Tuesday, June 27, 2006

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.

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