Thursday, October 16, 2008

Final presentation: Creative and Educational Possibilities of Virtual Worlds.

Doug Anderson -- Seventh Grade art teacher. Notes that these are the college students of tomorrow.

Never another big thing, just lots of little things. Second Life won't replace another medium like TV replaced radio

SL has a 90% churn rate -- lots of folks try, few stay. High cost of entry vis-a-vis time, ramp-up.

Hmm. If this is an intro to SL session, it probably should have come before Evan Leek's session. Still, it's a good thing to have.

How SL works:

Client-server model. As in many MMO games, etc. Client software is the "viewer." Server generates virtual world.

Avatars -- characters. Ability to customize, run 'em as bots, etc.

Content creation -- can build, etc (sorry for going light on this, but this is what I consider basic SL -- or even MMORPG -- knowledge).

Navigation -- Walking for short distances or indoors, flying for outdoors. Teleportation eliminates the idea of "distance," and SLURLS (Second-life urls) allow links.

Economy -- Linden Dollar (L$). About 250L$ per US$. Can be bought and sold. Some people make full-time living creating and selling virtual goods.

Prim Economy -- given selection of land can support only so many polygons.

Accounts are free, but owning land costs money.

Communication -- text-chat local public, or IM. Voice chat - spatial, direct line. Avatar gestures can apply.

Land can be owned by multiple folks, thus there can be shared spaces.

History -- Ars Memoriae -- the art of memory. Ancient idea of creating a house in the mind with mnemonic ideas.

Piranei -- imagines spaces.

Dungeons and Dragons -- shared imagined spaces. Needed a system for resolving actions. Led into MUDS, MUSHs, etc.

Killer Apps (what is SL good for)? Remote Collaboration, serial design, water cooler.

Visualization -- fast sketching in 3d. Creating and saving multiple iterations of objects (I'm taking his word for it; all I've ever created are random and ugly polygons).

Art -- can create art piece, allows for almost every concept. "Where SL shines." "Purely conceptual realm."

Identity, Culture, and Ethics lab. "Like being on the Vegas strip." Frontier-town feeling. Identity is freed from appearance (really? I'd say it's more that you choose the appearance, but it's an essential part of the identity). "Chat room with a view."

What do you do on the second day? Major reason people get bored.

Pitfalls: First hour experience. Too much, too soon for most folks. Bus Station Approach to new folks. Institutions need to manage the avatar creation process.

Corporate America's attempts to us SL: AMerican Apparal, The Gap, etc set up areas. Hanging out a shingle isn't enough to impress me (why go to the American Apparel SL site instead of the American Apparel website). Store concept just doesn't work. Geograhy metaphor doesn't work in SL.

SL isn't a city, but a movie studio backlot. Lots of empty places.

Internal audience fallacy. Not many users.

Changing rooms in a fake store -- simulation over utility. Places can be beautiful, but not useful.

Proprietary environment. Zoning laws being adopted. Intellectual Property issues.

What does work? Sandbox -- public area where folks can build, and other folks help them.

Need an event-driven model (not a place-driven one). Scheduled meetings, etc.

Contents from external sources.

Sloodle -- import content from Moodle page into Second Life.


Sculpted objects (better than polygons), faster scripting, voice chat, more internationalizaion (75% from outside the US). Tech issues -- concurrency (major lag!), interoperability (avatars moving system to system), reliability (stuff gets lost).

Competition -- open source version being made, browser-based worlds (Lively, Wonderland,

Small group of core believers, but too much churn amongst casual users. Concern that there's no long tail of SL.

SL Username: Blackthorn Hare

Now we're visiting virtual Princeton. Three full sims, not a single person currently on. Example of a great site, but pointless.

"If you like to wait, then you'll really love Second Life."

Showing a giant egg sculpture. Created by making one block, which in turn scripted its own duplicates.

Finishes with showing his own piece, a little floating island with an orbiting moon and pool. And one last piece -- a giant star with stuff orbiting it, that can be modified and folded in to create a giant throne. As an artist, the ability to bring any concept into virtual reality is appealing (understandably) to him.

Time to head home!


Using Web 2.0 for Teaching and Learning. Mark Frydenberg. Bentley University.

Repurposed as an IT-intensive course that teaches web concepts through the lens of web 2.0.

New course: Web 2.0 at a Business University.

Students are already on Facebook, might know about blogs and wikis. Some concept of what 2.0 is.

Class run on class blog and wiki where podcasts, etc are posted.

Notes that students see the RSS feed icon all the time, but don't always know what it means, or that it can be used on a cellphone.

Discussion of Skype and Twitter as ways to grasp technology and culture (Skype project with Australia noted the problems time zones create).

Google Docs, spreadhsheets, wikis, etc.

Final goal: Have students create their own web 2.0 applications. Which leads to tools for mashups. Sub-goal will teach some programming concepts.

Mashup: Data from one web source, used in another. Examples (mostly mapping) Earthquakes, zillow, facebook friends.

Tag Galaxy -- makes Flickr mashups.

Notable mashup sites:

That last one has an insane amount of links.

Mashups -- teach programming concepts visually -- alice, scratch, logo, stagecast, visual basic all have hit this area. Create games, animations, stories, sims, graphics.

Wanted to create items that use the data the students brought.

Microsoft Popfly -- built for hobbyists, but usable in education.

Used Popfly because it required less programming knowledge than Pipes. Also notes that there are other tools from Google, Intel, etc. All will work.

Teaching IT Concepts using Popfly. Noted that advanced concepts like service-oriented architecture and web services come up when creating mashups.

Good slide showing how the object-oriented nature of mashups works. Noted for myself here, since mentioning it doesn't do anyone else any good without a link. :-)

Now we're looking at Popfly. There's a web page creator, a game creator, and a mashup creator. Today's for looking at the last one, of course.

Requires Windows Live ID, because Microsoft hates me. Also requires Silverlight, but I actually like that app.

Left side of edit screen has a number of pre-built blocks. Drag-and-drop blocks onto design surface. He just dragged the Wikipedia block onto the surface, opened the block, typed a search for an item and limited it to 15. Good example of where the data is coming from (and teaching webservices).

