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Brian Lamb and many others have been keeping a close watch on FB lately, and its a relief that such critique is on the record throughout the Web2 educational blogger networks.

Below is a copy paste email exchange between a friend of mine and “Facebook User Operations”. In it you will see the process my friend had to go through to get out of Facebook. This friend was once a FB enthusiast, and now he loathes it. I am also on the road out of FB and glad to be getting free of it.

Like most people I saw the huge growth in the numbers of users and got sucked into the vacumm. Being a self proclaimed media and education critic of sorts, I saw it as part of my role to get to know the platform, experiment a bit and advise and critique. Thanks to the many critical thinkers around (especially those that engaged in the FB analysis in the Facilitate Online Learning Communities Course) that job of investigation has been quick and wide ranging. In that focus group we looked at the tools, features and toys in FB, we considered the serious accusations and questionable aspects of FB’s terms and conditions, privacy practices, copyrights, and marketing data collection practices, and we have discussed the bigger social issues around things like FB. Now more recently I have been shown the difficulty people have in actually managing their accounts in FB which is the nail in the coffin for me.

Just as in our “real world” of credit cards, databases, consumer “loyalty” programs and the more serious PR efforts covered by Adam Curtis’ films The Trap and The Century of the Self, FB is just another cynical intrusion on our society and another lift of the bar for those that claim to “do no evil”. Observing the quality of ads on FB lately might indicate that things are not going too well for the inflated FB adventure.

The thing that annoys me the most about all this is that the critics of Web2 will gain yet more traction through FB like bubbles. Those who have been following the Web2 thing should probably see that the likes of FB have very little in common with web2 ideas (closed, locked in, dodgy). Some may recognise it as that familiar corrupting force that will help to derail the more hopeful aspects of the movement, such as the revived belief in the value of a critical, creative and participatory society that helps to develop a more responsive and responsible economy, and more representational culture and mediascape (Benkler – Wealth of Networks).

Sadly, FB is another nod to the chilling warnings in the old classic EPIC2014, “its the best of times, its the worst of times…”

> From: “Facebook Support”
>> Hi …,
>>
>> You’re welcome. Feel free to contact me with any further questions.
>>
>> Thanks,
>>
>> ….
>> User Operations
>> Facebook
>>
>>
>>
>> —–Original Message to Facebook—–
>> From: …
>> Subject: Re: Deletion
>>
>> That’s fine thanks.
>>
>>
>> Thanks,
>>
>> ——————————

