Microlearning2007: Mobile Web 2.0, Mobile Widgets, Microlearning and Intertwingularity

This post summarizes the interesting people and ideas I encountered when I spoke at Microlearning2007 in Innsbruck – Austria last week. It also includes my keynote at this event

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at Innsbruck at the Microlearning conference (Microlearning2007)

I have known the work of Dr Martin Lindner for a while now. Dr Martin Lindner is responsible for Microlearning R and D strategies at the research studio(who organize this conference). (The research studio

are an Austrian Research Centers GmbH – ARC division, the leading non-university research institution in Austria, and are comprised of individual studios acting as operative units. )

The research studios refer to my work in their publications – so it was a pleasure to present a keynote at this event at the invitation of Martin.

Apart from Dr Martin Lindner, the key people I met here and whose work I will definitely follow are

Dr Martina Roth of Intel

Prof Dr Andrea Back at the University of St.Gallen in Switzerland

David Smith

Teemu Leinonen Research Group Leader, Learning Environments research group, Media Lab – University of Art and Design Helsinki

and especially the shedlight application from Teemu’s group.

Stephanie Rieger

And Roger Fischer of kaywa. I first met Roger in 2003 and they have come a long way since then with their 2D barcodes . I am convinced that this is a technology worth watching

Many thanks to Martin, Birgit Berger , Dr Peter Bruck and Dr Martina Roth for some great Tyrolean hospitality

Here are details of my keynote at the Microlearning conference in Innsbruck.

The topic was: Mobile Web 2.0, Mobile Widgets, Microlearning and Intertwingularity

Note that this talk covers A future and not THE future (i.e. there are many ways to implement the principles of Microlearning – other than those outlined here)

Once again, this was not my usual audience. I am not an expert on Learning or Microlearning. Hence, I had to draw on the expertise of Judy Breck and David Smith for some of the learning related ideas in this talk especially around the ideas of Intertwingularity.

Judy Breck introduced me to this idea of Intertwingularity and it is also the title of a forthcoming book by Judy and David Smith. ( Judy and David are writing a book called Intertwingularity: For the students, parents and teachers living in a socially networked digital world. A compelling story of what is possible in the Digital world of the future for the MySpace, Facebook and Second Life generation)

I saw this as a practical talk i.e. a ‘how to’ implementation of the Microlearning vision. It covered (Web 2.0), Mobile Web 2.0, Mobile Widgets, Microlearning – all within the context of a concept called Intertringularity

Web 2.0

To understand Web 2.0, you have to understand four ideas

a) Web as a platform

b) Harnessing collective intelligence

c) Consumption v.s. participation (user generated content)

d) Pushing content out: consuming content away from its source (RSS, mashup, Widgets etc)

Mobile Web 2.0

Mobile web 2.0 extends the principle of ‘harnessing collective intelligence’ to mobile devices. This seemingly simple idea of extending Web 2.0 to Mobile devices raises many questions, for example:

a) What are the implications of extending the Web to mobile devices?

b) As devices become creators and not mere consumers of information, What categories of intelligence can be captured/harnessed from restricted devices?

c) What is the impact for services as devices start using the Web as a massive information repository and the PC as a local cache where services can be configured?

When we extend this definition to ‘Mobile Web 2.0’ – there are two implications :

a) The Web does not necessarily extend to mobile devices

b) Even though the Web does not extend to mobile devices, intelligence can still be captured from mobile devices.

Thus, the Web and the Mobile Web cannot be viewed in isolation. Further, the rise of networks and the breakdown of hierarchical structures are also key factors to be considered.

The good news and the bad news

The good news is: There are more people with phones than PCs

The bad news is: These phones have nothing in common except voice and SMS. There are limitations to what you can do with voice and SMS

The Web and (specifically Widgets) could be the common element

That has implications for Microlearning


Wikipedia definition:

Microlearning deals with relatively small learning units and short-term learning activities.

Conference definition:

• Microlearning is what people are doing, knowingly or not, when they face the challenge to find new information

and build new knowledge in networked digital media environments.

