Foursquare in education and the classroom #Foursquare

I signed up to Foursquare a while ago, and then did nothing with it. I couldn’t see the point, and am still struggling to see it even now. I like it, I sign-in to various places as I go about my travels, I’m even the Mayor of a couple too. But why?

Firstly, let’s look at Foursquare and what it is. According to Business Insider Foursquare is ;

“… primarily for letting your friends know where you are and figuring out where they are. Secondarily, it’s for collecting points, prize ‘badges’, and eventually, coupons, for going about your everyday business.”

This is really designed for people who are mobile and have, or have access to, a smart phone that enables them to install the Foursquare application on. But hang on, is that it … just let your friends now where you are and find out where they are? Do we really need this level of intimacy? The Public Relations Blogger writes;

“Unlike other social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, Foursquare is focused primarily on sharing places we’ve been and that we would maybe recommend to others.”

And there is the crux of the system … “sharing places” and “recommend to others”. This is where a business is going to use it; get your visitors to sign-in when they come, leave a tip about services, product, etc and share with their friends and anyone else who is in range. Businesses can now invite visitors by putting a ‘special’ offer on their place for visitors or the ‘Mayor’ of the place, thus enticing people back and back to get that elusive badge.

The above link to the Public Relations Blogger has details on the different aspects of Foursquare; these are;

  • Check-ins
  • Mayors
  • Points
  • Badges
  • Friends
  • Tips & To-Dos

Here are some images from the iPhone Foursquare app:

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Another great way to explain the system is in video form … so here’s a great one from the folks at HowCast.com:

So, that’s covered the “what is …”, now what about the “why” question? There are obvious benefits for using it for field trips as it can integrate with Google Earth, so students can remember where they’ve been, take notes of the different elements of the field trip you set them, etc. You could create a location-based tour where you and the students check in to different venues you’ve mapped out, ahead of time, with a view to increase their awareness of where the library is, where the student services or counsellors can be found, etc.

I have yet to see a real purpose to using Foursquare in the classroom, as that is too limiting geographically, but for a wider application the Institution could use it to xxx – Harvard University have special badges you can acquire by checking into so many locations around campus and they “announced in January that it would become the first university to use Foursquare to help students explore its campus” (source Chronicle.com).

Further examples of Foursquare and how it could be used in the classroom and education can be found on this link: 30+ Ways to Use Foursquare In Education. While it’s great to read other people’s blog posts on what they’re doing, or intend to do with the service, let’s not forget the owners of the system; here’s what they Foursquare saying on thir blog;

“Foursquare is making a concerted effort to lure more college students to the service this fall. At least 10 schools have launched branded pages in the past few weeks and foursquare has begun a search for campus representatives to help evangelize the service. Now they’ve launched a series of five college-themed badges that can be unlocked at select schools across the country.”
Foursquare: Celebrate Back to School season with five new foursquare badges

It seems Foursquare is going to be better for marketers and students to ‘play’ with than for teachers and educators to use effectively, although there are some good uses starting to come out of the woodwork. How the system develops will determine how well it ‘fits’ with the needs of geo-locating places and people, but I think it is something to watch for the future, after all one million users can’t all be wrong?

Are you using Foursquare, have you found a way to utilise it in your teaching, or are you (like me) tagging the world around you to see how many badges you can uncover? Please share your Foursquare experience by leaving a comment.