Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What do I know about Turkey watch this pretty sunset
Originally uploaded by vuorikari.
Watch these pics, they tell more than I can put in this Blog post.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In the black hole of learning

Originally uploaded by sebastian fiedler.
I think the photo speaks for it self pretty well. Nice shot, Seb!


More than a third of EU25 population have no basic computer skills

Eurostat reports the following. Imagine this as a setting for teachers in Europe!

Large differences between the generations

In the EU251, in 2005, 37% of people aged between 16 and 74 had no basic computer skills2. This percentage was slightly higher for women (39%) than for men (34%). Among Member States for which data are available, the survey showed notable differences between countries. Large differences also existed between age groups and between different education levels.

These figures are published3 by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities.

Reflections on the brainstorm of the 26th

I took some time today to sit down with Sebastian to discuss what we could do together in the future. It is one thing to know that someone is fun to talk to and hang-out with, but the other thing is really to discuss seriously whether any of those interesting discussions can lead into any, say, more serious outcome such as sharing ideas of one's research project in terms of co-authoring a paper or something else that directly can contribute to My thesis dissertation. After all, this is what I was expecting from this Summer school: somehow help me to advance my thesis.

I think the most interesting lead to work together would be around the third sub-question which is:

How can tags, bookmarks and playlists (like a playlist in iTunes, a list of resources that you want to "play" in certain order) enhance the discovery, re-discovery and re-use of learning resources?

In my thinking teachers might be interested in using bookmarking tools to keep the interesting learning resources that they find in a repository marked-up, so that they can access them easily later or handily share them with their students through a tag-cloud, for example, like Martin S. suggested today.

A run-down of the topics discussed:

Everyone is producer vs. it is ok not to produce (for example tags) but just to consume them?

So, this is one of the philosophical questions, if you wish, where do you position yourself on the produce-consume dimension? Look for example places like old academia ideology or pure open source development where everyone is supposed to contribute and take advantage of them, too. Check some stuff on this on Himanen's Hacker's ethic.

Own tool or use of an existing tool

One argument related to this is the whole "not invented here" syndrome: no one wants to reuse and everyone wants to develop their own. In the case of EUN repository, for example, why not use some existing services like delicious (.. here are the 2 commas to add it, I always get 'em wrong), why make one's own tool? Apart from other bookmarking services, there are quite a few repositories that use (social) bookmarking tools to allow teachers to create their own collections...this, of course, raises the question about the interoperability - it should be guaranteed for all the available bookmarking tools. There should be an interoperable scheme between them, which I unfortunately know is not the case. Just check all the different export schemes.

Personal Knowledge Management helping social recommendations

From my personal point of view, bookmarks are in the first place a personal management tools that helps me to keep found things found, and to put in some important and meaningful keywords that make sense for me. Secondly, and thanks to the "social" aspect of bookmarking, they can also be used to allowing other people to view my collections of bookmarks. Tags can be used to, well, to create tag-clouds, among many other things that I have in mind.

What to work on...?

So, what should I work on with Seb still remains a questions. One question to seek to answer would be "what does it take to foster the active participation in creating tags?"; How could one design a better workflow, that would be somewhat neatly integrated and consolidated? What could be requirements for such tool? Here, thinking of teachers everyday work and practices should be important. Is the web-based way to go )(Flock-kinda way) or maybe a client that works on a local computer? What would better accommodate teachers' needs; are they really around computers hooked to the Net at all times (benefits: you can access all the stuff from any computer (home, school, different venues,.., drawbacks: no good connection like we've seen here!) or is it that they all have own laptops that they are bringing around so that working by using an integrated client locally would be better?

Moreover, do teachers have different needs and practices, for example, depending where do they teach, among compulsory education or hi-ed? Or, if, for example, a generic tool was used in both environments, would it produce different usage? Is it needed to differentiate the needs and requirements for different levels, i.e. compulsory education and higher ed?

