Monthly Archives: April 2014

Director’s Brief: Augmented Reality

There is another world, but it is in this one.
(variously attributed to W.B. Yeats and Paul Éluard)


I investigated Augmented Reality (AR) technology use in libraries, primarily because I thought it had potential for developing a “Mission Murals field trip,” an idea that occurred to me and was inspired by Module 10. Here is my earlier blog posting about the Mission Murals and mobile possibilities.

Note: I have no affiliation with the San Francisco Public Library and this proposed project is hypothetical for the purposes of this class.

Director’s Brief Augmented Reality

For those who want the quickest rundown possible on AR, here is a Common Craft video with a basic explanation of augmented reality (although it is not specifically for libraries):

Below, the super adorable Google Field Trip video:


Why DO songs rhyme?

Imagination is a powerful tool
It’s super awesome and really cool
Kids use it all the time
Hey, why do songs rhyme?

This song was composed by my 8 year old son and his friend when they were playing at our house the other day: they came up with it together, rehearsed and then performed it for me. (They cracked themselves up with their punchline.)

In the Infinite Learning module lecture, Stephens quotes Thomas and Brown that “Where imaginations play, learning happens” (Stephens, 2014). Learning based on play can allow more real learning than the rote learning that is what we think of as “real”—that is, formal learning. I’ve always liked most formal learning (geometry being a major exception, shudder), but the learning that sticks with you the most is what happens in the teachable moment, when fully engaged in a way that play facilitates.

In the guest lecture, Peter Morville talks about the need for education to address not just the WHAT but the WHY (Morville, 2013). Why would you want to calculate the area of a circle? (I don’t, see above). Why DO songs rhyme? Kids wonder all sorts of “whys” about how things are, before formal learning beats it out of them. There’s a lot of potential learning in “why do songs rhyme”—language patterns, music patterns, how rhyme and other sound characteristics of words help us memorize and transmit them—especially before writing was invented. It’s not an EASY question to answer, but it would be a productive one to explore and discuss, without necessarily having “an” answer. The “self-paced student-centered model” Morville discusses could work WITH the natural tendency to ask why, instead of focusing on getting students to just shut up and listen.

Morville’s lecture also led me to the animation of Ken Robinson’s lecture on the troubles with our current school system (The RSA, 2010).

For those who don’t want to watch the whole video, it discusses the ways our education system is modeled on 18th and 19th century models (Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution thinking) that don’t fully work anymore, especially the factory model of churning out groups of children in batches by age, treating children as if the most significant thing about them is their “date of manufacture”—quite a contrast to the “mastery” model where the development of understanding is the constant and time is the variable (Rosenberg, 2013).

Conformity and standardization are a priority in the traditional model. If conformity and standardization are a priority, then the childlike habit of asking “why” is a problem, and childlike energy and enthusiasm—if they are not for the “correct” things—are a problem. Stephens writes, “Space for learning should be safe and encourage play and exploration – along with those comes chaos and messiness” (Stephens, 2012). The traditional model of schooling doesn’t accept that chaos and messiness very well.

Robinson includes a shocking map of ADHD diagnosis in the United States—how it intensifies by geography—from west to east. Apparently kids get more hyper as you get close to the Atlantic Ocean, who knew? The original maps are here:

(It’s even more shocking if you click back through the older data and see how quickly both diagnosis and medication of children rises from 2003 to 2011).

Percent of Youth 4-17 Ever Diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder by State: National Survey of Children's Health

Percent of Youth 4-17 Ever Diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder by State: National Survey of Children’s Health

Percent of Youth Aged 4-17 Years Currently Taking Medication for ADHD by State: National Survey of Children’s Health

According to Robinson, the “aesthetic experience” is when our senses are all engaged, and we are fully alive, “resonating with the excitement of this thing you are experiencing.” This is transformative learning. The opposite of the “aesthetic” experience is the “anaesthetic” experience—when your senses are shut off, rather than engaged. Robinson says “we are getting our children through education by anaesthetizing them” with ADHD medications.

