Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Programming for Eclipse

I am finally getting my hands a bit dirty and messing around the the SWT stuff in eclipse. Its very powerful stuff, but also very verbose. Trying to get a combo box work at the moment in one of the projects custom views. This involves a lot of work with selection providers and listeners. I found this of use:

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Half-Marathon Day!

Today was the half marathon, where 4500 people took to the phoenix park in Dublin to pound 13.6 miles, and it was tough! The weather was perfect, perfect if you werent running. It was sunny and warm. I managed to make it in a time of 2:08:40, not too bad - next time i will want to break the 2 hour mark.

If today told me anything it was that I am not doing the full marathon this year, perhaps next year. I dont think I have the fitness. I will keep the running up and do 10 mile races, as I think that was the one I enjoy the most and got my best time in. Anyway we will see what happens, I am rambling now cause I am so tired - better go to sleep.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Yanky's Presentation Workshop

I will be presenting at the Enterprise Ireland ICT Show Case on the 6th of October, outlining the MIKAEL courseware authoring tool. My main aim there will be to bring an eLearning company on board with us to bring the tool to fruition

Today, in preparation for that I attended a workshop on presentation skills given by Yanky Fachler - The workshop was attended by all those who will be presenting at the show case. We had a chance to present our work in a safe environment and then have everyone critque it. It was very informative, not only when you were getting feedback on your own talk but also when you were watching other people speak with your audience hat on - as Yanky put it.

It was a whirlwind experience, and I think I have learnt a lot regarding presentation skills, but not just about the skill and art of presenting but also how to apply it to me personally. Today demonstrated to me the power of collaborative learning.

Now I have a lot of work to do before the 6th.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Prof. Randy Pausch

I learnt yesterday that Prof. Randy Pausch of Carnegie Mellon University lost his fight with cancer and passed away last month. He will be a big loss to CMU and to the computing world.

If you are looking for some inspiration, I recommend watching his last lecture - click here

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Java 1.6, Eclipse and my new mac

Wow, I had an interesting time trying to get my eclipse plugin, developed in linux using Java 1.6 to work on my OS/X JVM which is a 64 bit JVM. I was getting all sort of problem to do with the SWT libraries java.lang.UnsatisfiedLinkError: Cannot load 32-bit SWT libraries on 64-bit JVM. I found a few work-arounds for this using google, but seemed very complicated and as I am a mac newbie - i thought i better not.

So I decided to change the plugin to 1.5 - so I set the runtime environment to use a 1.5 version JVM, but then I was gettng problems with the version number of the compiled classes"bad version number in .class file". So I changed the build environment to a 1.5 JVM. I thought this would fix it - but no. So then i done a search and found a way to rebuild the project (project -> clean..). But still no joy. So then I removed the classes files manually - thinking the newly build files with the JVM 1.5 werent getting written because the 1.6 version were still there, but no. So after about an hour I figured out what was going wrong - there was still something in my project set to 1.6 - the java compiler settings for the project!!!?!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My 10 mile race

So I will be running a 10 mile race on Saturday week, as part of the adidas Dublin Race Series 2008 . I done a 5 mile there a few weeks ago and done it in 45 mins, which wasnt too bad for a first go. I am going to really challenge myself and try and do the 10 mile under 1hr 25mins, which will be pretty tough! After that is the half marthon, and after that is the marathon - I am not sure about doing the marathon, the time committment in terms of training might be just that too much, particuarly as I finish my PhD.

Authoring of Adaptive and Adaptable Hypermedia (A3H) Workshop

Attended and presented at the A3H workshop in Hannover last week, have been meaning to outline the talks that were there so here goes:

First of all the link for the workshop is here

The first talk was by Fawaz Ghali, and the work he has been doing in Warwick trying to connect the social web in the form of folksonomies with the semantic web in particular ontologies. Advantages of this would include semantic relations between folksonomy tags, enabling of reasoning on the social web and augmenting the authoring process of adaptive hypermedia by providing rich free heirarchically structured data. Ghali process consists of three main phases, firstly mispelt tags are filtered, tags are grouped according to co-occourance value, and finally the groups are mapped to matching elements of ontologies.

Maurice Hendrix then presented his paper which outlines how a meta level can be added to the LAG language which allows for a fuzziness of values in the LAG rules. This solves the following limitations identified by Hendrix:
-adaptation is on a per concept basis
- adaptation engine does not allow for non-instansiated variables
- cant combine multiple strategies.
I understood how you could combine multiple strategies with this approach, as you dont have to strictly specify a leaners model value so beg_engineers and beg_cs can be treated as beg students, but didnt really get how the other limitation are solved

Sergio Gutierrez looked at the formalization of exercises, which reminded of the work we did on the ontaware project looking at the same thing which we published at SWEL workshop at AIED05. This work is based on a parameter approach and is interesting, as it shows how many questions can be asked of the same root question.

