I’ve just had a belt at LAMS. Here’s what I reckon –

– Those who don’t know me though need to keep in mind that I am hyper critical of anything that uses the words Learning and Management in its title. So here goes –

Woah! The install was huge! I needed to manually kicked start the install file from CD, when it did eventually get going it was a pretty hefty install, with loads of stuff that just confused me! MySQL, Java and a bunch of stuff I have a very faint idea about. So, at my wit’s end I feel lucky that after 30 minutes of following a wizard along I appear to have successfully installed LAMS and all its extra requirements. (I hate installing software by the way – it is always a bit of a maze for me, no one install is ever the same as the next). On a positive note, LAMS can currently be installed on Windows, Linux and a MAC version this month…

So after getting that far, agreeing to all this stuff and settings that I have no idea about, my browser window has popped up (you know – that program you use to look at the Internet) and a LAMS login page has loaded from somewhere on my computer… not the Internet. I hate logins! Another password I have to remember… stuffit! I’ll use the same as I always do, that’s now 105 times I have used this password on different things, that’s 105 chances of someone discovering my password and gaining access to everything I keep private… does this LAMS really need a password?

But here’s the catch. At no point in the install did I set a user name! I put in a bunch of passwords for this and that, but I’ll be darned if I can remember putting in a username. So I can’t even get in and try it out. So, obviously this LAMS is getting a big thumbs down from me at this point. But I have sent an email to their support, and await some assistance.

While waiting I watch their promo videos to get more of the concept of what it is. I get a bad feeling from them… As with all Learning [activity] Management Systems, they just replicate what we can already do on the Internet anyway… don’t they? LAMS promotes itself as a quick and easy way for teachers (or students for that matter) to select activities and drag and drop them onto a plan sheet, then arrange the sequence in which the user will undergo the activities. (Those in teaching today would probably recognise this method as a kind of mind mapping, cut n paste, sketch it out kind of planning method, so would welcome LAMS as a breath of relief from the perplexing and foreign world of computers)
In the video the interface looks remarkably easy, and the students look very engrossed in their activities, but the key question for me is, why use L[a]MS’ custom built activities over the types and activities and skills sets a thoughtful person can devise using common ICT tools on the Internet? If I learn the LAMS way of doing things, what use will that be to me when I’m out in the real world? What if I’m already using a range of tools that are similar to the activities that LAMS offers, will I be able to bring those into this LAMS way of doing things? in other words, will I be able to use the chat programs, collaborative writing programs or what ever services I use already, into LAMS? Or do I have to give those tools up at school and start using what LAMS makes available to me?

These questions I think I already know the answer to so I’m tempted to forget looking at LAMS altogether, but its because LAMS is an open source development, and because the interface looks attractive, and that LAMS promotes itself as new and innovative that I’m going to persist with this brief interlude… oh, and most of all because some TALO members want ideas and feedback to these new LAMS to the slaughter.

So, let’s check my email to see if LAMS support has gotten back to me…
They have! in less than 10 minutes I have an answer to my query, that’s bloody fantastic support! and don’t I feel like a dummy… I did in fact enter a user name in the setup, its just that in my haste to start using LAMS, and because I just glaze over when having to fill in so many fields, I mistakenly saw the user name field as another password field…

So I’m in, and I’m impressed! This is one of the finest bit of FLASH developments I have seen, and I’m excited to see that there is this type of skill in Flash development in Australia. I have had a little toy with the LAMS and it is indeed very easy to use. Such is life when Flash comes to the party. But as is typical to complex Flash applications, when things go wrong with the passing of data between the interface and the server it is a pretty damaging breakage. But its not hard to get around these breakages and back into the flow.

LAMS is indeed a drag and drop and sequencing tool and could have enormous potential for those who are not so comfortable with the real (Internet) world and need very simple tools to get tasks done. The LAMS activities are pretty good, if a little teachy, but with the options available selection a pretty good learning sequence could be structured.

But my questions remain.

I guess if a teacher and or a student did not have the time, opportunity, or inclination to really get behind the wheel of their learning and upskill in their use of the Internet, LAMS would be a very useful thing. It has a dramatically simple and quick interface towards getting collaborative learning activities underway. But at the end of it all, when you are no longer a student or teacher at the place offering you LAMS you are eventually on your own. And that’s when you will need to learn new tools all over again to achieve the same outcomes as you achieved in the LAMS world. And in saying that, LAMS could never hope to do it all anyway, so somwhere along the way you will be importing little bits of web based applications to enable collaborative learning to occure – (ICQ, MSN, Skype, Blogs, RSS, eGroups, Wikis, etc). But then, at least LAMS is free and open, so I guess if you did discover that the tools that the world uses just didn’t cut it, you could post out CDs to all those you want to collaborate with and help them install LAMS so that you could take advantage of the tools… fingers crossed that don’t hate installing software as much as I do.

Of course, all this would not be an issue if LAMS had access to a web server and were aloud to install and offer LAMS as a free service to anyone on the Internet! This option should be possible from what I can tell, and so would greatly improve the potential for LAMS. In short, if LAMS became a web based application that I could use without needing to download and/or install a single bit of software (accept for the Flash player of course) then LAMS would get a huge thumbs up from me. Even better would be if it provided its remarkebly simple interface onto the real world tools. That way I could bring the tools I’m already using into it, and help my students learn more universally used tools… but come to think of, it would be possible to do this from within LAMS as it already, by just linking out to the tools and bypassing the LAMS tools.

Anyway, back to toying around with LAMS. Its kinda fun and does give me ideas for the real world. Its a bit like mind mapping… there’s an idea!… I might start using my mind mapping tool to get down all the real world tools I use (including links out to their sites), and just rejig that map every time I need to plan and design learning sequence. I think that’s a good idea.. thanks LAMS.

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