Tuesday 22 December 2009

You made me realize I cannot do it alone: my network is my strength, my beacon of light, my inspiration, so thanks to you all!

The big question for December 2009 was: “What did you learn about learning in 2009”. Well, just one very simple, yet essential thing: to open up and embrace sharing knowledge.
2009 was a very chaotic year for my blogging reflections. I just did not know where I was going and I had an existential blogging crisis. Reading all your blogs, I felt as though I just was not adding enough. All through 2009 I tried to stay on top of the new whirlwind of gadgets (new social media software, new mobile devices…), I dived into many papers and books on topics directly related to eLearning and mobile learning, but something was missing and I felt as though I was falling short.

However, there were two bright and clear actions that pushed my learning in 2009 and which brought me back to this earth and all its wonders.

The first actions that gave me a boost in 2009 were all your great ideas! During the presentations, the trainings and the workshops (online and face-to-face) I was able to give, I learned the most, although I was the one who was asked to take the lead. The participants and partners in these workshops, trainings and presentation settings were amazing. The participants always came up with great ideas, added relevant question marks, and paved the way to deeper understanding for us, the entire group. Thanks to you I now realize more than ever that trusting the team, and opening up to the network is what it is all about. It is about us, or quoting my favorite film by Miranda July, ‘Me You and Everyone We Know’: “We are all in this together.”

The other great beacon of inspiration, and a most humbling one, were all the health care workers I met in 2009 and with whom my colleagues and I tried to find solutions for their eLearning situations and challenges. Most of these health care workers work in dire conditions, in regions that only had a minimum of connectivity, sometimes war hurt regions, and despite these trying conditions they were happy with any exchange of knowledge that could take place. I learned a lot from all of them: keep it simple, share and connect. They also put my feet back on the ground: technology is an instrument connected to an economic class, it is the instrument of humans, and it is up to all of us to choose what we do with it. Those health care workers knew and know how important a network is. They know that the strength of any network can make the difference between life and death (district hospitals rely frequently on telemedicine to get answers to difficult cases). Technology enables those networks, but does not build or nourish them. So I respect every one of these health care workers immensely. They make a difference just by living, learning and connecting.

These networks gave a direction to a lot of my learning; they pushed my learning towards usefulness, and creativity. So in 2009 I learned that it is not the learning that I have gone through, but the learning we all could accomplish that makes the difference. This world is a wonderful place and human nature can be full of kindness and sharing. I am very glad I belong to this global network of people that want to learn, share and grow towards a better life for all. You all made me realize I cannot do it alone, but that it is okay, that together we can build on each other. My network is my strength, my beacon of light, my inspiration, so thanks to you all!

Monday 21 December 2009

PhD thesis on tagging learning resources in a multilangual context

For years people are pushed to tag their learning resources, but I often wondered whether these tagged resources actually do get reused? Or whether tagging between peers that live in various parts of the world only works in theory, but does in fact not result in sharing resources in actual learning life. But here comes Riina with a clear answer to these questions.

Some great shared learning resources have been around for some years: the Open Educational Resources Commons, which was set-up by ISKME which was launched Februari 2007 and has strong partners e.g. UNESCO, OER commons works with tags a lot. Another renowned one is of course the MIT opencourseware, but then the latter does not use tags much.

There are also other smaller scale projects that share their learning resources. Together with other ITM-people I am working on an eLearning partnership that enables all to exchange learning modules, hence decreasing all our time in developing online courses, because we divide the workload and at the same time enabling us all to share our content/elearning knowledge across many different settings. This is way I was thrilled reading the phd in question that covers sharing learning resources across borders and more specifically how tags work in those situations.
At the same time, I sometimes wonder what happens with any Dutch work I write? How can people find Dutch papers, or articles in any other language, if they only have tags to go on (which are sometimes quite different depending on the language). Of course tagging in different languages for the same written document might be an answer, but Riina offers a far more interesting and workable solution, which relies on networks underlying the content based mainly on the three factors: user, item, tag.

Riina Vuorikari wrote her phd entitled "Tags and self-organisation: a metadata ecology for learning resources in a multilingual context", and in the introduction she describes the main ideas behind it:

"Social tags offer an interesting aspect to study learning resources, its metadata
and how users interact with them in a multilingual context. Tags, as opposed to conventional metadata description such as Learning Object Metadata (LOM), are free, non-hierarchical keywords that end-users associate with a digital artefact, e.g. a learning resource. Tags are formed by a triple of (user,item,tag).
Tags and the resulting networks, folksonomies, are commonly modelled as tripartite hypergraphs. This ternary relational structure gives rise to a number of novel relations to better understand, capture and model contextual information. The (user,item) relationship is a parameter of the interaction between a user and the learning resource. In the (user,tag) relation, on the other hand, tags are regarded as part of the user model that reflects user’s interests and intentions. The full relational structure emphasises the (item,tag) relation that allows tags to be part of describing the item that they are related to (e.g. a learning resource). Additionally, the (item,tag) relation can be extended to the metadata of the item (e.g. LOM), from which an additional relationship (tag,LOM) is inferred."

The thesis describes two exploratory studies and "introduces a trilogy of studies focusing on self-organisation, flexibility and robustness of a social tagging system using empirical, behavioural data captured from log-files and user’s attention metadata trails on a number of learning resource portals and platforms in a multilingual context."

This is a very interesting thesis (181 pages) on tagging and how to get the most out of it.

(photo information from thesis: Figure 8.1. A learning network: a social network graph of about 5000 eTwinning teachers connected through common projects. The nodes are teachers and the edges are common projects (Breuer, Klamma, Cao & Vuorikari, 2009).

Friday 18 December 2009

Living a mobile life? How do you cope?

First I was a nomad, I did not have a house nor passport for two years, moving from one place to another. Then I was house hopping for another three years. Eventually I got myself a house, then I started to learn on top of my work... so all along I had to be mobile. Where the mobility was mostly physical in the first part of my adult life, it quickly became essential for my mental development in the second part of my adult life.

As ubiquitous learning is becoming more obvious, some of you have been writing on the fact that learning has always been mobile, like Michelle Pacansky-Brock linking it to university issues. With this post I would love to hear your mobile life and how you are coping?

