Thursday, January 19, 2006

Personal Life Recorder, Elgg and Personal Learner Space

The "Personal Life Recorder"
Smartmobs has an interesting entry on the PRL –
Don Norman speculated about a "Personal Life Recorder" (PLR) type of device back in his 1992 book "Turn Signals Are The Facial Expression of Automobiles". He theorized that these PLR's would start out as a device given to young children, called the "Teddy". The "Teddy" would be given to us as children and record all of our personal life moments, and as we mature, the data could be transferred to new devices that matched out maturity level.
USA Today reported that a newly developed type of computer memory, called MRAM could make the vision of a PLR-type device possible, as well as "instant-on computers" and "longer battery life for pervasive devices".

Certainly from the perspective of continuous learning it would be great to have a private electronic space where all of one’s learning experiences are aggregated. Is Elgg that “personal life aggregator” - can it eventually be the engine for this concept of the PLR? I would suggest that it is possible. Elgg is presently being used as the social overlay to traditional LMS.

David and Ben and their development team are working with the Catalyst group in New Zealand to integrate Elgg with Moddle – essentially overlay a personal space over a course space.

Terry Anderson at Athabasca University used Moodle and Elgg together to enhance the social nature of distance education delivery. And here at the University of Alberta I’m working with a professor in our extension communications program to integrate Elgg, WebCT and classroom based delivery for a cohort of part time students who are together for short intensive sessions but then work independently on project development.

We hope this social overlay of Elgg will enhance their learning experience, assist them in building an interactive, sharing community, and allow the “mobile continuity” of their learning. In practice Elgg space should be owned by the learner – it is a collation of their portfolio of work and reflections. The learner Elgg space should live past the course, and could be integrated into the next course of the program or wherever they continue their studies. However as long as it resides on our school server, whether a student who is no longer registered can use that space is open to question.

I’d like to see a non profit organization established that would offer free, secure storage of learner owned Elgg’s.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Teacher as DJ, Learning as Energy

How often do we miss the obvious? David Wiley compares the teacher to the DJ, and notes that they face similar challenegs. When obvious restlessness sets in, how can you keep the beat going? Teachers learn to shift gears, change their approach, to keep the class with them. Teachers infuse the learners with the “beat”, the passion, the intensity of their own energy and the learners give off their energy. But how can we express that energy through online education? As David says we have to

“pay attention to the social component of these experiences is so much more critical in online learning. We must set up channels through which people can exchange this energy, and those serving as teachers must be ready and willing to respond to that energy.”

Uploading and presenting static content sure isn’t the answer. We have to work at creating a social learning experience that can be delivered online and/or offline. Of course that means we have to get out of the box of the LMS.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Personal Security, the CIA and Social Software

With the advent of social networking software concerns about privacy and ownership should be of prime concern. People (students in this case) post personal information on privately owned websites such as Myplace and Friendsters and Facebook with limited knowledge of how and why and where their personal information may be used. In the case of Facebook it appears that the CIA is taking an interest in the posted content?

1. Wall Street article talking about security risk concerns on student use of Facebook – social networking site

Too Much Information?
Colleges Fear Student Postings On Popular 'Facebook' Site Could Pose Security Risks

2. Major venture capital firm invests in Facebook (why would anyone invest in something that has no assets?)

It is not easy capturing the attention of Jim Breyer, one of Silicon Valley's leading venture capitalists. But Mark Zuckerberg, a 21-year-old Harvard student, managed to do it with a Web site that has attracted 2.8 million registered users on more than 800 campuses since it began in February 2004. Mr. Breyer was so taken with Mr. Zuckerberg's company,, which creates online interactive college-student networks, that his firm, Accel Partners, plans to announce a $13 million investment in the start-up today. ''It is a business that has seen tremendous underlying, organic growth and the team itself is intellectually honest and breathtakingly brilliant in terms of understanding the college student experience,'' Mr. Breyer said.

3. Jim Breyer of ACCEL has connections to CIA investment firm

Breyer is the former chair of the National Venture Capital Association (NVAC), where he served with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel. In-Q-Tel is a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. This firm works in various aspects of information technology and intelligence, particularly in "tools for the rapid deployment of distributed, economical data collection networks. Systems that are self-organizing or that provide tools for the aggregation and management of data from large numbers..." and other items "of interest to the CIA."Breyer has also served on the board of BBN Technologies, a research and development firm also closely tied to In-Q-Tel. In fact BBN shared board members with In-Q-Tel, such as Anita Jones, former Director of Defense Research and Engineering for the U.S. Department of Defense. Her responsibilities included serving as an advisor to the Secretary of Defense and overseeing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

4. This could be just a coincidence, but then again...

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Crash course on learning techniques

Go now - see this and enjoy as you learn. From a great blog on enhancing user experience, comes a crash course on learning techniques gleaned from cognitive science, learning theory, neuroscience, psychology, and entertainment (including game design).

