Wednesday, June 27, 2007

EduSite: Scott Wilson: Using student-owned technologies in educational ict

Who owns my learning space? Me!

I should be the one in control of my learning, of the space where I document and experience that learning, and I should be free to roam as my interest takes me ensconced with my learning environment.

In this article on PLEs Scott Wilson touches on concerns I have encountered just this week. (Also quoted in tallblogs on JISC based Isthmus project). I have been pushing the use of Elgg in course work, seeking to expand it to a cohort community, then a course/cohort/alumnae community - in essence to become the learning space of the learner - and to extend the life of institutional learning and connections into a student's future above and beyond the course/institution/formal learning environment. In this pursuit I am being conflicted - by students and administration. Administration doesn't say no to Elgg, but they are already licenesed tight with Blackboard and are pushing the new virtues of Vista 4 - blogging, eportfolio (like putting incomplete doors and windows on a time based walled garden). Alas, the students, discouraged by the slowness of our initial Elgg install, encamped to Facebook, their social network of choice (ignoring the fact that facebook owns their content, may not be around in the future, and that security of personal data is a big unknown). What to do? I think students would be better served by the university, or some hands off entity, offering a learning space service for student/alumnae artefacts - to escape the confines of licensing and the insecurities and vagaries of commercial social networks (like facebook) - as Scot expounds:

“On a more basic level, the use of commercial third-party services has risks, such as a change in charging, or even services disappearing completely, and so there could be a role for universities in offering a free secure archiving service to that students would never lose access to things they have published. It is also increasingly on the agenda of universities to make access to basic administrative processes and information available through multiple channels and devices, such as using mobile phones, iPod, and RSS feeds.”

I've proposed in the past that if jurisdictions are serious about lifelong learning, then we need tools, in control of non-profit educational entities, that support such activity. For example Elgg, sponsored and maintained by such an entity is made available to a learner throughout their life, allowing them to dip in and out of informal, nonformal and formal learning experiences and to maintain connections to the communities they encounter and associate with diverse communities. Elgg's recent modifications - OpenID and Explode (allowing a user to link to friends in other social networked communities) bode well for this being a central space.

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