For my work I sometimes need to visit partners in the South (India, Morocco, South-Africa...). While I am there, I learn from my colleagues over there, I learn how they tackle certain pedagogical problems and infrastructural challenges. So I guess, at that point I am learning while being mobile, something that explorers have always done. In fact starting from the 17th century mobile learning was all the rave if you were part of the upper class, you went on a Grand Tour to get extra education. And in Africa they had and have people - les griots - who took what they had seen and learned on their travels and routes, the history of the people passed on to them for generations, and delivered that knowledge to whomever wanted to listen to them. So mobile learning is not new, but learning through means of mobile devices is.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was on route and this is how I was learning while being on route or mobile. I am currently following a master in distance education at Athabasca University on top of my work as an eLearning coordinator and researcher at the Institute of Tropical Medicine. This brings along some challenges, because where ever I go for my job, I need to stay in touch with my learning material as well. On this journey I had: two smartphones (one symbian, one windows mobile and waiting to by an android one), one light weight laptop with me. The trip consisted of a bus ride, four trains (yes, cutting the carbon emission by not taking the plain) which totaled 8 hours of travelling and a cab drive to my hotel.

All in all, here are some mobile learning snapshots... pictures taken with mobile smartphones:

Waiting for the train, so learning on the platform

Shaky while writing the first draft of a paper on the train

Learning next to the queen while waiting on the next train

What is your mobile life like?

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Mobile magazines and journals to get new ideas or publish your work

As your mobile experience and knowledge grows, you might want to publish your findings and experiences, at least I do.

Before listing the mobile magazines that might be interesting to send your manuscript to, consider the ISSN-option.
If you have a blog or website and you are already publishing or want to publish on a regular basis on scientific topics, you might want to ask an ISSN (= International Standard Serial Number). The ISSN is an eight-digit number which identifies periodical publications as such, including electronic serials. The ISSN is linked to a standardized form of the title of the identified serial, known as the "key title", which repeats the title of the publication, qualifying it with additional elements in order to distinguish it from other publications having identical titles. Contrary to other types of publications, the world of serial publications is particularly changeable and complex : the lifetime of a title may be extremely short; many publications may be part of a complex set of relationships, etc. These particularities themselves necessitated the introduction of the ISSN. ISSN are assigned to electronic publications as far as they are serials or other continuing resources. However commercial web sites, personal weblogs and web pages, web pages which contain only links to other URLs are not eligible for ISSN. But if you review certain topics on a regular basis, you might be eligeable for an ISSN (e.g. ICTology http://ictlogy.net/review/ ).
Here is the link for the ISSN overview and request form.

Here are some of the Mobile learning journals or magazines that might be of interest to you. I focused on specialized journals, but of course you can go very open as well and address eLearning journals that I referred to a couple of months ago.
This mobile journal list is not exhaustive, so if you know of any others please add your link.

International Journal of Mobile and Blended Learning (IJMBL) was launched in 2009. The editor-in-chief is Dr. David Parsons and he is completely enthusiastic in real in-depth scientific papers.

International Journal of Mobile Learning and Organisation (IJMLO)
ISSN (Online): 1746-7268 - ISSN (Print): 1746-725X

International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies (iJIM), this is an open access journal (yeah!)

Mobile Information Systems
has been around for 6 years.

Have additional ones? Give me a sign if you know any other specifically mLearning journals or magazines.

Other more broad publications to consider:

smartphone and PocketPC magazine:

(Another great cartoon by Nick D Kim, nearingzero.net.)

Thursday 3 December 2009

Addressing continuously evolving learning needs: Karyn Romeis

After virtually connecting to Karyn Romeis from time to time, I now have the opportunity of seeing Karyn in action while addressing one of her topics of expertise. So I am excited.

Karyn Romeis will talk about how can educators keep pace with the changing needs of business.

As educators we must learn the language of the business, so educators can sit around the table and discuss their needs and visions in their words.
How learning must be about getting the learning out there, not about fitting it into the right kind of package (it's about content not the wrapper).
Educators must learn to look at those solutions that people use already.
Look at the obvious tools that already are around (public folders in MS outlook, even ppt) easy stuff that gets the content in an easy way to the learner.

Karyn brings her message across with a lot of flair and inspiration. She got the public thinking and rewarded those who participated with chocolates. It was really a tread to see her in action.

LMS in this learner-centered world? You must be joking!

Well, I would not state it that harsh, but never the less I have the feeling that LMS does not really fit into the picture of contemporary learning.

So I put together a small presentation as an introduction to what I hope will be a very nice debate at Online Educa Berlin 2009 in room Potsdam 1, starting at 14.00h.

Any remarks you might have, send them, I will be happy to take them into account.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

OEB09 mobile workshop 'How to begin mLearning'

Today I had the pleasure of leading a full day workshop with very enthusiastic participants at the Online Educa Berlin 2009 conference. The number of participants was limited to 20 enabling us all to network and exchange our knowledge with the other participants.

For this occasion I put up an easy to use Posterous blog. This blog was the joint working space for the workshop as everyone was a collaborator. To send anything to the blog (video, audio, ppt, documents...) you just have to mail it to one central dedicated e-mail and all that material is posted on the blog. So you can use it with any mobile device from which you can mail and in a lot of cases mailing is the thing people use frequently on their mobile.
In a second step I made the posterous blog easily visible for mobile devices, by connecting it to a free mofuse mobile rendering account. This saved us all on data exchange costs.

For those interested in what happened, I have posted all the slides below.
Thank you to all the participants and I will send you all a linked in group invite soon to keep us all connected like you asked!

The full day workshop was divided into 4 session, one of which was a totally 'walk to talk' or hands-on session in which all the participants roamed through the streets and the building building a mobile project.

Session 1: 4 mobile cases and statistics on the latest mobile evolutions

Session 2: on planning, tools and qr-codes

Session 3 was the hands-on session and session 4 was looking at the future.

It was really a wonderful day thanks to all the positive ideas that the participants collaboratively shared.

Thursday 26 November 2009

European report on 'The Impact of Social Computing on the EU Information Society and Economy' also mobile social media

The European Commission JRC (Joint Research Center), Institute for Prospective Technological Studies released last week at the EU Ministerial Conference on e-Government a comprehensive report on social and economic implications of Social Computing [aka Web2.0, social media].