——————–
>> From: “Facebook Support” <….>
>> Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 5:10 AM
>> To: <….>
>> Subject: Re: Deletion
>>
>>> Hi ….,
>>>
>>> We have permanently deleted your account per your request. Please note,
>>> deletion is irreversible. Let me know if you have any other questions
>>> or
>>> concerns.
>>>
>>> Thanks,
>>>
>>> ….
>>> Customer Support Representative
>>> Facebook
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>> —–Original Message to Facebook—–
>>> From: …. (….)
>>> To: Facebook Support (….)
>>> Subject: Re: Deletion
>>>
>>> I have removed all my friends, profile picture, and inbox messages.
>>> Delete
>>> my account now please.
>>>
>>> Thank the developers of Facebook for making this process as difficult as
>>> possible.
>>>
>>> Is there a valid reason why I have to go through that process, or is it
>>> so
>>> people give up and deactivate their accounts, so they always have an
>>> account
>>> to go back to, so you can advertise to them? Or maybe you count
>>> deactivated
>>> accounts in your supposed 55 million users?
>>> If I have asked for the account to be deleted, I should be able to get
>>> that
>>> done. I should be able to do that myself from the Facebook interface.
>>>
>>> ————————————————–
>>> From: “Facebook Support” <….>
>>> Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 7:43 AM
>>> To: <….>
>>> Subject: Re: Deletion
>>>
>>>> Hi ….,
>>>>
>>>> Unfortunately, you have not cleared your profile of all content.
>>>> Please
>>>> remove all friends from your friends list, photos from your profile,
>>>> and
>>>> messages from your Inbox. We will then be able to assist you.
>>>>
>>>> Thanks,
>>>>
>>>> ….
>>>> Customer Support Representative
>>>> Facebook
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> —–Original Message to Facebook—–
>>>> From: …. …. (….)
>>>> To: Facebook Support (….)
>>>> Subject: Re: Deletion
>>>>
>>>> I have cleared everything from my account, and wish for it to be
>>>> cleared
>>>> from your server.
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> Thanks,
>>>> …. …..
>>>>
>>>> ————————————————–
>>>> From: “Facebook Support” <….>
>>>> Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2007 1:28 PM
>>>> To: <….>
>>>> Subject: Re: Deletion
>>>>
>>>>> Hi ….,
>>>>>
>>>>> If you deactivate, your account, and any information associated with
>>>>> it,
>>>>> is removed from the site. However, we do save your profile content
>>>>> (friends, photos, interests, etc.), so if you want to reactivate
>>>>> someday,
>>>>> your account will look just the way it did when you deactivated.
>>>>>
>>>>> If you want your information removed from our servers, we can do this
>>>>> for
>>>>> you. However, you need to first log in and delete all profile
>>>>> content.
>>>>> Once you have cleared your account, let us know, and we’ll take care
>>>>> of
>>>>> the rest. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
>>>>>
>>>>> Thanks for contacting Facebook,
>>>>>
>>>>> ….
>>>>> Customer Support Representative
>>>>> Facebook
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>> —–Original Message to Facebook—–
>>>>> From: …. …. (….)
>>>>> To: privacy@facebook.com (privacy@facebook.com)
>>>>> Subject: Deletion
>>>>>
>>>>> I would like my Facebook completely deleted, not just deactivated.
>>>>>
>>>>> Browser: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-GB; rv:1.8.1.11)
>>>>> Gecko/20071127 Firefox/2.0.0.11
>>>>> —–End Original Message to Facebook—–
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>>>
>>>> —–End Original Message to Facebook—–
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
>>> —–End Original Message to Facebook—–
>>>
>>>
>>>
>> —–End Original Message to Facebook—–
>>
>>
>>

 

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Long time no chat with Teemu Leinonen. Tonight he skyped me out of the blue and in no time has me signed up to Jaiku – another group IM system, but seems to have more features than Twitter such as intergration with mobile phones..

We also got to chatting about various stuff in the world, flicking links to movies back and forth before we settled down to watch the first part of the BBC series Century of the Self. More info about this BBC series here.

Its another very thought provoking film in what seems to be a series of stuff I’m just happening across, such as Newman’s History of Oil and Zeitgeist. Apart from being interesting in that this BBC series seems to support in some way the general ideas coming out of the more “conspiracy” minded films like Zeitgeist and History of Oil, Teemu and I kept the skype chatgoing through out the 1 hour movie. We chatted to each other, summarised what was being said, grabbed links to some of the names etc. It was quite an enjoyable way to watch this film.

