The Open Educator as DJ / TTIX reflections

So I definitely slowed down posting here, committed to only posting when I had something significant to say, but then I don’t seem to be even able to do that? Anyways, I haven’t passed away or anything, indeed I am just back from the fantastic gathering in Utah that was the TTIX conference. Put on by good friends Jared Stein and John Krutsch (amongst other talented folks) this annual FREE conference has much to offer both K-12 and post-secondary educators, and this year included keynotes from myself, Chris Lott and Brian Lamb.

Well, Brian urged us to “Go hard or go home” and I think each of us did in our own ways. Brian delivered another of his great talks on the “Urgency of Open Education,”  a ‘must see.’ And Chris…well Chris nearly brought me to tears with his talk on “The Idea of the Idea.” Far from being the dry talk the title might imply, this was a romp through the history of ideas which ended in a heartfelt plea for a return to deep humanistic teaching, not as a luxury but as an imperative. I strongly urge you to spend the time and effort this talk demands.

And me? Well cowed as I was by these stellar co-speakers, I did my best not to throw up and gesticulated wildly through “The Open Educator as DJ.” I am reasonably happy how it came off, and pleased that I will get at least a second chance at it this fall at the ADL Academic Fest in Madison, Wisconsin. I really did try to show, not just tell (you can see a demo of each of the steps in the workflow here) but ultimately I do think there was too much telling, so I plan to rework that.

I was especially excited to do this talk not only because some good friends had asked me to do a keynote (which always brings up your game) but because for me this talk represents the synthesis of a number of different strands of my work from the past years, bringing together stuff from “Mashups for Non-Programmers,” (2007) “Augmenting OER with Client-Side Tools: A Demonstration” (2007) “The Pros and Cons of Loosely Coupled Teaching,” (2007) “How I learned to stop worrying and love Web 2.0,” (2007) “Weaving your own Personal Learning Network,” (2008) “Becoming a Network Learner – Towards a Practice of Freedom,” (2008) and finally “Pimp your Browser” (2009). I’m not citing all of these to show off, but instead because for me this last talk on “the Open Educator as DJ” represents the synthesis of thinking on how OER, PLEs and network learning/loosely-coupled-teaching are initimately related, a synthesis which I did not start with but which I have been groping towards in each new presentation. I keep telling you, I am a SLOW LEARNER!

There was a lot for people to take in; if you don’t want to spend the time going through the talk, you may at least find the resources useful. Ultimately, if there were only 3 things to take away from the talk, I would highlight:

  1. clipmarks (and as a critical new method to add to your arsenal which lets you sample and feed individual chunks of the web in a way that still preserves linkability and attribution
  2. As I tried to demonstrate with the example of the resources page, the myriad methods available to aggregate and syndicate content wherever you want it to appear
  3. the very idea of a network enabled workflow inspired by a metaphor from an existing discipline – as I tried to emphasize in the conclusion, even if the metaphor of “DJ” doesn’t resonate for you, find the one that does, because whether you know it or not, you are already using one, and hopefully by becoming conscious of it, it can become one that helps you to swim in the ever-deepening sea of information that surrounds us.

I think there are lots of holes in this talk, and I am always learning, so please, let me know what you think, what parts don’t resonate for you, and how I can make it better? – SWL

Presenting on The 2008 Horizon Report

The good folks at Camosun College’s Distributed Education unit were kind enough to invite me to speak on this year’s NMC Horizon Report as part of their Walls Optional Distributed Education Day.

It is a little different presenting on this report – I have been truly honoured to be a part of the Advisory Board for the last 2 years, and very much stand behind the work we do there. But it isn’t “my” report, so I definitely felt a duty to represent the organizations behind it as well as I could, and so tended to be just a little less free form that I have of late in my presentation style (though we’ll see – apparently there is video in which I did start to gesticulate wildly by the end, as is my wont, perhaps a bit inspired by the master of creative chaos who I followed on stage.).

