Does Place Affect User Engagement and Understanding?

Below you will find a pre-print for the forthcoming article in the Journal of Documentation: Does Place Affect User Engagement and Understanding? Mobile Learner Perceptions on the Streets of New York (co-authored with Debbie Rabina).


Purpose: The aim of this research project is to uncover if place-based learning can increase learner engagement and understanding of historical topics.
To study this, learners will use GeoStoryteller to learn about a historical topic on the places where significant events occurred, and then be interviewed by the researchers.  GeoStoryteller is a tool developed by the researchers that runs on smartphones, such as Apple’s iPhone.  It provides the user multimedia stories about the historical sites, delivered via the mobile web or through Layar, an augmented reality web browser.  The initial application of this technology focuses on German immigration to New York City between 1840 and 1945 through a partnership with the Goethe-Institut, the Federal Republic of Germany’s cultural institution, which operates worldwide.  After using GeoStoryteller to learn about this content, N=31 participants were interviewed by the researchers, and transcripts were subjected to a quantitative content analysis.
Results indicate that the use of place increases learner perceptions of their engagement and understanding of historical topics; however, novel user interfaces like augmented reality impose significant usability issues, and more standard interfaces are preferred by users.
The use of place in mobile learning environments provides a meaningful entry point into historical content.  Teachers of history and social students, as well as those working in memory institutions (museum, libraries, and archives) should be encouraged in using place in their teaching and mobile education initiatives.

Download Pre-print PDF