• With e-mails, mobile phones, Google and the Web 2.0, they have to deal with small chunks of microcontent, loosely joined, permanently changing, re-arranging and circulating.

• We will have to find new mental and learning strategies, by analyzing and putting further the practices and behaviours new disruptive technologies are bringing with them.

• Microlearning is a catchphrase bundling a number of new technologies und applications relevant fore-learning, whose common denominator is the processing of digital microcontent.

• They tend towards dissolving the more static and macro-sized structures that have dominated our education and learning systems so far.


Intertwingularity is a term coined by Ted Nelson to express the complexity of interrelations in human knowledge. (also created the word hypertext)

Intertwingularity is not generally acknowledged, people keep pretending they can make things deeply hierarchical, categorizable and sequential when they can’t. Everything is deeply intertwingled.

With a fragmented Web (and subsequently reused content away from its source) via Widgets, we see the fulfilment of Intertwingularity vision

Hierarchy is the opposite of a network. As networks emerge (the Internet, MySpace, facebook) – hierarchies break down. With fragmentation (widgets), comes aggregation (through a network). With a fragmented Web (and subsequently reused content away from its source) via Widgets, we see the fulfilment of Intertwingularity vision

e-learning – replicated the classroom

Traditionally e-learning modeled existing class room environments. They did not the use the Web and Mobile Web as it is truly intended.

microlearning is much more natural because:

Creative – fun – network oriented – the minds of the young are adapted to learning in that way – suited to their attention span – conflicting perspectives (critical thought) – Long tail education, education for the disenfranchised

Tap into the collaborative, conversational exchanges in which today’s students have become so fluent outside class are the best way to deliver learning inside it.(source: Wired)

Happening at both school level and higher ed.

Some schools ban MySpace, Facebook etc. Others are incorporating it as part of their curriculum

Personal learning environments — mashup spaces comprising del.icio.us feeds, blog posts, podcast widgets — whatever resources students need to document, consume or communicate their learning across disciplines.

The widget model is attractive because of ease of development. Most widgets can be created with a few images using from less than ten to several hundred lines of XML/JavaScript/VBScript, depending on their complexity.

screensavers, quizzes, flashcards, word of the day – in a networked environment spanning the Web and the Mobile Web

Microlearning characteristics : short time, small content, complement curriculum, create into an ongoing process, informal, collaborative


I believe we are living in a Widget Widget Web i.e. the Web as we know it has fragmented into a million pieces (Widgets) and these Widgets are being assembled into new, as yet undefined services.

What is a widget? – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_widget

What is a widget made of(technically) – Javascipt, Ajax

What is a mobile widget?

Whats needed for a mobile widget? – Web

Who is supporting widgets and mobile widgets?

Web / desktop widgets: Apple, Google, Microsoft, netvibes, Yahoo

Mobile widgets: Opera, Nokia, Apple?

The concept of Widgets lends itself to the ideas of Microlearning very well.

Widgets (both Web and Mobile) are ideally poised to exploit Microcontent and Microlearning – especially because they use open standards.


A holistic trend, not in isolation (networks, widgets, mobile)

Extension of the continuous connectivity (esp. for kids)

A wider socio economic impact – rise of networks, break down of hierarchies, Open standards go together

Web 2.0 – pushing content out – leads naturally to microcontent

Microcontent, microlearning and widgets go together

Web is the unifier

Mobile is a strong driver

Network (community) is the enabler

Widgets is the mechanism – especially within a network spanning the Web and the Mobile Web

Widgets are suited to small chunks of information

We already use them on the Web

We will be using them on the Mobile Web










  1. Webwag team says:

    Great feedback of the event.
    In the section “Mobile widgets: Opera, Nokia, Apple?”, you forgot to mention Webwag Mobile, that we did launch last week. You can download the app at http://www.webwag.com/mobile and synchronise your mobile widgets with the webwag.com start page. The mobile widgets can be updated on the air as well.

  2. Babar Bhatti says:

    Interesting. I read your blog regularly. Recently I wrote about mobile web in developing countries.
    I would appreciate any feedback.