Archive for February, 2005

Future of FLOSSE: Interview with Stephen Downes – Part 1

Monday, February 28th, 2005

"On controlled metadata taxonomies: My copy of Schopenhauer is at one point of time a resource used in my philosophy class and sometimes a thing that works as my door opener. Both are perfect examples of use of Schopenhauer. How do I classify that, is it a book or is it furniture?"

Listen 1st part (MP3) – 29min – 13Mb

The first interview I conducted for the future of FLOSS in education was with no other than Stephen Downes himself.  It was my first experiment with Skype recording. The connection had some problems and recording peaked at times, so I’m sorry for lesser quality of the sound but the content is excellent.

There was a lot of good stuff so I decided to cut the interview into two separate pieces, 30min each. This is the first part, the second part will be available later (it’s even better than the first).

Stephen Downes works for the NRC (National Research Council of Canada) in Moncton, New Brunswick. He is part of the e-Learning research group which is attached to the Atlantic initiative of Institute for Information Technology.

As Senior Research Officer he is given a fairly free hand to pursue a research agenda in the field of e-Learning and is the author of OLDaily, a newsletter of issues related to educational technology. Previously he specialized in learning objects and in what manner
learning objects are organized, arranged, syndicated, distributed and displayed to
potential learners typically using a LMS (Learning Management System) and the techology
underlying that.

I asked him about learning objects and DLORN (Distributed Learning Object Repository Network). It’s a good start to be the basis of an open content learning object repository which could support shared construction of learning objects.

In comparison to that federated searches and controlled metadata are discussed. He is very critical about closed learning object repositories that are not visible to Google or any other search engine. He brings up the scalability problem of federated searches and the problems assosiated with describing learning objects.

As an alternative method he suggests third party metadata, which generally allows people to describe how a certain object is used instead of what it is. This kind of third party review lacks in federated searches.

Then we discuss the future of his Edu_RSS service. Downes brings up a very interesting idea of combining content production with social networking. This is achieved from the use of FOAF (Fried-of-a-Friend) in association with personalized and shared resource feeds. People could see what their friends are reading and writing. This could potentially help people to find others interested in the same topic in the field of education to work with.

Some questions asked in the interview:

The second part of the interview is here.

"If you sit down to get started and look at tagging a million objects, you’re looking at a major investment. Only large companies can afford to do this but most of the world is not made of large companies"

"Read more" to see the extracted future events and analysis.

Future events

Here is a list of
fictional future events extracted from the interview with Stephen Downes.
If you want to comment or have additional future events to present
based on the interview, please do so.

Disclaimer: The
future events were constructed from the ideas presented in the
interview and do not represent the ideas of the interviewee. No crystal
ball or time machines were used in the construction of these events.
Bear in mind, it’s the future and everything is possible.

Year 2005

Metadata based search still not useful

The LOM (Learning Object Metadata) exists in order to make learning
objects discoverable so that people can execute a search. Yet this
still doesn’t work in practice as institutions don’t have the resources
to describe every single object they create. The keyword and title
fields are the ones people fill the most. The other properties provided
by metadata searches are next to unuseful.

Year 2006

Amateur audio and video enters learning

Cheaper and more accessible tools for recording audio and video have
enabled teachers and students to produce learning results and teaching
materials with new kind of low-end tools they already possess. For
example mobile phones include cheap and low quality but functional
features for sharing their experiences and ideas in audio and video

Folksonomies used as a basis for new ways of content classification

Researchers approach the problem of controlled vocabularities through
folksonomies, where people can describe any content with words and
keywords that come to their mind. Researchers use a large amount of
users to conduct these experiments. Based on their free-form organic
tagging behaviour they try to come up with insight on how to build
better information classification systems.

Year 2007

Learning objects more like software

Previously learning objects were mainly static combinations of text,
images and illustrations. This was because of the lack of
sophistication in various authoring tools. As authoring tools gained
more functionality, learning objects started to look more like
interactive software pieces.