Takes that data into XML, which shows the data that comes in (and separates form and content). Real data teachs how XML can be used better than standard out-of-the-box XML examples.

Now he's taken the Carousel Block out, and connected them. An exclamation point popped up, which meant that PopFly needed more info (in this case, the data type -- an image).

That was an insanely small amount of work for a nice little mashup.

Question about the maximum number of blocks. He's now showing one called Fastfoodfinder. This one has 22. Starts with a datablock with the name of a number of restaurants and their favicons). First user input box provides drop-down for user to select. Second user input box gets zip code. Assorted blocks then use the first drop-down to pick proper picture for restaurant. Geonames block gets latitude and longitude, sends it to a phone book block to do a search. Yet another block creates list of pushpins (and a second for the second restaurant), final block sends it all to Virtual Earth.

From creating that, students learn sequence and selection, repetition, combining data of different types, etc.

Major catch -- requires MS's blocks. Notes that this works better as an educational tool, but wouldn't build a proper business on one.

Allows users to view how blocks are implemented in javascript and xml.

Showing a mashup now that's pulling in mutiple data sources and plotting on a map.

Spends four class days (two weeks) on teaching Pop fly. Day 1: Basic stuff (display images). Day 2: Combine RSS feeds, popfly blocks. Day 3: Facebook or map feeds. Day 4: Extending PopFly. That last one deals with processing the output, etc.

Some student demos (of freshman projects). One is a standard info search. The other takes common surfing locations, and combines with a map to show surfing conditions. Good examples to show how the students were taking data that was of interest to them.

Never uses the "P word" (programming) in class. Mentions that there's a perception that programming jobs are being outsourced. More about teaching them how to build applications.

It's programming, but in the sense of understanding the process and workflow, not the coding aspect.

Question from audience: Where do you expect to go with this from here?

Answer: Uses PopFly for seniors to create and develop blocks.

Has a nice guide for teachers and students for using PopFly. Lessons are up on Popfly's website (and one lesson is in our packet). PopFly Wiki.

Question about embedding mashups. Popfly normally puts an icon on their mashups, but there's a way to remove them.

Why it's useful: For any company, you need two things: an idea, and a business plan. Doesn't mater how good the business plan is, you need a proof of concept. Popfly might not give the full PoC, but it gives a sense of what might have to be done.


General Q&A:

Q: Retention policy?

A. Tufts doesn't delete content so far.

Q: Social open source tools?

A: PBWiki as an alternative to Blackboard. Allows collaborations, announcements, etc.

EDmodo Microblogging site for education. Allows class accounts, social networks, etc. Ended up not using it, but because students had too many places to look (Blackboard for course materials, wiki for other stuff, for their made things too baffling.

Another suggestion: Google sites.

VUE -- mindmapping. MIT used it to create their sitemap!

Needs to be a reason to go to the site. "Social networking by stealth."

Q: Best way to get folks excited about virtual worlds or any tech?

A: "Show them. Show them that it works." "Find early adopters." Instructors make the best examples.

Q: With so many tools, how does on support them all?

A: MIT folks work in office of "Educational innovation," and thus don't do direct support. :-) Tufts notes that group training, as well as controlling the number of tools supported, are both nice.


Mention of need for platform for student organizations. Bentley went with Wordpress because it was common, easy to use, met basic needs, and could be supported.

Q: Competition from third-party sites (Google, wordpress). Faculty bypassing IT, not asking for support. Should we worry about it?

A: Tell instructors to use what meets their needs. On-campus tools can provide support, and a guarantee that the data won't be bought out, etc. That said, students will still go elsewhere, and we can't (and probably shouldn't) compete. SPARK 2.0 will look to tag third party content (Flickr) as Tufts, and pull it in. Hooray for RSS and tagging! The key is to show the value that the campus tools can provide.

Q: Assessment of impact on student learning.

A: E-Portfolios have a pretty obvious outcome. As to web2.0 sites, not many being used for education, not a long enough time to really track. Things to measure are engagement, but otherwise, it's all stuff based on old models (tests, etc). Model needs serious rebuilding. If someone is comfortable with a tool and it fits into their teaching style, it's likely to work, but if people use the tool because they feel they have to, improved outcomes will likely be reduced.

Q: Hi, I'm restating the answer and agreeing with it, because I'm the sort of person who feels the need to say something, even if it's redundant.

A: Yes, it's still correct.

(Yes, that was bitchy. Sorry. But it's a pet peeve of mine).

MIT will be using an ethnographer to evaluate some of their online tools.

Audience notes: Offer something that other sites can't. Yale will keep track of all reading lists with links to library, links to local restaurants, etc. Notes legal issues regarding FERPA, proprietary content, etc. Also notes the need for momentum, etc.

Note about the Harvard use of clickers. More effective once students were broken into smaller groups (and not just listening to a lecturer droning).

Lunch now!


David Grogan (Tufts) speaking on SPARK.

I've seen a SPARK presentation before, but I suspect this will be more thorough.

Nine developers in the group. Wow! I'm not sure we have nine developers on campus.

SPARK -- suite of flexible tools for communication and collaboration to support teaching, learning, research, co-curricular.

History: Would send RFPs to university, and winning proposals would get developed, but were boutique projects. If an instructor left, or the teacher moved on to a different topic, there was no room for follow-ups or evaluations.

In 2006, web2.0 got mature enough that they started to explore tools that could apply to lots of folks.

Current toolset (free, self-service to entire Tufts community):

Wiki (Confluence)
Blogs (MoveableType)
Podcast (homegrown)
Forums (jforum)
Maps (Google mashup)
Media Annotator (homegrown, mashup)
SParkMeetings (AdobeConnect)

Launched in 8/06, started with blogs, wikis, forums. Core team: Project manager, lead developer, interactive media designer, support roles.

REquirements: Must allow LDAP integration (Cosign for us), must allow customization of interface (allowing some Tufts identity), must have robust API, must have access to source code and database.

Common features: Single-sign-on, one-click creation of new items, Tufts directory integrated for setting permissions, permissioning at many levels (world, Tufts, private), tagging.