Here’s some of the transcript: [10:42:12 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: I am watching the movie too.
[10:42:21 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: ๐Ÿ™‚ me too
[10:42:33 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: I have this idea of having a TV with chat. We can do some quick user testing in here.
[10:42:44 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: right ๐Ÿ™‚
[10:43:27 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: I have often tried to talk to my grand father about his life – but he does not talk about himself too well
[10:44:28 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: Where did he grow up?
[10:44:35 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: Australia
[10:44:52 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: through Depression WW2 etc
[10:45:48 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: My grandfather wrote down his memories.
[10:45:56 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: good man
[10:46:34 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: was common to keep journals in the 18 19th century hey
[10:46:35 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: I have this plan of “digitalizing” them. They are written with a typewriter.
[10:46:42 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: great
[10:53:50 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: hmm cigarettes
[10:54:02 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: torches of freedom
[10:54:21 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: bernays takes credit?
[10:54:27 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: dunno about that/..
[10:54:37 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: Bernays
[10:55:23 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: Bernays = emotional connection to objects
[10:55:32 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: emotional
[10:56:18 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: I think functional virtues will come back
[10:56:30 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Bernays
[10:56:46 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: needs to desire culture
[10:57:03 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: does this reflect a European experience?
[10:57:43 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: emotional connection to objects is good if the objects are good. ๐Ÿ™‚
[10:57:54 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: ah ha ๐Ÿ™‚
[10:58:18 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: I don’t have anything agains good propaganda if the products are good.
[10:58:50 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: cigarettes – torches of freedom – money – wealth – jobs = good in 1920
[10:59:03 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: bad today
[10:59:12 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: hmm.. well…good for whom?
[10:59:32 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: women freedom?
[10:59:39 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: good point.
[11:00:30 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: if you could jump right from the “smoking” to the “torches of freedom” and the rest will still follow it would be much better.
[11:01:06 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: smoking – torces of freedom – money – wealth – jobs.
[11:01:33 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: well, money and jobs are good for others
[11:01:44 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: wealth for the nation/community
[11:02:01 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: women freedom means money for women.
[11:02:02 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: but all this just to question the notion of “good”
[11:02:36 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: “…and everybody was happy.”
[11:03:10 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: this bernays is a demon
[11:03:13 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: ๐Ÿ™‚
[11:03:21 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: he has horns
[11:03:28 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: hah..
[11:04:35 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: bernays and co strike me as gloting arrogants
[11:04:46 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: or just american>
[11:06:37 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: freuds thinking = christian belief of inate sinfulness of men
[11:06:40 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: ?
[11:08:01 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: the mob and web2…
[11:08:09 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: unconsciousness = innate sin.
[11:08:17 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: hmm
[11:09:21 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: “engineered concent” – Bernays.. later Naom Chompsky
[11:10:55 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: Actually I mean: freud’s unconscious mind = the christian innate sin.
[11:11:42 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: right
[11:14:54 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: It seems to be that Europe exports “ideas” to US and when they are “imported” back to Europe it is a catastrophe.
[11:15:00 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: need to watch Zeitgeist for an idea about why the depression happened
[11:15:27 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: indeed
[11:16:00 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: …just waiting when the nuclear bomb will be finally “imported” back to Europe.
[11:16:24 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: freedom is impossible ๐Ÿ˜ฆ
[11:22:41 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: on archive.org there is a good film called Despotism – 1947 or something..
[11:25:28 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: yes. I have used the Despotism in some classes.
[11:26:51 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Gallup
[11:36:01 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: not as active citizens but passive consumers
[11:36:15 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: web2 = active citizens?
[11:36:24 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: hmm..
[11:40:06 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: oh no.. the CIA
[11:40:15 p.m.] Teemu Leinonen says: Right..
[11:40:34 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: good film
[11:40:43 p.m.] Leigh Blackall says: thanks to the google pirate

Someone please make a comic strip out of Mike Caulfields piss take on IT management.

I would if I had a little more time, but I’ve had my go, and D’Arcy’s had his. This is the best script yet and deserves better treatment. Perhaps a SecondLife Machinima or snapshot comic strip?

Wara points out another useful little tool.

Wikimindmap

Insert your search term or topic, select the Wikipedia language, see the results in a clean interactive mind map.

Janet Hawtin in TALO sent through URLs to the slides of a workshop for the Education Network Australia by Ken Price…

Web 2.0 and education: best friends or worst enemies

[seems there are still many people in our “leading” education agencies still waking up to this Web2 thing while some of the “early adopters” start pulling each other apart Keen style.]

