagging of images with
collaborative authoring. The implementation of our solution
K.3.1 [Computers and Education]: Computer Uses in Education
proposal, called TUGeoWiki, supports m-Learning in reference to
– Collaborative learning
two scenarios: (i) a mobile application scenario, which focuses on
information retrieval and real-time sharing of resources, and (ii) a
desktop application scenario, which supports informal e-Learning
Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for by providing a collaborative authoring tool. For the concrete fields
personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are
of education mentioned above, TUGeoWiki represents a tool that
not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that
copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy
otherwise, or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists,
requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. 1
GPS - Global Positioning System
MindTrek 2009, September 30th-October 2nd 2009, Tampere, FINLAND. 2
Copyright 2009 ACM 978-1-60558-633-5/09/09…$10.00. Exif – Exchangeable Image File Format
supports field trips and excursions from the preparation phase, should support project-based learning in context, that is, using the
throughout the field trip itself and until the review. mobile device as an integral part of a learning activity [9]. One of
the central advantages of mobile learning is ongoing assessment
It is worth mentioning at this point that so far, only using the and possible feedback, as demonstrated in [10]. In higher
Web-based collaborative interface for the provision of textual education, m-Learning is especially interesting for fields of study
information in mobile scenarios has shown to be cumbersome.
which rely on education on-site respectively in-the-field. One
Thus, to solve these user interaction problems within the mobile example for the use of mobile technologies for teaching purposes
scenario, we propose to incorporate the novel Web 2.0 concept of is the EU research project RAFT (Remote Accessible Field Trips),
Microblogging into the work with a Wiki. which was conducted from 2002 to 2005. The target of this
The remainder of this paper is structured as follows. First some project was the support of school classes with virtual excursions
topics of interest in the context of this research are presented and using portable Internet-conferencing tools [11].
discussed in relation with TUGeoWiki. Subsequently the
development and functionality of the TUGeoWiki are presented 3. A GEOSPATIAL WIKI FOR M-
and design decisions explained. The next chapter is focussed on LEARNING
the expansion of the existing solution with the integration of
The previous chapters introduced two relevant aspects: the
microblogging. Finally a summary and some outlook on future
importance of visual information, particularly location-related
work are given.
visual information, for several fields of education as well as the
advantages of collaborative learning with Wikis. Along these
2. TOPICS IN CONTEXT lines, this chapter introduces firstly the most relevant traits of the
The development of TUGeoWiki was based on related work from proposed solution, and gives then an overview over the solution
three areas: geotagged images, Wikis for collaborative learning, itself, TUGeoWiki.
and mobile learning.
In subjects like civil engineering, geosciences, architecture etc.
3.1 Why lightweight, geotagged and mobile?
In order to combine the two aforementioned technological
higher education is strongly based on visual information. As
aspects, we designed and developed a solution approach for a
pointed out by Brohn, the “language of intuition is visual, just as
lightweight, geotagging-based and mobile learning environment
the language of analysis is abstract and symbolic” [2]. Taking
applying a geospatial Wiki.
civil engineering as an example for such a subject, several
research activities have been able to point out the importance of The term lightweight expresses our efforts to implement only the
visualisations, animations, as well as interactions for civil basic features of a geographical information system (GIS) for
engineering [3-5]. Especially for explanations of highly complex learning, namely (a) collecting, and (b) displaying geotagged data
engineering models, new technologies offered a completely (also as map overlays). We consider further features of GIS, such
different way of teaching and learning. Still, visualisations lacked as data analysis and modelling, to be out-of-scope, as they are
at one particular point: the connection of the abstract engineering only necessary for geosciences professionals. Moreover, our
model and the real world. The major competence of any practical notion of lightweight embraces also our intent towards
engineer is assumed to be the capability of abstracting an unobtrusive user interaction features based on well-known
appropriate model from nature in order to develop a quantifiable software practices. Especially as far as the technology acceptance
mathematical model. This allows us to state that the knowledge of mobile applications is concerned, lightweight also refers to the
about the particular environment where a building will be placed overall costs, as low-cost applications with low maintenance
is highly important. Hence, a connection of visualisations and efforts have turned out to be best accepted [12].
real-world locations can be achieved by using geotagged images. Further, our solution proposal concentrates on location-related
Considering another relevant topic, Wikis, as online collaboration information, and thus on learning scenarios where such
tools, were introduced by Leuf and Cunningham in 1995 [6]. The information is an essential part of the curriculum. In those cased,
term itself is derived from the Hawaiian word wikiwiki, meaning students can benefit from a clearly defined relation of learning
quick. The technology has been designed to provide a simple tool material to a geographic location (geotagging-based).