Demo time. Intro page is

Showing Wikis, blogs. One-click is pretty consistant for all of them, but the tools themselves take different levels of work.

Vision: "A Tufts-based localized network of people and ideas."

Common theme (tying to previous sessions): The ability of these tools to tie folks from multiple campuses and abroad together.

Guest accounts: Admin for wiki, blog, etc has to be a current Tufts member, ldap allows guest accounts that are limited.

Any student, staff, etc can create items.

LMS isn't from the Academic Tech department. Blackboard on undergrad, Health Sciences has homegrown LMS, other campus has Angel.

Hunh. He mentioned Moodle as a possible LMS for the campus.

At the time, Movable Type was the best blog tool. Now considering Wordpress. As to upgrading or changing tools, Confluence has been upgraded (but is a point release behind the official one). Might simply add Wordpress, but not get rid of Movable Type.

Question about moderation. Speaker notes that there's a tech use policy which basically says, "don't do anything illegal." No complaints yet.

Framework not going to be licenced (or at least, not in current plans).

Any limits (i.e., if a student goes and creates twelve blogs a day)? Hasn't come up yet.

Biggest problem so far is if someone switches a wiki to anonymous editing, and gets spammed.

Use examples:


Digital Portfolios and Communities of Practice. Department of Education wiki. Using Confluence (has a themebuilding plug-in). Gives each student a website that allows them to basically build e-portfolio.

Digital Toolboxes. Each student given their own toolbox, but students can completely customize them. Tags are used, allowing similar items to be pulled together (video blogs, etc).

Very slick-looking tool.

Activities across entire student body are shared. Tags allow filtering, etc. activ

Using tagging capability of wiki to create workflow. Says that Confluence brought them 80% of the way there, and required only a few custom macros to be built.

Blog demo: Anthropology of Media course. Had each student create blogs analyzing media. Uses blogroll on the side, and a widget showing all new entries. Not as compelling as the wiki, as most of this could be done on,, etc.

Also uses rss feed to build tag clouds (wordle, etc). Nice, but again, nothing that can't be done anywhere (that said, worth remembering that just because it can be done, doesn't mean that faculty always remember to do it; that's our job).

: Free tool for building flash widgets. Nifty!

Markup: Created a very basic tool that did what their faculty needed (not trying to do it all). Idea: Video a performance, load it to SPARK, make comments at certain time spots, and permission it properly. Youtube allows comments and annotations, but not the proper permissioning.

Very nice tool.
Teacher simply hits one button to place a comment at the appropriate point. Won't let them use copyrighted material (why? If it's private and fair use?).

I just asked about licencing the video software (more specifically, releasing it as open source), and he says they're friendly to the idea, but need the time. He says that the more folks who email, the better the chances. So email him folks! This tool is very slick!

Google Maps GIS mashup: Released first, not based on requirements, not a lot of folks using it. Nice markups, although again it's stuff I've seen out there.

Podcast: They didn't like the copyright issues with iTunes, so they built a separate tool.

General permissions question: Wikis support groups (only manually created). LDAP currently doesn't support groups, but they're looking at this.

Default permissions: private until students open up the blogs (good!).

Backend stuff:

Uses VMware for each server. Stick to central resources (shared storage, authentication, etc).

Typical tool integration effort: 5 pages on SPARK, 3500 lines of code (mostly JSP, some servlet, database, javascript). 1.5 programmers, designer, manager, 2 calendar months. Trying to stick to YUI for Ajax, also used MySQL, JIRA for bugtracking, SVN for versioning. Dev/Prod servers. Secret unlinked launches on prod to get pre-beta testing.

New tools: Mediamarkup uses Adobe Flex, Sparkmaps uses Google Map API. New Javascript libraries, etc.

Future directions: More Ajax, reducing LOC for tools. Automated testing.

What's next?

New front-end interface. Bring some activity to the front. Start connecting people and content. Better communication and outreach.

Question from audience: Workshops for faculty, who promotes, etc? How is this funded?

Answer: Yes, they do workshops (reminds me a lot of ECIT at Emory), and one-on-one sessions. As for funding, they get a budget from the university as a whole.

Time for the general Q&A. Will post that in a separate post,


Evan Leek of MIT (still What is Web 2.0 and What Does it Mean for Education)

His focus has been on creating a common denominator for distributed members of the MIT community to reconnect and interact with folks and events on the main campus. Aiming at folks who are working or studying abroad, on sabbatical, etc.

Mainly talking about Second Life, but uses virtual worlds, and all of today's topics apply to virtual worlds in general.

We're going live! Let's hope the demo gods smile on us.

Logging in. He polls the room; about half of us have logged into Second Life.

He's now in the MIT Sim. It's been months since I've tried Second Life, but it looks like it's running better on Macs now than it had last I tried it.

(Wonder if my account is still active?)

The virtual MIT has a project attempting to transfer residence hall identities online.

Currently showing a virtual conference room with a live quicktime stream of Leek's presentation right now. So a virtual Leek is watching a streaming Leek. Good proof-of-concept.

Large amount of video lag; not a SL-specific issue, but the amount of pit-stops video has to make cause these issues (and need to be taken into account).

Back to the presentation.

UPOP (Undergraduate Practice Opportunity Program) -- allows students to simulate engineering circumstances. Virtual simulation of a company that dealt with a takeover and reshuffling, allowing students to deal with shifts in engineering goals.

Stuff learned from sim: Can be applied to some (but certainly not all) real world events. Need to find best real-world events and focus on them. Students and faculty were skeptical of the tech, but not scared. System needed improving: Video-latency, tech issues, no prior-consideration for coreographing of interaction.

Need to replicate interaction in real world, note types of interactions so that they can be seamlessly integrated in virtual world. Must get to the point where the teacher isn't sitting there, orchestrating action.

Big win: Re-introduces the importance of space into discourse (aside: I'm now thinking of the use of virtual reality and realspace in David Louis Edelman's books), which video conferencing and the like had eliminated.


Q: What E-portfolio tool should one use?

