In creating a presentation for the Guild’s upcoming mLearnCon, I was thinking about ways we go wrong, and one is thinking that it’s just about content. Really, context is the new opportunity.  So what are the opportunities?  I thought of three possible ways in which we might use context: where, when, and what’s near.

Most of mobile context is about where we are.  With GPS chips in many devices, and other information potentially useful (what wifi networks you’re near and their location is known), we’ve been able to do lots.  Look at things like Yelp and Google Maps, which let us navigate and find things near us. We can also lay over information (c.f. augmented reality) on the world near us.  We can annotate the world with information about topics related to location such as geology, architecture, politics, history, and more, as well as more pragmatic thoughts like potential clients, available resources, and locations.

A second opportunity, which is largely missed, is responding to ‘when’ we are. That is, knowing what we’re doing (e.g. through a calendar), and acting appropriately.  We can prepare people before events, support them during, and provide reflection opportunities afterwards.  There’s finally a prototype calendar app out that uses your calendar to bring in information about relevant emails, people, and documents associated with meetings, for example.

The third opportunity came to mind , however.  It is related to the first, but somewhat different. In this situation, I’m thinking about what’s near you. It’s not based, however, so much on location as proximity: the thing that’s near you may not be there always, it may be mobile or ephemeral, but it’s an opportunity.  Perhaps it’s a combination of when and where? Regardless, if you have a task that you want to accomplish now, and you need a resource, and it happens to be nearby, if you know that  you have the capability to succeed.

I’m not sure this list is exhaustive, but at least it provides some structure to think about opportunities.  I welcome additions, extensions, clarifications, or any other feedback!  And now I need to figure out a nice visual to go with it…

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