Thursday, June 28, 2007

Clustrmap on my blog

As a true geographer I am always intrigued where my visitors are coming from. On Arina Teemu's blog I found the Clustrmap badge, so I simply had to add this to my list of badges.... So now I hope they come from afar ;-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Getting an other forum into Sakai

Still want to use good old phpBB? It has been ported to Java (and is now called JForum) and can be used in Sakai. It is almost strange to see an very well known interface in a completely different package. Sadly it does not support nested replies but works on a chronological ordering.

LaGuardia Portfolio

LaGuardia are now running a portfolio in another system (based around Blackboard) and were kind enough to come and present their findings at the Sakai user conference.
It was fascinating to hear about their vision on using the ePortfolio as a tool for empowerment for the students in Queens, NYC. They are from a very specific background and this is a tool to turn them into digital authors in a world dominated by white working class authors. It is very clearly a showcase portfolio including written papers and sometimes even reflections on these papers. The visual aspects are very important to give a feeling of ownership. Students are being used as ePortfolio consultants to help each other. In ePortfolio classes students are very satisfied with Critical thinking, collaborative learning, creative writing.
All in all a very inspiring session showing a very interesting application of a portfolio.

LAMS V2 and Sakai

Many interesting new options in LAMS V2, shame James Dalziel couldn't make it in person. One interesting change is the change in approach allowing for a combination of online and offline activities. Reports and materials used in offline activities can be included in the LAMS flow of activities. Export to portfolio is possible: this simply produces a zip package with html report of activities. Branching and conditionality is coming up in V2.1.
Technically: service based architecture which will allow it to work with various VLEs. Gradebook is not integrated yet, but there are looking at it. There is a new more complex option they are looking at: dragging and dropping Sakai tools in the LAMS authoring environment.
They have set up a LAMS community for sharing sequences and rate and comment on each other's sequences.

Learning styles in Sakai and the OCWtool

I just visited a rapid session covering learning styles theory, do have a look at the powerpoint, there are some slides there which argue for recording lectures. (By the way: the session was being recorded with UvA's Mediasite recording set).
Using control theory address the following demands that students have:
- Belonging
- Freedom
- Power
- Fun
Also start them off and show them around the course (interesting point for addressing some of the Camtools issues). Let students help each other.

Referred to Howard Gardner's theory: 8 intelligences.
They (Claremont College) used an authoring tool (Softchalk, not free, is cheap) to create scorm packages which were mediarich and interactive and were imported into Sakai (and could also have been imported into Bb or WebCT). They have also tried Melete.

If you wish students to be able to follow the course in their own manner, change the teacher centred design: you can at least offer a tool in which a student can track their progress and add what they have found and used in the way of course materials/tests, etc. perhaps based around the course goals...

Sadly here again bad news about the Sakai interface: it is not easy to navigate and use and non-intuitive. The basic UI is lousy! It does make me wonder what the RSmart interface looks like. Teachers claim: Bb is easiest, WebCT next and Sakai figures at bottom of popularity list...
Interestingly there was also a call for a student based rather than a teacher based VLE.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Evaluation tool in Sakai

The University of Tubingen is using an evaluation tool built by the company Ostrakon. It offers the opportunity to evaluate the data over various courses, teachers, questions etc... This tool offers all the advantages of a separate evaluation tool over various courses. It was interesting because they are working on integrating it in Sakai.
By the way, it was quite a relief to see that a number of the tips for a good evaluation approach are already in use at Utrecht.

Tools in Sakai

Unicon is a commercial partner of Sakai and showed off its new Auto Submit tool. This just goes to show that commercial partners are profitting from the Sakai tools and producing new variations (comparable to the Building Blocks in Bb).
The grade book has been improved on various aspects, one of the interesting options is the option to be able to adjust the standard download of the Grade Book (once off, you need a Java programmer to do it for your institution). More good news in the release 2.5: uploading grades, grading by sections in the course, student view of the grade book and other small improvements.

Sakai and OSP

You can run Sakai and you get OSP for free, but this is not enough to get your students able to enter a portfolio. As an admin you first have to design the forms which need to be used. Bas Kuiper from the UvA gave a presentation on this...
OSP offers the facility of free form or template presentations. When creating an template based protfolio you need to create an XSD form, which can be done using XSDweaver (see earlier post on this blog) do not use spaces in xml element names! You then use the xsd as a basis for a form in Sakai. Get this right before you start, once in use this can be difficult to change. Now you can build the portfolio template, defining which fields you want added to the template. Add a stylesheet.
So you see lots it does require some gobbledeegoock. Think in terms of xsd, xml, xsl, xslt, xalan... This something only the administrator has to worry about, the students get a simple interface.

In simple terms: the students get straightforward forms to fill in and OSP will generate a series of html pages. For more information have a look at:

Sakai user conference, starting up

I am visiting the Sakai User conference which is just around the corner in Amsterdam this year. It is a great opportunity to view what is happening around Sakai. I just visited a session by Cambridge presenting their Camtools. It was a very interesting session though most of their findings where not specific to Sakai but more generally related to the use of a VLE in a teacher training course. One fascinating reflection was offered by a student who claimed to be a digital native: a member of the search generation: 'So what's this breadcrumb bar? I want to search in the whole system rather than first have to understand the hierarchy. I do not want to put my resources in a closed system which I can not access next year.'

I just picked up on the end of a presentation of Syracuse on using Proficiencies in the courses. It was interesting to hear of an institution outside of the Netherlands who is also thinking in these terms ;-) A very valid remark was the question: who should design the Rubrick and how impelling should it be? Or would you rather offer the teacher the freedom to develop their own. Interesting to see that you can link proficiencies to specific activities (e.g. assignment) in a course section.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Onderwijsrepository workshop

I am waiting for a harvest of the Repository of Learning materials into the Lorenet database, so I have some time to spare ;-) I am at a workshop at Surfnet presenting their new repository service. They have chosen to use Fedora as their repository service. They have chosen a really straightforward understandable page to enter all the required metadata. I must say it looks very clear, the descriptions are obvious, this is something I could confront my teachers with. On the other hand: I would rather not confront them with this information... They also offer the option not to include the actual file but only a link to the learning asset. This gives us the opportunity to refer to streaming media files on their server or rich media assets which consist of various types of content combined.
I do believe it would be worth while to offer teaching staff the opportunity to search for learning materials in the VLE and add these to their course with only one click.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Puzzling on for the Onderwijsdagen

I have been asked for the Programme Committee for the Onderwijsdagen. This is the large annual conference for ICT in higher education in The Netherlands, organised by SURF foundation. To give you an idea: this was last year's website: This year the conference will be on the 13th and 14th of November.
I am filling in the tracks: Learning (learning theories in practice at the academic and professional universities in The Netherlands) and Social Software. I am not going to reveal our theme yet though ;-) I was just wondering if somebody has got some good suggestions we can incorporate in the programme...