Learning object repositories based on crawlers appear

In spirit of Google and Technorati, new LO repositories appear. These
new repositories are less controlled and provide a different business
model than their predecessors. Their functionality is the same of the
web, based on bots that crawl various resources for learning objects
and automatically extract metadata out of them. A teacher simply just
releases the LO on a website and bots will aggregate the content. A
second layer is built on the search engine to support reviewing and
third party metadata.

Teachers protest against controlled metadata

When people search, they want metadata results from multiple sources,
not from a single provider. Yet user contributed commentary and review
capabilities of commercial learning object repositories are lacking.
Providers refuse to change the policy because it’s against their
business plan to control the search and the metadata. Extended metadata
capabilities are provided only to paying third party providers.

Content tagging businesses appear

Anyone who has tried to encode learning object metadata knows what a
pain it is. This is a major investment as only large companies and
institutions are able to afford tagging with metadata every object they
create. New businesses have appeared to serve these organizations with
professional tagging services. The cheapest providers are located in
india and other low-cost labor countries.

Year 2008

FOAF combined with search results

Services have appeared that combine Friend-of-a-Friend (FOAF)
information with content being searched. This approach is combining
social networking with content production. Developers have learned from
the previous failed attempts like Friendster that social networking
alone is not enough. These new kind of systems enable users to follow
what their friends read and write. Content based social networking
applications lower the bar to find other people to create open content

Constructivism talked even more

Because of Wikipedia and other similar systems where knowledge is
co-created successfully, the educational philosophy of constructivism
has once again gained a lot of debate and discussion in education. Even
companies look at constructivist approaches to carry out on-job
learning, although they use different terms to describe it.

Communities build their own content repositories

Many online communities and courses have built their own searchable
resource repositories for very specific and focused areas of interest
based on the needs of their community. Software tools to create such
resources are available to everyone. The interesting thing is that
these repositories often carry out live information crawled from the
web. Managers/teachers pick and screen the sources of information they
want. Users/students are able to personalize the resulting feeds of
information to fit their needs.

Federated search faces scalability problems

The dominant model to setup a network of learning object repositories
has faced problems in growth. Only the most resourceful organizations
have been able to enter the network as each one of them has to be able
to carry out every single federated search on the network. The larger
and more popular the network has became, the more there are propagated
searches and bigger server requirements. Distributed open content
repositories based on more economical approaches have grown faster in

Year 2009

Open content repositories surpass commercial repositories

Open content based repositories surpass commercial repositories in
popularity, contributions and offering. Commercial providers talk about
lack of quality but they are losing. Educators do not need pretty
looks, they need something that gets the job done. Open content is
easier to publish because of decentralized nature, availability of
certain authoring tools with CC built-in and the fact that federated
repositories require you to setup your own repository which takes a lot
of resources to build.

Structure of metadata still argued

Experts have not yet come into agreement of general purpose taxonomies
for tagging content resources with metadata. This is because the way
you describe an object and the way you classify an object, changes from
person to person and from time to time. Even in very focused
communities there is controversy of how to seamlessly tag the resources
they create. The most successful examples come from cases where the
rules are open ended.

Year 2010

Use considered as the most important property of a resource

Previously learning objects were described with metadata that described
what the learning object is. As the availability of content for various
purposes have increased, the information of what a resource contains is
less relevant to teachers. Teachers want to know how and for what
purpose a resource is useful. This is achieved through purposeful
combination of third party recommendations, comments and use scenarions
with objects.

Source of reliable news changes

When the commercial media started to quote Wikipedia in their articles,
the reliability issue was finally solved. Knowledge of Wikinews’s power
spread to the general public. Anywhere and anytime when something
relevant happens, people who are so into the case have a vast ammount
of time and combined effort to write the news. Enthusiasts and experts
do the job better together. Some media companies changed their business
plan to use independant reporters as a vechile.

Future of FLOSSE: Interview with Teemu Leinonen

Friday, February 25th, 2005

"We are theory-based design-oriented group. Open Source software is just like study reports – we are releasing the software for commenting, referencing, peer review and so on. We just continue the academic tradition"

Listen (MP3) – 28min – 12,6Mb

This time we offer an interview with Teemu Leinonen, who is also one of our bloggers. Once again recorded in Skype for our series of future of FLOSS
in education. I have created a future event analysis based on this interview, available in the end of this post.