'The Impact of Social Computing on the EU Information Society and Economy' (Eds.) Yves Punie, Wainer Lusoli, Clara Centeno, Gianluca Misuraca and David Broster. Authors: Kirsti Ala-Mutka, David Broster, Romina Cachia, Clara Centeno, Claudio Feijóo, Alexandra Haché, Stefano Kluzer, Sven Lindmark, Wainer Lusoli, Gianluca Misuraca, Corina Pascu, Yves Punie and José A. Valverde.

For anyone interested in social media and the impact it has on both society and economy, this is a very worthwhile report.

This wide report covers different thematic areas. In addition to a cross-cutting analysis across areas in Ch1: Key findings, Future Prospects and Policy Implications

It contains thematic analysis:
Ch2: The adoption and Use of Social Computing
Ch3: Social Computing from a Business Perspective
Ch4: Social Computing and the Mobile Ecosystem
Ch5: Social Computing and Identity
Ch6: Social Computing and Learning
Ch7: Social Computing and Social Inclusion
Ch8: Social Computing and Health
Ch9: Social Computing and Governance

In Part II: On defining Social Computing, its Scope and Significance, you have a chapter (chapter 4) which is completely dedicated to mobile social computing and which offers some great tables and analysis. You might want to click on the image to enlarge the picture, it gives an overview of the techno-economic activities in the mobile content and applications ecosystem. So just taken out two quotes from the report:

"Learning from users (user-driven innovation) is the response increasingly adopted both by the new mobile industry and by new public policies (e.g., by providing wide access to “living labs”). At the same time, it could also be argued that users are still not empowered enough in the mobile
domain. Currently, users are not in control (or even aware) of the information that players cross the mobile value chain have about them and how this could be used."
With a relevant quote to low resource areas: "it must not be forgotten that the base conditions for the success of any mobile advanced service are the availability and affordability of mobile broadband connections and the availability, affordability and usability of mobile devices. In particular, these conditions have an inclusive angle for those people who are under served by market priorities."

From their website: "The rapid growth of web 2.0, or social computing, allows users to play an influential role in the way commercial and public products and services are shaped. The report "The impact of Social Computing on the EU Information Society and Economy", published today by the JRC Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), finds that in 2008, 41% of EU Internet users were engaged in social computing activities through Social Networking Sites (SNS), blogs, photo and video sharing, online multi-player games and collaborative platforms for content creation and sharing. This percentage rises to 64% if users aged under 24 only are considered.

The report shows that social computing goes beyond individual networking and entertainment, as it empowers tens of millions of Europeans to support their work, health, learning and citizenship in innovative ways.

The research found that social computing is reshaping work practices, as employees join communities of interest outside their organisations to improve their knowledge and skills. Social innovation enabled by social computing contributes to improved lifelong learning processes, business competitiveness, social inclusion and integration of immigrants, among others."

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Recent Mobile books for your mLearning pleasure

These are some of the recent books that have appeared on mobile learning:

free eBooks on mLearning

# 2009: Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training, edited by Mohamed Ally, published at AU press.

# 2009: New technologies, new pedagogies: Mobile learning in higher education from the University of Wollongong includes faculty development, specific discipline examples and design principles. This is available as a free PDF download.

A nice free open eBook on mLearning build at Graz University of Technology in Austria.

mLearning books to buy:
# 2009: Mobile Learning Communities: Creating New Educational Futures by Patrick Danaher, Beverley Moriarty, Geoff Danaher, a Routledge publication covering communities, along with other topics such as globalization, lifelong learning, multiliteracies, and sustainability; concluding with creating new educational futures.

# 2009: Researching Mobile Learning: Frameworks, Tools and Research Designs from Peter Lang Publishing Group, which sets out the issues and requirements for mobile learning research and presents efforts to specify appropriate theoretical frameworks, research methods and tools.

A definite must read: # 2005: Mobile Learning: A Handbook For Educators and Trainers by Agnes Kukulska-Hulme and John Traxler.

#2009 A more expensive book, yet worth a buy if you have a budget: Innovative Mobile Learning: Techniques and Technologies by Hokyoung Ryu and David Parsons containing 414 pages.

# 2008: Handbook on Mobile communication studies by James E. Katz.

Some mobile Reports:
# 2009: The Horizon report by Educause, It makes predictions about the emerging technologies that are likely to have a significant impact on education.

# 2007: Bachmair, B. (2007) 'M-learning and media use in everyday life'. In Pachler, N. (ed) Mobile learning: towards a research agenda. WLE Centre Occasional Papers in Work-based Learning 1, London: WLE Centre, pp. 105-152. Available at http://www.wlecentre.ac.uk/cms/files/occasionalpapers/mobilelearning_pachler2007.pdf

An overview of the books can be found in the tag books from my blog.

Just a suggestion to all you academic publishers, make all your mobile books available for eBook readers please. It is a bit like walking the talk, look at the Uni of Graz.

If you know any other mobile books, feel free to suggest them, thanks!

(Cartoon by Nick D Kim, nearingzero.net.)

Mobile Telemedicine: turn your camera equipped mobile phone into a microscope and heal the world

At the Institute of Tropical Medicine we focus on a lot of tropical diseases. In the quest to conquer those diseases there are a lot of hurdles to take and one is the lack of analyzing facilities in the field. Based on blood analysis it is easy to screen for a lot of the diseases (tuberculosis, malaria…). Now with the frequent and easy use of mobile phones throughout developing countries, a nifty little invention is bound to change this dramatically. While using the camera on a mobile phone, a holographic image can be made from the blood sample and be sent to any place where they can analyze the image of the blood sample. One of the dynamic mobile animal health researchers at ITM, Maxime Madder, gave me this tip.

So who is this person coming up with this new and affordable world relieving device? It is Aydogan Ozcan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and member of the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has formed a company, Microskia (no active website yet), to commercialize the technology.

How does it work? “In one prototype, a slide holding a finger prick of blood can be inserted over the phone’s camera sensor. The sensor detects the slide’s contents and sends the information wirelessly to a hospital or regional health center. For instance, the phones can detect the asymmetric shape of diseased blood cells or other abnormal cells, or note an increase of white blood cells, a sign of infection, he said.” (taken from the article the New York Times published on 7 November 2009).

