Most people are using their smartphones daily and carry them all the time. Therefore, mobile learning applications can be integrated in daily routines to make learning a part of daily life. While numerous mobile learning applications exist, each with their own goal, our aim was to explore the possibility of creating an engaging mobile environment that could be useful for informal learning, as well as for other forms of learning, i.e., non-formal and formal learning. The result is TICKLE, a playful learning environment for youngsters. It is a mobile location-based smartphone application that offers youngsters an interactive environment for exploring their surroundings. It offers cards related to physical locations, which can be collected by performing small challenges (based on the principles of micro learning). A design science research approach has been used to develop this software environment. Persuasive techniques and gamification are used to stimulate usage. Furthermore, a personalized approach is applied. The environment was evaluated by means of formative evaluations in different contexts. We obtained positive results and received useful feedback to improve and extend the application. We can conclude that, in the context of these evaluations, the app was usable for youngsters and able to engage them, and we see indications that it may be able to increase the intrinsic motivation and learning capacity of youngsters. In addition, our demonstrations show that the app is usable in different contexts and for different purposes. In this way, the environment can be used to offer youngsters appealing learning related experiences.
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