Ken’s presentation is a good overview. Does the usual (but necessary) overkill-to-hammer-the-point-home on the many many useful tools out there, but more importantly he posits a few questions and considerations… nothing too heady… nothing that questions the very fabric of education and the like.. just everyday questions for everyday people getting by day by day.

About half way through he posits the idea that schools go through 5 stages when presented with a technology:

  1. Some online tool becomes available freely available
  2. Students use it at home and school
  3. Some educators may (validly or otherwise) see this tool as a threat. They respond by restricting, renouncing or simply banning it.
  4. Tool becomes widespread in wider community (Gladwellโ€™s Tipping Point reached?). Student use or expectation reaches critical mass, education sees its potential and the need to provide it securely
  5. Education responds with a secure and manageable replacement… And everyone breathes a sigh of reliefโ€ฆ.

Now, I’m not sure if Ken was hinting at something there with that last line ending in a … , and later in the presentation it becomes a little clearer, but I’m personally not feeling clear enough on this…

It does appear in education to be the common road to take – responding with a “secure and manageable replacement”. Why is that the default, and why am I the only one who continues to take issue with that?

Ken shows a long long list of free web based tools with examples of their uses (as we all do). I didn’t see any “secure, manageable, replacements” in his list, and I certainly can’t imagine a school, or even a centrally controlled agency of the State like EdNA or Department of Ed successfully “managing a secure replacement”. The only example I can think of is email, (I won’t even acknowledge the arsed up attempts with LMS and SharePoint!) and even email is going back the other way as we all start adopting gMail accounts for the better functionality than the State email provides. I know for sure that if they did try and provide a manageable and secure replacement, it’d take so long to get through, and be so crippled and unpopular by the end of the process, (the millions of dollars spent by NSW on webservices anyone? check the history, what a flop!) that it could never even hope to be web2 (needing popular participation and all!). What is this security we keep noding to as though we all know what it is? Is it a mish mash of network computer security and duty of care? I reckon its the terrorism we all know is waiting at every airport and bus stop… fear – paralysing fear.

Ken does list risks later on though… are these the things he/we refer to when we say secure?

  • ย Where is your data?
  • ย Who else can get to it?
  • ย Does the application encourage inappropriate use?
  • What happens if the service provider has technical problems, goes out of business?
  • Usernames and passwords โ€“ how to manage them all?
  • Security risk if you use same username/pwd as on your own systems? Need for different levels of password
  • Data volume and bandwidth requirements

These are risks, some of them I think we just need to get over really, but all of them have a range of management strategies possible in the practice of Web2 before we expect our underpaid, and over worked IT managers to provide a “manageable and secure replacement” – that by the way, should be as cool and popular as all the web2 tools we are already using…

Poor guy, by the time he gets through all the red tape to get a project going that simply investigates this web2 thing (because he hasn’t found time to keep on top of the RSS feeds the past 3 years), the deal he’s been negotiating with Microsoft Sharepoint, Elluminate and Blackboard over the past few years has finally started to look possible… and by the time he gets all his staff up to speed with this Web2 bubble, it will have tp’d off to the Second Life and virtual worlds crew who will have figured out a way to integrate Web2 with Web3D and the 2nd wave teachers watching Ken will be asking for a “manageable and secure version” of Web3D too!

Ken’s presentation is worth looking at. Its nicely self contained so you don’t feel like you need him there to talk you through it. It raises some good questions – perhaps tries to answer them too much, and covers a good range of issues for schools to be thinking about.. while the rest of us think about how to get those issues out of schools.

There’s something about this presentation about Web 2 that strikes me as different to the predominately North American voices on the topic. Web 2 by Satyaeet. Its a subtle difference, hard to put a finger on..

I guess this is just a hint at the value of maintaining diversity in information and communication.. something that Web2 promises us, but so far doesn’t seem to deliver (to me). Until now… a colleague here, new to blogging, embeded this slideshare in his class blog, which showed it to me. There’s two perspectives I wouldn’t normally encounter in my bloglines staple.