A. (Batson) Digication (from RISD -- Notes that there are 35-40 big ones. Notes that Sakai has a built-in one as well.

Q: Long, long question, but the gist is, "we need a lot of infratructure for virtual worlds or web 2.0 learning, whereas a real-world meeting can be better controlled." Valid point about the number of points of failure.

A. Correct, and notes the problems with ubiquity, ephemeral sites, etc.

Q:. Does one need to build a virtual equivelent to physical room?

A. No (notes that avatars can be seahorses, whatever), and a virtual room can be a grassy patch, etc. But there are social interactions that necessitate certain environments. A virtual-boardroom with chairs makes sense, even though avatars don't get tired of standing up. Notes that personal space applies to virtual worlds, too. Cost of a building: $3 (way cheaper than the real world).

Q: Honestly, I couldn't understand the question through the accent.

A: Seems to be a discussion of best hardware to optimize audio and video issues. Turns out that a $30 Logitech mike has been a godsend. Pipes audio separately from video, using the avatar's voice-chat over IP (which has very little lag), and the audio is generally more important that the video, but they're working on that as well.

Q: How much time would it take to create a room like the MIT conference room.

A: It gets easier each time (naturally), but there's a learning curve at the front end. No actual answer, though. Does note that there's a reason that people can get paid to create virtual items and buildings. This includes the types of video streams, etc (essentially, a virtual infrastructure).

Q: Empire State College person notes that their average student is 39 yrs old and not as familiar with web 2.0, and that their instructors are adjuncts. How do they get on board like younger students and full-time students.

A: No immediate solution, but notes that collaborative ideas pre-date Web 2.0 (the Eportfolio example Batson gave applies here; could be done with simple offline papers (and, in fact, was done without an Eportfolio; it was just a Portfolio)).

Leek notes that he had a one-night-a-week class at Emerson last year on urban planning with a lot of older students (30-65), and they picked up SL pretty solidly. 75-85% were able to use SL from home, and all were doing stuff in the class itself (which was set in a lab).

Q: What kind of skills are used for SL?

A: Leek had been using Maya (and doing computer animation) for a while. Yeah, that's not so much going to work for me. He did note that you learn what you do as you need to do it, so each project requires more knowledge. Notes that there's a great knowledge-based community, with a mailing list, etc.

Break time!


Liveblogging from the NerComp seminar on Using Web 2.0 for Teaching and Learning.

I'll be blogging each session, then posting at the end of each one. As always, expect typos and the like, as blogger's spellcheck sucks, and I'm writing too quickly. Plain text is summary and basic interpretation of the topic. Bold is stuff that stands out. Italicized are my own thoughts on the topic.

Intro session -- What is Web 2.0 and what does it mean for education?

Trent Batson and Evan Leek, MIT.

Batson speaking for now.
We start with the usual discussion about the tech (ajax, xml, semantic search) and other aspects (social sites [both social for individuals, and social in the sense that sites partner with others, as in sites that partner with Flickr or Youtube), separation of data and functionality, etc) that makes 2.0 possible.

"Web 2.0 is the cultural post-tipping point." The time when we let go of print -- no dictionaries, phone books, encyclopedias in the house, no need to read the NY Times on the bus to work, etc. Computers and the web have replaced them.

Implications: No value in just getting faculty to use tech. No need to hype tech, defend it, or be an apologist. We now need to focus on institutional reform. But can IT drive this? We can push things to a certain extent, but as long as instructors still view three classes a week and a textbook as the way to go, they won't leverage web 2.0.

Hey, he's got a chapter in Vijay Kumar's new book, Opening Up Education: The Collective Advancement of Education through Open Technology, Open Content, and Open Knowledge. I'm attending a NerCOMP Educause Live session with him tomorrow!

Evidence-based learning (eVBL), coined by Batson. Thousands of new ways to create evidence of student learning. The evidence is no longer invisible; tools like chat, forums, blogs provide active ways to demonstrate (and reinforce) learning, instead of just sitting and hearing a lecture.

Eportfolio (yay) is a major part of eVBL. Batson hasn't heard of any university that doesn't have at least some kind of portfolio initiative underway (even if just a planning or discussion group).

Batson discussing his use of e-portfolios. Collected first five papers, allowed students to look back and re-write one or two. At end of class, made students look at all twelve papers, keep ten, say why they kept those ten, and wrote a paper on how their writing changed.

Suggestion: Switch from using Pedagogy (teaching children) to Androgogy (teaching adults).

Priniciples: Let adults know why what they're learning is important. Teach them to be self-directed and use information. Relate practical outcomes.

Andogogy and eVBL: Archaeological digs, gathering evidence. But it's the reflection on the evidence that makes the evidience interesting.

Service Learning Portfolio. Person traveled to Africa, collected, reflected on photos, mixed in Web 2.0 "spices," continuous, not segmented learning, stays with the student and is owned by him or her. Web-based, transportable.

Batson is handing off to Leek, so I'll post this and start a new entry.


Friday, June 01, 2007

(Apologies for the font weirdness and other stuff; it's the result of lots of cutting and pasting, as well as Blogger's wonky WYSIWYG editor).

This is the home stretch, the wrap-up, followed by David Weinberger's keynote (the one I'm most excited about).

While waiting for everyone to get seated (we're twelve minutes behind), I'll talk about the late-afternoon snacks, which included granola bars, fruit, and more coffee. The last is the important one.

One weird annoyance: the feedback forms are paper-only. To quote my much-more-prudish-than-me daughter, What the Hamster? For those of us with awful handwriting (and a likely precursor to arthritis that makes writing ten paragraphs of responses painful), web surveys are a blessing. And at a tech conference, why not have it online, where it can easily be analyzed and shared?

Anyway, Karim Lakhani is handing the wrapup:

Wikipedia on VA Tech shootings serving as a clearinghouse for info: Knowledge Beyond Authority.

University: Producers of Knowledge, Consumer of Knowledge, Repository of Knowledge, Transmitters of Knowledge. But Internet blurs producers, consumers, storage, transmission.

University has monopoly over certifying knowledge workers, structure of authority over the knowledge.