The work of Ortigosa et al. looked at what was the least amount of questions you need to ask in order to understand the learner enough to provide adaptation

Another paper from Warwick looked at the use of collaborative authoring in the development of AEH for the MOT tool. To do this the CAF was extended to include collaborative elements, such as tags and opinions. This allowed for feedback on material in AEH - which could then be used in the adaptive process.

Eric Ras presented a really interesting paper which outlined the use of semantic wikis to capture knowledge, which are then used as the basis of the creation of learning spaces.

After the papers were presented there was a discussion panel, where interesting points were raised about the lowering of the barriers for authoring in developing AH. Most people agreed that the cost-benefit ration has to be addressed, in that we must outline how beneficial it is for an author to create AH and how we can lower the cost by providing better authoring tools. This discussion made me think that the application of AEH in the academic scenerio (the most common test bed) perhaps doesnt make sense anymore. Academics do not have the time to spend on authoring and do not see much in the way of recognition when they do develop good AEH. I think perhaps the focus of the AEH community should be on the corporate sector as this sector spends a massive amount of money in getting employees up to speed at the start of their career and also during their career with a particular company. This represents not just a massive cost in terms of the salaries paid to the employee and to the trainer, but also in terms of opportunity cost, lost while the employee is training. Anything to cut the time employees spend training will represent a massive cost saving for business. This is where we should be aiming our AEH apps as the cost - benefit ratio is significantly more in our favour here. Then when we have matured our authoring tools here, perhaps then we could start to look at the academic scenerio which will be much harder to break into.

Overall a great workshop, where real debate took place about the future of authoring in this area.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My new Macbook

Well I have made the change, i got my first mac there, I have always used a PC up to now, normally with some flavour of linux or windows on it, so there was always going to be a bit of a learning curve. Well i was pleasently surprised with how little of a learning curve there actually was. Within a few hours i was able to find my way around the various menus of OS/X. I am still by no means an expert but getting to a stage where i am comfortable with the OS.

The biggest aspect of the mac to get used to is the difference in keyboards on my new macbook. the buttons appear to be in a slightly different position, and sometimes typing the letter doesnt appear. I think this might be something to do with some setting, perhaps.

Another slightly annoying aspect is the jagged edges of the computer - this makes it look good but does nothing for your wrists - cuts the arm off you.

Anyway, that is mac week one down - now for some serrious work on it, as i have a conference in Hannover.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

ICALT - Day 3

Today I was principally concerned with the workshop I was to present at - Crafting didactic materials based on IMS LD: From Requirements to Evaluation. There were to be six presentations in this workshop, but thanks to the one of the organisers I was able to give a quick outline of my phd work at the end.

Shelia MacNeill from CETIS outlined interoperability between LD and the rest of the course development scene. She also outlined four levels of granularity that must be addressed - LOs, ??, Activity and Course. Then work on the sucessor to Reload, Recourse was outlined by David Griffiths from the University of Bolton. It is interesting to note that that team has now moved to use GMF a technology we use extensively in our project. He also mentioned services in LD and how badly they are defined. David showed how widgets could be used as learning services, from a central widget server.

Davinia Hernández-Leo outlined a way of raising the level of abraction when using complicated specifications such as LD, using educational patterns. I am not very sure how this works exactly, but will have to look into this in more detail as the idea facinates me. Carmen Padron then outlined how evaluation cycles can be done on LD courseware and how this can be specified on the courseware using the runtime adaptation approach developed by Telmo Zarraonandía, the co-author of the workshop paper. This lead nicely on to Abelardo Pardo' s paper on how he has devised a way for the manipulation of LD design during delivery time by manipulating property values. He states he is uncomfortable with the theatre analogy used in LD, as a script does not allow for the reactionary changes needed in courseware. If you originally design your courseware to consider the manipulation of property values at delivery time this is a very powerful tool. Finally Jekaterina Bule from the Latvia outlined the evaluation of eLearning in Riga.

After the workshop I attended an interesting session entitled "Content Authoring Technologies III". Two speakers particularly took my attention due to my PhD work on modeling courseware, firstly by Ivan Martinez-Ortiz, who described the work he is dong in developing an EML authoring notation. He discussed Flow oriented authoring notation, there was some discussion afterwards about the suitability of this type of concrete notation due to the variability in courseware at delivery time. Other concerns were that this notation was too geared towards computer scientists, but Ivan is looking at testing his notation with non-computer science users, and I think his results from this will be very interesting.