If you want the more techy bit behind this invention, look at MIT technology review on young inventors.

All the people in the field need is software (to be purchased), training and 10$ worth of hardware. It is still in the prototype phase, but with all the good it can do, it ought to be out there soon enough.

So, is anyone out there interested to partner for a funding proposal? Let me know and we can sit together and make the world a bit healthier, thanks to Aydogan and his team.

(photo credit Christopher Harting)

Thursday 19 November 2009

Online Educa Berlin is approaching - my active sessions

Online Educa Berlin 2009 is coming closer. From 2 - 4 December 2009 a lot of people working and exchanging knowledge in the eLearning realm will join up at one of the biggest eLearning conferences.

During this conference I will be actively involved in two sessions: one workshop and one debate (mmm, yes, there will be action!).

On Wednesday 2 December 2009 I will come together with 20 mobile enthusiasts and we will have a full day looking into mobile learning and how to start with it (from 9.30 - 17.00h). This workshop is something I really look forward to as you can never know where we will all go to and what the dynamics will be. I will post the complete agenda of this workshop soon (still working on the last details, trying to cater to those that will participate). The workshop was immediately fully booked, but if you or your colleagues or institution wants to have this intro, send me a mail or social media post for more details.

On Thursday 3 December 2009 from 14.00 - 16.00 h the session "Mixed Media for Learning: Hype or Hit?" will be organized. This part debate, part presentation will be moderated by the energetic Wilfred Rubens. The members of this session are:

Christine Redecker, European Commission, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS), Spain - New Ways of Learning with Social Computing

Inge de Waard, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium, E-Learning 2.0 Mash-Up: How to Combine Social Media, Online Communities and Resources in One Learning Application

Paul Den Hertog, Hogeschool van Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Up Scaling Web-Lectures on a Large Educational Institution: How to Increase Educational Effectiveness

John Hill, University of Denver, USA, Cost-Effective Options for Using Mixed Media in University Online Courses

If you are attending OEB09, let me know, we can meet-up.

eLearning report: Review of Learning 2.0 Practices by Christine Redecker

If you are interested in eLearning and Learning2.0 in particular, this study on the impact of Web2.0 innovations on education and training in Europe written by Christine Redecker might be your cup of tea.

Christine does not talk of social media use, but of social computing when refering to blogs, wiki's... in this report issued by the European Commission, she focuses on two studies that were undertaken to look at the potential of learning2.0. These studies were done by the Institute of Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) launched and the interesting difference between these studies was that (1) in informal settings and (2) was taken place in formal education & training (E&T). Both studies were based on extensive desk-research combined with stakeholder consultations and the in-depth study of promising Learning 2.0 cases.

The report is 122 pages long, written with great clarity. And it comprises a lot of interesting topics: connectivism, new skills for the digital age, collaborative content production, access and digital skills, motivation and personal learning skills,... The report covers a lot of ground and gives a clear insight in benefits of eLearning2.0.

From the abstract of the report: "Though social computing has its origin outside educational institutions, its deployment within formal E&T displays a huge potential for enhancing learning processes and outcomes. IPTS research in this area indicates that Learning 2.0 can foster technological, organisational and pedagogical innovation in formal E&T, and can thus positively contribute to the modernisation of E&T institutions that is required to fulfil the learning needs of contemporary society. Within formal E&T settings, social computing can in particular foster the following:
  • New supply of and access to learning material by making study material more readily available, thus supporting different individual learning styles;
  • New learning methods and tools, increasing performance and academicachievement in a broad range of subjects. As a consequence, new pedagogicaland scientific methods evolve that change the way in which a particular subject islearned and taught;
  • Collaboration and networking provide peer support, encourage active participation and learning collaboration, improving both overall and individual performance. Online networks among teachers facilitate knowledge exchange andcan support the joint creation of learning content;
  • Improved support for differentiation and diversity: Social computing supplies learners and teachers with a wide variety of didactical and methodological toolsthat can be fitted to the respective learning objectives and to the individuals’needs.
  • Improved personal and learning skills: The affective and social dimension of thelearning process can allow learners to both enjoy learning and acquire skills thatempower them to actively engage in the development of their personal skills andcompetences. Along with motivation higher order cognitive skills, like reflectionand meta-cognition, and self-directed learning skills can be enhanced.
  • Empowerment of the learner. Learners are enabled to create and personalise their learning processes in a supportive environment of mutual assistance, reflection and critique and in interaction with their teachers and peers, combining formal, non-formal and informal learning activities."
If within your institution there are still some sceptics that say social media is just a bubble, a hype, something that will fade once the novelty wears of... than just read the conclusion of this out loud to these sceptics (and start debating again with more arguments, thanks to Christine).

"Both studies suggest that the potential of Learning 2.0 in enhancing learning processes and methods is significant. In particular, social computing applications contribute to the personalisation of learning, enabling learners to better adapt learning strategies to their individual needs and constraints. At the same time, social, networked and collaborative learning are supported, opening up new opportunities for accessing, managing, producing and sharing knowledge. However, policy has to address the challenges associated with these new learning approaches by providing learners with the necessary skills to participate in a networked knowledge society, thus making lifelong learning a reality."

Christine Redecker is very strong eLearning researcher. I have the honor of sitting in a debate with her during the upcoming Online Educa Berlin. So I am looking forward to meeting her in real life.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

paper review: Mobile learning paper summary

Mobile learning, South-Africa, case study.... this is a perfect combination to build an interesting paper. The paper I summarize here is part of a mobile learning book edited by Mohamed Ally and I wrote about it in an earlier post here.
Lately I have been rummaging through a lot of papers. Some of them are interesting, but this one is truly inspiring, so I decided to put a summary of the article in my blog. Hopefully some of you will get motivated to go through it, I think it is worthwhile because the article clearly describes the steps that are taken to come to the case study it describes. It is referenced quite a lot, because this review was part of an assignment. If you are into mobile learning research, this is a good paper to read through.