Personally I was skeptical about the notion that a learning style might be generational. The digital natives, digital learners, net generation and all that has been a mildly useful motivator or reasoning in teacher training, but I never truly believed it was a valid.

That’s because I have not been in a classroom setting with a bunch of teenagers for a while. A bit over a year and a half to be precise. And its also because down here in deep dark Dunedin there is very little broadband and so I surmise that that would mean there would be very little power Internet use amongst the kids. That was until today, when I subbed a class for the Travel and Tourism Department. I was to teach research skills to a bunch of teenagers! To be honest I was sweat’n it.. how the hell was I gunna make this interesting?

But first, a video sent by Gary Sewell through the TALO email list:

So, 20 minutes before class I set up a wikispace starting with the following sentence:

Researching together is more effective than researching alone.

Did you like that? I like that, and they did too! Phew, great start. Now for my mistake. After briefly outlining what a wiki is and how it might be useful for researching together, I told them about the edit button. Boom! faster than I could click edit and save, the wiki was deleted! Surprised but not flustered I showed them the history and it didn’t take long (about 3 minutes) for someone to work out how to revert it. I had to double check at this point. “hands up who has used a wiki before?” no hands…! Just intuition

This little hiccup disrupted the group a little and there was a lot of noise and fiddling going on. I managed to get them collectively focused on the first question: “what might we need to research in tourism?” To try and control the edit conflicts, I had one person take notes from the suggestions. As usual it was hard to get people to speak up, but we got there with some age old teaching tricks. The notes went in and the edit clashes kept happening. Big lesson – don’t point out the edit button too early ๐Ÿ™‚

After we got a few examples in there, I referred to the list of search sites and content repositories I and put in there earlier. I asked them to use this list to search for good links and resources related to the research examples we had brainstormed. If they found anything of interest, they were to come back and paste in the wiki with a sentence explaining the link. At this point I became aware of the 3 international students in the group using their translator computers ๐Ÿ™‚ LOL I set the rest of the group to task and went to the internationals for further explanation.

It is this task that needs following up. Search techniques, remaining focused, how to drill down and assess the social links, finding the motivation and techniques to look carefully. I didn’t labour on any of this and observed with joy the kids having fun pulling up silly youtube movies, doing flickr image searches, and some making serious attempts. I knew that they knew that anything I set them to do was going to be a one off, so I saw no reason to attempt to keep them on any hypothetical task at the expense of more engaging discovery fun. I just wanted them to be exposed to it all. And I really wanted to see the extent of their digital native-ness. And boy was I amazed!

Within minutes they had worked out how to embed the Youtube movies into the wiki. Somehow GoogleMaps came up and I showed them CommunityWalk. At least 4 in the group started up their own CommunityWalk map. Others started up their own wikispace and I walked around trying to clarify some of the chaos and confusion in the air.

It was amazing to watch! Within 40 minutes this group of 12 or so had experimented with more information and communication technology than I have managed to get any group of 12 teachers to do in 12 months!!

Our librarian Wendy2.0 was there to observe. I bet she was a bit skeptical by the lack of focus on research skills, and maybe a bit concerned that the class was wild and going in all sorts of crazy directions at different times, probably leaving behind maybe 4 of the group. I know I was a little concerned, but what could I expect? But I did get the sense that the group had been exposed to something they hadn’t seen before, and that they understood the possibilities – as a group. That their energy (if nurtured and maintained) will over time find a constructive way to use these tools in their study, and the 4 will pick it up like most people do in such socially active learning environments like this group.

But this will require follow up. The regular teacher will need to be aware of this class activity (they did not come to the class!), the learning support guys need to be at the ready to work on some of the fixable problems that emerged from this session.. such as focus, search techniques, drilling down etc. But those teachers are not ready! It will honestly take them a year to understand what these kids intuitively grasped in minutes!! This is a scary thought!

We need the students to teach the teachers!!

