On April 24, 2012, Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN) held the Mobile Bootcamp as part of the Canadian Museums Association’s (CMA) Annual Conference. The Mobile Bootcamp focused on mobile search and marketing, mobile application development, mobile-learning as well as third party services relevant to museums. This is a summary of the presentations along with a collection of slides for reference.
Thoughts? Questions? Insights? Please join the conversation by visiting CHIN‘s LinkedIn group or by leaving a comment on the article below.
Acting Director General
Canadian Heritage Information Network
CHIN‘s Acting Director General, Claudette Lévesque, introduced the workshop.
- There are 27 million Internet users in Canada. Of that number, 20 million own a cell phone and, of those, 9 million are smartphones.
- Around the world, 30% of museums have a mobile program in place and 27% plan to develop one.
- In 2009, iTunes had only five mobile applications developed by museums. Today there are over 250, around 20 of which are for Canadian museums.
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Trends in Mobile Technology
During the Mobile Bootcamp held on April 24, 2012, Nectarios Economakis from Google shared relevant information on trends in mobile technology, mobile device usage and tips to best take advantage of Canadians’ mobile search habits. His main points are as follows.
Mobile Internet access – A mass phenomenon by 2013
By 2013, Internet access using mobile devices will surpass access through personal computers. Mobile requests on Google’s search engine have been growing since the arrival of smartphones and tablets. What was considered technology for pioneer users just a few years ago is now clearly set to become a mass phenomenon. Growing numbers of mobile users are viewing videos, playing interactive games, doing searches, staying connected on social media and making greater use of mobile technologies for their purchasing process.
Consumer habits that combine the real with the virtual
Mobile user behaviour is particular not only with regard to Google searches and daily access periods, but also the manner in which people consume every day.
A large part of searches and shopping with mobile devices is done locally or in nearby locations. Geolocation, QR codes, Wi-Fi access and a broader range of local offerings build bridges between off-line and online shopping. The consumer has immediate access to information (opinions, prices, promotions, local alerts) and the means to conduct transactions (Google Wallet and online payment in general). In short, the smartphone has become a shopping tool that facilitates and speeds up the purchasing process.
It is worthwhile for museums to seize this local market
The growing importance of mobile devices in the everyday lives of our target market cannot be ignored. People shop, search, use and share information differently, and museums must adapt to this new reality if they wish to maintain the interest of their clienteles and win over local and nearby markets. The big winners will be the museums that promote their products on the entertainment market and local mobile culture. Whether museums choose a mobilized website, develop a mobile application, establish a partnership with Google Art, post the museum’s floor plan on Google Map, launch a mobile Adwords campaign, improve search engine optimization (SEO) or maintain a presence on social or geolocation applications, the important thing is to be present, active and alert.
Goggle tools, such as Google Analytics and Webmaster, provide a better understanding of mobile users’ behaviour on a site, enabling the implementation of necessary adjustments to leverage the information.
As Nectarios said at the outset of his presentation: It’s not too late to get ahead.
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Learning in the 21st Century: What the Digital Natives are saying about it
Digital Natives are growing up in the 21st century, having technology such as mobile devices woven into their lives from an early age. Learning is faster, more diverse, and the social and educational reach is seemingly infinite. The mobility of digital technologies creates intriguing opportunities for new forms of learning because they change the nature of the physical relations between teachers, learners, and the objects of learning. Even the traditions of distance learning cannot offer the flexibility of these new kinds of interactions, so the rise of interest in ‘m-learning’ is understandable. Educators, museum staff, private businesses and government are beginning to recognize that mobile technology can be a valuable teaching tool and this is changing the face of learning at a rate that has never before been seen.
A few extra notes:
- m-learning is important for access, personalization, engagement and inclusion, control over learning, ownership, and the ability to demand things, i.e. meeting the rights of the learner.
- Features like control, ownership, and communication with peers all can contribute to suggest why m-learning might be ‘fun’. ‘Learning-incontext’ and ‘continuity between contexts’ are also aspects of ownership and control which explain why these properties might make learning easier and effective.
- If we tried to characterize mobile technologies as mediating tools in the learning process, we would need to address:
- the learner and their personal relationships (peer groups, teachers, etc.),
- what the learner is learning (topic, relationship to prior experience, etc.), and
- where and when learners are learning.
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Gain a Mobile Presence ‘On the Cheap’
Audience and Program Analyst
Canadian Heritage Information Network
Sheila Carey’s presentation focused on inexpensive ways that museums can take advantage of already existing services and apps to engage museum visitors using mobile phones. She began by looking at QR codes, and their uses and abuses. Some good practices for using QR codes in the museum space include:
- a space in which users will be able to get a good data connection (to Wi-Fi or their data plan);
- appropriate sized QR code for the information within (for long URLs use a shortening service first to avoid dense QR codes if they are small);
- Mobilized content;
- Sufficient lighting to scan easily;
- Signage promoting the code and instructions for scanning;
- Compelling content behind the code;
- Alternate ways to access the information (e.g. a URL);
Sheila moved on to describe Historypin, which allows users to pin content (pictures, audio, video, stories) to specific locations. Taking advantage of a project like Historypin allows museums, libraries and galleries to add images to the Historypin site and app as part of a larger collection.