It's geared toward blogs/writing but is applicable to prsentations, user documentation, or classroom learning.

Two way language translator for Yahoo Messenger

Now you can communicate through the language barrier.

The Yahoo Translating Proxy works with Yahoo! Messenger to translate your typed message into various languages. This Yahoo Translating HTTP Proxy (YTP) is a two-way translator which works with your Yahoo! Messenger to translate your typed message into various languages. Your friend will receive translated message, and she can type back in the translated language. For example, if you type to her in English, she can receive the message in French. She can then type back in French and you will get the message in English. The following languages are supported:

English -> German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese
German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese -> English
French -> German
German -> French
Click to enlarge image

This is an Open Source project. The source code is available for download.

Friday, January 06, 2006

EPortfolios: More than the tool of the day!

How do we reflect on our creations? How do we store and share what we create? How do we let people know what we create? At one time we painted on the cave walls, wore plackards down the street, mailed resumes, held art shows, created journals or carried portfolios. Now we have the electronic portfolio (ePortfolio).

What do ePortfolios do for you? How often have you been through a course, done some great work, and then were never able to find it? Or perhaps you’d like to take the time to make changes and tweaks to make them better, or adapt them for a different audience. This is a tool for student-centered learning – where students can store, document, reflect, reassess and edit their artifacts over time at their own pace and carry them over from their academic world into their personal world, and on into the work world.

Definition: An ePortfolio is a highly personalized, customizable, web-based information management system, which allows students to demonstrate individual and collaborative growth, achievement, and learning over time.

Eportfolios support the growth of a student throughout their academic career. They give students the opportunity to reflect upon their social and academic growth, and get a head start on the development of work search tools. It places the student in the center of their learning and development.

Functions of ePortfolios:

  1. It’s a storage system, allowing the dynamic access and control of student generated artifacts – resumes, media files, professional documents, resumes and more.
  2. It’s an Information management system that allows the students to learn and demonstrate information management skills through the creation, collection, selection, evaluation, maintenance and accessing of data artifacts.
  3. It’s a connection system. Some ePortfolios are designed to link to various units within the larger educational community. Through managing and storing information students can be connected to various units within the larger educational community.
  4. It’s a communication tool. Students can create various public web pages to display artifacts localized for specific consumption. They can learn how to repurpose their private content for very specialized public consumption. They can control access to these public spaces – making them available to specific audiences –like friends or family – or larger audiences like professional or volunteer associations. From one private source of information, a variety of very specific “pitches” can be made attuned to different audiences. It’s not all a one way street either. Students can receive and solicit and receive comments and feedback in response to their postings.
  5. It’s an historical tool, documenting a student’s developmental voyage through the educations system. Through progressive assessments, and skill requirements cross referenced to course or curriculum objectives a history of a students progress and advancement can be identified.
  6. It’s a community tool, keeping students and faculty in touch with each other and building a sense of community that can live beyond the end of a course, of the school year or of the program.

Eportfolios can be excellent tools for community building, reflection, learning and recording - but consider these basic points when developing an eportfolio strategy and seeking eportfolio tools:

Be aware of licensing issues and limitations of proprietary eportfolio systems
Eportfolio are the student’s property. The student should retain ownership and control access. And it should live beyond their association with an educational institution. It is a personal tool – don’t weigh it down with institutional requirements, assessment and job searching. Use portfolios as an assessment of learning.

Recommended - Free tool!
Elgg is a learning landscape with the goal of connecting learners, instructors and resources creating communities of learning. Elgg lets you set up a personal presence online and then use it to interact with others! Create your own weblog, journal, store of files like photos and Word documents, create communities, establish social networks, manage your online content. Use Elgg to enhance reflective thought, your development, your resource base and you decide who to share these with.

Overview of the use of eportfolios in higher education institutions. Lists the benefits and drawbacks and ends with a succinct summary of future predictions.

The Open Source Portfolio Initiative (OSPI) is a community of individuals and organizations collaborating on the development of the leading non-proprietary, open source electronic portfolio software available.

For more information see this great article from Graham Atwell: Recognising Learning: Educational and pedagogic issues in e-Portfolios

Surfing Buddies

You no longer need to surf alone - at Lifehacker I found an introduction to an extension for Firefox called Yakalike. It allows users visiting a website to chat with each other in a chatroom interface in the browser (a small window opens up at the screen bottom). It doesn't save transcripts, but would be useful for learners to view and analyze web sites at the same time.