Anyways, here’s a wiki page that has both the slides and all of the URLs I used to demonstrate the 6 technologies “on the horizon”. While I did re-use some slide templates and structure from the inimitable cogdog, finding examples to illustrate the various ‘Horizon’ technologies (as well as Creative commons images to illustrate them) was definitely a fun part of preparing this. Enjoy! – SWL

My Recent OpenID Preso

Somehow I think this is likely of limited value if you are reading this blog. I don’t think I really know that many people who don’t know what OpenID is or why we in higher ed should be paying attention to it. But when I gave this talk during an ‘student authentication’ session at the recent WCET conference in Atlanta, a scant 2 people in a room of 50 put their hands up when asked if they had heard of OpenID. So maybe there’s still some folks who might find this useful. Anyways, here it is, hope it helps. (As an aside, I was presenting alongside some scary biometrics ‘1984’ remote proctoring tech in a session entitled “Student Authentication: Do You Know Who is in Your Classroom?” My joke, which I didn’t dare make to the crowd, was that I thought the session was titled “OpenId – Are students still the same people when they are in your classroom?”) – SWL

“Monoliths,” APIs and Extensability – A presentation on the past and future directions of CMS

I was very fortunate recently to deliver the above talk to a CMS task Force at UBC on the overall lay of the CMS land. It seems relevant to share it here, especially in light of a recent post by James Farmer on integrating open source pieces with WebCT, and the great follow up by Michael Feldstein.

I think Michael’s read is mostly accurate. As I try to lay out in the presentation, CMS have evolved as a series of “wrappers” around a set of applications, and there were good reasons for this innovation (it was an innovation when it began 10 years ago) in terms of handling scale and providing some stable service across all or many departments in a post-secondary institution within a limited budget.

But this model, which does tend towards monolithism, is now 10 years old; in part because of rapidly maturing alternative models (service oriented architectures and distributed applications development environments in general), in part because of pressure from customers to allow more pedagogically-driven choices in their tools, and in part because of challenges from Open Source and elsewhere, all of the CMS, be they commercial or open source, are moving, some slowly, some more quickly, towards increased extensability and interoperation with other tools. This is in my mind an undeniable trend, and the issue for organizations is not if this will happen, but instead a question of how best to obtain the core services and acceptable level or “service” while increasing the amount of flexbility and choice for instructors and students, and at the same time not increasing the cost (and hopefully decreasing it if you’re really adept).

I don’t think the commercial CMS companies are going away, at least not anytime soon. There are still many organizations (often small ones, but not always) for whom more sophisticated ‘elearning architecture’ approaches, “best-of-breed,” or the choices (and demands) facilitated by open source are not (yet, maybe ever?) realistic choices. There is value in providing a set of tools (however limited you might feel these tools to be) in an integrated environment that can with relative ease tie into other parts of your infrastructure and for which you need to hire application administrators, not developers, to run. But even those customers want more freedom to make choices, and the CMS companies know this and are trying to mediate it without cutting off their own nose. But it’s also clear that they are under fire, and that many institutions will have the wherewithal to adopt or create what Michael terms a “Learning Management Operating System” into which they can insert, or on which they can build, different application choices and approaches. As I read it, the impetus behind OKI, and to the extent to which it embodies openly agreed upon APIs, Sakai, is a step in that direction. Michael’s predicition of a timeline (about 5 years) also seems about right; it will take a while for the implications of this approach to flow through and for the various systems needed to implement it to mature to the point where each implementation is not a large software development initiative of its own. But it is coming, and it will change the landscape of these systems considerably. – SWL

Executing Learning Objects, Resurrecting Sharing and Reuse

I was fortunate to instigate a workshop last week as part of the BC Educational Technology Users Group spring workshops in Merritt, B.C. The workshop was on “Practical Tips for Reusability and Interoperability.” In keeping with themes I laid out earlier on this weblog, I began the session with a formal execution of the term “learning object” which you can see at the link above (feel free to reuse this – maybe if it’s played enough times the term will finally die off). (more…)
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“Important” Characteristics of Course Management Systems.

So I just got back from CADE 2003 conference (the Canadian Association of Diatance Educators) in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where I presented the above paper. If that’s too long (2500 words) the powerpoint slides are also available.

Basically what I tried to do was contrast the picture of what features are broadly supported across CMSes according to the edutools feature set with what features the users at edutools use as the basis for decisions. The hope was to reveal gaps between these, areas where the industry sector is lagging behind user demand. Judge for yourself if any such differences are visible.  – SWL