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Google Goggles – an important tool for mobile work based learning?

December 10th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

Is Google running short of imagination. Not when it comes to applications – there seems to be a new product announcement almost everyday. But Google Goggles – who thought that up? Its a terrible name. But in terms of developing a work based mobile learning platform it may represent a big step forward.

Goggles is a very simple application. You merely point your Android phone at an object – a building, an object, an artefact – and it produces search results based on the image (Google say they will be porting it to other platforms in the future).

If course Goggles has not been developed for learning. Google are interested in driving more search traffic to their site and have arguably paid little attention to education in the past (witness the little attention paid to developing Google scholar). But we have noted before the way in which social software applications (as well as mobile devices) are being appropriated for learning despite their original design purpose.

Work based learning poses particular opportunities and issues and for mobile learning.  Most elearning courses are based on formal programmes of study, on a curriculum, usually designed around a particular discipline. Even vocational programmes envisage steady progression through a corpus of ideas and knowledge, albeit with practice based phases. Work based learning is predicated on occupational practice. Practice is often inter disciplinary in terms of a knowledge base and progression is dependent on the nature of the work being carried out. In other words in work based learning the context of action is king. Up to now it has proved difficult to develop elearning base don widely differing contexts of practice based action.

Mobile devices have portability to be used in workplaces where access to computers may be problematic. Goggles can allow simple gesturing to allow access to a wealth of information about the particular practice being carried out. Of course this is not enough to support learning. Learning requires reflection. But it is not difficult to envisage a simple interface allowing reflection through audio, video or text input which could then be aggregated along with the original video which sparked the reflection and the results of the Google search. The addition of keywords could allow such reflections to be added to a Personal or Organisational Learning Environment. Geotagging could also allow an extension to enhanced reality applications thus allowing interaction with other learners also encountered similar learning situations.

The object or artefact opens a Zone of Proximal Development in Vygotsky’s terminology, with ‘the significant other’ supporting learning being mediated through technology.

Workplaces could become a rich learning environment with learning opportunities embedded in artefacts and in geographical spaces. And at the sameGoogle Giggles  time informal learning, that learning which takes place everyday in relation to context, can be brought together within a formal learning base.

None of this seems unrealistic to me. Who wants to build me some apps to try it?

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