In this article Jon Gregson and Dolf Jordaan (2009) focused on the challenges and opportunities of a two year mobile learning (m-learning) project started in October 2005. The project was based in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The project was embedded in the Wye Distance Learning Program (DLP) of the Imperial College in London, United Kingdom, and has been developed in close collaboration with the University of Pretoria (UP) in South-Africa. The target population consisted of postgraduate distance learning students from the SADC region registered in the DLP. The case study covered an investigation of the context and potential value added of m-learning, considering the pedagogic and practical models being used by the DLP. The project also looked at the educational needs of the students.

Gregson and Jordaan (2009) delved into the current status of eLearning in the SADC region within the DLP program design, and delivered a literary review of mobile projects in a Southern African context. The steps followed in the design and the implementation of the project, were also shared. The authors described the two phases that were covered. In the initial phase four students were identified and became involved in the planning of the project. The second, pilot phase involved a group of 20 students testing out course materials, activities and tutoring approaches that were designed for the mobile phone. The selection procedure and the reasons behind these student selection procedures were described in the article.

The authors highlighted the major considerations and challenges: communication, access and participation, tutoring support to students in diverse locations, the usability of learning resources for students who are mobile, and access to content and programme materials.

An overview of the SADC baseline survey was given: ICT access, rating for current eLearning support, quality of support and access, and Online Learning Environment (OLE) access. Insights into the context of the regions were obtained by interviewing the four students of the initial phase. Gregson and Jordaan (2009) examined mobile coverage maps, future telecommunication coverage plans, and student relationship with the student’s local infrastructure. The preliminary activities of the students were covered: sms with the project team, audio and video recordings, picture taking, and communicating with peers. The m-learning support for the two course modules that were trialed in the project was also covered. The authors specifically drew on the integration of constructivist, situated, collaborative, and informal learning theories and activities as the pedagogical model of the project.

After describing the project in clear detail, Gregson and Jordaan (2009) reflected on the technical design decisions that the project team made. They concluded with possible areas for further research.

I really liked the article as it clearly described the decisions they made along the way. It also made sense in the longterm, from a historical archive point of view.

For those interested in the complete reference:
Gregson, J. & Jordaan, D. (2009). Exploring the challenges and opportunities of m-learning within an international distance education programme. In M. Ally (Ed), Mobile learning: Transforming the delivery of education and training (pp. 215–246). Athabasca, BC: Athabasca University.

And I got it from the internet here.

Friday 9 October 2009

CCK09: does Connectivism want to change the world?

The last couple of months I have been thinking more then I am writing. I am still thinking. In fact the more I think, the dumber I get and I start to see it as fact. So less writing is done. My network is amazing, however and so I keep connecting them if that seems like a good idea. My network consists of people trying to improve the world, meaning reduce conflicts, access to health facilities, access to education, etcetera. A lot of people in my network are scientists with a vision to improve the world and make it a better place to live in, with quality of life for all (in a variety of forms they define it).

Although still a bit reluctant to write, seeing as I feel in a cognitive slow period of life, this post had to be written. Especially after reading Stephen Downes’ article on Group vs Networks: the class struggle continues. Some quotes from the article:

“It's hard to believe that something like freedom of speech is a radical concept, but there it is. In their own ways, a person in a network should be able to send their message any way they want in their own language using their own computer encoding, using their Macintosh computers, using standards that are non-standards.”

“In networks we have communities of practices where a ‘community' is defined as collections of individuals that exchange messages and ideas back and forth without being impeded. Copyright, trademarks, proprietary software, all of these things are barriers for the communication of thought and ideas. If you allow that using content, images, text, video is a way of speaking to each other, then copyright, trademark, all these things are ways of locking down our speech, saying, "I own the word such and such and you can't use it."

“You can't build a society with walls. …In the longer term we have to do something more imaginative than blocking this technology. We need to live and teach and learn where the students live and teach and learn. That means that we have to stop blocking to their spaces and go to their spaces. So we explore their world. But, you know, there's the age-old danger of explorers that when we go to their world, we're going to want to colonize it. And we're going to want to make them like us. And we're going to want to take them from their mountains and put them in rooms and put walls around them and put locks on their doors and say, "This is civilization."

While picking up parts of the CCK08 last year, I found it enlightening and in sync with some of my world beliefs. This year I enrolled, but I was not actively producing anything. However, I love to lurk and I learn a lot from it which suits my current state of mind. To me Connectivism is more related to Critical Social Science (CSS) then Interpretive Social Science (ISS). This idea matters to me, because I had the feeling that Connectivism had or has an activist agenda incorporated as well. But than, maybe a tainted what I learned or I tainted it in order for Connectivism to suite my preferred worldview.

For those not familiar with the distinction between Critical Social Science and Interpretative Social Science, I give a short list of features for each, as cited by Neuman (2006) in the book ‘Social Science Methods: qualitative and quantitative approaches’, for the CSS frame see p. 102, for the ISS see p. 94.

Interpretative Social Science

Critical Social Science

The purpose of social science is to understand social meaning in context.

A constructionist view that reality is socially created (a constructionist orientation is an orientation toward social reality that assumes the beliefs and meaning people create and use fundamentally shape what reality is for them).

Humans are interacting social beings who create and reinforce shared meaning.

A voluntaristic stance is taken regarding human agency (voluntarism is an approach to human agency and causality that assumes human actions are based on the subjective choices and reasons of individuals). .

Scientific knowledge is different from but no better than other forms

Explanations are idiographic and advance via inductive reasoning (idiographic: a type of explanation used in which the explanation is an in-depth description or picture with specific details but limited abstraction about a social situation or setting).

Explanations are verified using the postulate of adequacy (a principle that explanations should be understandable in commonsense terms by the people being studied) with people being studied.

Social scientific evidence is contingent, context specific, and often requires bracketing.

A practical orientation (pragmatic orientation in which people apply knowledge iin their daily lives. The value of knowledge is ability to be integrated with a person’s practical everyday understandings and choices) is taken toward knowledge that is used from a transcendent perspective (the researcher develops research together with the people being studied, examines people’s inner lives to gain an intimate familiarity with them, and works closely with people being studied to create mutual understandings).

Social science should be relativistic regarding value positions.

