Moodle and Multimedia, a Ned-Moove Seminar + iMoot 2010

In April 2007 I was one of the founders of the Dutch speaking Moodle user group, Ned-Moove. When we started nearly three years ago it was still necessary to give Moodle “a face”. Now Moodle has become ubiquitous and the mission of the user group is slowly changing: we now mainly organise meeting trying to bring Moodlers together.

Next Wednesday, the 27th of January, Ned-Moove will have its yearly “jaarvergadering” at Stoas in Wageningen, NL. We will choose new board members, get commitment for our plans for 2010 and deal with our 2009 finances. Right after the jaarvergadering is our first seminar of the year: Moodle and multimedia. There are three excellent speakers (they will speak in Dutch):

All the practical information about the meeting and the seminar can be found here. Registration is free and is done over here.

iMoot 2010

iMoot 2010

On another note: iMoot 2010 is promising to be an exciting Moodle related event. It is the first full-fledged virtual Moodle conference. It runs from February 4-7, spanning 31 timezones and 210 countries. Registration is relatively cheap (45 Australian dollars). The program has a lot of interesting sessions.

I will be presenting too. My presentation is titled “The Future of Moodle and How Not to Stop It“. Recently there has been a lot of discussion on the death of the VLE. I will try to recap the discussion and see how this reflects on Moodle (2.0). I do hope to meet you there!

Random Notes From Online Educa 2009

My blog, as one of the preferred outsourcing partners of my mind, will serve as a keeper of some of my notes and thoughts on Online Educa 2009 in Berlin. This will be a relatively disorganised post with a lot of different short bits of information, apologies in advance.

Blog posts
Earlier, I wrote a couple of blog posts about this year’s Educa:

Twitter
I used Twitter a lot this year trying to capture some choice quotes and thoughts. Twitter does not give you an easy way to show all your posts with a particular hash tag (why not?), so you can view my past tweets through Tweet Scan. Here are some highlights:

I wasn’t the only person tweeting at the conference. The tag was #oeb2009 and Twubs provided a nice hub.

Making the switch from Blackboard to Moodle
Alex Büchner from Synergy Learning talked about organisations switching from Blackboard to Moodle. He gave three reasons for making the switch:

  1. Moodle is a better product.
  2. Staff and students prefer to use Moodle over Blackboard (see this report).
  3. Moodle has a lower Total Cost of Ownership (see this report).

Alex made a lot of people laugh with his graphic showing how Blackboard is gaining market share through acquisitions and how Moodle still manages to trump that:

Big fish and bigger fish

Courtesy of Alex Büchner of Synergy Learning (click to enlarge)

Brochures that I picked up
There were a lot of exhibitors all handing out brochures. These are the companies/services of which I kept the brochures:

  • CELSTEC, the Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies. This Centre of Expertise is part of the Dutch Open University and does a lot of original research in the technology space. I would love to explore how I could work with them in the future.
  • Quick Lessons. I like how this company has all the right buzzwords in their marketing: they allow you to do “rapid e-learning development in the cloud” (!). They even have the famous Web 2.0 badge on their site. There is one thing I really like though: the concept of a web-based development tool. I do think there is a lot of potential for those, regardless of whether Quick Lessons is the best option. Does anyone have any experience with using Udutu for example?
  • The market for capturing presentations is maturing. A presentation or a lecture might seem old-fashioned to some, but there still is a space for this type of teaching (if it is well done) and by filming the lecture, you can turn this into on-demand content for students. Through my work at Stoas Learning I already knew about Presentations 2 Go, but I hadn’t heard of Lecturnity before.
  • The rapid browser-based sims of Thinking Worlds are very interesting to explore further. A little while ago I did a course which used a game developed with their 3D engine and I thought it had a lot of potential. Their worlds run in the browser and only require a Shockwave plugin which should be available on most systems. What I really want to know is how quick and easy the authoring process is. How do you design interactions and scenarios? I will check that out in the near future.
  • Geanium delivers “Interactive Chronological Visualisations”, another word would be timelines. Their product looked nice enough: you could put events not just on a timeline, but also on a particular place in the world. I can see some niche applications for this service.
  • I have quite a bit of experience in using Adobe Captivate to do rapid development. I like certain things about the software, but would be interested in finding out how it really compares to the other rapid development tools from Articulate (check out the excellent Rapid e-Learning Blog by the way) and TechSmith (of SnagIt, Camtasia and Jing fame). The latter has a new product out called UserVue, which could be very useful in usability testing. I wish I would have easier access to installed trial versions of these applications.