for knowledge management, which places at the disposal of all Finally, the term mobile describes our intention to offer access to
users a smart possibility to mutually create and edit content information and learning material “in-the-field” in order to
online. In addition, individual users may use the functionality of enhance “on-site learning” whenever applicable. It is worth
version history to retrace all content modifications and, if desired, stating at this point that within the context of our solution
revert to earlier content versions. As such, a Wiki is an easy-to- approach, we focus on mobile phones and PDAs3 instead of other
use application for the collaborative management of online mobile technologies in order to stick with the primary goal of a
content. These characteristics have made Wikis a tool of choice in lightweight system, as such devices are widespread and handy to
informal learning [7]. The importance of Wikis in e-Learning has carry in the field. Moreover, the user of mobile technology should
lead Stephen Downes to list them as one of the basic technologies enable us to foster collaborative activities of learners wherever
of e-Learning 2.0 [1]. possible, whenever possible.
Mobile learning (abbreviated, m-Learning) is the combination of
e-Learning and mobile computing, and promises the access to 3.2 TUGeoWiki
applications that support learning anywhere, anytime [8]. Our solution approach, the TUGeoWiki system, is a geospatial
Meanwhile, due to technological progress, hardware is considered Web-based mobile application that aims at supporting the learning
a solved problem. However, innovative, affordable and usable
software remains the greatest challenge. Handhelds, for example, 3
PDA - Personal Digital Assistant
scenarios given so far. This section gives an overview on the main TUGeoWiki to search for places in the vicinity of the current
features of the system, for more details please refer to [13]. The location or to create a new place in the Wiki and start
TUGeoWiki system is based on the well-known open source collaborative learning about the topics of the current location. The
MediaWiki implementation. We have chosen MediaWiki for two main goal behind this scenario is to satisfy an information-need
reasons. just-in-time concerning the current location as well as enabling
First, it provides two well-defined mechanisms for extension of real-time sharing of resources (mainly images) concerning the
functionality: special pages and templates. Special pages are location. Due to the restrictions of the user interface (cf. i.e. [18]),
pages without Wiki content, which are generated on demand and collaborative authoring in this mobile scenario is a non-trivial
are used to provide additional tools for users, e.g., file upload task, and thus the editorial work on places has been restricted to
[14]. Templates are pages created for transclusion purposes, and The mobile application scenario provides access to the learner’s
usually contain repetitive materials or blocks of information (e.g., current location by querying internal or external GPS sensors. The
infoboxes) [15]. coordinates retrieved from the GPS sensors are used in
And second, the user interface of MediaWiki is probably the best- TUGeoWiki to search for places in the vicinity of the current
known Wiki user interface, among others, due to the immensely location or to create a new place in the Wiki and start
broad use and high popularity of Wikipedia [16]. collaborative learning about the topics of the current location. The
main goal behind this scenario is to satisfy an information need
TUGeoWiki modifies the MediaWiki paradigm of pages for the just-in-time concerning the current location as well as enabling
individual entries in order to define places, which are relayed to real-time sharing of resources (mainly images) concerning the
geographical coordinates, and thus represent real-world locations. location. Due to the restrictions of the user interface (cf. i.e. [18]),
In our terminology place thus defines the entity in the system, collaborative authoring in this mobile scenario is a non-trivial
while location denoted the actual geographical entity. This task, and thus the editorial work on places has been restricted to
modification is achieved by using MediaWiki’s special pages to the creation and annotation of so-called place stubs. Place stubs
create location-based entries as well as templates to display them. (also called article stubs) can be seen as temporary mini-place
Figure 1 depicts the concept of creating a place. These templates objects that learners use at their mobile devices, and after
are designed as mashups, thus extending the Wiki entries with submitting them to the Wiki server, they can be described in more
mapping material from Google Maps or Microsoft Live Search detail. Additionally for the mobile application scenario,
Maps. Additionally, a hyperlink to the MediaWiki extension TUGeoWiki provides a feature to create geotagged images with
Geohack provides access to numerous other map sources [17]. the mobile phone’s camera and embeds the GPS coordinates in
the Exif headers of the image files. In a separate step, these
images (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 an
arbitrary location around the corresponding coordinates.
We have stipulated these two aforementioned scenarios in order to
improve learning activities in-the-field and on-site by supporting
several steps in such learning journeys, i.e., activities before and
after the journey with the desktop scenario and activities during
the journey with the mobile scenario.