  1. The purpose of social science is to reveal what is hidden to liberate and empower people.
  2. Social reality has multiple layers.
  3. People have unrealized potential and are misled by reification (reification = when people become detached from and lose sight of their connection to their own creations and treat them as being alien, external forces); social life is relational.
  4. A bounded autonomy (human action is based on subjective choices and reasons but only within identifiable limits) stance is taken toward human agency.
  5. Scientific knowledge is imperfect but can fight false consciousness (the idea that people often have false or misleading ideas about empirical conditions and their true interests).
  6. Abduction (= an approach to theorizing in which several alternative frameworks are applied to data and theory that are redescribed in each and evaluated) is used to create explanatory critiques (the explanation simultaneously explains (or tells why events occur) and critiques (or points out discrepancies, reveals myths, or identifies contradictions).
  7. Explanations are verified through praxis (a way to evaluate explanations in which theoretical explanations are put into real-life practice and the outcome is used to refine explanation).
  8. All evidence is theory dependent and some theories reveal deeper kinds of evidence.
  9. A reflexive-dialectic orientation (dialectic= a change process in which social relationships contain irresolvable inner contradictions; over time they will trigger a dramatic upset and a total restructuring of the relationship) is adopted toward knowledge that is used from a transformative perspective.
  10. Social reality and the study of it necessarily contain a moral-political dimension, and moral-political positions are unequal in advancing human freedom and empowerment.

From all these points, I love this one from CSS the best: Social reality and the study of it necessarily contain a moral-political dimension, and moral-political positions are unequal in advancing human freedom and empowerment. For I feel that fighting to keep communications open and accessible for all is an absolute priority, also in education. But even now, even at the most liberal of educational institutions (university) some of these educational rights are challenged, blocked. So is it not the responsibility of the scientist to actively participate in opening up or keeping the door open to enable all of us interested to use these educational tools?

Why is it important to me to know whether Connectivism is either or, or both? Because it matters to me what a theory does and what its goal is. To me science has a function to serve society, to make all of our lives better.

Sorry for the lengthy post, I should probably do some more thinking.

Do you think Connectivism or its researchers should actively take part in society?

Thursday 24 September 2009

What to take into account when developing online courses for learners in low resource settings

The last two years I have been co-developing a course called eSCART (electronic Short Course in Antiretroviral Therapy), a course that is organized by the Institute of Tropical Medicine. Although this course is fully online, demands 3 months of intense learning, addresses learners in low resource areas, it is a success. Or at least I see it as a success.

The challenges to get this online course for physicians that work on HIV/AIDS going were multiple. We also needed to create bridges between all the cultures that mixed during the course and for these three months (in two sessions: 85 learners from 31 countries, mostly from the South and tropical regions). We had a drop-out rate of 5%, which to our estimate is indicative for a sound online course.

So some of my networking colleagues asked me to share what we took into account when developing the course and especially how human respect was weaved into the fabric of the course.

Now I am sure we could improve a lot, so if you have extra pointers or ways you tackle international online courses for low resource areas or aimed at multiple cultures, let me know.

This presentation will also be given live on Friday 2nd October 2009, at the eLearning Guild's Online Forum numbered 401.

Looking forward to any comments you might have.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Using transparency to get citizens alert and active, or how Christian Kreutz influenced my thinking

It has been a very hectic period over the last couple of weeks. A tight workshop, planning a facilitator training, a short course with a lot of online activity, budget hassles, my master starting up … and this kept me from writing posts on a regular basis. I was also in an existential dip on blogposting.

Lucky for me I had one fresh and inspiring encounter at the middle of these chaotic weeks: meeting Christian Kreutz. His blog has been an inspiration for the last couple of years and all of a sudden I had the chance to meet him in Brussels.

Engaging citizens by analyzing (internet) data – civil society
We had an informal meeting, but a lot of what I learned from him made sense and sharpened my overall thinking on the use of websites and the internet to get civil society moving.

So what did Christian say that I found so enlightening? He simply said that we have all this data at our fingertips (google statistics, geo information, …), and all of these available data could be used for the better of society and its citizens.
In the past he has been writing about it. He wrote on metrics for social networks and what really happens, focusing on knowledge sharing and learning, he wrote about 6 innovative mashups for transparency, in which you could see the impact certain decisions have on the social fabric of regions (I was especially struck by the Healthcarethatworks – website that shows the New York City wide status for hospitals and its disproportionate impact that recent hospital closures have on low-income communities.) and his most recent post was on maptivism as a new approach of activism (based on the estimate that as much as 80% of data contains geo-referenced information. So, a lot of information can be displayed through maps. Digital maps allow easy ways to present large amounts of data and reduce complexity.)

The internet started out as a Utopia for me. It would benefit people around the world and make the globe a better place. With the increased absorption of internet initiatives into corporate environments, some of that euphoric belief in the WWW disappeared. But after reading the possibilities posted by Christian and after our talk in which he put forward the extra’s a transparent use of existing data (both on regional, national and international level) could bring… I am again a radiant believer. He gave a wonderful and simple example to get people interested in their own social environment. What if we take the data from a specific part of a city and open this data up to the citizens, e.g. people could see where trash bins are located, light poles are implemented, benches are placed... if city council than wants to change the outlines of that specific areas, or do something to create a better living space for all its citizens in that location, it could show the citizens what is already there, and ask them how they think their living area could be improved. I agree that a lot of debate could come from this, but coming to a consensus as a group can also adds to the social fabric of a region. All this data is already available, but in many occasions very little is done with it.

Christian Kreutz blogs qualitatively, which makes his blog a gem, check it out. He is thinking about going fully into consulting, so if you feel the need for a very professional, citizen-oriented web-analysis-expert, send him a note.

If you know of any data being used to make society more transparent, let me know, I would love to get more ideas.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Do you know of other changes in education for students?

Education is changing and all of us feel the results of that change. We are amidst the change as educators, but how does this affect the student/learner?

After reading the book ‘Disrupting Class – how disruptive innovation will change the way the world learns” by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn and Curtis W. Johnson, I had the urge to start putting the changes on a piece of paper. As soon as I committed the ideas to paper, more ideas bubbled up.

Although I came up with a more or less lengthy list, I hope you can add some of your ideas of change in education. The list I could put together leading to the Walhalla of education we are aiming for.

