We just released a new version of Fle3 software – a web-based software for collaborative learning, knowledge building and jamming. Our main developer Tarmo Toikkanen just sent me a note that the new package is now online in Fle3 project’s website for downloading.
Tarmo also asked me to announce the release in our project’s mailing lists. Unfortunately the Free Software Foundation’s mailman server, where our mailing lists are hosted, seems to be down right now. I assume that all you who have ever released any FLOS software know that you want to get you message to the world in the very same minute the release is done. So, I am telling you.
Still after so many years of the FLE project I am really excited about this release. The last release was almost a year and a half ago. Actually the whole last year we were focusing more on usage of Fle3 – testing of it in different pedagogical practices – and less to software development. We also felt that “it was ready” and we should not add stupid features in it just to get new releases out and to make the feature list longer. I am not sure if the fight against long feature lists is an upcoming zeitgeist in software development, but if it is, it makes me very happy.
Fle3 1.5 is different. For all these years Fle3 has been a kind of closed seminar room for student centered and collaborative progressive inquiry learning. With Fle3 you need user name and password to use it. We have thought that study groups implementing progressive inquiry need privacy. The idea is that inside Fle3, with your study mates who share the same aims as you, you should feel secure to present also your naive own theories and arguments about the topics under study. Just like a door of a seminar room is closed when the seminar starts, Fle3 is protected from outsiders’ eyes and comments. Inside Fle3 students, tutors and teachers are very equal, as well. All have same user rights to participate in knowledge building and jamming and there are no hidden tracking or spying features for teachers. Tutors and teacher just hold some extra rights for managing users and courses – that’s all.
In the Fle3 v. 1.5 we are now slightly opening the door of Fle3 for the rest of the world. The new teachers’ course announcement blog feature is a very simple feature. Now teachers and tutors (not students, except if all students are given tutors’ rights) may write to the course blog course announcements, event and To-Do’s. The blog is of course using all the cool blog technology, such as RSS, trackbacks etc. An example tells more than 100 words. It may sound trivial feature, but actually the teachers’ blog feature changes Fle3 quite a lot. Now students can just follow one page (no log in needed) to keep track of the course. They may also syndicate the blog in their own site or use some RSS reader. For teachers the course blog makes it easy to guide students learning process thought one place. And probably the most important side effects will be related to the fact of making the guidance and tutoring of students more transparent. By following each other course blogs teachers may learn new ways to motivate, supervise and guide their students learning process. Same time the openness puts some social pressure on the teachers as they know that their peers may follow the blog, too.
In my own teaching I’ve been already using prototypes of the new Fle3 1.5 for a while. My experience of the blog feature is very positive. All the people behind Fle3 hope that other educators will find it useful, too. We believe that this is another small step in our way to change the traditional teacher and didactic-based teaching to be more student centered and knowledge building based.