Lord Puttnam and We Are The People
Lord Puttnam keynoted on the first day. He talked about his latest video project titled We Are The People We’ve Been Waiting For. The basic point of the movie is that we are not preparing our children for the future that is waiting for them. You can get the DVD you for free when you order it online. I ordered and watched it and thought it made a good case for making a step change in our educational system. My favourite talking head in the movie was Ken Robinson. If you have never seen his TED talk, then you should rectify that situation immediately.

An unconference with Jay Cross and his Internet Time Alliance friends
Jay Cross organised a couple of unconferences with his Internet Time Alliance friends. I always admire Jay for how he manages to utilise the Internet to his and his clients advantage. His self-published “unbooks” are a great example of this. His sessions were by far the most interesting and engaging at this year’s Online Educa. Jane Hart and Charles Jennings were in the room and Harold Jarche and Jon Husband were available through video conferencing.

The main question of the session that I attended was: What are the major challenges/vision/issues that we see moving into the 21st century when it comes to learning? Jarche thinks organisations will have to deal with more and more complexity. Everything that is simple or can be commoditized will move to the lowest bidder or will be an automated process. What is left is complex. The training functions are currently not able to deal with this complexity. Cross considers the global downturn a symptom of the end of the industrial age and the beginning of a truly networked world. In that world intangibles are much more important than tangibles. Our training metrics will have to change to reflect this.

Then followed a selection of models and ideas that are mostly familiar to me, but are valuable enough to share again:

  • A hierarchy of employee traits in the creative economy: passion, creativity, initiative (these cannot be commoditized) followed by intellect, diligence and obedience (all of these can be commoditized).
  • Jane Hart’s five types of Learning: Intra Organizational Learning (self-directed, organizational), Group directed learning (self-directed, group), Personal learning (self-directed, individual), Accidental & Serendipitous learning (undirected, individual) and Formal structured learning (directed, individual). These are interesting in that they show that they are other ways of delivery than the traditional face to face workshop, but they start at the wrong end of the learning question. I would like to start on the demand side when it comes to creating a learning typology (actually I am working on exactly that: a corporate learning typology, more to come).
  • The concept of the wirearchy: a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority based on information, knowledge, trust and credibility, enabled by interconnected people and technology.
  • John Husband shared this great paragraph from Peter Drucker (the full text is here):

Bribing the knowledge workers on whom these industries depend will therefore simply not work. The key knowledge workers in these businesses will surely continue to expect to share financially in the fruits of their labor. But the financial fruits are likely to take much longer to ripen, if they ripen at all. And then, probably within ten years or so, running a business with (short-term) “shareholder value” as its first—if not its only—goal and justification will have become counterproductive. Increasingly, performance in these new knowledge-based industries will come to depend on running the institution so as to attract, hold, and motivate knowledge workers. When this can no longer be done by satisfying knowledge workers’ greed, as we are now trying to do, it will have to be done by satisfying their values, and by giving them social recognition and social power. It will have to be done by turning them from subordinates into fellow executives, and from employees, however well paid, into partners.

Accelerating the Adoption of Innovations
I had a great round-table discussion with Ellen D. Wagner from Sage Road Solutions (kudos: the first business card with a Twitter name that I have received, maybe pretty standard in the valley?), David James Clarke IV from Toolwire and others about how to accelerate the adoption of innovations.

Wagner wanted to overlay Gartner’s Hype cycle over Rogers’ adoption curve. Gartner’s hype cycle looks like this:

The Hype Cycle

The Hype Cycle

Rogers’s adoption curve is as follows:

Diffusion of Innovations

Diffusion of Innovations

Wagner puts these two graphs together:

Ellen D. Wagner, Sage Road Solutions: When Hype Cycle meets the Innovation Adoption Curve

Ellen D. Wagner, Sage Road Solutions: When Hype Cycle meets the Innovation Adoption Curve

She shows exactly in which phase the pain lies and where extra stakeholder support is necessary. The whole discussion reminded me of this great Geek and Poke comic:

Gartner Hype Cycle Version 2.0

Gartner Hype Cycle Version 2.0 by Geek and Poke, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 License

David James Clarke IV and Experiential Learning
David James Clarke IV of Toolwire also presented on experiential learning in a plenary. His argument was that in the current information economy knowledge is not power anymore. It is access to knowledge and the ability to turn that knowledge into action and decisions that is power.

