mLearnCon 2010: Dr. Mimi Ito – What the User Wants in mLearning

Live Blogging Wednesday’s Keynote

I really respect Cammy Bean and others who live blog the conferences they attend. It’s not that easy for me because I want to sit and listen, soak it all in, yet I feel a responsibility to share with you in the blogosphere and Twitterverse. My fingers didn’t always keep up with the speakers or facilitators. So, here’s the “raw” live blogged post from Wednesday’s Keynote Speaker. If you’re reading this and you attended the Keynote, please feel free to use the Comments to add or clarify what I wrote below. Thanks!

What the User Wants in mLearning

Dr. Mimi Ito
Research Scientist
Dept. of Informatics,
Univeristy of California, Irvine

Keynote: Dr. Mimi Ito, 16 June 2010

Dr. Ito began with photos of what Japanese teenagers carry in their purses or backpacks. Typical is two of each device.

Multimedia is enjoyed on one device while commuting on the train and they text friends at the same time using the second device. Device proliferation: teens consume information, capture and produce their own media, and stay in constant ambient contact with each other.

People will go to great lengths to have personal content at hand. Users customize their media environment themselves, filling in gaps inherent in devices. We can harvest this drive this potential.

Social Media, Mobile Media, is highly personal content shared with others. They want to, they need to share it with their mobile community (friends, not necessarily their parents).

Good to look at Japanese youth to monitor future trends as they’re about 10 years ahead of US youth.

Information is flowing across institutions, and the mobile youth culture is the center of innovation. The kids have incubated the trends that have spread globally.

The social context is as important to them as the content you want to deliver to youth. The device is a proxy for the social relationships those devices connect people to.

Youth are not only media consumers, they are media producers. And higher ed professors are struggling with a mobile-media-driven lecture hall.

Question from Dr. Ito: “How many of you checked your iPhone in the first 5 minutes of my talk?” (Lots of guilty chuckles in the Hall.)

Today’s multitasking students and teams are tomorrow’s multitasking workers.

We need new mechanisms for managing and focusing attention of these new learning styles, instead of enforcing the old learning model.

Video: A Vision of Students Today

Dr. Ito played this YouTube video that I’d seen before and continues to amaze me. It was produced by Kansas State University, Professor Michael Wesch:

We need to use these new flows of knowledge for lifelong and ongoing learning.

Social Media = Social Communication + Personal Media. It’s you, making a personal pathway in the mobile world, and sharing with others. Adaptive learning in a world of constant change.

The Mobile World/Social Media Space: Peer sharing. Social viewing. Locative Media. Transmedia

Peer Sharing

Primary tool for personal communication. A portal that links the individual to the Mobile World. A powerful motivator of adoption, individual’s ability to access this world. The small screen of the mobile is not a limitation, it affords privacy and personalization that produces a sense of intimacy, much more than a laptop’s screen. The teen’s SMS messages seem silly, but it’s all about sharing presence not information. A shared meaning of activities they are pursuing. The full-time, intimate community. They text, voice call, get together in RW (real world), then text about the event, voice call, text again. Starts again the next day. SMS drove mobile internet adoption in Japan. (Mixi, most popular social website in Japan). Mobile is the most preferred way to access community/social websites instead of via a laptop.

Shared collaboration and participation…tech support/dispatchers used mobile to share information with each other. Knowledge transfer via exchange of tech info. Their team becomes their “always on” community. Co-consulting. Collegial communication. Ordering parts. Contacting the sales rep. Asking Qs, getting As, sharing learning with others. Reading and learning from each other.

Mobile builds shared awareness, learners benefitting from knowledge gained from each other’s work.

Locative Media

Linking mobile media to specific locations. Use of camera phone. They capture their relationship to things and places. Always take photos of themselves with friends and create sticker albums. They document their social gatherings in urban spaces, and they share the photos. They are always carrying their friends around with them (photo stickers applied onto their devices).
AMBIENT STORYTELLING… USC is doing: (Disclaimer: Dr. Scott Fisher, her husband, is leading this). An effort to invent stories that is used only in one space. For example, architecture. The Million Story Building Project. Playful interaction with the building and learning its history. The building has its own Twitter stream (tweets about the temperature, etc.), QR codes in different parts of the building where people can gain more detailed information. Residents and visitors can also add to the database of information.

Social Viewing

Niko Video is a very popular Japanese YouTube but different in that people can post comments at specific time points w/in the video. It’s like sharing the video on your mobile device with an entire community. Creates a social layer. K-Nect project… a major contributor to the students’ access via the e-classroom support structure via 3G connectivity. Allowed students to connect with peers, tutors, professors 24/7 and anywhere (outside the classroom walls).


Pokemon. Today’s college graduates are the first Pokemon generation to move into the adult world. Portable media. Gaming changed the social landscape. New mode of interaction. No longer strange to see young people in social gatherings with their gaming devices. Huge volume of esoteric knowledge generated while the player progresses through the game. Content that’s about gaming and social interaction. Mobilizes kids to do something with the knowledge. Social glue. Flocking: when a child pulls out their game boy they flock around the device. Context of learning and social sharing help the kids to learn the game boy; there’s an assumption that there’s a social wrapper because one child cannot master Pokemon alone. Nintendo has taken advantage of this social media.  (DS Ware – learning platform by Nintendo) (Brain Age, appealing to older learners) Now, professors are using DS Classroom to use DS Ware devices for education. Early stage.

(Steven R. Crawford of ASU’s Distance Learning raised his hand and mentioned that McDonald’s is using DS devices in employee training.)

MannaHatta Project

New Youth City Network. Eric Sanderson. NYC and it’s original flora and fauna before it was developed. Students can use mobiles to learn about the previous rich ecosystem of Manhattan. In the MannaHatta Project, they explore, share, interact…

(Dr. Ito thanked/acknowledged: Daisuke Okabe. HeyRyoung Ok. Becky Herr. Ellen Seiter. Miranda Banks. Joi Ito. Scott Fisher. Diana Rhote.)

The wrapper of peer mobile sharing will make mobile learning happen and be effective.


Middle School is the age when they can be captured to stay on the academic path. The Quest to Learn school in NYC, using gaming and mobile in their instructional models. Different from traditional classroom learning. The kids are building things together. The kids just finished their first year, and studies continue regarding results.

Q: What will these youth be like in today’s traditional Workplace?
A: We don’t know yet. Referred to research and studies going on at The Quest School in NYC, see above.

Q: Big risk in the shared knowledge ecosystem with sharing of ideas not based on fact that become a truth.
A: Like Wikipedia, needing more mentors and an established vision to self-edit and confirm information. It’s not there yet. Needs to be.

Management of personal attention is a new Competency. Youth may need to acquire this.

Q: What ways do you see higher ed changing due to these youth?
A: Higher ed is being more responsive. Extension Colleges. Innovation begins at the margins, or youth don’t show up for classes. Both provide pressures to change the University’s core functions. Faculties are trying to adapt and change.

Thank you, Dr. Ito, for an amazing Keynote!


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