De facto, Knowledge Beyond Authority is a challenge to the university (my editorial addition: Only to those universities that put all their eggs in the knowledge certification basket -- the universities that will thrive are the ones that share knowledge and work to make the world better as a whole).

(ETA: Someone in the audience notes that it should be "Knowledge Expands Authority," and that universities need to recognize that or fall behind. David Weinberger just agreed that PhDs don't prove anything. Shades of Heinlein's Number of the Beast.)

Lakhani is now looking for issues from the "how to deal with the RIAA" workshop. Apparently there was a lot of contention there. What a shock. :-) Most seem to stand against the university as police. Some counter-claims note that universities do hold responsibilities when it comes to teaching ethics

One audience member: "Primary goal of guilds is to exclude." Notes that at the extreme (medical degrees) those without degrees who profess knowledge can go to jail. The Academy, as a whole, is practicing a form of protectionism here.

Lakhani seems to be on the same page, simply noting that it'll take small steps for Harvard (whereas MIT takes big steps -- difference in culture).

Lakhani was at MIT during Opencourseware launch. Backstory: Harvard and others were offering course info online to make money, and MIT was late to the game. MIT saw a potential "hack" to the system in simply giving it away for free, thus undercutting Harvard and others. There are more than 150 schools now developing opencourseware, but only 12 or so in the US. One barrier (noted by a UMASS-Boston guy) is that cash-strapped universities need to sell their online courses, and can't afford the investment involved in opencourseware (the educational equivelent of "you've got to have money to make money.").

Someone notes that OpenCourseware is just another form of publishing (sharing knowledge with the world). But that requires universities to accept it as such.

Workshop summaries: Hunger for change is the major theme:

Policy-level change:

Broader University Mission
Access to Knowledge
Copyright to Copyleft
Clarity on Policy
Who is Responsible?

Technological Changes

Open up infrastructure
Standardization of data
Build and use tech to achieve goals
Leaky Technologies

(all of the tech changes stuff above has simply been posted on the projector, without any comment or explanation).

(Lots of this stuff plays into the semantic web).

"Libraries are infrastructure for R&D and knowledge."

Economic Changes
Business Models for Universities
Business Models for Companies
Emergence of hybrid Forms
Who pays?
Is there a free lunch.

"Who Pays" is the big one, of course (Wikipedia keeps seeking donations, etc). See, though, the idea that OpenCourseware has only enhanced MIT's reputation and success.

One note -- Wikipedia gets the donations from their readers. And other projects are also driven by demand -- folks are willing to give small amounts of money and large amounts of time to projects they support.

Social Changes

How to distribute knowledge and authority?
Expertise vs broad participation
Top-down vs bottom-up social systems
Cash between digital natives, immigrants, and luddites.

Personally, I want to see this last one represented in a Starcraft-like setting. The Protoss could be the digital natives, the Terrans the digital immigrants, and the Zerg are clearly the luddites.

Time for the final event: the closing keynote!

David's speaking now, and is engaging as always.

Key points:

Idea of knowledge is out of whack with how knowledge actually works (again, PhD is an example, as the best and brightest often lack degrees). Authorities never did have authority, from a knowledge point of view.

Other assumptions:

"Belief is a mental state"

There is no plural for "knowledge." And the state of it is binary (if something is true, all else much be false)

Gatekeepers of knowledge (publishers, universities) deserve to be gatekeepers.

Real world (a book is an object, it cannot exist in two places, etc) has artificially set our limitations on knowledge. We need to recognize that knowledge doesn't have these limitations (online storage, etc).

"Knowledge is conversational"

(Example: Listservs, wikipedia*, etc -- users earn authoritative currency by demonstrating authority, regardless of credentials) Knowledge is in the shared conversation, not the individuals who share it.

Knowledge is important as potential -- more important to get a post out there, which will then let others correct it, modify it, dispute it, etc. Getting it out there and getting it linked are what matter. An inaccurate post that gets corrected and dissected and read and linked has properly increased the overall base knowledge.

"Authority becomes metadata"

Still need to reduce size of metadata -- if you make the card catalog as big as the book, its not accomplishing much. Same concept applies online.

Looking forward: Important to be unrealistic every one in a while. We're at a crossroads on the web (politically), but the University is the bastion of openness, and the web is capable of serving as the tool of openness that Universities employ. Universities need to be the driving force here, and we need to be optimists about the state of things.

Time to head out. Great closing speech, and damned useful conference!

*He explicitly said that he's sick of using Wikipedia as an example, but it's still the obvious one.


I'm at the second (and final) breakout session, The Digital Identity of UNIVERSITY.

This one will be focusing on norms that have developed in online communities. It's lead by a Facebook guy (because the software originated at Harvard, of course), although not the Facebook guy who called me and my entire generation "morons." Which is too bad. Also leading this are John Clippinger from the Berkman Center and Anthony Ciolli from

We're starting with the Facebook presentation, which is very tradeshowish and oversimplistic so far..

While we're getting told stuff we already know, I should mention that the box lunch was a roast beef rollup, with chips and fruit. Plus Diet Coke, which is what matters.

Nothing interesting in the Facebook presentation, but this video was pretty cute.

Ciolli is noting the more significant issues, that applications to grad schools and to jobs are affected by internet identify (facebook and myspace profiles, etc). The questions raised are A) should colleges warn and train users in the nature (and worries associated with) maintaining a digital identity? and B) should colleges and grad schools take digital identity into account when considering applicants?

Back to Facebook, the question now is the nature of authentication. The big problem (as always) is the end-user, but Facebook has done a great job of essentially letting the universities be the authentication systems for them, requiring, say, an email address to get to the Emory facebook communities. Its a brilliant (and underappreciated) aspect of Facebook's structure.

Discussion now on how blogger and authenticated identities work. Talk of political dissenters in other countries who couldn't authenticate (for fear of reprisals), but essentially authenticate with the quality of their information.

Facebook -no age based search, but under-18s are kept away from rest of communities.

Gah! Facebook guy (whose name is actually Chris Kelly) just mentioned for the third time that "Facebook is the 6th-most trafficked website in the United States." Take a drink!

More talks about the need for end users to leverage the privacy policies (and how too few of them do, leaving their profiles viewable to parents, employers, etc). Students need to remember that, for example, their RA is a student too, and that making a photo that could be incriminating "friends only" is a smart idea.

Worth noting: Facebook won't provide info to schools without a subpoena.

The flip side of digital identity -- that schools themselves have digital identity. Harvard LAw School admissions is a perfect example, with their own admissions blog. Other schools let students blog (under the official university aegis), have the usual RSS feeds and other stuff.

Nice jab by Kelly -- the only reason Facebook exists is that Harvard didn't do a good enough job of establishing a digital identity in a timely and effective manner.

Extrapolating, of course, the idea is that universities in general have been too slow to really adopt new ideas. And many of these services simply can't be offered through the university, because they transcend it, or because of privacy requirements (FERPA, etc).

(Aside: -- startup social calendering app for universities, still with a Harvard focus).

Facebook is now positioning itself as a "platform," essentially looking at it like iGoogle, etc.

Rep from Social Science Research Network is talking on distrubution of full-text downloads (millions per year). Downloads currently serve as the initial vetting process, which in turn leads to the refereeing process (without substituting for it). Has been enhanced by blogger links. Notes the need for both recommender and referee systems.

SSRN getting used as an early indicator of how tech-savvy a professor is. Also notes that some schools are pointing to SSRN instead of posting papers locally.

can get immediate count on downloads, but citations take more time.

People are finally talking about the two big and conflicting identity issues: The need to merge and manage identities, and the need to keep identities separate, and to hide aspects of one's digital identity from others.

(Aside -- Internationally, locking down the internet poses a serious human rights concern. One otherwise very nice guy, however, has spent the last fifteen minutes noting this, which wouldn't be a bad thing if it weren't completely tangental to the rest of the discussion)

Saving and posting this now, as we're about halfway through the session. More to come.

Someone has finally noted that authentication is not the same as violating privacy.

Flipside: It's possible to provide "security" and violate privacy (using ssl certs).

Back to digital uni identities -- Opencourseware gives back to the greater community while still helping university.

Second largest facebook group at Brown is Brown Class of 2011 (next year's freshmen).

"Digital Native" is constantly evolving; each year is more "native," and when enough natives are in academia, culture will shift.

I just noted that it's not the responsibility of the university to disclose that they'll search facebook/google for somebody; it's the responsibly of the university (and the high schools) to teach what a digital identity represents, and prepare students for the fact that they'll be searched on google.

Good point by the person across the aisle -- high schools need to move away from policing social sites and towards partnering with colleges on how social sites can become a part of the pedagogy.

Oops -- we ended up running past our time (we were all too engaged -- what a tragedy!). Off to the summation session.

(Edited to fix Anthony Ciollli's name)


I've decided to start a new post for the breakout sessions. I'm at the Agenda for Fair Use session right now (and my colleague Dave is at the University and the Library session, so I might update with anything he discovers there later).


This room is packed (likely because one of the other breakout sessions was canceled, as well as the fact). Great variety of folks here -- faculty members, writers, artists, lawyers, corporate folks (the chief privacy officer of Facebook, an NBC/Universal officer, the gen council for Sundance Channel, etc), others (someone from the Chilling Effects Clearninghouse, etc.). Nice range of stakeholders here as well. Interestingly, only one person actively identified themselves as a blogger. I suspect that there are quite a few more here.

(And, in fairness, since this is about Fair Use in the context of University, I think most folks presented their credentials in the academic context).

Documentary filmmakers on copyright (pdf here). These are both copyright owners and folks who can benefit by fair use of other people's work, therefore they were forced to make some tough choices. "Clearance Culture" -- the need to clear everything they film (a family sings "Happy birthday" on film spontaneously; should that require clearance?). What about when using clips as a critique (criticizing Fox news, or showing newspaper headlines)? Most feel that these are okay, and used these to set best practices for fair use.

(An Aside: As always, all Fair Use and Best Practices discussions are inherently crippled by the lack of solid legal definitions and any case law). Statement of Best Practices, however, has been accepted by PBS, IFC, and HBO. Insurers are baffled by Fair Use, but can use the Statement of Best Practices to help vet these items.

None of the films made has been challenged (showing strength of the best practice); the guy who made "This Film is Not Yet Rated" was hoping for at least one Cease-and-Desist letter to put on the DVD. :-)

Alex Kozinsky was just mentioned as being very in favor of this.

Breaking this model out to academia: Teachers, librarians, media literacy practitioners, etc. can work to try to build practice models along these lines.

Reminder: Fair use is often used by pirates and others to rationalize copying entire books, sharing movies, etc. Full use does not apply.

New issue is the architecture: showing a movie in the classroom vs streaming it online.

Good point: Does DMCA trump fair use by criminalizing the act of accessing the data?

(My take: Yes, and that's one more reason that the DMCA needs to be dumped)

(Aside: MIT OpenCourseware isn't working with fair use, so no pop culture courses are online)

(time for small-group discussions. More later.)

Discussion group notes:

(Concerns and questions brought up by each six-person group)

1. Concern: Leaking of proper fair use material (video clip in a course, then stolen and shared by a student). Where does the responsibility to protect this lie?

2. Legal Council clamping down on student file sharing. Puts responsibility on students and faculty to set permissions.

3. Rights of creators and obligations creators have to society as a whole (Use Creative Commons, Free Software Foundation).

4. Difference between in-class and out-of-class use of copyright-protected material.

5. "How do you define wall?" When referring to lack of copyright violations within walls of classroom.

6. Tech creep: Licenses and laws might make it okay to share on a current cell phone network, but not a future one.

7. Tech Creep 2: Record an episode of Nova and show in the classroom: Fine. Digitize an episode of Nova, students watch it online. What if they share it?

8. Pressure to put stuff online (from schools, also peer and student-driven pressure).

9. Need to educate faculty about what is actually fair use.

10. Unwillingness by some students to accept distinction between what's educational/fair use and what's not.

11. Limited license issues. Software or other stuff taken beyond the limit of what a copyright holder has authorized.

(Aside: I only just noticed that this classroom, which has plugs for laptops built into every table and a very strong wireless signal also has an old-fashioned chalk-based blackboard instead of a whiteboard or a smart board).

12. When does TEACH act apply?

13. Limitations of Creative Commons licenses for what one group wanted to do (the "no deriv work" restriction -- does fair use still trump it?). Flip-side: What's the value of specifying "zones of safe harbor" using CC or other license (which thus also explicitly bans other uses).

14. Does (should) the shift in platform (internet vs classroom) change fair use, copyright, etc?

Final notes:

"It's Educational" does not mean "Fair Use." Period. NO presumption of fair use for education. But copyright law does tend to give more latitude to transformative uses, but much of educational use is verbatim.

Follow-up -- need to codify educational and fair use. How can we do it? Copyright cannot solve for social inequality.

Good faith efforts in education do prevent statutory damages (but are hard to define).

It's not how copyright law can protect, it's how we can protect information and media from copyright law. GPL, CC both are aiming to this.

Lots more copyright thoughts that I'll be writing up later. First session is over. Lunchtime!



I'm at the Internet and Society 2007 Conference today, and will be liveblogging anything of interest, with edits to this post as things come up. Most of what I'm writing is stuff that stands out as being of interest to me; apologies ahead of time if my notes are disjointed; I'll attempt to organize things more efficiently later.

Registration/pre-conference notes:

1. I'd forgotten just how big Harvard is. Fortunately, finding the Law School was not a problem.

2. Alas, the food court next door does not take credit cards. How is Harvard so far behind Emory and Brandeis?

3. Registration was painless. Just grabbed my badge, my info packet, and my complimentary deck of Berkman Center playing cards. There's copious amounts of free (and mediocre) coffee, as well as assorted tiny pastries.

4. There's also free wireless (of course), a Realplayer stream, a Second Life presence, an irc channel, and other virtual presences. Stuff all conferences should have.

5. The Mac/PC ratio here is about 7:1. Thats the sign of a conference filled with intelligent people. :-)


1. Charles Nesson was unable to make it, as he needed emergency surgery. He's supposed to join us virtually at some point later, post-surgery, once he's coherent enough to type with at least one finger. That's heroism. :-)

2. Charles Ogletree, of the
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, is speaking now. Speaking towards the nature of citizenship and individuals in society. Good speech, going over the history of the conference

3. Nesson pre-prepared audio speech. He assures us that the medical situation is nothing serious (thankfully). Key question: What are the concerns and responsibilities of the university in relation to society, individuals, corporations, and others?

4. Professor Mary Wong (specializing in intellectual law), speaking on yesterday's pre-conference events. 80+ folks met last night discussing the theme of "University as Client."
- University goal #1: Utilitarian, provide training.
- University goal #2: Expose and explore difficult issues, better society
(The latter, of course, is what I think most of us hope for universities for strive for).
- Commericialzation. Licensing in and licensing out (Fetch comes to mind, as does scientific research).
-Intellectual Property, copyright ownership are focus of debates.
-Fair Use. Vagueness is a perpetual problem. Can all stakeholders be made happy?
- Should university act as IP enforcer? There wasn't any consensus on this one, not suprisingly (although I come down firmly on the "no" side).
-Ideal licensing? Can we improve the current situation.

(Of note, Ames Courtroom is nearly full by this point. Good to see this level of attendance.)

Keynote: John Palfrey (exec director of Berkman Center)

1. Born Digital (title of speech).

(Note: I'm assuming that Palfrey's presentation will be available online, and I'll link to it later).

A. Perspective of students. Difference between being born digital vs learning to be digital. Four major attributes of natives:
-Digital identities
Facebook, myspace, Second Life, etc.
students with laptops, etc. Changes how they take classes, interact in real life.
-Digital Media
digital cameras, flickr, youtube, blogs, etc. Google/Wikipedia equals "research" to many.
-Consumers to creators
Feedback loop for processing information. Second Life, RSS, Wikipedia. "Semiotic Democracy."

New Media Literacies -- challenges:

The Participation Gap (classic Digital Divide).

B. Teachers.

Can Digital immigrants be reborn (and should we?) Second Life avatars.

New Networks: Facebook. All students have it before they even come to college. Should Faculty have Facebook accounts? Is your teacher your "Friend" (to use Facebook/LJ terminology)? Should he or she be?

Emergent Tools -- Should wikis and other tools supplant traditional tools like the Socratic Method (and what sort of happy medium can be achieved?).

Digital Identity -- learners and information are born digital. Therefore, "How does University understand its own emerging digital identity?"

Currently, information might start digital, and gets transferred to newsprint or other formats, as opposed to being born on paper as in previous generations.

Public Library of Science.

Open Access. If we bridge the digial divide, how does that affect digital community. OpenNet Initiative. How does that affect University as a whole?

Cathedral to Bazaar. Virtual "ID required" card stopping access to digital learning. Science commons, Scratch, OpenCourseware as alternatives. Harvard (and University as a whole) needs an answer to OpenCourseware.

Hard Questions. Questions asked pre-conference can be found here. A few big ones:

(University/Corporations. Google, MPAA, RIAA, Reed Elsevier, Second Life, Blackboard, etc. )What relationship should exist between University and corporations? Should university deliver pre-litigation letters (hell no!).

What is the best way to invest in libraries in a digital age? This includes physical spaces as well as subscription services. Is it proper to invest in access to digital subscriptions, when they could go away?

(Aside: The guy next to me is staring at LOL Cats images)

How do we fund and sustain a generation of digital knowledge (related to the previous two questions)?

YALSA. Literacy and social networks: How does the new generation of library scientists learn? Wikipedia, of course.

What is the impact of an outdated copyright system? The current system is simply not capable of handling today's technology and the University. See Fair Use, CCC, RIAA, etc. Should University take a leadership role to change the system?

Notable figures and knowledge:

Larry Lessig (Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace). "Pathetic dot" -- knowledge. Law isn't the only code, as markets, norms, architecture are all significant.

David Weinberger (Everything is Miscellaneous) -- previous categories (Dewey decimal system) are meaningless.

Access to knowledge -- Yale conferences.