Like I said, I was skeptical to begin with. I’m a believer now! We teachers have got to get happening! Make sure you check out the furious history of that class wiki.

People who know me, know I am loathed to use self hosted services. Apart from myself forgetting to pay the bill for domain names and poor-service hosting servers, and so losing webpages and files that I didn’t backup, I think it is important for education to be as in touch with popular media and platforms as it can be. Setting up your own, at-times-monolithic systems, entrenching work practices around them, and giving teachers a route that leads to disconnection, dependence and non transferable skills is something to avoid as much as possible.

In saying that though, I remain all on my lonesome and am yet to hear of an educational organisation in (Australia or New Zealand at least) taking advantage of the storage and services on offer at OurMedia and Internet Archive, or using socially networked platforms to any formal status, taking advantage of Blip.tv services and saving 10s if not hundreds, maybe even millions of dollars on their own yet to work alternatives.

But here I go, about to describe a semi in house set up that I think we need. This set up will hopefully inter-operate with the social platforms and take advantage of all the best has to offer, but for mainly internal issues and copyright concerns, we need a system that spans the divide. One that will give us a cake and let us eat it as well.. whatever that stupid saying means..?

A MediaWiki

We need a media wiki with all the coolness and functionality you can get into the thing. It has to embed youtube, google and blip movies, it has to hold widgets and iDevices, take many html tags, it has to be able to hold a Google map, it needs survey tools, flickr badges, slide show, embedded audio, RSS and all the other things I haven’t thought of.

Looking at an impressive list of MediaWiki extensions, there is potentially a lot on offer, and the work of Alex Hayes and Chris Harvey on the Learnscope wiki promises to demonstrate a lot of all this functionality. The wiki we need has to allow for quick, easy mashups, 1 hour before class, by the skin of my teeth! and we need to be able to move that mashup onto other publishing platforms and formats quickly and easily. More a more detailed wish list, see ideas for wikieducator.

Distributed upload

We need to be able to load a movie (and every other file) to our own New Zealand based file server, and have the option to load it to YouTube, Blip.tv, Archive.org and the National Library… maybe more. The first file to load in the embed frame on the wiki is the local one. If that goes missing then the next available one needs to load, and so on. If that can’t be done easily, then at least a list of alternative locations should load if the local file doesn’t. This is what I mean by distributed upload, and it was inspired by the awesome services on offer at Blip.tv. Distribution like this is not just about backup, it is also about networking and collaboration. Distributing files out gets better visibility. Better visibility may lead to more reuse. More reuse leads to attribution and recognition, that in turn leads to networks and collaboration. The Brazilian teacher who has been using your movies in her class (sourced from Youtube – not your server) calls you up to talk about a student exchange idea… you point her to wiki and things get started…

Copyrights management

Our platform will hopefully default to CC BY but enable individual resources to have any copyright license needed. MediaWiki already has good handling of multi license content, so we need data recorded on what licenses are used on how much of our own content, and in the case of external content used on the wiki, we need records of what content is used other than our own and what the copyrights are.

On the file server, we need to be able to turn on or grey out functionality depending on what license is selected for a resource. For example, if I am uploading a video to the file server:

  • I need to option to publish or private with the ability to ID users who can see it if private
  • I need to be able to set a copyright from all copyright options (most free first and default right down to restricted). If I choose a less free license I start to lose features, like the ability to distribute, the ability to embed in the wiki, the ability to have it reformatted and backed up on other servers etc.

That’s it for now.

Come on Toto… There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place…

The problem with wikis is that they require people to remember to contribute, stop what they’re doing, go to the wiki, click edit and retype what they wrote somewhere else already, such as in a blog, email, or other media upload somewhere else. I really hate it when I upload an image to my preferred image host (Flickr) then have to re-upload it if I want to use it in a wiki. And what about this blog post? As I write I’m thinking about how I might put it on the wikieducator discussion pages I’m involved in… I think I’ll just add a link there and point to this post.

