Archive for October, 2007

LeMill and Eduspaces/eLGG – Groups and Networks

Friday, October 19th, 2007

We were today looking for some statistics of the members and learning resource in the LeMill.net. It looks that LeMill is growing smoothly. I think we are still far from a “critical mass” that will make LeMill “self-sustainable”. Still, the future looks promising.

In LeMill.net we now have 1022 members, 238 content modules, 2540 media pieces, 59 descriptions of learning and teaching methods, and 144 descriptions of learning and teaching tools. Here are some examples of these:

Member: Martin Sillaots

Resource: How to write equations in LeMill (multimedia page)

Resource: Future Learning Models and the Impact of Visual Culture (Presentation)

Resource: Grammar exercise: the future (Exercise)

Resource: Kosteikko – maan ja veden välissä (Progressive Inquiry Learning Object)

Method: Study Project / Project Learning

Tool: Viddler

In the last days there has been close to 20 new members registering to the community every day. If things go on like this we will double the numbers in 50 days

Eduspaces/eLGG is a social networking site dedicated to education and educational technology. The service exists to promote the use of cutting edge technologies within education.

My impression is that most of the Eduspace users are mainly using the blog service and the 20 discussion groups of the site. In the Eduspaces (eLGG) there are about 8000 members.

I don’t think that LeMill and Eduspaces/eLGG are competing. Actually they are not even very similar kind of services, though they are both made for people working in the field of education and social platforms. What are the main differences? There are differences in the features and tools of the platforms, but I see one more fundamental difference that is probably effecting on them.

According to the Elgg.org site:

“Elgg is an open source social platform based around choice, flexibility and openness: a system that firmly places individuals at the centre of their activities.” (http://elgg.org/)

The same description could be used in LeMill with a minor (but very important!) change in it. It would be like this:

LeMill is an open source social platform based around choice, flexibility and openness: a system that firmly places shared objects at the center of its member’s activities.

So, there is a difference – an important difference. I am not sure is this difference is reflecting some kind of philosophical or cultural differences in the thinkingg of the designers of these two systems. It is possible.

We believe that communities, first of all, need objects they are developing together. The objects are the clue keeping communities together. In Eduspaces there are groups, shared bookmark lists and other things that are kind of tools for working with shared objects. Still it seems to fail to offer tools supporting shared ownership of objects. I also do not find how Eduspaces tools are supporting longer commitments to develop objects.

I think LeMill and Eduspace are both, first of all, “network” services, but I think LeMill have better support for “groups” working with shared objects.

So, finally, I see here onnection to the discussion about groups and networks we started with Stephens Downes about a year ago in New Zealand. LeMill is for a service for “networks” interested in to form “groups” to co-construct things together.

Do not localize – make your own

Friday, October 12th, 2007

In last days I have been thinking several things that at first looked very unconnected. Now I realized that they are all connected. Here we go.

Localized digital content is NOT core educational infrastructure. “Wiki” is core educational infrastructure. I didn’t go to the Open Education 2007 conference. However, they nicely distribute audio and slides from all the conference sessions. Thank you!

I checked some of the presentations and did listen to David Wiley’s “Few Framing Thoughts – About Localization and Learning” in his opening remarks. He claimed that content is educational infrastructure and for this reason localizing open educational resources is important when we try to expand global access to education. I disagree.

Content is infrastructure only when it is made locally. The key is not localizing some existing content but doing unique local content. To produce local content you need access to other resources starting from local oral tradition to written documents and other recorded media – maybe even in foreign languages. But, when doing local content one should USE resources, not localize them. This means that people in marginal – in terms of language, wealth or power – should at first focus on to create their own content. In this process, if they wish, they may USE content provided by someone else.

This leads to the conclusion that core, primary educational infrastructure is some kind of National Information Creation and Distribution System (huh, what a term!) – let’s call it now NICDS. The simplest possible NICDS is a Wiki or even just Wikipedia in your own language.

WikiFavWikiPedia2 Do not localize – make your own

So, my advice for people speaking Swahili, Finnish, Sami or some other marginal languages is to forget localizing content available in the MIT Open Courseware (or other open courseware sites) and focus on to write to Wikpedia in their own language. When you have a nice online encyclopaedia in your own language you may start another Wiki (or some other software such as LeMill) and expand your NICDS to have also educational resources. To build the resources you may use open educational resources online, but just USE them as references. Do not localize – make your own!

Learning to read by learning to write (with a computer). This week there was a small news in Finland about research project at the University of Helsinki looking for new methods of teaching children to read by letting them to write with a computer. According to the news paper there is already research evidence of the benefits of letting children at first to learn to write with a computer and not to start by practicing reading. Children will basically learn to read after they have learned to write. Writing with a keyboard asks for much less fine motor coordination than handwriting. I see this from my 3-year old daughter, too. She is able to write with a computer some words – like her name, my name and mama – but not with her hand. Learning to write with a computer has happen for her simply while playing with my laptop. I have of course set her a full screen “Sticky Notes” to write with a large font and show her how the keyboard works. She is not able to read yet, but I am sure it will happen very soon without us doing anything more.