He talked about the tension between richness (the depth of the experience) and reach (the amount of people the experience can reach) as first described by Evans and Wurster which, if adapted to the traditional educational field, leads to the following tension between classroom (high richness, low reach) and distance (low richness, high reach) learning:

Richness - Reach tension

Richness - Reach tension

His point is that technology is now at a point where this tension can be overcome:

Technology overcomes the Richness - Reach tension

Technology overcomes the Richness - Reach tension

This is where experiential learning comes in. Students should have hands-on real world experiences while they are in school. He finished his talk with an example from the Matrix. I quote from the white-paper that he and Charles Jennings wrote on experiential learning:

The movie The Matrix provides an exceptional example of experiential learning in action. In this case, it is literally a matter of life or death. In a scene towards the end of the movie, our heroes – Trinity and Neo – find themselves trapped on the roof of the Agents’ headquarters. Their only escape is via a military helicopter.
The problem is neither of them knows how to fly a helicopter … yet. So what does Trinity do? She calls her Learning Management System (LMS), of course. In this case, the LMS is represented by a phone operator named Tank.
Trinity requests a specific learning object – Helicopters for Dummies! – and Tank downloads the skills directly into her brain. You can appreciate the experiential learning significance here. Once Trinity has received the skills, she and Neo fly the Helicopter to safety and continue saving the world!
This is a perfect example of just-in-time, context-sensitive experiential learning delivered exactly when the student needs it … in 30 seconds!

Clarke later in the day did a Pecha Kucha with 10 movies about learning as his topic:

I have decided that I will invest some time into creating my own Pecha Kucha: a top ten of education philosophers.

Niall Winter: a Framework for Designing Mobile Learning Experiences
Niall Winter is an interesting researcher at the London Knowledge Lab. He talked about the fact that mobile learning has failed to exploit the social practices by which the new affordances of mobile devices become powerful educational interventions. He sees designing mobile learning experiences as one of the key challenges for the technology enhanced learning community. It important to focus on the learning intervention and not be techno-centric. This should lead to socio-technical solutions where the context and the activity determine the success. His goal then is to design activities that are appropriate to the context.

He does this using a participatory design methodology going through the following time consuming process:

  1. Explore the institutional context: technology, identifying existing practice, participants’ perspective
  2. Explore the learner context: scenarios, concerns, (un)expected new practices (iterative cycle)
  3. Deploy and go through the cycle again

The host of Niall’s session, Herman Van der Merwe, introduced the audience to the International Association for Mobile Learning.

Two final interesting links to explore in the future

Final conclusion
All in all it was very worthwhile to go to this year’s Online Educa. I don’t think there is another occasion where that many members of the educational technology community are present.


What’s Twitter Good For? The Twitter Book

The Twitter Book

The Twitter Book

I just finished reading Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milstein‘s excellent The Twitter Book. My copy is now completely dog-eared, prompting me to follow up on many Twitter related services I didn’t yet know about.

The introduction is great. It answers the question that I get asked often and that I sometimes struggle to answer: What’s Twitter good for? O’Reilly and Milstein give the following five persuasive reasons:

  • Ambient intimacy. When a lot of my colleagues at Stoas Learning (when I was still there) started using Twitter it immediately led to a different relationship between many of us. Without investing much, you keep in touch with what people are doing in their professional and private lives.
  • Sharing news and commentary. If I was a different person it would be perfectly easy to keep up with what are the most important developments in the learning technology solely through other people’s Twitter updates.
  • Breaking news and shared experiences. Twitter seems to have taken the role that CNN had during the first Gulf war: the place with the most recent news updates. There are many examples of this. The Iranian non-election being the most recent one. It is also a great way to communicate in realtime with people you don’t know sharing the same experience as you. My most recent experience of this was the UK Moodlemoot.
  • Mind reading. Using Twitter’s search engine you can instantly get a feel for how (a group of) people are thinking about a certain issue or company. What makes it different from anything else is the fact that it is in realtime.
  • Business conversations. More and more companies are realising they can get real value from using Twitter properly. It facilitates a two way conversation that simply wasn’t possible before. My one critique of this book for example has already been acknowledged by one of its authors.