The component architecture of the TUGeoWiki system as well as
the interactions among the individual parts (with focus on the
mobile scenario) is shown in Figure 2. The mobile device (mobile
Figure 1: General notion for creating places in TUGeoWiki phone or PDA) is equipped with the TUGeoWiki client and a
This Wiki application can be used in classroom or remote learning Web browser. The client retrieves the current coordinates of the
scenarios to provide a tool for collaborative activities on device either from an internal GPS sensor, or, via Bluetooth, from
geospatial information, resulting in two application scenarios: a an external sensor.
“desktop application scenario” and a “mobile application The client relays requests for upload of images to the mobile
scenario”. browser or directly to a server side application programming
The desktop application scenario is based on collaborative interface (API). Requests for information about the current
authoring with the Wiki and fosters process-oriented learning and location or requests for creating a new place for the current
task-based learning. Possible use cases in this context are the location are always relayed to the mobile browser. The browser is
preparation for field trips as well as post-processing and review of mainly used to access the adapted MediaWiki on the TUGeoWiki
the information gained in such an excursion. The focus of this server side, which shares a common database with the API. For
scenario is set on collaborative authoring in order to support each new entry, the Wiki displays a place template, which embeds
informal learning on the topics of such an excursion. a Google Map, and links (relaying the place’s coordinates) to the
Geohack extension as well as Google Maps and Microsoft Live
The mobile application scenario provides access to the learner’s
Search Maps.
current location by querying internal or external GPS sensors. The
coordinates retrieved from the GPS sensors are used in
Figure 2: TUGeoWiki component architecture – mobile scenario
A first version of this mobile client has been implemented using the typical mobile phones limitations regarding their small screen
Java Mobile Edition (Java ME) to provide the basic functionality sizes and the complexity of writing with mobile or virtual
for a wide number of mobile devices. On the one side, this Java keyboards. In order to solve this problem and to simplify the
client provides access to internal GPS sensors or Bluetooth GPS interactions with the Wiki, we propose the usage of an alternative
sensors as well as to the mobile device’s camera, and on the other technique, which is based on the principle of adding (small) notes
side, it forwards information about the current location of the to existing articles as a foundation for collaborative activities
device to the mobile browser. In turn, the mobile browser is used within our desktop application scenario. In analogy to the
to access the TUGeoWiki server side application. The Java ME Microblog Paradigm, short messages are sent by the users and
application acts only as a tool to provide data for the browser but integrated into the Wiki, creating Micropages.
does not access the TUGeoWiki server itself.
Additionally, native applications for Symbian OS (respectively 4.1 The Notion of Micropages
the S60 platform) as well as Android have been implemented. Due to the fact that the number of mobile devices connected to the
These applications provide the same features as the Java client, World Wide Web is growing incredibly fast, microblogging has
but are using a different software design. They access a server become one of the most interesting innovative applications
side API which is used to query, add and modify the Wiki data nowadays. Microblogging can be seen as a variant of blogging,
without the use of a Web browser, offering an alternative mobile where small messages, usually not longer than 140 characters, are
user interface. An iPhone client for the TUGeoWiki system is posted instantly and on-demand to microblogging service.
currently under development. Microblogging can be defined as “a small-scale form of blogging,
generally made up of short, succinct messages, used by both
4. MICROBLOG INTEGRATION consumers and businesses to share news, post status updates, and
In the previous chapter, the two possible application scenarios for carry on conversation” [19]. As far as the user-intentions are
TUGeoWiki, mobile and desktop, have been described. It has concerned they can be categorized in the following four types:
been shown that the mobile scenario is mainly focused on the daily chatter, conversations, sharing information, and reporting
satisfaction of ad-hoc learning needs as well as on proactive news [20]. Further, research work has pointed out that
information push to the Wiki, rather than on collaborative editing microblogging is extremely useful for the fast exchange of
of contents. So far, the examples given for such an information thoughts, ideas and information sharing [21]. Considering the
push were the creation of place stubs and the extension of places growing importance of mobility and mobile applications, e.g.,
with geotagged images. However, this approach lacks of a Twitter (the largest microblogging platform worldwide) became
possibility to easily share information about/across images via the one of the prime examples for Mobile 2.0 [22].
mobile application. For any textual information added to To characterise the notion of Wiki pages that are based on small
individual locations, the standard MediaWiki edit functionality individual information pushes, we apply the term micropages.
must be accessed with the mobile browser. First evaluations with Thus, micropages are the Wiki analogy of microblogs, which
a small group of users showed that this functionality was describes our approach focusing on smaller parts of information.
perceived as cumbersome and avoided as far as possible. These
reactions of the evaluation subjects are assumed to be a result of
Figure 3: Example for a TUGeoWiki micropage with one annotation
In a microblog, brief text updates are used as status messages to
write up information for friends and other “followers”. By 4.2 Using Micropages with the Mobile Client
encouraging shorter posts, microblogging can fulfil a need for a Micropages are currently supported by TUGeoWiki’s Android
faster form of communication [20]. Within the scope of this paper, and Symbian client. In both versions, the annotation attached to a
we propose to use micropages as Wiki pages that are built out of micropage has been implemented as for the upload of pictures.
short individual annotations on the topic of the page. In This process is described in the following.
