Saturday, November 29, 2008

MLGK Finished!

On Friday November 28th we had a meeting with the project directors and the 'steering board' of the Mobile Learning Game Kit project The Mobile Learning Game Kit project - which we always referred to more shortly as the MLGK project - was an project of the Department of Media Studies of the Universiteit van Amsterdam (the university insists on always being mentioned by its dutch name), the Media Lab of the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and the new media foundation Waag Society, subsidized by SURF, the institution that provides the universities and polytechnics in The Netherlands with ict facilities.

After a swift start in September 2005, and some rough periods in the project's first year in 2006 we managed to complete the project by september 2008 and got the final approval of our end results from the board of SURF this november - the official letter just arrived this week. So time for a wrap up, appropriately accompanied with coffee, a bottle of champaign and chocolate pie (a combination that only goes well at 10 a.m.) but even more importantly, time for looking ahead and guarantee a future for our product.

The product is a platform for developing educational location-based games for mobile devices equiped with GPS software. As the subtitle "Learning through your city" already suggests, the idea is that especially the urban environment is an information rich environment that nowadays students can learn to explore and research with mobile devices combined with GPS, Internet, and mapping, tracing and tracking software.
The MLGK serves many educational goals at the same time. It learns students to 'read' the urban environment, to dig up and critically examine information at and information about sites and locations. Modern mobile devices allow students to take pictures, make videos, or interview people on location, and send their results immediately to other participants of the game, or to a home base where another team member can check the information, ask for complementary data, or tag the site with the acquired new information immediately. With modern communication tools students can also consult digitized archives through the Internet, and once they have processed their research results and edited those into, say, a multimedia presentation, they can upload their work on the Internet or tag the sites they have investigated and offer their research results to others for further elaboration, completion or correction (pretty much like a Wikipedia, for example).
Students do not only learn to 'read' the urban environment, but they also learn to collaborate as a team, to plan their activities strategically, to divide tasks in such a way that each student's skills, talents and knowledge is put to best use, and to do research and publish research results with new media (instead of only producing the traditional research paper).

Probably because the goals we defined before the start of the project were a bit too ambitious for the limited time and budget we had at our disposal, we didn't really deliver what we initially promised. That is, there is no real ready-for-use prototype available that third parties can already acquire and use. Thanks to the great understanding, sympathy and flexibility of SURF we were allowed to extend the proof-of-concept period over the whole period of the project. This means that we had at least succeeded in convincing SURF that our project was worth their while, and that it had enough of a potential to be further developed by either ourselves or by other parties after we had proven its feasability. This is what we've done so far, and this is what we were celebrating last friday.

But there is still quite a lot of work to be done. We need to find a publisher who wants to release the MLGK on the market, and at the same time we need to find teachers and researchers who'd like to use the MLGK in their own teaching and would be prepared to take the trouble to develop content for the MLGK. Of course, we need to provide those teachers with instructions and guidance - not because the MLGK is not user-friendely but rather because developing an educational game is quite a hard job, as we learned ourselves during the last three years. Especially since there still are hardly any teachers who have learned to teach and publish with new media, let alone locative media.
One suggestion was that we would organize a contest, and another one is that we will approach teachers more directly in order to get started as soon as possible.
Another task that needs to be completed is the creation of a website with instructions, examples, and a user guide for teachers who are interested in using the MLGK. Since all these activities must be paid for somehow, we will also have to go and look for funding.

Although the project is officially finished now, it is by no means over.

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