I love sprouts!

And not just the green ones 🙂 David Sherlock in our Bolton office put me onto Sprout Builder, a very simple widget builder. I have had a play with some other so called simple widget building tools which lost my interest in about 5 minutes or when I realised that they didn’t work with macs, but I have to say this one has really got me hooked.

In about half an hour I had build a widget which displays the outputs for the JISC Design for Learning programme (just taking a feed from the programme delicious site), published it onto the Design for Learning wiki and in my netvibes page. I’ve now just created a widget for my last SIG meeting with audio/video files embedded and a location map which I put into facebook and the CETIS wiki.

Now I’m not claiming that these examples are anything unique, or particularly well designed. However, what I really like about this particular tool is the simplicity of it and the way it integrates services that I use such as rss feeds, maps, polldaddy polls, video, audio etc. Publishing is really straightforward with links to all the main sites such as facebook, beebo, netvibes, pagesflakes, igoogle, blogger . . . the list goes on. You can also make changes on the fly and when you republish it automatically updates all copies.

Tools like this really do put publishing (across multiple platforms/sites) and remixing content into the hands of us non-developers. There are many possibilities for education too, from simple things like creating a widget of a reading list/resources from a delicious feed to a simple countdown for assignments. (OK, that might be a bit scary, but heck a ticking clock works for most of us!). Simple tools like this combined with the widgets that the TenCompetence project are building (and showed at a recent meeting) are really starting to push the boundaries, and show the potential of how we can mix and match content and services to help enhance the teaching and learning experience.

5 thoughts on “I love sprouts!”

  1. Sheila,

    Thanks for trying out Sprout Builder. I am glad it was a fun and engaging experience. We have seen many educational uses of the product and even have a team member focused solely on educational markets. Please send us any feedback if there are features you would like to see built.



  2. I came across this blog from the JISC CETIS newsletter. Sprouts seem like a useful tool at first glance, and the intro video is very professionally made. Looking through the website, though, the “What are Sprouts?” page regularly and consistently crashed my copy of Firefox 3, even after a reboot, which doesn’t inspire confidence. Neither does the Features page have much technical information. In particular, I’d have liked to see an example of the HTML code comprising a Sprout, which is mentioned in the video – I strongly suspect that the code links to applications and data on the Sproutbuilder website, which if true is asking for future trouble as all functionality and content would be locked into the company’s servers.

    There are other mashup tools around (see http://www.programmableweb.com/) which, though not as user-cuddly as Sprouts, at least leaves the developer in control of the code, and I’d prefer to stick with them. As ever with e-learning tools (yeah, I know, this goes beyond e-learning, but I’m talking in a HE context), ease of use and authorability is at the expense of loss of control and proprietary lock-in.

  3. Hi Fred

    Thanks for your comments. I haven’t had any problems viewing the sprout pages or any sprouts I’ve built. However some people haven’t been able to view the sprouts with explorer. So there are obviously still a few bugs to sort out. Remember the days when things only worked with explorer – how times have changed 🙂

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