Teemu Leinonen is doing learning environment research and design work at the University of Art and Design, Helsinki. His research group started in 1998 to work on future learning environment development. The idea is to use ICT in a meaningful way in a school .

This research is conducted together with the department of Psychology, University of Helsinki with Kai Hakkarainen and his research group.

In addition to study papers, his research group has also produced computer software that reflects the ideas central to their research. One of the tools created is the FLE (FLE is a Learning Environment) software – latest one being FLE3, the 3rd version supporting the FLE concept. FLE is a prototype to try out how to build a future learning environment. It aims to engage students in active process of building knowledge, rather than receiving information.

Teemu thinks that the traditional eLearning vendors should continue to do what they do and get better in providing content to students. Content based approach serves perfectly for the majority of people. In the other hand he sees that there will be space for alternative approaches like knowledge building.

Also he notes that many smart companies see that their biggest challenge is how to get people collaborate and share information together instead of taking traditional courses but that’s what the eLearning industry is mostly offering. One way is to introduce so called learning add-ons to existing business tools.

Regarding Open Content, Leinonen mentions that teachers should understand that content production is not their core business as only a hanful are making money out of that. They should start sharing content and working together instead.

Some questions asked in the interview:

  • What do you do?
  • Open Source FLE3 research method?
  • Are we going to see FLE4?
  • Blogs and education?
  • Future of current VLE systems?
  • Knowledge building?
  • Is the concept of a course going to change?
  • eLearning business and universities?
  • Collaborative learning and companies?
  • Open Content?
  • Non-technical factors that have to change?
  • Copyright legislation?

"In traditional business tools there will be a learning add-on, which enables learning issues to be concidered there as well. These learning add-ons are offering people a place and time for meta-cognition"

"Read more" to see the extracted future events and analysis.

Future events

Here is a list of
fictional future events extracted from the interview with Teemu Leinonen.
If you want to comment or have additional future events to present
based on the interview, please do so.

Disclaimer: The
future events were constructed from the ideas presented in the
interview and do not represent the ideas of the interviewee. No crystal
ball or time machines were used in the construction of these events.
Bear in mind, it’s the future and everything is possible.

Year 2006

Organizations distribute geographically

Technology offers a lot of possibilities for the decentralization of
organizations and virtual teams. Shared online workspaces are a common
place. It’s now cheaper and more efficient to work from multiple
locations from all around the world. Multiple mobile units replace
massive corporate headquarters. Some companies move parts of their
premises to countries where it’s cheaper to conduct business.

Educators find weblogs weak for learning

Weblogs are increasingly popular among students in their free time but
the use for learning purposes is still lacking. Some teachers state
arguments that a weblog is not straight away a great learning tool
because the blog was originally created for very different purposes.
Weblog was not designed for collaborative learning, knowledge building
or even for discussion. This is similar to the failure of discussion
boards in learning which also were not originally designed for

Blogs popular for personal learning

As people get more used to blogs, they notice their value for personal
learning. According to a survey, 85% of bloggers find that they have
learned major new concepts and are now able to better sort out their
own understanding of issues through blogging. The concept of a learning
diary finally reaches a critical mass as people start to voluntarily
maintain their own learning diary to develop their meta-cognitive

Content approach to learning serves the majority of people

There are many different learning styles. The content based approach
trumpeted by LMS providers is getting better all the time. According to
researchers, the traditional content based approach still serves the
majority of people and is sufficient as a general method. A minority of
learners find their way to online communities of practice where they
are able to develop their understanding in a different manner. 

DRM artificially prevents fair use

DRM has developed during the time and has been incorporated into many
consumer technologies. Creative Commons and EFF are objecting its use
because the DRM technology is also limiting the fair use of original
content. Electronic book readers do not allow copying text out of
copyrighted books and generate problems especially in education. In
some instances people are not even able to copy or print open content
or works under the public domain.

Year 2007

Businesses focus on developing knowledge building skills

Some revolutionary businesses are spending 20% of their training budget
to train their employees in knowledge creation skills and related
practices. It’s more important to get people collaborate and share
information instead of taking traditional courses. Employees
continually challenge existing practices and transform what is known.
These are both considered important to compete in the global economy.

