Thursday, November 09, 2006

Back down to earth with a bump

An earlier post of mine asked for help decyphering some way out there infographics on the edge of Web 2.0 developments. Like Quantum Mechanics, new theories and ideas regarding the future of the web and learning technologies are emerging day after day, each seemingly more convulated and confusing than the last.

Last night I received some respite from this forward thinking and sat in dulled disbelief through 'The Future of e-Learning', a British Computer Society event held at a local college.
Twelve hours later and my depression has merely deepened.

The event, more correctly titled 'e-Learning 1999 - What is this thing called a VLE? And how can I use it to track usage, upload class notices and invite students to drop off their assignments with this e-maily thing the youngsters are now using'.

I really believed that this debate was over with. The first eLearning movement, characterised by Monolithic VLEs, shovelled courseware materials, and the dogmatic refusal by many educators to engage with technology to support their learning programmes lead to hype, overexpectation and underachievement. It did however produce a sufficently large body of knowledge with Do's and Don'ts, and an understanding of the difference of the web as a medium for learning allowing different models to be employed in teaching and learning - the trends toward a more reflective, constructivist approach based on dialogue, discussion with peers and so on. We're now seeing Wikis, blogs, RSS,podcasting, PDAs and increasing personalisation with respect to technology supported learning efforts. How is it that a BCS event at a local college can teachers, trainers and lecturers be amazed at the functionality of an aged Blackboard installation? How can they, when asked the question - 'Does you find this kind of technology offers you the means to deliver your teaching in different ways, allowing more students to learn in their own preferrred way and thus derive better outcomes for all' - and the response is first a 'Yes, it does' followed by a 'But I prefer to teach without it', claim to be doing their job properly wen they deny themselves and their students the benefits of the greatest free library of stuff we've ever known, the fact that many of the students are very comfortable with the medium and they are not, access is cheap enough to be almost ubiquitous and making connections to other classes, students and institutions around the world is as easy as sending an email.

But it's not really about the technology. Surely, having the ability logon from home and pickup the latest Assignment from a folder should no longer astound teachers, lecturers and trainers. Yet it did. This was revolutionary stuff that was being demonstrated last night.

And this presents me with a real problem. If our educators are so wilfully ignorant of the possibilities and the opportunities offered to them by such facilities where does this leave something as unregulated, new and personal as the Intouch service?

Well, I've thought about this overnight and this morning I'm reassured that the intended audience of students, researchers and practitioners will have no problems. A delegate raised her hand and proudly declared that she did not like eLearning at all, in fact disliked the web as a medium entirely, but she expressed mild surprise that after Moodle was deployed to the classroom and made available to students, the thing that really took off was the Social side - blogs, fora, discusion rooms. The students have apparently embraced this particular piece of functionality and are now quite engaged with each and with the subject in a way they previously were not. Though there was some agreement from others in the room who had observed the same effect in their institutions, but this was not considered eLearning since the staff had nothing to do with it in the sense that they did not lead or facilitate this debates. 'We do this, but we don't do eLearning' was the quote.

Leave it to the learners themselves - they'll find a way. Thankfully, in spite of their teacher's best efforts, it appears they already are.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Timely post : Wikis and education

Stewart Mader Wiki Talk at Drexel

Stewart gave a good general talk about wikis followed by a few examples in education. Here is the podcast (mp3). Here is the Flash Screencast . Drexel CoAS E-Learning Lecture Series Time: 11:00 Thursday October 26, 2006 Location: Disque 109 Four Letter Words: How wiki and edit are making the Internet a better learning tool Stewart Mader, Senior Instructional Technologist, Life Sciences and Brown Medical School, Brown University A Wiki can be thought of as a combination of a Web site and a Word document. At its simplest, it can be read just like any other web site, but its real power lies in the fact that groups can collaboratively work on the content of the site using nothing but a standard web browser. The Wiki is gaining traction in education, as an ideal tool for the increasing amount of collaborative work done by both students and teachers. Students might use a wiki to collaborate on a group report, compile data or share the results of their research, while faculty might use the wiki to collaboratively author the structure and curriculum of a course, and the wiki can then serve as part of each person's course materials. I'll show how using the wiki has improved collaboration and data collection in several courses, and transformed a well-known science education website by allowing the teachers who use it to collaboratively author and edit its content. Participants will also learn about the range of wiki tools available, from free, web-based tools to enterprise solutions that can serve an entire digital campus. I'll also discuss my recently released wiki-based book, Using Wiki in Education, which is a compilation of case studies showing how teachers are using the wiki in a variety of environments.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Recent round up of articles.

