Archive for July, 2005

Made – map and annotation display environment: collaborative and visual learning tool

Friday, July 29th, 2005

We are happy to announce our new software project. The working title of the software under development is Made – Map and Annotation Display Environment (BTW: for those who understand Finnish: we also have software products called Hauki and Kuha).

made 0 small Made   map and annotation display environment: collaborative and visual learning tool
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Made software is primary developed for browsing and studying images of cultural heritage objects, such as historical maps, but I see a lot of other kind of learning uses for the software. In a way Made is a web-based collaborative and visual learning tool.

In Made there are some similarities with the Google maps and the MSN Virtual Earth. And yes, we are happy to get some ideas from these products to the design of Made. On the other hand, the basic idea behind Made is very different from that in the Google’s and MSN’s maps.

Made is a platform for a community to add their own content to maps or to some other images. The content in the map/image in Made can be whatever the people want in to be. Behind the links that are included to the annotations people can have images, video clips, audio clips, stories, etc.

made small 2 Made   map and annotation display environment: collaborative and visual learning tool
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Also the image on which the content will be attached can be whatever, large and high-resolution, image. When uploaded to Made the software processes the image and makes it possible to zoom in/out, to add annotations in it, search the annotations, etc.

There is also RSS feed from the annotations added to the map/images. So, when someone adds a new annotation to the map you will automatically get info about it in your RSS reader and the link in the feed leads straight to the annotation in the map.

We are also working on to include tags (folksonomies) to the annotations. Then people can very easily categorize their content in the map/image. The possibility to give a colour for a tag would be nice in this kind of visual applications. Then you could see all the annotations related to some tag straight from the map view.

From the learning perspective I see it very exciting that with Made a community can build up their own knowledge bases where knowledge is spatially located. The “background image” used in it can be a map, but also a diagram of a human brain, timeline, image of a piece of art, or whatever the knowledge base is related to. Think this in the context of collaborative learning as meaning making!

And one day – I hope soon – Made will be also integrated to Fle3’s Knowledge Building tool. This means that in the future the knowledge building discourse with Fle3 will take place on top of images and you can drag and drop the notes in there. This is something I have been dreaming about for a long, long time.

Made is a Zope product, written in Python and will be released under GPL. We expect to release the version 1.0 in thee or four weeks. We will then set-up a developer web site for the project, too. The source code is already available in our Subversion Server.

If you are interested in to work with us in the development of Made, drop us an email. Or just write your feedback and idea as a comment to this blog.

Made is developed by two research groups of the Media Lab in Helsinki. The Learning Environments group and the Systems of Representation group.

Intentional learning: reflecting the discussion in the blogsphere

Monday, July 18th, 2005

Intentional learning requires reflection and meta-cognition. Blogs are a great tool for this. Still tools are just tools. The skills of using them are at least as important as the actual tools. To nail you need a hammer but also the idea and skill of hammering. To build a chair with your hammer you need even more: you need a hammer, the idea of hammering, the idea of a chair, the idea of sitting and where the sitting will take place. The artefact becomes a tool.

My own reason to write to this blog, and to follow tens of other blogs, is my desire to understand and to make meaning on the multi-disciplinary field that can be located somewhere to the crossing point of education, learning and ICT. This is my chair. With a relative long experience in the field I naturally want to preach my conceptions and insights of these topics, too. I already have made some chairs of my own. But still my primary motivation to participate to the discussions in blogsphere and to write to this blog is to learn more. I believe that I can still make better chairs.

Meta-cognition, the process of thinking on your own thinking and learning, is seen critical in modern theories of learning. To take most out of the learning in (or shoud I write with?) the blogsphere one should step back once in a while and think what am I thinking about all this, what I already know about the topics and what should I learn and study more. This way the learning process with blogs may become intentional. Blogs and blogsphere are some of the tools I use to build my chair(s).

Some months ago I wrote an entry about interesting ideas heard from people I had met lately. I’ll now try to reflect some discussions and thoughts I have read from the blogsphere and web lately.

Learning objects and context. Learning objects are not dead. But the king is still naked. There is a community that is dedicated to work hard to make the modular and reusable LO’s reality. I see value in the LO thinking. Actually it is very close to the original idea of the Web. But this can be its main problem, too. There is maybe nothing new in the LO thinking. We already have the Web where content is as reusable and modular as it can be. My colleague, psychologist Tarmo Toikkanen – a guy who is fluent in UML, OOP and number of programming languages – said it very well in his comment to my earlier entry: “Learning for humans happens in context. Having complete reusability means having no context, and vice versa. Modularity and reusability is great when the material is to be used by a machine, but not when the user is a human brain – our brains need concrete, memorable, weird things that are anchored to our previous experiences and linked to our motivations and goals.”

Personal and networked learning. I find it very hard to understand why so many people in the field of education technology, especially with technology background, think that learning primary happens in the head of the learner. This is a mystery for me. I think that as timesharing and networked computing have been around already since 1960’s it should be easy for computer scientist to understand the value of distributed cognition among human beings. In the field of computer science nobody is questioning the power of distributed computing, but when talking about human agents many clever people surprisingly think that learning is only, or at least mainly, an individual process. I think this major misconception is the main reason why the history of ICT in education is pretty sad story.

Learning and standards. Standards are good but they are never value free. In the Internet era they are also formulated in a new way. This should be understood especially when we think on them for areas that are close to the core of a human existence. One should ask the question what kind of way of living the proposed standards represent and are promoting? An analogy: are the standards forcing us all to have a German car and to drive on autobahn or do they offer me a train to travel from one location to another and some kind of “all mans right” with freedom to walk around on other people property? Why I like the World Wide Web standards / recommendations is the simple mission statement behind them: “The social value of the Web is that it enables human communication, commerce, and opportunities to share knowledge. One of W3C’s primary goals is to make these benefits available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability.” What about IMS, SCORM and other learning technology standards? Richard G. Baraniuk from the Rice University’s Connexions project answers to the question in his slides, as follows: (1) don’t standardize but build a community, (2) work grassroots rather than imposed top-down, (3) notice the lesson from the open-source world where standards are rough consensus and working code (compare SGML vs. HTML) and (4) work toward common formats which are semantic, open and extensible (XML). IMS and SCROM? hmm…

CSCL research community. More than seven year I have been more or less involved in the Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL) research community. I highly appreciate the work of some of the founding scholars of the CSCL research, such as Marlene Schardamalia and Carl Bereiter. To get an idea what do I mean you may for instance have a look of their article published in 1994: Computer Support for Knowledge-Building Communities. Today it looks for me that the current people active under the label of CSCL are pretty much lost when it comes to computers and technology trends. If you have a look the web site of the CSCL conference 2005 you will notice that not a single person of the community is having a blog (give me a hint if you know someone), the proceedings of the CSCL 2005 conference (800 pages) do not have a single research paper about social software or free/open source software/content, and the paper version of the proceedings costs 155$ (CD-Rom 49.95$, no online version). Nice computer support for collaborative learning, isn’t it? icon smile Intentional learning: reflecting the discussion in the blogsphere