If, after this, you are still a Twitter nay-sayer, I would suggest you take a look at this Tony Stubblebine post, where he explains that one of the things that he has learnt from Twitter is to assume that a social networking service has value as soon as people are really using it.

My favourite quote in the book is about communities and value:

Funnily enough, the more value you create for the community, the more value it will create for you.

By the way, I am still waiting for a working federated microblogging solution that is less dependent on the whims of a single company!

A Personal Transfer: From Stoas Learning to Shell International

I am moving from Stoas to Shell

I am moving from Stoas to Shell

Ever since February 2007 I have been working as an e-Learning consultant and Moodle evangelist for Stoas Learning, the Dutch Moodle partner. From May 1st, I will start in a new role at a different company. I will become a Blended Learning Adviser at Shell International.

Stoas has been a a wonderful employer for me. They have given me a lot of opportunities and trust, enabling me to learn a lot and pursue the things that I find interesting. I have had the chance to do exciting projects for interesting clients (e.g. the Council of Europe, the EO, ABN Amro and Shell), work with some great colleagues and connect with the larger Moodle community. It wasn’t an easy choice to leave…

However, I am excited at the opportunities that I will have at a large multinational like Shell. In this role I will be doing a couple of things:

  • Build the capacity for blended learning in the Group
  • Be the guardian for Shell’s global Moodle implementation
  • Design exciting learning events that impact the business
  • Facilitate and moderate Shell’s global community of learning professionals

It is my ambition to stay engaged with the Moodle and edublogger communities through writing this blog: I realise that the only way for me to maximise my potential in this new job is to share as much as I can of what I do and be in many external dialogues. Please tell me when you feel I am straying too far from that goal.

Why we should stop using Twitter and switch over to Laconica

The biggest implementation of Laconica

The biggest implementation of Laconica

A lot of my colleagues at Stoas Learning including myself are having a lot of fun using the microblogging service Twitter. It has changed the social interaction between some of the team members and we have gotten to know each other better through a very simple service delivering 140 character messages at a time.

I like the service a lot but have been worried about one thing: the fact that all this information is only on Twitter’s server. This point is extra poignant whenever Twitter is down (which happens quite often).

Imagine a world in which people with a Hotmail email address could only email somebody if they also had a Hotmail address. There would be no way for somebody who is registered at Gmail to email somebody at Yahoo. Luckily this is not the case: email is collection of open protocols which can be implemented by anybody. Unfortunately we cannot say the same about instant messaging. I personally have a MSN account, a Skype account and a Yahoo account and there is no way for me to talk to a Skype user with my MSN account.

So what about microblogging? Will we go towards a future which is similar to instant messaging with multiple microblogging services which are not connected to each other? Will Twitter be so dominant that there will be no alternative (creating a monopoly with all its disadvantages)? Or will we move towards a future where microblogging is like email: you can choose the provider you want and connect to people using other providers?

I prefer the last option and feel that I should be principled about it. That is why I will stop using Twitter, temporarily abandoning the people I follow and the people that follow me and switch over to Identi.ca, currently the largest Laconica installation. Here is how Identi.ca explains in what way it is different from services like Twitter:

Identi.ca is an Open Network Service. Our main goal is to provide a fair and transparent service that preserves users’ autonomy. In particular, all the software used for Identi.ca is Free Software, and all the data is available under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, making it Open Data.

The software also implements the OpenMicroBlogging protocol, meaning that you can have friends on other microblogging services that can receive your notices.

The goal here is autonomy — you deserve the right to manage your own on-line presence. If you don’t like how Identi.ca works, you can take your data and the source code and set up your own server (or move your account to another one).

I will spend the next couple of weeks trying to convince everybody around me to make the switch and maybe even get Stoas to start its own Laconica server.

If you are interested in hearing more about Identi.ca and Laconica I can recommend episode 37 of Floss Weekly where Evan Prodromou, the creator of both is interviewed and explains how Laconica works and what the plans for the future are.