In the meanwhile I am now listing changes for parents and teachers as well... will be posting those soon.

(thought after publishing this post ... wondering what the tables will look like on my mobile.... )

(Cartoon by Nick D Kim, nearingzero.net.)

Yesteryear – a passive more read than write world

My educational Walhalla: the content production era

The student / learner

The student went to school on fixed times.

The learner fits education within her/his schedule or interest.

Lunch and breaks were given during which you better NOT learned (nerd and geek were bad names in those days).

You learn even when others do not, because you know that learning is fantastic.

Only very precise labeled books, papers, manuscripts were mandatory course material and as a student you just needed to go through them;

You gather your content, in doing so learning to be critical in filtering obtainable content.

As a student, you had little chance to explore the world and dive into any content yourself (exceptions aside).

The Web is your oyster… or chocolate cookie jar, where you can satisfy your knowledge hunger with delight.

Assignments and exams were mandatory if you wanted to pass anything formal.

Any type of assignment/test/task is very closely linked to real life cases and situations.

School was part of a life cycle: birth, school, work, death.

Learning is life.

You, as a student were isolated to your close (regional) classmates.

Anyone who has access to internet (even with limited frequency) can be your classmate or learning colleague. The world is your neighbor.

Group work was limited and did not go beyond class-room or at the most own school boundaries.

Group work can be very multicultural and diverse both in approach and in peers.

Your part of the world was enough; other continents were exotic and different.

The world is getting to be more of the same, no matter where you live (war zones not included, hopefully they will disappear).

No fiddling, no doodling, no talking… for most of the time. Paying attention = similar to physical and mental lethargy.

You do whatever is needed to get your mind working (I curse, yell and walk around stamping my feet if my brain cannot grasp something – this part does not resemble Walhalla)

If you scored above average on your assignments, you would get a diploma. Strangely enough this never meant that you were prepared for working life. It was more an indication that you could do what needed to be done to obtain a diploma in the prevailing learning system.

What you learn, is either a useful foundation for or the actual content you will use in your professional or personal life.

Higher education would mainly be followed in your own region.

Go to whatever educational institution you like, why not join the University of South Africa (the longest operating University in Distance Education)

The focus is on extrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation rules!

Material was not taken into account different learner skills and/or needs

Even the least mainstream learner can find what is needed for his/her own knowledge benefit in a way that is accessible to them.

Teacher centered


Learning is linear

Learning is connected

Learning is receiving

Learning is retrieving, analyzing and producing.

Learning is whatever the group gets, you will be measured to the performance of the group, not to your absorption of the content.

Learning is what YOU need.

If you learn slower or quicker then the average processing time of your student group, that will be that, there is no alternative way to get more or less time to absorb the content in.

You absorb content at your pace (slow or quick).

Let me know if you can think of any other changes that can be added or if you made a list of any of these changes as well.

Friday 4 September 2009

3D animations for mobile devices

Since the beginning of last year a Tibotec mobile project has been running. There are two partners in this project the Institute of Tropical Medicine and the esteemed Instituto de Medicina Tropical Alexander von Humboldt. The complete overview of the mobile learning project was given by my wonderful colleague Carlos, you can look at the presentation here if you like.

I wrote about the technical parts of the project a couple of months ago on how we would put all the pieces of the mobile learning puzzle together to get the most accessible mobile learning project on the rails using different media. In this mLearning project we are using iPhone's and Nokia N95 smartphones. We wanted to test both these high-end models, to see how the user experience differed between the two and how those different devices were received by the learners (all physicians located in and around the capital Lima in Peru).
We are at an exciting stage right now, as the first modules have been put together. These modules are all embedded in mobile Moodle and some of them use 3D animations. These 3D-animations are build to give the learners a better idea of the interpersonal dialogues that can happen between physician and patient and how to improve these interpersonal skills. The movie and the 3D animations were made by Luis Fucay and David Iglesias from the Humboldt institute.

These 3D-animations were made in iClone and afterwards converted to the needs and specifications of the mobile devices. My personal favorite converter is the AVS video converter.

To get an idea of 3D-animation results, you can look at the movie underneath, or download the m4v-file or the windows mobile movie. The movie is in Spanish.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

What is your eLearning history?

The new academic year is starting and so I am reminiscing…
Do you remember your first eLearning experience? And the way it looked and felt? I was looking back yesterday and I suddenly realized how eLearning moved from a more techy demanding field into a more mainstream learning approach and ... I never thought about the change as it happened or as I lived it.

My first steps in eLearning and in retrospect content production, were done on the ever well-known Commodore 64. An amazing machine that got a generation hooked on adventure games, Basic programming… or at least that was how it felt for me.
While using Mosaic (Netscape) I had my first browser experiences, learning that I could learn while using a computer. I would just surf and anything that I could find that was even remotely related to a topic of my interest gave my brain an enormous boost. My father send me on the right content track by mentioning... (forgot name here: those sites where you could learn a lot of things on during the 90-ies... it will come back, but please help me if you know what I mean).

After a natural evolution across the next generations of computers, I ended up getting closer and closer to the eLearning principal. While I was working at an organization for Equal Opportunities, I started building online modules to help people get started with using e-mails, finding the right content, starting online actions… at that time I did not call it eLearning modules. It was just training material delivered digitally. This changed as I enrolled in an online course myself. From that moment onward I realized building electronic training or supporting such training could actually be a job.

The first formal online course I was involved in, was on the topic of Feminist Theory and Gender in the Media. Those were two postgraduate courses that you could follow at the University of Antwerp. The year was 1999 and the web-based learning was still starting up in Belgium. The web-based courses were built on the spot at the university and it was rigid compared to our current standards. The learning platform demanded several computer plugin’s and adjustments before you could access it and multimedia was not yet added. Content was delivered in manuals with added discussion forums. Yes, at that stage I experienced the move from the sage on the stage to a more learner centered approach; as professors were willing to pick-up the input of learners and add it to the content of the next academic year. Cyberfeminism was all the rage back then, so there was a euphoric sense of entering the digital learning world. It would free us all!
Although everything was still rather clunky, and the sages build most of the content, all participants were happy to able to learn. For me, eLearning was the only way I could get access to those courses, any courses as I was working almost around the clock at that time. And I really wanted to learn because I did not have much of a formal training up to then and knowledge seemed like the way to go. So I was definitely motivated.

