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Innovating Pedagogy 2013: Geo-learning

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The Innovating Pedagogy report is an annual overview of edutech from the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University. The 2013 report, the second in the series, selects 10 emerging innovations from the long list of existing technologies which the institute believes have the potential to make a significant impact on education. These are not technologies which are in development or even new, but rather technologies and ideas which are already being effected but have room to expand. The report ranks each innovation in terms of potential impact and timescale for implementation, describes its current application, and then explains the pedagogy behind the innovation and how it could be re-envisioned for maximum impact. One of the innovations described is geo-learning.

Even within the last five years, the number of blended spaces and the ways which we interact with these spaces have increased exponentially. Blended spaces are, in many ways, at the heart of geo-learning. These spaces can be man-made and designed spaces, like museum exhibits, or natural environments. What makes the space blended is the association, through technologies like GPS and quick response systems, between the geographical location and context-aware information. Though there is no single unifying theory behind geo-learning, the general idea is that learning is most effective when information is accompanied by and situated within some kind of context. However useful it has the potential to be, there are some hazards associated with the pedagogy behind geo-learning, which can be divided into three categories:

  • technical - because most forms of geo-learning are dependent upon mobile technologies, they inherent the same challenges. This includes the everyday nuisances like dead batteries, network failure, and unexpected weather conditions.
  • pedagogical - geo-learning has a certain amount of novelty to it. While this novelty can be useful for engaging students, it can also distract from the intended content. Essentially, the technology can take over the lesson. Inappropriate presentation of information can also overwhelm learners.
  • social - there are a number of social issues attached to geo-learning, particularly to technology which tracks users. This could intrude upon privacy by tracking people's movements and having access to their locations.

There's no question that geo-learning is technologically doable. The location-based information is already available, and the hardware necessary to access the information is not only possible but increasingly common. The problem, then, is to find the best methods of curating this information.

For more information or to read the full report, visit Open University's blog.