Thursday, July 06, 2006

Searching for a Safe Port in Lifelong Learning

I received a message from David Tosh (Curverider, Inc. and cofounder of Elgg),
"I was reading back over your blog post about Elgg - I was wondering if you have had anymore thoughts on this comment: "I'd like to see a non profit organization established that would offer free, secure storage of learner owned Elgg's"

My thoughts are still sketchy on this, but demand formulation at some point. Issues of ownership and control have to be discussed. As is normal a vaccuum of indecision will be filled by a lesser than solution - usually commercial. WebCT is already announcing it's foray into e-portfolios - built as a tool for institutions to administer and control student content; student control, access and ownership will be relegated low status and impinged upon in the name of confidentiality and security. Another row of bricks will be added to the walled garden and the silo of containment will rise. As will the licensing fee.

My view of e-portfolios - personal, student owned and portable - is akin to "institution as space station", where student Elgg' docks for a period of time taking on "supplies" - personal and institutional learning artefacts, and then moves on to the next institutional port (or any other learning organizational port). But if we accept the student as owner principle, they need a neutral space port to park their Elgg ship.

When an institution hosts an eportfolio, or a learning landscape, the institute has to decide what content is theirs and what content is the students'. When they part company the student owned content needs to be portable (in WebCt terms, these are html files that the student can take away but has no way of "plugging" them into anything other then WebCT). Alternatively an institution could pay an ASP (application service provider) like Elgg to brand and host their eportfolio and/or learning landscape tool. But upon course completion where is the student in this equation - how can they house their content, continue to access it and prepare to transport it to their next course/program/institution? Looking at the space station docking analogy - the student is in free space when not asscoiated with an institution; once integrated with an institution, the institution must pay for that linkage, a "user" fee.

Where does the learner store their mobile learning artefacts - a Smart card, a flash drive, a networked site? Can they "port into" and "out of" an institution's LMS? What neutral body will house the "unported" mobile learner? A non-profit server maintained by the United Nations, by provincial/state department of education, a consortium of universities, a non-profit foundation, or a commercial site?

And who will fund the development of open source toolsets like Elgg? It would seem as viable an option as paying for WebCT' idea of an e-portfolio. there has to be some way to keep the Elgg creators David Tosh/Ben Werdmuller creators in room and board and opportunities as they respond to the needs of lifelong learners in the development of a portable, personal learning space.

No comments: