Monthly Archives: April 2008

Flock 1.1.2


The social browser Flock has come of age! It boasts nice features for many of your social sites like Flickr, del.icio.us, or your own Weblog. In fact I am blogging this message right now out of Flock.

Flock also has a image upload tool for Flickr, Picasa or Photobucket. Most social is the sidebar that shows your Facebook network while you’re browsing. Cool!

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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Learning Paths


Recent work on a Learning Path specification raises a number of questions. A learning path is principally geared towards learning objectives, using choices, constraints and conditions. Constraints could be issues like level, cost, time, effort, etc. It describes primarily formal learning as a curriculum, but can be used too for informal learning to later review a route taken to achieve a learning outcome. This hindsight can be shared with others as advice. So, in this latter case it is not used for forward planning of the own learning in the way that PDPs are used.

In a real life scenario, however, I see e.g. strong social conditions that are not normally described in official curricula. Listening to student advisors talking to prospective students and freshers, the criteria for learning paths are strikingly personality-driven: “boring”, “good”, “easy”, “fun”. No pedagogic values are applied here. Should this be described in the spec or is it made by “grown-ups”?

However, I’m still missing the convincing arguments for a LP specification. Firstly, there are, I believe, several specs around that do a similar or better job. When it comes to curriculum description the XCRI spec would come to mind. When we talk about pedagogic routing, IMS LD should be more appropriate. And, when it comes to personal background and preferences, The IMS LIP and ePortfolio spec could be used.

To benefit the learner and his realisation/instantiation of the learning, the proposed LP spec really needs to answer the question what’s the best way for a learner to work his way through existing learning opportunities to reach a certain goal. To be able to do this, we need weighting measures, pedagogical and other. It compares to a car navigator where you can choose to reach a destination in the fastest or shortest route or by avoiding motorways.

So the main question is: in which way does LP benefit the learner? How does it relate to the best way of learning?

The real challenge to learning paths is not so much describing the route to reach a certain goal or learning outcome, it lies in specifying the entry point. A learning path specification needs to include various preconditions for entry, such as previous knowledge or experience, but also motivation, expectation, and preferences.

On a more philosophical level, I ask myself, that, if a learning path is always personal and an individual instantiation, is there any point in formalising it ? Or are we looking at the creation of a “mass-production of individual learning?” Full personalisation will always remain utopia, because as we know from formal education, learning opportunities and choice are dominated by budgets and capacity rather than by pedagogic criteria.

Human Calendar


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The deteriorating culture of project meetings


Exciting location, quality hotel, good food – does this sound like a good working environment to you? Only to find yourself rushing in from an airport, checking into a hotel where you spend the next 3-4 days in a badly aired room with zero view, brainstorms that blow your mind and leave you like an exhaust wind falling into bed at the end of the day. Back at the airport for your flight home, you still wonder where you have been – was it Manchester or Madrid – and feeling that you need a break?

International project meetings these days increasingly remind me of old James Bond movies where the bad guy kidnaps some scientists and locks them up in a technically superior lab-space so they can slave away on new developments.

I consider this a rather unfortunate trend. Athough it has the benefit of having high power brains all in one spot, they are increasingly removed from the real world. Meetings loose a lot of the inspiring exchange of cultural or creative potential which Google’s corporate culture promotes in new attractive ways.

Concept babble = garbage


Does this sound familiar?

“Normally, if you have a bunch of people sitting around in a room talking about something that isn’t real, you end up with these illusions of agreement. Everyone ends up thinking they’re agreeing, but people perceive the words in different ways. By always looking at the real thing, we’re able to reach agreement better and faster.” (Jason Friend, 37signals)

I couldn’t have put the finger on the spot in any better way. It summarises what many failed development projects suffer from and end up in: a verbal mess of assumptions. Assumptions about the end-user, the purpose, the services, the usability, the market, etc.

The message is simple yet clear: don’t talk in concepts and models – get real!

Self-organised learners are like Schroedinger's cat


Effective learning needs structure and method. Are our learners up to it yet? – No!

Despite the powerful tools and opportunities that the Internet puts into the hands of the learners, independent and self-directed learning still remains a substantial challenge to most. Learners have been conditioned within established education systems to adopt a certain behaviour when learning. As various attempts to support independent and informal learning have shown, this leads to divergent expectations towards self-organised learning opportunities.

Independent learning in a group demands competences that are more comparable to project management and negotiation skills than to effective learning. Learners with a background in traditional learning culture are used to have learning outcomes, timeframe, methodology, and social interaction predefined on behalf of them. In an informal learning context where they are asked to specify these themselves this cultural misconception proves to be the biggest challenge.

The key question for learning providers is: “how much intervention is required for self-organised learning to be successful?” This comes as a paradoxon since the more structure one provides the less self-organised the learners can be. When structuring self-organised learning, the critical issue is at which point of intervention is self-organised learning no longer self-organised.

So, autonomous learning becomes Schroedinger’s cat, because at some point the intervention kills the concept.