Requirements to express networks in the educational setting

We talked about the use of FOAF or XFN to express different relations that there are in educational settings between different actors (teachers, tutors, facilitators, learners,..) and what way of expressing them would be good. What would you want to express, first of all; what would you use this expression for, etc?

One way of doing it vs, many ways of doing it

We also talked about how many possibilities should be given to users to do things. I personally would love to have about million different ways doing things - I think now that we have the technologies to do things we should give users many options to do things. The counter argument is that too many options is confusing. Then again, like Seb pointed out, don't think that the users are stupid, they know what and how to choose.

Monday, June 26, 2006

What is a good blog made of?

I came across this post that suggests some hints on how to make your blog more attractive for readers.

Of course, every one has their own style, but might be a worthwhile to reflect upon your own blog posting style according to these points.

What comes to my own blogging and these...I must say that as I do blogging solely for myself, I don't really give a dam how it would read for other people. My blog is rather my own diary of things, than a means of communicating my ideas out to the world. Well, this summer school is an exeption, of course!

From Dave Pollard on the art and science of Weblogging:

  1. Engaging (Style): Light, friendly, conversational, down-to-earth. Real, not preachy. Personal, passionate, fun, fresh. Doesn't take itself too seriously. Creates a sense that "we're all in this together". 
  2. Accessible: Simple, tight, articulate, interesting, easy to read. Compare Kathy's writing to mine using established readability criteria:

How to Save the WorldCreating Passionate Users
Average Characters per Word5.14.6
Average Words per Sentence25 (ouch)18
Average Sentences per Paragraph53
Flesch Readability Score (target 60-70)3562
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade (target 8-9)129
  1. Useful: Practical, broadly applicable, not just informative. Actionable.
  2. Original: Unique, fresh, stuff you can't find anywhere else.
  3. Uses Images Effectively: Graphics that are attractive, valuable, easy to understand, amusing.
  4. Thoughtful and Thought-Provoking: Brings
    a unique point-of-view. Provides context. Not afraid to be provocative,
    but not in your face about it. Not knee-jerk or dismissive. Carefully
    worded. A conversation-starter -- gives you something to talk with others about, and to send to others to invite them to a conversation.
  5. Generous: Respectful, giving, modest, no bullshit or condescension. 
  6. Focusing on What's Important: Asks and answers the questions others are asking themselves, or should be asking themselves. Gets to the point.
  7. Positive: Upbeat. Enthusiastic. Energized. Makes the reader feel good, empowered.
  8. Credible: Not beyond the author's competencies. Reinforced with relevant, valuable first-person stories.
  9. Just the Right Length: Not cryptic, cute, obscure or verbose.
  10. Honest: Not afraid to tackle complex issues or admit not having all the answers. Candid. Reasonable. Balanced. Open. Genuine.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"no-bolts" for learning environments, No 2

Originally uploaded by vuorikari.
Room after some learning has taken place. What happened to those neat rows of chairs? Guess what, leanring manifests itself in different shapes, and the environment has to be able to support it!

Sources of information for "Haapsalu"

Originally uploaded by sebastian fiedler.
best place to start looking for info from Haapsalu is to go to
to Flickr, I like starting out in a visual way, seeing pictures of what is out there.

Also the tag "LEARNIP2006" reveals a lot on the internet, check at
, or the travel guide, huge wiki about traveling, at:

Friday, June 23, 2006

"no-bolts" rule for learning environments

Is it so that people who are interested in technology and virtual (learning) environments forget about the importance of the physical environment around them?

I'm continuously amazed about the old-fashioned set-up of lecture halls and class rooms, especially in the institutes of higher education. Maybe it's that I haven't spent a lot of time in higher education environments since 1999, and it just struck me how they have not changed at all. I think schools (that is my interest area) are more innovative in what comes to that (at least in Nordic countries, see the links at the end).

So sitting in the Tallinn University lecture hall (traditional set-up, see the first day pic) and in the staff room (U-shaped) the second and third day of the summer school, I was thinking that there should be a "no-blots" rule for learning environments.