Open Content start-ups receive funding

Investors have noticed certain innovative start-ups who have been able
to turn the free and open content into profitable income. Among them
are filtering technologies that gather open content from the fragmented
web and cluster them into usable categories for businesses to use.

Open content licensing built into several applications

Over 25% of educational authoring tools now include open content
licensing built-in. Users are forced to think if they want to keep the
content or give it away. This step in releasing all kinds of digital
material accelerates the availability of open content in education and
contributes to the troubles of traditional publishers as teachers are
increasingly able to find people who are willing to share their work.

Proprietary learning environments start to provide syndication

Due to popular demand proprietary vendors are pressured to include open
XML based syndication standards in their applications. Bigger LMS
vendors try to reason why this is bad and refer to lack of
authentication in the syndication scheme. The truth is it’s against
their business alliances with publishers. Open syndication would allow
their systems to be used with open content based decentralized learning
object repositories.

Year 2008

Learning add-ons enhance enterprise applications

As businesses transform into learning organizations, learning add-ons
are introduced to existing information system infrastructures.
Financial systems, groupware applications, corporate intranets, ERP and
CRM applications are all extended with additional methods and software
components that take learning aspects in the use of these systems into
account. These learning add-ons are offering people a place and time
for meta cognition and greatly improve just-in-time learning.

Several eLearning companies go out of business

The concept of eLearning is a failure by most counts and perceived by
many as a ripple effect of the IT bust. Several eLearning vendors go
out of business as educational institutions – especially universities –
notice that what is offered under eLearning provides nothing they will
need. Good practices are overridden by practices that are not as good.
They focus their resources to develop their traditional practices

Academics increasingly produce results as FLOSS

In academic research it’s now common that end results of research
include computer programs in addition to academic papers. In research
where software programs are written in addition to academic papers,
over 25% of these programs is now released under an Open Source
compliant license. It’s quite natural that the results are in such a
form that they allow outside participation, commenting, peer review and
reproduction on the source code level in spirit of the ethics of

Year 2009

Universities in trouble as core business get outsourced

Several notable universities have found out that they did strategically
bad decisions in their hasty move towards online learning environments.
The problem is that they happened to outsource their core business in
the process: learning content and learning environments. Now they are
locked in with contracts and are forced to buy content and learning
environment technology from companies with mismatching values.

Information is self-organizing itself faster than before

Thanks to XML syndication, web interfaces and trackback technology,
there are smart access points for users to personalize the information
they receive based on their own requirements. The rise of the
blogosphere fundamentally changed the way webpages were written and how
hyperlinks were used. This enabled information to self-organize faster
than before and as a result, machines are now able to sort out
information in a more accurate manner. The semantic web appears in a
different form than what W3C originally thought.

Year 2010

Three-dimensional navigation grows in popularity

After IBM’s successful effort in developing the first mainstream
targeted three-dimensional desktop navigation for popular Linux
desktops, also the web developers started to create similar
navigational systems. 3D navigation became especially helpful for
navigating tags based on folksonomies. In learning 3D navigation is
successfully used in knowledge building applications because 3D is
perceived as a more suitable way for navigation of complex networked

The notion of a course has changed

Originally a course was primarily constructed based on content that is
teached and what concepts are supposedly learned through the content.
This has changed. Memorizing small instances of information are not
anymore considered important because that information is quickly
available through smart information hubs or online experts. Ability to
reach a higher level in understanding and ability grasp concepts in a
certain topic is considered as more important.

Open content is reducing the size of the publishing industry

Open content in audio, video and text form is starting to distract the
publishing industry. The phenomenon is growing so fast and through so
many fronts that the publishing industry is unable to fight the
movement and are forced to change their business models. Only a handful
of larger publishing companies are able to cleanly change their revenue
models to fit in the new sharing economy.

Mickey Mouse is free

The copyright legislation, especially the ridiculously long authors
copyright has been changed as a result of global political pressure
carried out by open content advocates. Disney Inc. is not anymore able
to block the use of Mickey Mouse as it has entered the public domain. Hooray!