TUGeoWiki, each of these topics is a location, and each page is a In a first step, the user writes a message of 140 characters at most,
place. Figure 3 depicts one example for a micropage in annotating her current location and chooses a distance from the
TUGeoWiki containing one annotation. current location for the search of suiting existing places. The
The creation process of such a micropage by means of the Wiki’s client subsequently retrieves the current position from the built-in
special pages is depicted in Figure 4. A short message is created GPS sensor and relays it to the server, which returns the list of
(usually on a mobile device) and geotagged with the user’s current existing places within the chosen distance. On client-side, the user
location. A special page is used to find an appropriate place or chooses either one of the existing places to annotate or creates a
create a new one, and to append the message at the end of the new place by entering a title. As previously mentioned, the
micropage. message is then attached at the end of the place, accompanied by
the user’s username as well as the date and time of the post.
Some sample screenshots of the TUGeoWiki Android client
during the annotation workflow are shown in Figure 5. In the first
screenshot, at left side of the figure, a message is composed. The
second screenshot shows the selection of the distance for
searching existing places. The third screenshot displays the list of
existing places retrieved. Finally, the fourth screenshot displays
the message included in one of these places, in the Wiki at server

Figure 4: General notion for creating micropages 4.3 Integrating Microblogging Services
The building parts of a TUGeoWiki micropage are derived from Another possible source for the creation of micropages is the
the received messages and always appended in chronological integration of a so-called microblogging service. The analogy of
order (earliest on top) instead of in reverse chronological order (as micropages and microblogs inspired us to define an additional
in weblogs) to better address the Wiki page paradigm. These parts user interface. As stated before in this chapter, the annotation
are furthermore tagged with some metadata, such as the author’s feature of the mobile client is purely intended for in-the-field and
username, the date and time of the post. just-in-time annotations of geospatial information by sending
short messages that describe the current location. Due to the fact
Unlike microblogs, micropages are not intended to serve as means that the location is determined via GPS coordinates, a later
for synchronous communication, but to share only the concept of annotation of resources is not feasible. The problem in this
information push of short messages. Further, a new micropage is context arises when short annotations to already existing Wiki
not intended to represent a final content in the Wiki; rather (as for places are interesting for users after visiting the location, thus the
Wiki contents in general) it should be iteratively revised and following alternative user interaction might be of interest. In
improved to a final form via collaborative authoring. In concrete, TUGeoWiki we integrated microblogging services that support
micropages represent stubs for content in a Wiki, i.e., short Twitter posts. We have chosen the Twitter service because it is a
annotations added to “sketch” the final page anytime, anywhere, well-known microblogging application with a well-defined API.
and in the case of TUGeoWiki in-the-field and just-in-time.
Figure 5: Screenshot of annotation feature of the mobile client
Taking into account this background, a very interesting aspect of lacking geographical information lead to the development of
microblogging gained our attention: filtering information using a TUGeoWiki. This approach provides a possibility to collaborate
unique letter. This technique is referred to as hash tagging and has on geotagged information in a Wiki, based on the concept of
been introduced on several microblogging platforms. It is used for places as individual articles. Moreover it provides means for
search queries or marking special content. Hashtags are a simple learning in-the-field by uploading geotagged pictures and, with
way of grouping messages with a “#” sign followed by a name or the help of microblogging, also geotagged messages.
special code. [23] In summary, it can be pointed out that our approach contributes to
Hashtags in microblogs are especially meaningful when used the enhancement of the collaborative activities between learners
during a particular period of time, as “it not only allows by enabling them to feed and compose geo-information with
individuals to generate a resource based on that specific thematic, personal annotations (i.e., with the mobile part of the TUGeoWiki
while using the hashtag, but also bridges knowledge, and system) into a user-friendly environment for mutual authoring
knowing, across networks of interest”. [23] (i.e., the Wiki-based server side of our system).
On the server side of the TUGeoWiki system, users may use a In further studies and field experiments we will explore and
special page to mark a place as “microbloggable”. Moreover, evaluate how the underlying implementation framework finds
individual users are provided a feature to append their Twitter applicability and usefulness in other research areas.
user names to their user profiles. This information is relayed to a
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