My children are fond of pointing out to me that kids have a lot of imagination and grownups (yawn) don’t. Turns out they have research on their side. Robinson also mentions a longitudinal study of divergent thinking–an aspect of creativity. Children, beginning as kindergarteners, were followed over several years and given a test for “divergent thinking”—an aspect of creative thinking. Divergent thinking is the ability to brainstorm many possibilities and solutions—to think outside the box. The test they were given identified a “genius” level of divergent thinking. The percentage of kindergarten children who measured at this “genius” level was 98 percent. At the age of 8 to 10, only 32 percent of the same children were geniuses at divergent thinking. At ages 13 to 15, it was down to 10 percent. An adult control group of people over 25 years tested abysmally at divergent thinking, with only 2 percent at the genius level (Robinson remarked dryly, “these are the people you’re hiring”).

So we all start with this creative thinking ability and then have it educated out of us.

“We shouldn’t be putting them to sleep, we should be waking them up to what they have inside of themselves.” (Ken Robinson, in RSA, 2010). Infinite learning—connected, student focused learning—has tremendous power to wake people up instead of putting them to sleep. We need to build places for learning and exploration where you don’t worry about getting the answers “wrong.” Libraries have always been places for self-chosen learning; it’s a history that can be built on in helping with a transformation of learning for the future. “The library is an act of inspiration architecture and a keystone of culture” (Morville, 2013). Infinite learning is what we should be about.


Morville, P. (2013). Architects of Learning [Slideshare presentation]. Retrieved from:

Rosenberg, T. (2013, October 23). In ‘flipped’ classrooms, a method for mastery [Web log post]. Opinionator: The New York Times. Retrieved from

RSA (October 14, 2010). RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms [YouTube video]. Retrieved from:

Stephens, M. (2012, November). Learning everywhere: A roadmap (Report). ACCESS, 26(4). Reprinted in Tame The Web (TTW). Retrieved from

Stephens, M.  (2014) The Hyperlinked Library:  Learning Everywhere. [PanOpto]  Retrieved from


The Opportune Moment

Gagnon (2010) writes, “The discussion of learning environments and mobile media grants educators an opportunity to adopt methods of situated, contextual, just-in-time, participatory, and personalized learning.” Mobile learning has the potential to capitalize on the teachable moment, or the opportune moment.

I think the place-based learning Gagnon describes is one of the most exciting possibilities of mobile/geolocation technology. The “situated documentary” Dow Day allows the user to experience a part of history, the protests against the Dow Chemical Company at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The “documentary” is really a mobile game that puts the user at the scene of the action, experiencing parts of history as s/he moves around the actual location where historical events took place. The Spanish-learning game Mentira is an even more fascinating use of place-based learning–what better way to learn Spanish in a real and useful way than in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood! Enis (2013) mentions the tour London—A City Through Time. Foote (2010) describes SCVNGR, an app that goes beyond Foursquare in providing provide quests or challenges to the user. Mathews (2013) and Russell (2013) describe Google’s Field Trip app that can push content based on location. Hey, field trip!

Mission trip 027

Last week I went on a 5th grade field trip to the Mission District in San Francisco. We went there for a walking tour of the murals of the Mission. After exploring this week’s module, I thought the Mission murals would be a fantastic subject for place-based learning. There are two main alleys with large concentrations of murals, but there are murals, large and small, throughout the Mission, and many decorated surfaces. The murals are often full of symbolism of all types—religious, cultural, political. As an example, here are some shots of a mural decrying the gentrification of the Mission—the older residents being harassed by police on the left, the newer rich elite on the right, and above them, the skull symbolism coupled with symbols for banks and mortgage brokers who profit from everything.

Mission trip 061Mission trip 060

Place-based learning could direct viewers’ attention to small details that convey meaning. For example, in the gentrification mural above, one of the boys being stopped by the police has Skittles sticking out of and falling from his pocket, reminiscent of Trayvon Martin, a compelling symbolic detail added to the scene.

Mission trip 072

The murals are also dynamic works of art, changing over time. One of the more well-known murals is After The Storm by Tina Wolfe, which was painted to commemorate Hurricane Katrina. In its original form it looked like this:

Time wore away some of the decoupage pictures on the mural, and the artist came back to it later, so that when we saw it, it looked like this:

Mission trip 058

The color changes and added pictures and leaves represent life returning to the area devastated by Katrina. Place-based learning could educate readers about how murals change over time, and the meaning of those changes.

We came across one mural as it was being painted, in response to a police shooting that occurred only days before:

Mission trip 105

Some form of user input or curation of murals could keep a place-based learning app current and represent many local voices.

As it turns out, there was a SCVNGR game that provided a tour of the Mission murals. Too bad it was a temporary promotional event for a city guide. It would be nice to see a more permanent “exhibit” allowing people to learn about the rich but always changing art in this fascinating neighborhood.