Thanks to Vicky williams for this heads up.


News bits:

‘Common Cartridge’ for e-learning

Providers of learning management software, publishers and technology organizations have agreed on a common, open standard for content across Learning Management Systems (LMS).  The agreement by the diverse group of publishers and software companies comprising the IMS Global Working Consortium ( is being heralded as an important breakthrough that could expand the array of digital content available to professors and students by making it easy to switch among proprietary learning systems.  The LMS market currently spans several course delivery platforms including ANGEL, Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, Sakai and WebCT.  Each uses their own proprietary format for course content and poses an expensive problem for content providers wishing to distribute content across platforms and a conundrum for educators and students who wish to use it.  Many smaller or locally-developed systems are limited in their support for these proprietary formats.  The Common Cartridge will define a commonly supported content format that can run on any compliant LMS platform and make it possible to move digital content into and out of widely divergent online education systems without expensive and time consuming reengineering.

The Common Cartridge is a set of specifications and standards agreed to by the IMS working group.  ‘It is essentially a common ‘container,’ so you can import it and load it and have it look similar when you get it “inside” your local course system, says Ray Henderson, Chief Products Officer at ANGEL, who helped conceive of the idea when he was President of the digital publishing unit at Pearson.  Now, all that needs to happen is for The Common Cartridge to become widely adopted in order to all to reap the benefits.  For more information see:

Hot Trends

It’s worth keeping an eye on social networking, the email of the newly young who will be soon ready for scholarly communications.

MySpace most popular with the over 35’s

Half of users of social networking site MySpace are 35 or older, according to comScore Media Metrix's ( analysis of its US traffic measurements.  Only 30 percent are under the age of 25 despite the perception that the site is mostly used by children and young adults.  Just a year ago, the under 18’s made up about 25 percent of MySpace.  An executive of comScore noted that the analysis confirms that the appeal of social networking sites as becoming far broader.  These sites encourage users to stay in touch by offering tools such as message boards, photo sharing and personal profile pages.  Members can expand their networks by adding other users as friends and, in turn, connecting with their friends.  The study was based on comScore's regular panels for measuring Internet audiences rather than MySpace's registration information, where users may lie about their age.  Wall Street analysts estimate that the site could be worth about USD 15 billion within three years. MySpace was acquired by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for USD 580 million less than a year ago and claims more than 100 million users worldwide.  See related story: Google acquires YouTube social networking site.  (For more information see:; subscription required; and<

Bertelsmann developing social networking site

Bertelsmann AG, parent of Springer Business + Media, has begun plans to develop an entertainment-driven social networking website to compete with MySpace and other similar services.  Bertelsmann intends to create a community on the new site for its music and video projects.  The creation of a social networking website would represent a new direction in the company’s diverse internet strategy.  (For more information see:

e-mail is for old people

A 2005 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project called ‘Teens and Technology’ found that teenagers prefer technology like instant messaging or text messaging for communicating with friends, and use e-mail to communicate with ‘old people’.  Students interviewed for the Chronicle of Higher Education article ( reported that they still depend on e-mail to communicate with their professors but many would rather send text messages to friends to reach them wherever they are – since mobile phones are always at hand - than send e-mail messages that might not be seen for hours. 