Finally, she looked at Foursquare, a location-based social media app that awards points for visiting specific locations and pointed out that most of the institutions present had a presence on Foursquare that could be worth monitoring, and that offers a way to offer engagement to visitors already using this platform.
In the case of all apps and 3rd party services, although they are free to use, users should read the content agreements about any content contributed and take into account staff time in creating content for an monitoring these services.
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The New Mobile Frontier
Director of Platform Development
National Film Board of Canada
When the National Film Board (NFB) application was launched, mobility— particularly mobile applications— was still unknown territory. Development required only imagining what could be done and inventing new rules.
The digital shift was part of the 2008–2012 strategic business plan. Once a culture of innovation was introduced and consensus was reached on risk taking, the NFB.ca digital distribution platform was launched in 2009.
- The digital shift, which is part of the 2008-2012 Strategic Plan, introduced a culture of innovation
- 2009 – Launch of NFB.ca, a digital distribution platform
- High level of risk taking; the principle of fail early, fail hard is confirmed
- Multiple platforms and accessibility considerations
The iPhone application was close behind and also launched in 2009, at the low cost of $10,000.
Considerations leading to the design were:
- What is mobility in the context of media consumption?
- What place do we want to occupy in people’s media consumption?
- How do we respond to directors’ concerns about the presentation of their “full-scale” work on a pocket-size screen?
The Web and mobile experience created by the NFB:
- Simple and easy to use
- Focused on a value proposal / main user benefit: viewing films
- Facilitate consumption in a timely way: download now, view later
- App popularity was driven by users (viral marketing)
One important takeaway was that when planning for a mobile experience, realize that different platforms are different ecosystems, not just in how media is displayed, but how, where and when it is viewed and experienced. One might also consider other platforms that do not fall into the category of the “usual suspects” of mobile, such as the Musée de Louvre’s use of the Nintendo 3DS game console to enhance visitor experience.
With respect to the future of mobile, devices are being renewed at 6-8 months, and what is a roadblock today could well be an opportunity for innovators down the road. But if all of your “ingredients” are mobile-ready, then start now.
Mobile technology and cultural institutions
- What fundamental value do we give the user (e.g. conservation, contextualization, exploration, knowledge)?
- Who are the intermediaries between our experience/value proposal and our users?
- Does this experience necessarily need to take place in a specific location (city museum, urban museum itinerary)?
- How can our value proposal be dematerialized, how can we extend the emotional experience that was created (e.g. the MurMur experience)?
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Mobile Apps at the Musée de la civilisation
Digital Projects Officer
Musée de la civilisation in Quebec City
The Musée de la civilisation (MCQ) uses its mobile applications to offer users experiences associated with exhibits and their content. The applications are in “native” format and available only on the iOS platform (Apple). The Museum’s programming is delivered to mobile users through the Museum’s mobile website.
Application development, which is directed by the digital distribution services (Service de la diffusion numérique), requires the cooperation of a number of internal and external resources, including the public services (Service au public), which depends on Museum volunteers.
A challenge for volunteers
Visitors rent the MCQ‘s iPods, on which the applications are pre-loaded. Volunteers (often retirees) are responsible for the service. Intense training is required to ensure they have the skills to do the job. This technology can be quite intimidating for 70-year-olds! Fortunately, things go smoothly and volunteers are invaluable in helping visitors use the iPods. It should be noted that the Museum has not experienced device breakage or theft, as ID is required for their rental.
Human Copyright, 2009
- Guide to a temporary exhibit on human thought.
- Provides audio interviews. User commentary and sharing functionalities were not successful at the time. Too innovative?
The application provides a 60-minute tour of the museum and includes a participatory experience (games) that changes according to the temporary exhibit. The challenge: when the application is updated, users lose part of the known content, which is replaced by new content. Another challenge is application size: 300 Mb is much too big! A new, two-part downloading process (iTunes App Store, then content from the Museum’s server) will be implemented in June 2012.
Parcours LSQ, 2011
The history of Quebec told in Quebec sign language (langue des signes québécoise – LSQ) and delivered by video. The project was developed in response to a specific access request. The low download rate confirms the need to align the development of mobile applications with a specific plan for promotion, which has not yet been done for this application. An evaluation would be useful to determine whether mobile devices can adequately deliver content to people with specific needs while maintaining the relevance and experience that mobile applications can provide.
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ROM iPhone App
Royal Ontario Museum
Ryan spoke about the iPhone app that the museum launched in August 2011.
The app had four initial goals, to:
- Merge the website, audio guide and pod/vodcast content into one platform;
- Provide some sort of wayfinding solution for the museum;
- Provide visitors with a focussed app that aided a physical exhibit;
- Get into the mobile realm.
The ROM is an app 1.0; it is basically an app version of the Web presence and doesn’t engage people in conversation. It is one-way communication.
The talk also mentioned additional goals of the app, which were:
- Engage new audiences;
- Promote the ROM brand in new ways;
- Meet people where they are;
- Content delivery.
A key takeaway from Ryan’s talk was the importance of collaboration. The mobile world moves very fast, and museums need to share lessons learned.