Future of FLOSSE: Interview with Alan Levine

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005

sweet spot of technology is not in the way it does things more
efficiently but where it gives you opportunities that weren’t there

Listen (MP3) – 40min – 18,9Mb

I had the pleasure to
interview Alan Levine through Skype for our interview series of future of FLOSS
in education. I have created a future event analysis based on the interview, available in the end of this post. 

The future events will be used in the Comenius 2.1 Contact Seminar Open
Source workshop sessions as a basis for discussion. I will post more of these
interviews in the following days.

Alan Levine is an
Instructional technologist at Maricopa Community College System which
is a 10 college system serving in the metropolitan Phoenix area. Their
institution is by most counts largest such system in the USA: 240 000
students pass every year which is an equivalent to 90 000 full time

His institution has good reputation for being
innovative and providing technology to students and computers in the
faculty hands.

His main job is in experimenting with new
technology in the central office called Maricopa Center for Learning
and Instruction
by trying new technologies and communicating their
potential value to their people.

That means messing around with
Wikis, Blogs, RSS, cool web services and spam prevention and trying to
find out how these technologies could support education.

talks about the last 1,5 years he has been working with these emerging
technologies. Especially he focuses on weblogs, RSS and wikis and their
importance in education, especially what new opportunities these tools
provide for educators.

He is also a bit sceptical about the
adoption rate of Open Source tools in large institutions like his. The
key events that have to be overcome are related to support and staff.
Decision-makers are concerned if they are able to support the number of
students they have. Only the largest universities like MIT are able to
use their own staff to invest in in-house Open Source projects. Support
for Open Source software in education is still sparse and expensive.

perceives that big monopolies in software, music, university training
and publishing industry have to change their offering if they are about
to survive.

Some questions asked in the interview:

  • Who are you?
  • Visionary leadership?
  • Small pieces loosely joined?
  • What is a weblog, wiki and RSS and why are these technologies important?
  • Are teachers going to use RSS in teaching?
  • What is Feed2JS?
  • Are easy and simple tools [like Feed2JS] going to popularize emerging technologies?
  • Rip, Mix and Learn?
  • What about devices?
  • Is FLOSS going to affect the methods of teaching and learning?
  • Are the support issues [of FLOSS software] going to be solved?
  • Open Content in education?
  • How does year 2010 look like?
  • Who are the loosers and who are the winners?

"The future is not the dim one where we are solidary droids in front of our computers alone – the connectiveness and ability to tap into shared expertise is also one of the sweet spots for us"

"Read more" to see the extracted future events and analysis.

Future events

Here is a list of fictional future events extracted from the interview with Alan Levine. If you want to comment or have additional future events to present based on the interview, please do so.

Disclaimer: The future events were constructed from the ideas presented in the interview and do not represent the ideas of the interviewee. No crystal ball or time machines were used in the construction of these events. Bear in mind, it’s the future and everything is possible.

Year: 2006

Monolithic tool environments used in most large educational institutions

Large educational institutions have acquired several monolithic tool
environments for learning. The largest have three or four different
commercial CMS/LCMS/LMS systems which all come bundled with a set of
tightly-joined tools. Only pockets of educators are using alternative
FLOSS or otherwise freely available tools in a bottom-up manner.

Firefox first browser to format XML content automatically

Open Source Firefox and it’s even lighter successor, the XHTML-only
browser called Firedog are among the first browsers to format XML
content automatically. It all started from the innocent looking RSS
button which displayed raw XML code to people who didn’t understand how
to use them. People demanded for a readable version as well and Open
Source developers were fast in respond.

FLOSS based LMS systems not in heavy production use

While educational institutions renew their yearly contracts on WebCT
and BlackBoard they are still looking for people to do more than
experiments with FLOSS tools like Moodle. The decision-makers are in
sleeping mode, waiting for someone in the neigbourhood municipality to
take the first major step towards Open Source.

Adoption of collaborative document writing tools grow slowly

Reportage and hype surrounded by Wikipedia and other Wikimedia services
gain momentum in global press as Google enters in the game as a major
supporter of the world’s biggest encyclopaedia of free content. Wiki
becomes the de-facto tool for creating open content and it reaches new
dimensions in its creative use. Users become familiar with the concept
of creating their own navigation. Most widely used Wikis are Open
Source software. A good wiki experience is still required as people
have hard time understanding what is so special with a page that anyone
can edit.