Looking at the contemporary computer structure, a lot has changed since then. eLearning has evolved and now developing eLearning is no longer a very techy demanding process. I admit there is a long way to go before it really becomes completely intuitive, but right now anyone with some computer skills can start up an educational site. eLearning has become mainstream. K12 classes are increasingly using computer-driven modules and children are becoming producers of content.

So, as the history of electronic learning was changing, my profession changed also. In fact, I only realized it was my profession until a title was given and my function became more formal. And I must say, I love it, eLearning feeds my curious brain and I feel more than happy to indulge in it.

What is your eLearning history?

Monday 17 August 2009

The ethics of research in low resource areas

Focusing on a winning article by medical colleague Rafael Van den Bergh (PhD student at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp and VUB), I will focus on the ethical part of innovation for eLearning projects.
While I was following a course on international issues in distance education at Athabasca University, the discussion on 'innovative projects' was already touched by a couple of students and Barbara Spronk who facilitated and moderated the course. It was an informal discussion that grew into one of the most interesting one's I had during the course. The fact is that I wonder about the ethics behind the term 'innovation' that - when applied in a funding proposal for eLearning - will increase your chances of success for the proposal.

But innovation is not always what is needed in eLearning and certainly not in low resource areas. Just think about the very successful radio courses that have set-up across remote areas and over decades of time, but radio is no longer considered as an innovative learning choice, so funding is decreasing and stopped in certain areas. Nevertheless sometimes these areas are better off if they would just be part of an eLearning project that has been proven successfully and can keep on growing to reach all of the learners it can potentially reach. In a lot of cases successful eLearning projects (both web-based and especially mobile ones) end and fade into nothing as soon as funding dries up. Although durability is featured as a word in a lot of these projects, it is not really a long-term strategy, as it does not imply new technologies will be used, or new innovations will be tested. So who does benefit from using new technologies and innovations, if not the learners for whom they are constructed or produced?

Well, this question is raised by the article I mentioned and which was selected as a winner of a Lancet / Global Forum for Health Research competition to find the best ideas on innovation for health (their were 8 winners, see the picture). In the article of Rafael Van den Bergh, PhD student at the ITM (promoter: Guido Vanham) and the VUB, entitled 'Who is at the receiving end of our innovation?', he mentions that the researchers and funding agencies might have more benefit from these projects than the people they are meant to serve (paraphrasing heavily). He does not do this one sided, but with a lot of nuance and I must say I agree that as a researcher one can sometimes wonder if the ideals that pushed you into research or a professional choice, are not perverted by a system that is meant to help, but not always helps in the best way possible.

Let me look at web-based and mobile learning projects. In a lot of cases funding will be given to high-profile projects with the latest technologies featuring computers and smartphones. But this is in many cases an unrealistic long-term venture. In the past some great simple mobile learning projects were launched, but will they be able to keep on growing once the project's funding deadline draws near? What about buying or keeping the equipment working? the cost of calling or connecting to learning materials? the production of learning materials? If a project is not relying enough on local knowledge and financial possibilities, it risks on ending abruptly, without adding to the long-term development of a region. In that case only the researchers and companies funding the project got some PR out of it, but not the ones the project was aimed at.
With technology becoming increasingly important in this global world, it is easy to jump onto the technology train as the overall solution for everything, including poverty. But no matter how you twist and turn it, technology is never the sole solution for survival. At best it will relieve some part of life.

So technology is not always the best or only way to go and let's face it technology is never a solution, only an instrument that might bring a solution a bit closer. A solemn belief in learning technology to solve global poverty might not be enough to really tackle the problem. Certainly not if you look at what does make a difference for a country or region: peace, investing in regional security and trust...

So if you want to read a very well written, argumented article, look at the one from Rafael Van den Bergh (only 3 pages) and let me know your remarks.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Is your global eLearning2.0 content censored? You better take a look

With the recent Iran election, censorship is again high on the political agenda. But censorship does not only affect citizenship on a political level, it can also effect learning potential.

eLearning is relying increasingly on a mix of social media and delivered content. And in this ever growing world, the learners are dispersed and global. This combination of factors can result in courses that are not always accessible to all.

If you deliver online content and you enable your learners to stay in contact with one another through various social media, you can suddenly discover that the links or portals you provide become subject to censorship depending on the region in which your learner is situated or your content is delivered.

Let me take a Belgian example. At the Institute of Tropical Medicine we research HIV/AIDS amongst other 'tropical' diseases. This results in the need to survey different target groups that are relevant to the HIV/AIDS disease. One of the key issues in HIV/AIDS is sexuality and as such the content of the delivered courses might be perceived as sexually explicit. One of the many target groups is also the gay male community, which will have homosexuality as one of the key words in its description, another target group are drug users, making it difficult to build a survey that does not explicitly put names of (illegal) drugs into the survey.
Depending on the country some content related to drugs, homosexuality and sexually explicit content can be censored and as such result in limited content access for learners from a specific region. That is: if a search on keywords is conducted by gatekeepers in those regions.
If you deliver content with these keywords but in a medical platform, it is much easier to keep in touch with the relevance of those keywords to the content. But if you add social media to your courses as an added bonus or place for discussion, it might be much more difficult to keep the link between relevant content and those keywords clear for all.
As a result some of your content might be censored, although the content and its related discussions are relevant to the medical objective. And because you, as an eLearning provider are living in a different part of the world, it can sometimes be difficult to account for possible drawbacks in that type of content delivery.

There is a website that tries to track different types of censorship in the world: the Open Net Intitiative. The initiative is taken by American Universities and is as such biased (every region has its own 'normal' censorship options). For example the website mentions 'illegal' drugs, but depending on the region some drugs are illegal and others are not, so that is not an objective term to use. Nevertheless the site is interesting because it gives an idea of where in the world certain types of censorship occur.

The site also offers you a way to add to the censorship data statistic by participating through the crowdsourcing principle and using HerdictWeb.

The global world does bring along different aspects and mindframes for eLearning content delivery. It keeps on surprising me.