George Siemens puts an interesting thought across – that wikis will get better long term use than blogs.. personally I don’t think so – I think most people find it easier to collaborate with themselves then they do with others, and the long term experience with wikis might annoy them so much that they return to blogging and rely on the network connections to aggregate some form of collaboration.

And that leads me to my vision for Wikieducator (and wikis generally) – the aggregation of individual efforts and then the collaboration.

So far wikispaces is way ahead with this idea. Long ago wikispaces made it possible to add an RSS feed to a page, to be able to add to a wiki through blogging AND to embed media like Youtube vids, Frappr maps and other services that offer embed code for redistribution. This is certainly one level of aggregation I would like to see in a media wiki platform like Wikieducator.

Imagine, you’re starting from scratch with a blank page in wikieducator.. your topic is.. oh, I dunno – the weather… instead of having to enter in text, upload images, rejig the structure and even break out new pages as the first page gets too huge.. instead of that (or as well as) you could add an RSS feed, such as a Del.icio.us tag, or a YahooPipe feed, or a Technorati search result, or the weather reports from 5 capital cities… imagine you could also embed a documentary video from GoogleVids, a popular tsunami video from youtube, a preview of An Inconvenient Truth, and even an old 1950’s B&W weather report from Internet Archive. Imagine that after embedding that media you managed to organise text based transcripts to be loaded in for the dial up users who can’t watch this broadband media. Now you’ve peppered the text and media with a few FlickrCC images and your page is about ready. It took you less then an hour, you have an incredibly rich page, you’re ready for ‘class’, and ready for further collaboration from all the people who’s media you just sampled – remember, its a wiki ๐Ÿ˜‰

All of this is possible with Wikispaces already, but as much as I like wikispaces – I want to get into mediawiki and Wikieducator. Why? well there’s a few reasons – one is so the wikitext I/we create is reusable across other mediawiki installs such as our own if we ever install one. Another reason is because I am interested in the Commonwealth of Learning and the services they can offer in facilitating links across many national borders. The other is because wikieducator is focusing NOT just on educational content, but on improved communication channels to support the use of that content… Apart from those very brain centred reasons, its a gut instinct.

But my vision goes further than just getting Wikieducator’s mediawiki platform up to speed with the likes of wikispaces and content aggregation and media embeding.

Take Shaggy’s Training Packages Unwrapped (TPU) project. An incredible solution to the unusable formats that the Australian National Training Information Services (NTIS) uses to express Australian training unit standards. If you take a look at the TPU proof of concept you will see that TPU extracts key content out of NTIS unit standards and displays them in HTML with the option to extract in a number of other formats – including mediawiki text!! So take this project and apply it to many other forms of syllabus documents that almost always come in .doc, .pdf or .rtf formats and never in wikitext! and we have a short cut way of getting skeletal content like learning objectives and the like into a place like Wikieducator.

Now take a New Zealand project like eXe. eXe was formally a tool for creating SCORM compliant and XML content for reuse in Learning Management Systems and the like. It was probably designed for more than that, but when I first saw eXe back in 2005 I saw LMS tool and looked the other way. Now the project is aligning with the Wikieducator project and could conceivably be used to extract content from the wiki and reformat it ready for print. It could do the reverse as well, reformatting word processor files into wikitext ready for upload into Wikieducator as well, just like TPU can do.

Back to the aggregation inside a media wiki.. one-way aggregation is only half useful. Being able to quickly and easily compile an information piece on a wiki page from a variety of already existing information and media is great, being able to then quickly edit and add your own information around that media is even better, but to be able to dynamically export that page in true Web2 fashion would be the bomb! If each page had some form of XML with a simple step of copying a line of code and pasting it in another context so that the wikipage would redisplay on a blog, an LMS (gawd help us!) a straight website, a start page or even another wiki.. well, that would just be tops! Not just a snap shot of the wiki (we could just use eXe export features for that, but an always up to date version dynamically updating itself via RSS or something. What this would enable would be amazing. Similar to being able to display youtube vids in different contexts, but we are enabling the display of aggregated and wikified content in other contexts, where that context’s style sheet and presentation can lay over the content and make it appear native! So not only do we have open content (as in free access) but we have multiple pathways to the source as well! free and open source content on every level.