Enis, M. (2013, February 12). Mobile evolution: How apps are adapting to a new device ecosystem [Web log post]. The Digital Shift. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Foote, A. (2010, October 20). Four geolocation trends to watch [Web log post]. Edelman Digital. Retrieved from

Gagnon, D. (2010, September 22). Mobile learning environments [Web log post]. EDUCAUSE review online. Retrieved from

Russell, B. (2013, March 7). App of the week: Google’s Field Trip will help you discover your city’s hidden gems. [Web log post]. Technobuffalo. Retrieved from:



Mobile technology and children

Louis CK (language warning)

I think Louis CK is a very funny guy, but also often profound (in the midst of all the biting humor and foul language). This video was an interesting counterpoint to all the praise of mobile technology we’ve been reading.

So, there are two main points he’s making here—humorously of course, but I think with a vein of truth. The first applies to kids and mobile technology, and the second applies to everyone.

First is the point that mobile technology is particularly problematic for children. As he says, “Kids are mean, and it’s because they’re trying it out.” I’m around kids a lot, and I’ve heard almost all of them say rude stuff that they think is funny. They heard another kid say something like it, or they heard it on a show. They are trying it out, just like they try out jumping from the top of the slide because they wonder what will happen. They inherently want to push limits (if human beings were NOT like this, mobile technology would never have been invented).

I don’t think any amount of kindness curricula and anti-bullying assemblies will ever eliminate kids testing in that way, any more than you can get children not to run around just because it’s easier for the yard duty to supervise if they don’t. (Seriously—we have “running lanes” at the school blacktop and the kids are not supposed to run around except in the running lanes. SMH.)

Running is fun. And while it’s true crashing into other people is unpleasant, or tripping and hurting yourself is unpleasant, running is still REALLY FUN. Playful banter is also fun, but going too far is hurtful—kids learn that line by crossing over it, and having to deal with the consequences. If you run, you risk hurting yourself. If you mouth off, you risk hurting someone else or hurting your own social standing because people get mad at you. “Children learn how to deal with risk only by facing risk” (Lahey, 2014). A computer environment is too safe for this kind of feedback to happen; the risk is too removed from the action for children to learn from it.

I really agree with Louis CK—when you have to face someone that you’ve hurt by your supposed witty remark, it is a lot harder to deny what you’ve done. When you are distanced by technology, it’s easier to minimize someone else’s pain. This echoes the concern raised by librarian Kathy Kleckner in Samtani (2012): “[Kleckner] says that relying on apps for storytelling dilutes the key ingredient in a child’s development: human interaction.” Babies respond more strongly to faces from a very young age, processing information at a more sophisticated level than they do when looking at other objects(Stanford Report, 2012). I hope there will be more research about exactly how children’s brains respond to mobile technology specifically, but in the meantime, I don’t think we can assume it is innocuous for them to interact with an app instead of a person.

Mobile technology is extremely compelling and fun, and I think it is a real concern to prevent technolust (or the incredible convenience of keeping kids quiet and occupied because we don’t want to be bothered by their kidlike antics) from letting kids at the technology without thoughtful reflection on what it adds, and what it might be replacing.

Louis CK’s second point is that connectivity anywhere can be used as a crutch to escape any boredom, discomfort or sadness (or our kids whining or fidgeting). Mobile technology didn’t invent the phenomenon of distracting ourselves, of course. Alcohol, sex, eating, shopping, gambling, television…unhealthy uses of experiences have been around for a long time.

Pretty much all the other problematic things are things we keep away from children or we control for them (no TV until you do your homework, that’s enough cookies for today), because we recognize that they are not yet capable of understanding the potential dark sides to the very attractive, compelling experiences. Yes, the “genie is out of the bottle” (Samtani, 2012). I agree that librarians can’t suppress or ignore apps for kids. In fact, since librarian’s traditional role has always included being a guide to the difference between junk information and reliable information, it is all the more important for librarians serving children to educate themselves about beneficial and harmful uses of mobile technology.

Lahey, J. (January 28, 2014). Recess without rules [Web log post]. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Samtani, H. (2012, December 27). Libraries use iPads and apps to ramp up storytime, but concerns remain [Web log post]. The Digital Shift. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Stanford Report. (December 11, 2012). Infants process faces long before they recognize other objects, Stanford vision researchers find [Web log post].Stanford News. .Retrieved from