Wrap-up: Berkman center at 10. Thinking of what it means to be a research center. Pushing to be University-wide (instead of current place at Law School)

YouNiversity (oy). Youtube, Time person of the year, Web 2.0, etc.

Post-keynote discussion: Impact of Open Courseware. what happens when MIT isn't the only one out there? One person notes that the Sheepshin (diploma) is what people are really paying for, not the knowledge, which can (and ideally should) be shared.

One comment from 2002: "Yes, opening courses will dillute Harvard's brand, and yes, we should do it anyway." recognition that sharing knowledge is a responsibility of University. Google Book search system (Harvard, Emory, etc). Greater concern: Potential dilution of actual University education (teaching seminars, mentoring grad students) as a result of efforts expended on open coursework.

One faculty member (Harry Lewis, former Dean) notes that no dilution in reputation has been spotted.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Moodle no-brainer #1: Surveys

I like Moodle. A lot. I'm happy as can be that we're moving away from WebCT and onto a platform that costs over $100K less a year (even after taking staff and development costs into account). But one of the (few, all things considered) problems with open source is that necessary features, if they're not necessary to the folks doing the development, don't get implemented in a timely manner. Without any commercial incentive to bring out those features, there's a lag, exacerbated by the "well, you can build it yourself or use a third-party block" excuse as a way out. The latter's great every once in a while, but given the need for code validation* and integration with other services, it's not always viable. Nor does it excuse an incomplete core product (would you bother with Firefox if tabbed browsing or bookmarks were third-party plug-ins?).

In the E-Learning 2.0 world, that's extra frustrating. The "2.0" doesn't just refer to the Web 2.0 concept; it refers to the fact that most institutions have already had at least one major LMS (Learning Management System) or CMS (Course Management System) in place, and that there are certain expectations as a result.

The first one that's frustrating for me is the "Survey" tool. In WebCT, Blackboard, or just about any system out there (even the e-learning add-ons for FirstClass), you can create an anonymous (but authenticated and restricted to members of a course) survey using the same question modules available for testing. Some of the programs (Blackboard) even offer some options (like Likert scales) that are essential to good survey-building.

Moodle 1.7 offers four fixed, pre-built surveys. Unless you need one of their specific sets of questions, you're basically hosed. What's striking about this is that this runs counter to everything Moodle stands for; instead of putting the power and flexibility in the hands of the end-user, this restricts the users to pre-built question sets. I'd expect that from a corporation, but not from a program built from the bottom-up like Moodle.

And yes, I know that future versions of Moodle will fix this. But none of us can really tell faculty to put off teaching for another year, or students to put off taking classes (tempting though that might be). And we should all know by now how silly it is to fall back on the old "future release" excuse. Who hasn't seen a feature slide time and again, or come out barely functional (see anything Microsoft's ever done)? If it's not in the current release, it's not there.

Of course, a second option is to use the testing module, which works fine as long as you don't need anonymous answers (or some functionality like good scales). What's frustrating is that it's clear that the quiz module could easily power the survey functionality (as it does in Blackboard), but that this simply wasn't a developmental priority. If we had tons of resources, it would be great to fix it ourselves. Alas, out here in the real world, that's not always an option, and this is one of those features whose inclusion really should have been a no-brainer back at the 1.0 stage.

*Me, I'm not comfortable tossing any untested bit of code onto an enterprise service with FERPA and copyright concerns, thank you very much.

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Monday, March 26, 2007


I'm back!

Apologies for the long hiatus. I took the blog offline for awhile as I went through the job search process, followed by the moving process and the settling-in process. In other words, life interfered with blogging (which is far, far better than having blogging interfere with life).

I'm attempting to revive this blog, and finding that the e-learning blog community has grown tremendously over the last year. There are a lot more folks with interesting thoughts on the subject, and a lot more really nifty technologies (some of which are even useful).

My focus, as always, will be on cool uses of technology in education, but I'll also be spending some serious time looking at Moodle, as we're in the process of a rather fast transition from WebCT to the open-source alternative.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Google Continues to explore Web 2.0 Technology

According to, Google is looking to expand their book-scanning service into a pay-to-read option that would allow users to buy the rights to read a textbook online. It's a good idea (one that others have already implemented or planned to implement), but as with any nifty new technology or concept, until there's one central location for the end-user, it's going to be ugly for a while. Given the Amazon/Random House deal, not to mention Blackboard Building Blocks that are also offer textbook access, I'm not sure Google is playing from a position of power on this one.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Wow. Google Buys Writely.

See Claudia Carpenter's post here for more info on how things will go.

I'm both excited and nervous. Writely is a damned fine concept, and I think that having a bigger backer will allow them to grow properly (frankly, I couldn't see Writely working well as a business model without a buyout, no matter how much I love Web 2.0 stuff like this). But on the other hand, the true version-control that I'd like to see Writely develop down the road seems like it wouldn't be as high on Google's priority list as it might have been in the hands of another company. Still, I'll take an optimistic wait-and-see approach.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Blackboard and WebCT's merger

One of the better things to come from the recent Blackboard World 2006 was a sense of the roadmap for Blackboard's acquisition of WebCT.

A big concern for me (and for many BB users, I'm sure) was whether the attempt to merge the two products would lead to a period of developmental stagnation for both products, and weakened support for BB. WebCT users, no doubt, were even more concerned that they'd see the plug pulled on the product they'd chosen.

As noted on the BB site, BB seems to have a good, forward-thinking plan. They plan, as previously stated, to continue with both products, but their goal is to expand the APIs to allow Building Blocks (the Blackboard open-standards plugin) and Powerlinks (the WebCT plugin) to eventually use the same standard, allowing simultaneous third-party development. Likewise, they intend to release new features for both platforms, eventually leading to the platforms slowly converging over a long period of time. If they can pull it off, it's a great idea. It allows users of both environments to continue to enjoy the features they like, it ensures that neither WebCT nor Blackboard users have to worry about a major change management project to shift e-learning environments, and it allows developers on either platform an opportunity to work with both products.

Obviously, it's too early to judge the results, but as far as their publicly-stated intentions go, Blackboard has gotten off to a good start here.

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