29 April 2006

Day 2 - SURF JISC staff exchange

originally uploaded by wytze.
Day 2 started off with a good breakfast, after a short night's sleep. And then on to the conference room!
Most interesting of this second day, at least for me, was the preliminary analysis that was presented by Bert Melief (M&I/Partners) on the way elearning is 'done' and sustained in the nordic countries (Norway, Sweden and Finland). I think it was in Sweden that they actively involve students in the selection of projects, as well as in the evaluation of projects. Sounds like a very good idea. Let's just copy this idea and do it over here in The Netherlands, I would say!
This day was finished off with a very warm 'thank you, and see you again' by Malcom Read, JISC's Executive Secretary. There was a very positive vibe on both days. This cooperation between JISC and SURF is really taking off, and is also setting the standard for other cooperation within Europe. It really feels very good to be part of it.

28 April 2006

Naarden, day 1

So, today (well, technically I should say "yesterday") I am at the SURF-JISC staff exchange workshop held in a nice hotel over here in Naarden. I am just using the wireless internet provided by Swisscom, which works quite OK, even in my room.
Anyway: Wijnandaalderink has already put up some first impressions on this first day up on his weblog. These are my first impressions (in reverse order):
1. The Dutch and UK people can keep up with each other regarding drinks. Actually we were kciked out of the bar just about 30 minutes ago.
2. I had some great chats with lots of people over dinner and drinks. Here are just some names: Wijnand, Peter, Wouter, Pierre, Marij, Bart and Tom.
3. The official part of this 1st day consisted of six presentations of the results that we have achieved in the cooperation between JISC and SURF. Most results, in my opinion, have been achieved in the streamteam cooperation. For other areas, like mobile learning, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The grassroots initiative is very much something that they could take over in the UK from us.
4. For me the most important part of the afternoon was the presentation by Tish Roberts on the e-framework. This is still moving forward and certainly has lots of potential. The real area for improvement here, is to make it much more tactile I guess. People (from all sorts of different target groups) will only get a feel for the real benefit of the e-framework in the long run if we can show them what it does (on this computerscreen).
Ok, there is more to come tomorrow, so I will go to bed now.

10 April 2006

Bad news on open source in HE

The website http://elearning.surf.nl is a great source of news on the state of play regarding elearning in Higher Education (HE) in the Netherlands. This site is essentially a monthly magazine in Dutch, with a large archive.
A current feature is a summary of a report by SURFnet on the use of open source in The Netherlands, which is rather disappointing. Read E-Learning: Het gebruik van open source software in instellingen voor hoger onderwijs for the whole story. Here are three conclusions:
# Er wordt een (groot) gebrek aan kennis over OSS verondersteld en geconstateerd.
# Op beleidsniveau ontbreekt het veelal aan een duidelijke visie
# Kennisuitwisseling vindt niet, of slecht plaats.
As I said: pretty disappointing.

ALT Conference - day 2

So, back to work then... Hard to do, because this morning there was a very disruptive message.
Anyway: Scott Wilson has put his presentation online on his weblog.
Friday, April 7 (2006) was the second day of the ALT Spring Conference 2006. This was the day for the so-called research seminar, where the experts had a full day to produce an outline for a whitepaper on a subject. I was a participant in the seminar on the implications that Web 2.0 and the net generation will (or should?) have on our education(al systems). Here are a few of my personal observations of this day:

  • Change is slow in our institutions regarding integrating Web 2.0 technology in our teaching in learning processes. It is to some degree all about the money: as long as our management is much more concerned with other subjects (like very expensive ERP implementations) elearning is doomed to be a sort of byproduct...
  • Change will only happen if there is a real real real problem ("the burning platform")
  • All but one participant in the workshop would really like the Web of Confidence scenario to happen.
  • I am quite sure that the all-in-one VLE's of today will not fit into this Web of Confidence scenario. That might also be why we still hang on to them so much! We would rather not change to something that is very uncertain... And by "we" I mean just about every human being: by nature we are all quite hesistant when it comes to change, isn't it?
  • I really liked Brian Kelly's observations and advice during the day: watch out for the vendor fundamentalists, or open source fundamentalists etc

More stuff and the raw results of the workshop can be found at the wiki. By the way: the wiki was fun to use in the workshop. It made it a really really productive day!
Pictures to be found on Flickr.

07 April 2006

New challenges - ALT conference

Yesterday I visited the ALT Spring Conference 2006, titled "New connections, new challenges". This conference was organized by the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) from the UK, in assocation with SURF. The conference was held at Leiden University, in the beautiful Kamerlingh Onnes gebouw.
The Thursday morning was filled with an opening keynote that I missed, so I can't really comment on that. The rest of the morning was filled with three parallel sessions, from which I attended the session by Scott Wilson. He talked about the all too popular subject of Web 2.0. But he shared with us some interesting observations, as far I am concerned. I'd like to share them with my readers. So here we go...
Scott made an interesting, but very subtle distiction between 'personalized' and 'personal'. Today we are seeing a lot of personalizable websites, but this is still within the boundaries that have been defined behorehand, he notes. But in the future we will see more and more personal websites or tools (we already see this in the proliferation of cell phones, pda's and mp3 players). A clear example of this trend is the fact that a lot of people, especially younger people, already have their own weblog, so their personal space on the net.
Another interesting note that Scott made was that the future student (the net generation) will have high expectations, such as that they expect features like collaborative filtering being available in the systems that the institution is making available to them.
Scott's talk got really interesting when he talked about recent research that he is involved in; this was really too short in my opinion. This revolved around the notion of a personal learning toolkit (PLT). He asserted that this is not to be seen as an all-in-one technological solution that some company should start making, but more of a concept. A PLT could be the combination of a weblog, a flickr photoset, a Gmail acccount and an del.icio.us account (Scott calls these things 'instruments', which I rather like as a term) for one and for another student it could be another combination. This notion of PLT reminds me of the notion of the 'learning workbench' that was introced recently by the now-retired Prof dr Betty Collis from my University of Twente.
More info on the personal page of Scott.