IngentaConnect 2.5 and Google

The latest release of IngentaConnect incorporates a number of features developed from Web 2.0 techniques to improve the user interface in response to user feedback.  New functionality for IngentaConnect 2.5 includes:

·        Increased support for ‘citation managers’ with additional download formats BibTeX and RDF now being offered alongside previously available EndNote, ProCite and plain text

·        New social software interoperability enabling users to bookmark citations to, FURL, CiteULike, Connotea and Bidsonomy with one click

·        Ajax-rendered collapsible volume and issue listings to simplify browsing and reduce scrolling on journal homepages – driven by the growing number of publishers now hosting large journal backfiles on IngentaConnect

·        New page layouts to standardize display of user-interactive options and to increase visibility of tools at the article-level - the site’s entry point for most users

The new pages display standardized tools/options/functions for a more consistent presentation.  These are now offered as expandable menu options with headings of Print, Subscription options; Article access options; Export option; Linking options; Alerting options; Bookmarking options.  For more information see:

In another new development, some pages will now contain advertising, a program implemented to provide IngentaConnect publisher partners with alternative revenue streams for scholarly content.

See Ingenta and Google and see also Atypon introduces ‘collaborative’ technologies for a discussion of a similar type of service.


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Blogging for learning. Slow burner or what?

Spending a lot of time developing the Emerald Intouch site recently.
Based on the Elgg learning landscape I'm hoping that this new service will enhance the subscriptions our customers take out, give them more reasons to visit our content.

I think that the main problem will be in demonstrating such personalised sites have value for the learner. I'm still working it out for myself - how will educators, students and managers view it? How will they use it?

Blogs for learning, from a personal point of view, are a slow burner. I've been tentatively adding posts, mostly syndicating contents from others with a 'Yeah,what he said..' most recently and shockingly, I've posted comments to other, more respectable bloggers postings. I'm sure there's some well documented path that I'm on right now, akin to lurking on bulleting boards for a year before actually starting to contribute to the debates, but posting this not as an educator but a technologist I'd love to know in simple terms, in what context does a blog support a learning endevour? I guess for me it's not training, not instruction, not some process but a deeper background kind of learning that builds on a already solid foundation of knowledge and experience.

Knowing this might just help me to figure out who might want to look a bit more closely at Intouch because this blogging as learning is very powerful, in the right context.

Through the use of my blog I've learned a lot about trends, emerging technology, the opinions and thoughts of some first class individuals; and recently (crucially) some of my learning process has been validated, kind of. It's taken me about 8 months to get it, I think. And now I'm enjoying it enormously.

Now, if only I had a simple way of demonstrating the value of this to someone else?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Elearning market growing but prices falling : from Kineo

It appears that the e-learningmarket is retruning to growth. Earlier posts point to an increasingly healthy sector outlook; this report posted to Kineo from Ambient Insight tends to confirm the trend. Elearning Market prices falling, but market rising.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

e-Learning Investments giving positive returns

An Australian account on the increasingly positive impact e-learning technolgy is having on the outcomes of technical and vocational education - E-learning investments.

This is very encouraging. A few weeks ago I noted that in the Sunday Times UK's fastest growing SMEs 3 of the top 13 firms were e-learning firms. Increasingly I believe that teh e-learning industry is maturing, most important is the fact that teachers, trainers and faculty are beginning to understand that the 'net is a new medium altogether and that new pedagogical models are needed to exploit the opportunties offered. Most successful online learning programs included a range of delivery options, not just the ubiquitous online course or VLE/LMS.

To think that this is just the beginning too.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Personal Learning Environments: Challenging the dominant design of educational systems

This is a very readable paper shaping the scope and application of a Personal Learning Environment. Contrasts with the dominant design of the VLE.


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Thursday, August 31, 2006

eLearning Technology: Personal Learning for Learning Professionals - Using Web 2.0 Tools to Make Reading & Research More Effective

eLearning Technology: Personal Learning for Learning Professionals - Using Web 2.0 Tools to Make Reading & Research More Effective

Another great post from Tony Karrer. Useful guide to why and how emerging web 2.0 functionality can help you become a better resercher and a better learner. This is something I'd like to return to, beyonf knowledge worker to the the 'worker as researcher'.