I made a search to find more about the topic. Didn’t find much, but something anyway. Norwegian Arne Trageton seems to be the one behind the idea of teaching children to write with a computer. You may have a look of the Google Book Search results with his name. If you do not read Norwegian but you read Finnish you are maybe interested in this new book (Lukemaan oppiminen kirjoittamalla). I also found a short article about the topic in plain English.

You may ask what is the connection between the NICDS (National Information Creation and Distribution System) and a method of learning to write? Think about it! It is pretty obvious. I think the primary skill is to create information – to write. A secondary skill, that follows writing, is reading. This is the order of things in the NICDS, too. You must write first! Then you may use some resources here and there (read) and use them in your further writings. Do not localize – make your own!

Wikimedia needs us. The humankind needs more people who are willing to “imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge”. For all us – the daydreamers – there is the Wikimedia community making the dream come true.

Commons button en Do not localize – make your own More and more people are starting to understand how significant the Wikimedia projects actually are. People are starting to see that it is not only Wikipedia, but things like Wikimedia Commons with more than 1 800 000 free media files and more than 190 000 registered users or Wikinews which has become one of the world most important independent news agencies (with the Indymedia).

WikiFavWikiVersity1 Do not localize – make your own We should also support the Wikiversity, the brave new Wikimedia project of building free learning communities. These communities need us.

Did you already make a connections between the Wikimedia projects, NICDS and learning to write? I am sure you did. Notice the Wikimedia Foundation’s vision: “… every single human being can freely share …”.

The question is: how do we get for every single human being something they may share? Simple. If you can write and you have NICDS infrastructure supporting you, you can create something to share. Your life. Do not localize – make your own!

Webinar: Applying mobile technology in the global conservation and development effort

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Webinars logo Webinar: Applying mobile technology in the global conservation and development effort

This is an invitation to join in an online chat about mobile technology in conservation and development effort.

If you are working in the field of environment, development, education and/or mobile technology, please add the time in your calendar and remember to join us.

The online chat will take place on October 12th – 13:00-15:00 UTC.

We will use the IRC channel #shareideas at freenode.net.

The idea is to chat about the topics presented in an online video lecture by Ken Banks, Founder of kiwanja.net. The video lecture will be released online in the shareideas.org website the day before, October 11th.

I am going to watch the video same time when chatting with you. I have found watching online video and chatting about it same time with friends very pleasant activity. You should try it, too. icon smile Webinar: Applying mobile technology in the global conservation and development effort

You will find details of the event and instructions on how to join the chatroom from the Webinar page of the Shareidea.org website. The page is here:

http://www.shareideas.org/index.php/Webinars

Please, add your name to the list of registered people if you are planning to join us. It is nice to know who is who. See you online!

LeMill 2.0 released

Monday, October 1st, 2007

We are proud to announce the release of LeMill 2.0. In this case 2.0 means the actual version number, though it is rather “web 2.0”, too. icon smile LeMill 2.0 released

Have a look of an earlier post to get and idea of the latest development with LeMill. You may also try it out yourself in the LeMill.net service hosted by us (or download the latest version and set-up your own LeMill server).

There are some new things in the 2.0:

New content template – Exercise. It’s like the old Multimedia Material (with audio, images, video and text), but you can add in there questions that appear as blank boxes for students. You can direct your students to LeMill to do the exercises, and they can send the results to you as e-mail with simple pressing a button. With the Exercise template you can do:

  1. open-ended questions,
  2. fill-in-the-blanks-exercises, and
  3. multiple choices questions.

We have an example of an exercise with all three kind of questions.

Tex-formatting. This is for math teachers and others who know what tex-formatting is about. Basically you can insert formulas to text.

Faster. Everything should be now faster. Section front pages should load a lot faster and viewing resources should also be faster.

Please, try it out and give us feedback.

Papanek’s Online Paper Computer beta

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Victor Papanek (1927-1999) is my hero.

We made an online tool for an idea generation method, which Papanek calls “paper computer”. Paper computers are described in Papanek’s famous book Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (Originally published in1969).

Shortly, the Papanek’s paper computer is an association (actually bi-association) method, a tool and a short-term memory help. This is how it works:

  1. You write down what you are designing;
  2. you get six random respond words (in a paper version you use a dictionary);
  3. you associate with your design task and the respond words; and
  4. you simply write down your design ideas.

If you wish you may also categorize the ideas depending on when they could be implemented.

With the online tool the final result is PDF-files with the written down ideas. This file you may use as a background to start visual sketching on it. Yo may also import the file it in some design software and use it in there.

Please, try it out. Please, give us feedback. Use it in your own design work or use it to write poetry, like Leena did with an earlier prototype.

The tool is here:

http://legroup.uiah.fi/papanek/

Thank you Tuomo.