As I’ve pointed out before, Wikieducator are proactive on these things. They saw the need for better communication channels to support the content, so they introduced Instant Messaging channels. I’m informed that their IM works fine with Skype, hopefully it works with GizmoProject as well. So we potentially have VOIP in their too. Content alone is not much help to those who are trying to learn. Access to communication with others is what counts, so the provision of Instant Messaging and even Voice over IP channels for every page or content type would really kick arse. Volunteers like me who have a stake in a number of pages could list their preferred live communication channel, and the wikieducator page would be able to show whether that person was online and available, and facilitate messages between people through that page. Still on improving communication around specific content, Wikieducator has also recognised the cumbersome discussion platform of mediwiki and should be implementing threaded and slightly more graphically enhanced discussion soon as well, based on the Liquid Threads development.

So that about somes up my vision/wish list for Wikieducator.

  1. Two way aggregation and re-contextualisation
  2. Embedded media of all types
  3. Download and upload to and from static formats like word processor documents, PDFs and other text files.
  4. Good synchronous and asynchronous communication channels with every page

In my work here – developing courses to be more flexible in learning opportunities etc – I’ve been trying to strengthen the relationship between lecturer and librarian services. Where lecturers really need assistance is in locating reusable learning resources. By reusable, I mean artifacts with Creative Commons, GPL or GNU licensing.

A typical scenario might be:

Course wants to make its content available online. First we need to check the content for currency and copyright clearances. Almost always this is where we get caught. While a teacher is usually pretty diligent with referencing text quotes and the like, they almost never reference the imagery they use in their resources. So we have to find supplementary images, or find whole new resources that are free for reuse and remix.

As you can imagine, this can create a large amount of work, but I see it as a very important capability building exercise. We need teachers to be more careful with their resource creation, we need them to be intimately aware of all the free and open content that is available, and we need resources created today that can be reusable tomorrow.

Obviously a lecturer can not do this alone, and they are not the only ones that need to develop new practices that compliment this effort. Enter the librarian. Traditonal role is to support the lecturer in gathering information and teaching resources, and sometimes to support the learners in their efforts with the subject.

So I’ve been trying to get a librarian involved with every development project I get started. They attend all the meetings and workshops and become intimately aware of the emerging needs of the course. But most importantly, they develop a new awareness, skill set, capability and awareness for their role in this new era for the education sector.

In a nut shell, here’s what they are to me. Comments welcome.

Sourcing reusable and copyright less restricted resources in close consultation with the lectures who are developing their courses.

 

Awareness

  • What is a Creative Commons license?
  • What is a GPL and GNU license?
  • What databases exists that store resources licensed in this way?
  • Emerging librarian and educational uses of 3D virtual worlds such as Second Life

 

Skills

  • Advanced searching for CC, GPL, GNU and open courseware
  • Social bookmarking/tagging and RSS technology relevant to traditional librarian roles
  • Being able to use and control to a profitient user level a 3D virtual world
  • Formats, reformatting, open digital formats, digital archiving and reusablity

 

Capabilities

  • Being able to combine the awareness and skills and apply them to support lecturers in their needs to source, supplement and remix reusable content.
  • Being able to keep abreast of new developments in this area
  • Being able to relate these new practices with older practices

 

Experience

  • In time management with these new practices
  • In explaining the benefits of the new practices to colleagues and clientele
  • Working to an independent level the interpretation of copyright legislation and being able to advise lectures on the best course of action when it is an issue relating to teaching resources.

Copyright

Creative Commons License
All original work licensed Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.