I was able to attend some of the sessions in the auditorium of the online Mobile Learning Conference. This was my first time accessing an online conference, so it took some getting used to. When I went into a “shop” and the representative addressed me by name through my computer speakers, I was a little taken back.
However, I found many of the presentations fascinating and helpful. Chris McClaren of Tristan more about their philosophy of how to create great mobile learning experience, than a detailed description of their product. I found this approach very helpful and would like to share his thoughts. At Tristan, they can work with institutions to create anything from a simple audio, App, or game to a marketing strategy. Chris believes that the mobile learning program should be made multiplatform. This is to ensure that mobile users can access content using iPhones, Blackberries, Androids or Mobile web. The content should also include a social media strategy, allowing users to connecting to twitter, Facebook or a blog.
Chris explained the difference between Native vs. Mobile Web. A native App is an App that is created to run specifically on the phone it runs on. For example an App created for the iPhone platform runs on an iPhone cell phone and it can’t run on a Droid or Blackberry. The Mobile Web is flexible and can run on all the platforms, but lacks in functionality and design. According the Chris, Native has its advantages over Mobile Web. It runs smoother, looks better and it also allows for more accessibility features, such as voice over support. His recommendation is to create a Native App on mutliplatforms. This option is not that much more expensive.
The museum must market the app “Apps don’t sell themselves.” He then described an example of a museum in Canada that increased its App sales 10 times in one week, through signage, website and newspaper marketing.
At the end of his presentation he described that an App can be created for as low as $10,000.00, which I thought was expensive. It seems to me that mobile learning can be an expensive investment for an institution. This must be why there are so many of these companies out there and not that many museum Apps. I included a list of the exhibitors with emails to this blog just incase anyone was interested.
Some fun facts that I learned from the conference include:
OnCell Presentation
90% Of people in the US are Cell phone users.
55% Use basic phones
45% Of them use Smartphones
12% Use iPhone
18% Use Android
15% Blackberry Palm
Only 18% of visitors access content using QR codes.
AMNH Explorer and Dinosaur Tour:
I don’t know if it was because I was completely overwhelmed by the crowds at MNH, but I was really not impressed with their free mobile learning apps. I know these Apps cost a lot of money to make but I really expected more.

I used the Dinosaur App and the Explorer App. For a good hour Canaan, my husband and I couldn’t find any of the Dinosaurs in the Dino Tour and the GPS couldn’t find us, to show us where to find the Dinos. After asking two staff member that didn’t know anything about an App or cell phone tour, we went to the information desk to get advise. The gentleman at the desk told us that we needed to sink with their Wi-Fi or nothing would work. We didn’t see anything posted informing you to sink with their Wi-Fi anywhere.
We finally found the Dino’s we were looking for and accessed their App information. This included a picture of what we were looking right at and three sentences about the dinosaur that were in the panels in front of you. After you accessed the information you were able to Bookmark your Dino as visited, email yourself information about it and tweet your find. All of this social media interaction was very cool, and the information that was sent home was very thorough. I found the App worked well to send information home but did not provide any new information at the museum.
Some of the things I expected in the Dino tour included, text and photos that were not in the museum display. Some ideas I had to remix the App include: Images of the Dino excavation, video of conservation, a rendering of what the dinosaur looked like, or a digital recreation of its habitat. Using augmented reality to see a view of where the dinosaur remains were found layered into a current view of the site today would have added a really unique experience to the display.
All in all I was very disappointed. I hope they plan on evolving the App to include some of the new ways museums are using Apps to highlight their collection, what they do and provide a unique experience they can’t get a home.
Mobile Learning companies