Year: 2007

Open Source based web aggregators become popular among teachers

After a free popular web-based aggregator service called
became a service based on monthly fees, Open Source based web
aggregators started to replace the previous leader in aggregation
market. Teachers who previously had built quickly outdated static lists
of web resources are now building lists by collecting RSS feeds in
their Open Source collaborative aggregators – concept which is often
associated with the fact that their students are able to help them out
in the process.

Less move towards FLOSS in education as hoped

Only the largest educational institutions like MIT have been able to
move completely into FLOSS applications. Smaller institutions lack the
staff or resources to pay for the maintenance and customization of
these applications and rely on cheaper proprietary LCMS mass-products.
Especially there is fear of their ability to support the number of
students they have. Cheap commercial support models for FLOSS
applications are available only regionally.

Educators discover one-click publishing

In contrary to large and rigid content management systems, educators
and students have noticed easy personal publishing on a wide scale. One
weblog related to education is created every second according to
statistics provided by Technorati. Google has launched a specially
branded service called EduBlogger™ based on their popular Blogger™

Students install Open Source tools for their teachers

Social software tools have gained great interest by students among the
20-30 age group. Some early adopters are using blogs as an alternative
learning diary and a wiki for drafting out school projects with their
peers. Teachers are given access to these resources. Some teachers have
become interested in the capabilities these new tools are able to offer
compared to LMS systems their institutions provide. The students are
helping their teachers to setup blogs and wikis for their classes.

Software customization prospers

FLOSS tools enable easy customization. Service businesses focused on
customization and delivery of FLOSS tools are a common place. World’s
most successful weblog software company, SixApart popularized the
requirement for easy software customization among personal publishing
tools. LMS providers are pressured to include easier customization in
their packages as institutions notice how they have been able to create
better targeted solutions based on customizable FLOSS software. Even
some web services enable customization of their interface by
introducing versatile web service interfaces in foot-steps of Amazon
and Flickr APIs.

Rip, Mix and Learn is the new metaphor for constructing learning objects

iTunes and several other music stores enabled people to buy only a
single song and mix their own album for listening. The now famous Apple
add campaign, Rip – Mix – Burn started everything. There is a popular
parody of this: "Rip, Mix, ????, Profit". Among educational circles
there is Rip, Mix and Learn, which allows teachers to mix various
learning resources in dynamic RSS feeds to deliver to their students.

Proprietary software vendors have partly opened source code

Movable Type was a semi-free software tool but became popular in its
own user segment because the code was available for modification. A
similar trend is visible in many other software user segments as users
are demanding proprietary software companies to open their code for
customization. Some move to an Open Source business model, others
satisfy their customers by offering them easier means for developing
custom extensions and making modifications while still retaining their
control on the core package.

Software becomes a commodity

As more efficient and easier to use software services come out people are overwhelmed of the possibilities they have with all of the
new technology. New businesses start to bloom, investors offload their
money and we are in the middle of the next IT bubble. Thanks to Open
Source, software has become a commodity which is available to everyone
from enterprise software to simple personal tools. Most importantly,
people are thrilled of the new opportunities that weren’t there before.

Pull beats push

The spam problem becomes even worse as over 80% of incoming email is
spam, scam or viruses. Another popular push technology among social
software tools called TrackBack fails as spammers have rendered the
technology useless in the public internet. Based on this development
users are forced to look for other alternatives to receive the
information they need. Syndication technologies like RSS and Atom come
for rescue as all major browsers now include a built-in aggregator.

Creative Commons starts to promote open content exchange standards

After being successful in creating a concept for people to remix
culture and distribute open content based on CC licensing scheme,
Creative Commons starts to promote open standards for content exchange.
Many analysts believe that this is the key for the future of content
exchange in general, especially in the realm of mobile devices. Imagine
a music player which is able to exchange content between other music
players in the area for letting others to tune in. Content licenses
follow content.

