Mobile Museum Experiment

A few weeks ago, I visited a 'Mobile Museum.' Now contrary to what you might expect from my website here, this museum was mobile in the sense that it moves. It's kind of a museum in a truck consisting of portable exhibits in various stages of the prototyping process for the Oslo Children's Museum (written about here). There were about 15 6-7 year old kids playing with these exhibits and toys on the top floor of a school building.

I made this visit with the informatics students I had been working with, and we had the goal of running a simple testing session for our mobile museum device. I'll explain our process below along with a few interesting observations.

To get a sense of how 7 year-olds could understand and use mobile phones to accomplish a simple game, we gave several children camera phones and had them look for and collect photos of as many 'blue' objects as they could. We had some findings that were both interesting and amusing. I've included the pictures taken by the children along with the observations.

One child began stacking as many blue objects as he could into a pile and then took a picture of the pile. When then prompted to try to collect as many different pictures as he could, he responded, "oh, I should take a picture of the whole room?" This was his photo:

After a girl had taken several pictures, she found a blue marker and began drawing new blue objects. She then took photos of each of her new drawings. Here is one:

I also noticed that the children in the task seemed more open to interacting with strangers. Though they generally ignored the adults in the room, the context of this task had several children walking up to take close up photos of blue clothed adults:

Another significant observation, was that the children really did not appear to have any problems with the technical understanding of how to use the camera phones. We passed out both an iphone and a more traditional nokia phone. After a quick demonstration, the kids were off on their own taking photos. Here are three minutes of video from the event:

-- Rolf Steier


Mobile Projectors and Future Mobile Learning Interactions

Within the past couple of months, I've seen a few examples of a new mobile technology - mobile projectors. These are the same type of projectors that you see in conference rooms, classrooms, and home theaters. They throw images and video from a computer onto a wall or screen. Well now these devices are becoming mobile. Here's a review of one such projector that is about the size of a mobile phone or ipod. I believe pretty confidently that within the next few years, these devices will a part of many mobile phones. In fact, one such mobile phone/ projector already exists.

First of all, this technology just seems inherently cool to me - being able to project digital content from phone directly onto any public surface seems inspiring. Also, though, I find myself wondering what the potential implications could be for mobile learning interactions. One of the commonly mentioned constraints of mobile phones for learning is the small screen size. Social learning interactions especially become problematic when multiple people are sharing such a small screen. A mobile projector can effectively eliminate this constraint.

In a museum, I could imagine a group of children exploring an exhibit together. If a question or point of confusion arises, a child could access relevant resources through her phone and then project her findings onto a wall to share with the group.
I could also imagine a group of children exploring an exhibit about the skeletal system. One child could find a relevant image and project it onto the shirt of a friend - mapping the content onto themselves.
I could even imagine museum spaces supporting impromptu presentations... A visitor projects supplemental information on top of a work of art to generate discussion.

These are just my daydreams of course, but I would like to explore the implications that this technology may have on face to face mobile learning interactions. Maybe there is a simple study or experiment that could be conducted to explore these issues. Thoughts?
--Rolf Steier