Mobile Learning and Play
Over the last couple of weeks, I have attended some really great talks and seminars on mobile learning tools and play. A week and half ago, I participated in a conference at the Exploratorium
, where we discussed Wireless Learning Technologies. So exciting! If you didn't know, the Exploratorium (the hands-on science and learning museum here in SF) as well as other museums and learning venues are trying to create ways for people to "extend the experience" to their home using mobile devices. So, they want to enable participants to be able to capture their experience within the venue and then revisit, learn more, or just play, when they get home. Cool, Cool, Stuff!!! Of course being that we are currently thinking of ways you can play with your multimedia on your phones, we are extremely excited.
As well, last night I went to hear Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman, authors of Rules of Play
at UC Berkeley, Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium
. All I can say is... RIGHT ON! If you haven't yet picked up their book, do it! Fantastic stuff!
Things become very interesting when we start to get away from centralized, strategic gaming and begin to think about play as a method of exploration and discovery. (BTW - This was also Flickr's
beginning shtick with GameNeverEnding
.)Now realize that we are all enabled all the time with a computer that fits in the palm of our hands. The phone doesn't only enable us some sort of programming power, but more importantly social connectedness. Think about how many children like to play alone. Then think about how many like to play with friends. Now think about giving each child a device that makes them connected to each other at all times. (Didn't it used to just be a soup can with a string?) Now also think about giving big kids the same device with the world as their game board.
And as it were, when we get back to the social aspects of games (which coincidently overlaps very nicely with the current push of social software) we learn that the very simplest games are often the most compelling. Simple rules, which allow the communities to discover and create their own rules. It enables participants to be in control of their experiences! (Isn't that something interaction designers are all struggling for in the first place?)
We know that these devices are changing behavior especially with media. Photos are no longer archival, but now for fun, random, events.
It seems like a pretty good fit. But it's not easy. The simplest design schemes are often the hardest to create. Perhaps, its a good thing that phones still require simple designs. Perhaps it will enable us to think eloquently about what we really want to enable people to do with them.
Im really excited about the prospect of enabling children and adults alike with the ability to explore and learn while still having fun. Everyone, yes even little guys, will eventually have phones of some variety. It's fun to think about how we can give them small tools which allow them to explore and discover more, while they are going about their everyday business. Or perhaps their everyday business just becomes one big play session.
I guess the bottom line here is: What happens when we allow play and discovery to shape our products? What happens when we give users small tools which they can create meaning with? Is it more user-driven content? Is it social networking sites? Perhaps? Or could it be more? Could it be something that adds value to many of the products that are currently out there or perhaps opens the door for new ones.