A fair amount of teachers have dropped text books all together

A handful of teachers all around the world have given up text books and try to build very well thought out concepts online. A survey among
students reveals that 85% find the new approach to content more
beneficial to their learning experiences. This is possible because
teachers are now more easily able to join forces with other teachers
all around the world to build quality content together based on
peer-production and Open Content licenses. Even students help in
writing new content.

Year: 2008

Open Content moves faster in education than Open Source software

Open Content in education takes a big leap as educational institutions
find better ways to deploy that content. Previously deploying Open
Content was a problem as schools required students still to buy text
books and there were also unnecessary copyright misunderstandings about
printing and distributing certain Open Content. Also as Wikimedia
started to publish their cheap encyclopaedias based on open contend in
printed form, some educators have started to use them instead.

The gap between digital-illiterate and literate gets wider

People use more and more time online. Some who do not have the
equipment or never joined the digital world have hard time
understanding what people are talking about – a similar experience as
for those who gave up watching television. This affects education as
many universities start to offer certain courses only in online form.
Also, early adopters of new technology jump to new waves sooner than
the mainstream is able to pick up the latest cool technology. It
becomes increasingly important for early adopters to help less
tech-savvy people along with the changes.

RSS is the new information publishing system

People are tired to go for a website for the information they need.
It’s a lot faster for them to receive the content on topics they are
interested in through services that semantically filter a wide variety
of information resources and provide personalized feeds. Content
publishers take an advantage of this by focusing on RSS as a publishing
platform. Some revolutionary websites are published only as an XML
based feed.

Email based mailing lists become less popular

Because email mostly failed as a system for tapping into conversations,
the use of mailing lists has reduced by half. The traffic on mailing
lists becomes harder to differentiate of spam. the small fraction of
user feedback compared to volume of received posts forces people first
to jump into read-only mode through their aggregators. As a
side-product of this, an XML based feedback channel is built into
content aggregators. Users are able to answer to posts directly from
their aggregators. The comments are authenticated and injected back to
the feed based mailing lists.

More and more knowledge assets move to collaborative document spaces

Previously email was the storage medium for most of the knowledge
assets in an organization. After the revolution of freely available
small software pieces, a fourth generation wiki tool is a common place
in many organizations. Knowledge assets are stored in a central place
where anyone from the organization can add, edit and link to them. A
recent study found that writing a new document together is about twice
as fast with a Wiki compared to swapping ancient Word Documents.

Travel expenses decrease as remote collaboration increases

Many prominent institutions have reduced their travel expenses by 45%
through a policy which requires their workers to prefer remote
collaboration tools to connect together in virtual meeting rooms. Even
inside organizations meeting time is reduced as collaborative working
methods transform many face-to-face meetings unnecessary. Internet
replaces the elevator as organizations are able to decentralize their

Year: 2009

Digital convergence happens in two dimensions

New mobile devices become like swiss-army knifes with all kinds of
functionality from IM, blogging to context sensitive learning
applications. In the other hand, web services, FLOSS and open standards
enable small pieces on a larger scale as many different kind of simple
tools are able to connect together through common APIs. "Sometimes
there is a need for a simple blade that is able to cut you some cheese
but it’s also able to connect to knife-rests with other blades"
comments a well-known educational veteran blogger. There is demand for
both complexity and simplicity.

Educational institutions locked into old toolsets

Many educational institutions look from the side as new and better
tools for educational purposes appear. Unfortunately based on their
long-term politics in acquiring software, multi-year contracts of old
LMS/CMS/LCMS systems eat most of the available IT budget. Some have
fought out through the court, some are using FLOSS software in parallel
and others just wait for the contracts to end as there are no resources
or staff to start using FLOSS in-house.

Main argument used against non-open content: Is it useful in 5 years?

The so called lifespan of information shrinks all the time. Content
produced today is considered old in less than two years. Educational
content and books that are incrementally updated by educators,
academics and pro-amateurs in a consistent manner on the web under an
Open Content license is able to survive during the next 5 years.
Publishers still counting on their old business model have hard time to
find profitable ways to counter this act.

