Monday, June 29, 2009

Mobiles in the classroom

Nokia has kicked off an initiative to start thinking about how mobiles can be used to improve the classroom learning experience. Together with the Pearson Foundation they are sponsoring the "Mobile Learning Institute, which delivers engaging, personalized, project-based learning right to classrooms and community centers across the United States." It goes on to talk about the need to help teachers and students develop the "21st-century skills they need to design, develop, and complete the collaborative digital arts projects that will shape their future."

Not much more detail yet, but definitely a step in the right direction. There hasn't been nearly enough fresh thinking in this area. A novel idea I heard recently was the Million progamme - a radical idea championed by Harvard's uberkid Roland Fryer and carried out by the funky NYC ad house Droga5, the folk responsible for The Great Schlepp and Unicef's Tap project. The hypothesis is that you can give phones to kids in schools that help them during the school day, as a learning-centric communication platform (quizes, prizes, research etc) which then double as their personal devices at night. All sorts of knee jerk reactions to the idea of giving more techno toys to kids, bribing them with rewards for good grades, and some relevant questions about whether a device given by the school could ever be cool enough to use at home.

However, the reality is that i) kids are watching 4 hours of TV a day, and ii) US pre-university education standards are as Greenspan puts it, awful and slipping further. Kids today are so hard to reach through normal channels, so getting into a conversation with them where they are already today (the phone), rather than where they're not (the classroom) has some merit. Looking forward to seeing these ideas evolve.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The ice cream cart brings us from advertising to subscriptions

Loic points to what seems to be an increasing trend as Twitter fundamentally improves the efficiency of communications -- companies using broadcast publish and subscribe models as ways to interact with their customers and provide service updates. 

This is very much in early alpha stage today - tech savvy, barbeque, ice-cream & crème brûlée cart-wielding chef-geeks send off tweets in a fairly curt shorthand to their followers, who then turn up salivating, with wallets open. 

This turns the hoary advertising adage of "I'm wasting half my advertising money, but I don't know which half" on its head. These guys aren't spending any money on advertisting, and they know exactly what is being wasted - none of it. It all goes to existing customers. 

I think that next steps in this evolution will be particularly interesting in three areas: First,  semantic data, such as machine readable location info for the trucks, or - and probably not done today - a markup to describe food that's on offer. Second, integrating to mobile, so you can more easily publish (e.g. upload content) and subscribe (integration of your favourite twitterers into your core mobile apps). And third, perhaps the toughest - a business model that extracts some of the value accruing from the vendors and amplifies it, to make a professional service, rather than the tasty, but hacked and ugly mashup it is becoming today.