Social Software

Mobiles, micro content and personal learning environment

In June I am going to the Microlearning conference in Innsbruck. I promised to give a talk with the title “Emerging Microcontent Environments”. First I thought to talk mainly about the MobilED project, but after rethinking the theme of the conference I decided to talk about the following things, too, at least, maybe …

For some months now I have been a bit hooked to Jaiku. It is the first (3G) mobile application I am using almost daily. Jaiku is a service for sharing presence updated with your contacts on your mobile and the Web. With your Jaiku mobile client you post things like what are you thinking, doing, where are you, where you are going, are you busy or not etc. A lot of this data Jaiku is able to grab automatically from your mobile phone. The mobile client then shows you this information about your contacts if they are Jaiku users, too. Furthermore you may add feeds in your Jaiku web page (see my Jaiku web page). I am sure they are working on to provide the feeds also in to the mobile client. All in all Jaiku is simple, elegant, and very attractive.

Another mobile application I am nowadays using a lot is Widsets. It’s a library of (and a service to create) mini-applications (widgets) for your mobile using RSS feeds. The feeds are simply pushing information from the web on your mobile phone. In addition to this there are more complicate “mobile web 2.0 widgets”, which you can create with the Widsets tools. My favorite is the Wikipedia widget. You may search and will get the article nicely rendered and scaled for your mobile phone screen. Can’t wait to get a mobile widgets for other Wikimedia projects: Wiktionary and Wikibooks, at least.

Think about it! You really may have a huge library and your personalized news services (RSS-feeds) right in your pocket. With you, always.

Another nice thing with the Widsets is that it works with WIFI, if you happen to have one in your mobile phone. For Jaiku you must, at least now, use the 3G network. No idea why is this.

Like always I started to think how these mobile web 2.0 applications could and should be used in learning. Most obvious answer is that they are making the “personal learning environment” mobile and real. Maybe they are, but potentially they may offer even more.

Actually I am pretty critical about the concept of PLE. I am critical about it because it doesn’t put in a center community, but emphasizes content. I also do not like the idea of bringing “personal things” to learning. I think meaning making requires groups, communities and societies living in some historical time and space. It asks for social contracts, trust and long-standing commitments. Personal things should be kept personal.

Mobile phones are social tools. Well, they are, first at all phones: you call someone, you talk with someone. This is important from the pont of view what kind of user culture you may build on top of the “phone feature”. With mobile phone in the center there are your friends and family – those people with whom you have strong links. With mobile phone you are, at first, in touch with those who care about your wellbeing. These people are also interested in your learning. They know that if you are doing well in terms of knowledge and skills you will do well in everything else, too. In your mobile phone contact list you have people you share a lot – much more than with the people in your online contacts. If you don’t believe me check your email contact list and your mobile phone contact list and you will see the difference.

How the strong links in mobile systems could be then used in learning?

I don’t know yet. Let’s think about this in Innsbruck.

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