Universities are repositioning their selves

The myth of a college student who goes to a university, moves to campus
and finishes his studies in four years is no longer true. People are
working on many things and they rapidly change careers among many other
issues. These changes drive universities to reposition their selves and
their offering.

Year: 2010

Changes coming from the outside drive changes in education

As more and more people do teleworking and spend their time on the
internet and see the changes coming, they start to expect the education
to change as well. Students no longer look for a place where they go
for studying but look for a more rich experience in learning where they
can mix work, gadgets, peers, teachers, offline and online in a
consistent manner that fits their needs.

Microsoft is no longer the dominant player in software industry

People were not able to put up with very large software products that
harshly work. Microsoft fought this by introducing software security
services, spyware prevention, virus prevention and several other
products. Sooner or later people noticed that they are creating a new
monopoly based on a problem they personally invented. Finally FLOSS
makes a breakthrough. Microsoft’s fortunes drain in their counter attack measures. Every single continent in the world has sued Microsoft for
monopoly issues.

Pre-reading for conference attendees

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005

Comenius 2.1 Contact Seminar attendees: if you are able, please become familiar with the following material before the conference. Understanding some of the background and context we are working with is necessary for a better experience during the conference.

It is evident that social software (like wikis, weblogs, social networking tools etc) are going to affect the way software is used in education as well. Many of these tools are Open Source. The largest encyclopedia in the world, Wikipedia is a by-product of commons-based peer-production and released under an Open Content license.

Understanding the changes that are happening in the way people organize and connect together online through software tools is in part important for understanding the role of FLOSS and Open Content in a sharing economy.


Tuesday, February 22nd, 2005


my name is Teemu Arina, partner and CTO of a privately held company called Ionstream Ltd. / Dicole.

I’ve been working with Open Source software in education since 1998. I have created several Open Source projects, notably a groupware and learning environment called MimerDesk and just recently a social software called Dicole, which is continuing the work I’ve done with MimerDesk in the past in a slightly different (and imho more interesting) setting. I’m doing consultation and software development on the field of collaborative and social software technologies. You can read my personal weblog for an insight of what I find interesting at the moment.

I have been part in founding a legal non-profit organization called Vapaat ja Avoimet Ohjelmistot Opetuksessa VOPE Ry (Free/Libre and Open Source in Education Association). The other members of the organization are going to write together with me on this group weblog about issues related to the use of ICT, Open Content and FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) in education. We might invite guest bloggers to write articles related to the topic of the weblog.

We will begin our commentary on these issues through a 4-day Comenius 2.1 Contact Seminar which official title is "Towards Open eEurope – Challenges for Teacher Education".  It’s organized by Palmenia Centre for Continuing Education, Vantaa, at the University of Helsinki.  The seminar will be held parallel to the European Schools Projects
(ESP) Conference “Learning goes mobile” in collaboration with the
Comenius 3 networks Comp@ct and ECOLE on March 9-13, 2005 in Finland.

I’ve been promoted as one of the organizers of the second workshop in the Contact Seminar called "Open Source Software as a tool in developing education and training". Basically I’m designing the structure of the workshop and leading it through with Timo Tervo from Palmenia.

Because of a recent positive experience in analyzing certain emerging technology trends through a scenario methodology, I have chosen for this workshop a similar approach. The idea is to construct a couple of different future scenarios of FLOSS in education based on interviews and analysis we have done before the workshop. We will present these future scenarios and ideas in the contact seminar and hopefully offer a broader view for the audience of the importance of FLOSS/Open Content in education and set it as a starting point for conference attendees to reflect on and think about the future and how FLOSS might affect their own scenarios.

We have so far interviewed the following people: Stephen Downes, Alan Levine, Knut Yrvin, George Siemens, Teemu Leinonen and Antti Kauppi.  The interviews were mainly conducted and recorded with a free VoIP service called Skype. We are currently analysing these interviews and the resulting podcast (audio recording in digital format for broadcast purposes), summarized transcript and constructed future events will be available on this website as we progress.

Interviewing was a lot of fun and as a conclusion I think that we are going to continue this work on interviewing various people on the field of FLOSS in education and present their ideas here for further discussion. We are beginning a conversation here and I welcome you all to join in. If you have ideas or suggestions, please comment below.