"no-blots" rule for learning environments

This would mean that non of the tables, chairs or structures in the learning environments should be bolted on the floor, but they should be movable around according to learners' and teachers' needs. It is almost impossible to get good conversation going on, do any group works, or even create a good learning "ambiance" when one is stuck in a given set-up such as a traditional lecture hall or a U-shape management-level meeting room.

This made me think of Wallenberg Hall at Stanford (not that I ever got to visit it, but seen a presentation, check the link at the bottom). They call it a High Performance Learning Space. Sounds flashy, and so it is: full of expensive computers, big screens, projectors - one of the goals is “layering” of media. Other goals are:
- easy transitions from lecture to small groups to individual and back,
- ability to easily change classroom configuration
- sufficiency at multiple scales

Ok, it can all sound very expensive... Interestingly, when asked what could be done with little money, Sam Steinhardt, the executive director of Center for Innovations in Learning in Standford, gives this basic rules:
put wheels on all furniture to push them around.

This makes me also think of, ah, LMS and other institutional virtual learning environments that so many e-learning decision-makers seem to love as a single solution. These massive, do-it-all-learning environments typically depict the same idea, let's bolt everything on the floor and don't let learners to construct their own learning environments. Very top down - and nearly impossible to change.

Ok, look at the photo here (to appear soon) to see the classroom after our social software interest group: looks like some learning took place here! Chairs have been moved around, people have grouped them according their needs in pairs, pushed the ones not needed away to make more room and so on...

I'll attach here a few links on the current movement that aims to design schools that are more suitable for learning. There is one in Helsinki, Finland, in Iceland, in the Netherlands and also in Sweden, to my knowledge.

Center for Innovations in Learning in Standford:

On Hight Performance Learning Spaces:

Architecture combined with strong pedagogical ideas:

A Finnish example:

A Swedish example:

Some links to a Swiss workshop on the topic in French:

Thursday, June 22, 2006

About use of social software for education and e-portfolios

This is a paper that I wrote last year combining the idea of the use of social software and e-portfolios. If you were left intrigued after the presentation this morning, it might be of interest to take a look at this page. There is a little table when you scroll down the page, a few links to the applications that we discussed about this morning and some simple examples of how you could use them for educational purposes.

Can personal digital knowledge artefacts' management and social networks enhance learning?

"Digital knowledge artefacts are any digital traces of learning such as writings, images, multimedia files, blogs and other reflections over the time of lifelong learning. European Schoolnet's latest Special Insight Report presents a new report on the use of social networking software and e-portfolios. The report, entitled "Can personal digital knowledge artefacts' management and social networks enhance learning? " suggests that through sharing one's digital knowledge artefacts with other learners one not only brings online learning in a social context that it is sometimes missing, but also allows new paths of learning with peers to emerge."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Back to school...surfing my way away (first day)

Originally uploaded by sebastian fiedler.
Back to summer school... what happened, did I flunk last year?

In Tallinn University in Estonia, about 30 Masters and PhD students have gathered together for about 10 days to study current, and recurring, issues in the field of e-learning. We are asked to write personal diaries about our daily-learning. Some random thoughts and rants...

We were given the whole outline of the summer school, how the daily schedule would run, etc. Also, to my delight, on the agenda some special interest groups (SIG). But again, we were told the topics of SIGs by the organisers, like they could somehow know what we are interested in...? However, the organisers were pretty flexible letting us to discuss the SIGs and seems like there will be one on my favorite topic of social software/networks'n'e-learning.

After the day a pal asked me whether my first impression was any different from the last year's summer school conference (which I really hated and considered a total flop from the organisational point of view). I had to say that this pretty much reminded me of my last year's experience (sit in an auditorium for 4 days in a row and get a power-point-presentation-poisoning, slowly drifting away.. checking the Web and answering long overdue mails). This, again, gave me a creepy feeling that I am in a wrong place...however, I said that I remain positive and try to be (pro)active in my learning.