LAMS 2008 European conference

Despite the shadow of the lambsgate affair, the LAMS 2008 European conference was another bit step forward (imho) towards a consensus about the future development of learning design tools and the mechanisms for sharing designs. It seems that the pieces of the jigsaw are starting to come together and, from the cross section of projects in attendance, there was a genuine willingness to share best practice and not re-invent the wheel.

Grainne Conole has already done an excellent job of summarizing the conference keynotes from Stephen Downes, Helen Beetham and James Dalziel. Grainne’s own keynote gave an excellent overview not only of the work she and her team are doing at the OU, but also of the key issues researchers are faced with in the design for learning space such as just how/can design for learning help to exploit engaging technologies to create better learning experiences? Grainne highlighted some of the contradictions that they are finding through workshop and interviews with OU staff around design including:
*design as a process -v- design as a product
*the capturing of designs: when/what to concentrate on – the explicit or the implicit?
*representations: when to use textual or visual (or both)
*the life-cycle of designs: tensions between static and dynamic elements.

This mirrors the experience of the JISC Design for Learning programme. It was in a way re-assuring to see that even with the different production process that are in place in an institution like the OU, there is a commonality around the key issues in terms of capturing (and sharing) the design process.

One of the projects the OU is working on is a social networking site for designs called Cloudworks. In previous meetings Martin Weller has described this as a “flickr for learning designs”. The social networking aspect of the site could help move forward sharing of designs as many projects have found that the peer aspects of sharing are incredibly important to practitioners.

Grainne ended her presentation around the need to develop more simple widgets around the pedagogy of designing learning activities which could help to bring some more fun into the design process. The OU have started to develop some widgets and the ReCourse team is doing that too (as highlighted at the recent CETIS learning design meeting). An other example of convergence of development and exploiting of web 2.0 technologies for education.

My presentation focused on the sharing solution we (CETIS) as the JISC Design for Learning programme support project initiated. One thing we didn’t include was any form of social networking, so it was really useful was to catch up with the OU team and discuss possible ways in which we can work together to integrate outputs from the programme into their Cloudworks site.

BTW I think we now might have a theme tune for learning design events. Martin Weller created an animoto video of the conference and by some bizarre coincidence he chose the same music as I did for the video I made for the Design for Learning Programme Design Bash last year . . . spooky or just the result of limited choices of copyright free music 🙂

Universal edit button for wikis – one more reason to install firefox 3?

Some of the biggest wiki providers have launched a new icon to indicate in the browser bar that a page is universally editable. At the moment you need to have firefox 3 installed to see the icon, but it’s hoped other browser platforms will come onboard and the UEB (universal edit button) will become as ubiquitous as the RSS icon.

Nice idea and good to see platform providers working together to produce a simple solution to encourage contributions to wikis. ReadWriteWeb have good summary of the launch too.

Opening up the IMS

Via Stephen Downes OL Daily I came across this post by Michael Feldstein about his recent experiences in IMS and around the contradiction of IMS being a subscription organisation producing so called open standards. This issue has been highlighted over the last 2 years or so with the changes in access to to public versions of specs.

Michael puts forward three proposals to help IMS in becoming more open:

    “Eliminate altogether the distinction between the members-only CM/DN draft and the one available to the general public. IMS members who want an early-adopter advantage should join the working groups.”

    Create a clear policy that individual working groups are free to release public general updates and solicit public input on specific issues prior to release of the public draft as they see fit.

    Begin a conversation with the IMS membership about the possibility of opening up the working group discussion areas and document libraries to the general public on a read-only basis.”

Getting sustained involvement in any kind of specification process is very difficult. I know I wouldn’t have much to do with IMS unless I was paid to do it 🙂 Thankfully here in the UK JISC has recognised that have an organisation like CETIS can have an impact on standards development and uptake. But the world is changing particularly around the means and access to educational content. Who needs standards compliant content when you can just rip and mix off the web as the edupunkers have been showing us over the last few weeks. I don’t think they are at all “bovvered” about needing for example to convert their videos to Common Cartridges when they can just stick them onto Youtube.

Here at CETIS we have been working closely with IMS to allow JISC projects access to specifications but the suggestions Michael makes would certainly help broaden out the reach of the organisation and hopefully help provide the development of useful, relevant (international) standards.


The lastest edition to the wiki family is wikiaudio, which aims be “an easily accessible user created database of information pertaining to the art and science of anything audio or sound related.” Once logged in users can add audio and video as well to their personal pages. The addition of sound and video give the potential to enhance static text based wikipedia entries into something far more interactive which will hopefully be attractive to educators.

At the recent EC SIG meeting in Manchester, Cormac Lawler gave a fascinating talk around the Wikiversity project, and how the whole notion of openness is forcing us to change our notions of personal learning spaces. This latest edition to the wikifamily will surely help to push these boundaries even further.

Education 3.0

Though maybe not quite as hip and happening as the whole edupunk thang, the latest posting in the Terra Incongita series on open content and open source, does put forward a case for promoting new attitudes and developing new infrastructures for educational content.

In his article entitled “Evolution to Education 3.0”Derek Keats, describes the impact of what he refers to as ‘digital freedom’ both in terms of producing and sharing resources. He also strikes a cautionary note about the move to accredit open educational resources and argues instead for the wider uptake at institutional level to a framework of “Freedom and Openness”. This framework would encourage aggregation and interoperability between institutional and personal learning networks.

“. . . a possible brave new world of education 3.0, one in which the organizational constraints and boundaries are removed, the need for aggregation is not the only model for accredited learning, and the long-tail reaches into higher education at last. I do not see it as a replacement for institutional learning as it happens currently, but as another layer on top of it that extend the value of higher education into new spaces and that enable synergy among different individuals and institutions to be created “

Lots of interesting comments to the article have been posted too.

And then there was Edupunk

I’ve just been catching up on my regular blogs today and Edupunk is everywhere. I’m not sure how long this craze will last, or if it’s already soo last week in the blog/twittersphere. But in the light of some of the discussions we had at the EC SIG meeting last week around open content, personal learning environments etc many of the issues raised through the edupunk debate are becoming more and more relevant to us in HE. Particularly if we really want harness the power oftechnology to allow staff and students to share and re-use content. Community engagement is key, as Jim Groom points out ” . . . the idea of a community and its culture is what makes any technology meaningful and relevant.”

Tony Hirst has a good summary of the debate and it’s worth having a look at Martin Weller’s response.