Dirk Frosch-Wilke then presented his paper entitled, "Evolutionary Design of Collaborative Learning Processes through Reflective Petri Nets". This paper showed an approach based on coloured petrinets could be used to provide a snapshot of a learning process. To do this there was two levels a metalevel PN and a base level PN - sort of similar to metamodeling I think. Petri Nets mean verification can be carried out on the courseware, I asked does this mean a sort of model checking approach to the courseware but I was wrong here. This approach is used a lot in business process analysis, I think the use of petri nets and how they are used by Dirk and his team is something I want to get my head around - very interesting work.

ICALT - Day Two

For day two of the conference there was a big change to the weather - it was like a bad day in Dublin, with temp of about 14 degrees and rainy.

The highlight of today was the panel session, which discussed a competency approach to elearning - it looked at what a competency was and how we could use competencies as the primary focus of learning. This talk made me think of competency and how I defined this word, as I had always thought that competencies and knowledge are very similar, but this lead me to believe that a competency is the capacity of a person to demonstrate some skill to some level. Where knowledge does not necessarily mean there is a skill involved. A competency is been able to assess if someone can do a job.

One interesting point by a UK collegue was that there needs to be some sort of comparable framework for eLearning systems. He basically has enough of all these technologies been thrown out at conferences without the mentioning of the underlying paradigm, framework and model - and why the system was designed the way it was. I found this very interesting and intend to contact this person for further discussion

ICALT - Day One

I have been at the ICALT conference over the past couple days over the next few blog posts I will summarize some of the interesting talks I have been to. The conference is been held in Santander in Northern Spain, a beautiful Spanish port city.

During day one I went to a few very interesting talks:

Firstly was a keynote by Prof. John M. Carroll from Penn State University. Prof. Carroll discussed the use of case-studies in learning, and their pedagogical value. One interesting thoughts I had from this was that a collaborative activity must have collaborative properties, it is not enough to give a learning activity to a group of learners, at best the learners will use a divide and conquer strategy to divide up the work and then glue it together for your benefit. Collaborative learning activities must be designed with collaborative attributes. I thought this was interesting and not something people consider when they say they use collaborative learning - just because you have a chat, message board or group work does not mean collaborative learning is taking place.

The next talk I went to was given by Iyad AlAgha, he discussed his tool which allows for the supplementing of learning material with material found on the web. Basically the idea is that the tool will get supplementary material for the primary learning material so that you the learner do not have to go look for it. To do this the tool uses a SKOS ontology working in the background. The name of the tool is SWLinker, and has two parts the webdictonary and the learner guide, which provides learning material on some concept which features in the primary material. I would be very interested in seeing how this tool worked with random sample of material and ontologies sourced from third parties. I also thought it would be really interesting to combine this technology with the personalisation effort in AEH.

I then saw Sergio Martin talk about about he problems the UNED are having in managing the multitude of communication channels into the college and matching queries on those channels with knowledge which also feature on multiple sources.

I also saw an interesting panel discussion on "Why technology innovations are still a cottage industry in education?", the panel included Dragan Gasevic, who outlined three key enablers which he thought needed to be addressed - ID Management, Knowledge Management and Services. Jon Drom who though that the cottage like industry was where the value in elearning lay, and Vive Kumar - who thought that the critical mass is needed and outlined shareability as the key to move to a more industrialised place.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ireland says No to Nice

Well we have gone and done the unthinkable, we as a nation have gone on to reject the Nice treaty. The treaty designed to bring the EU into the 21st century. Polls not more than a month ago had indicated that things were going well for Nice, with the majority of those who had decided what way they were voting were voting Yes to Nice, although a large majority of people were undecided.

Where did it all go wrong, well the No campaign ran a brilliant campaign of misinformation, filling the Irish hearts and minds of fear, by indicating that issues such as abortion, corporate tax rates, neutrality, sovereignty, would be defined by Brussels rather than by the Irish Parliament in Dublin. Although none of this was true, the fact that the treaty itself is incomprehensible and growing disillusion with politics in Ireland lead to a No vote being pretty inevitable I suppose. Another key factor, was the feeling of being bullied, our government, the EU president, the French president just to name a few all "warned" us about rejecting this treaty, how stupid can you get - we Irish have always had a bit of a rebellious steak in us, if you tell us we have to do something or face the dire consequences, as Sarkozy put it, a lot of people decided there and then to show them and vote No.

I hope the political leaders can find a way past Lisbon, and I hope Ireland is apart of that, but I have a funny feeling we are drifting westward away from Europe, away from the decision-making in Brussels.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Edupunk - refers to the "new" phenomon, where teachers and learners are using a DIY attitude to teaching and learning and not conforming to traditional tools and methodologies. Using such things as social software to aid education. This has really taken off over the last month (the term I am talking about here) - may be here to stay. For more information, Stephen Downes outlines it better than I ever could at, or you could even check out the wikipedia page

Erik Duval Interview

Erik is a professor at KUL in Belgium, he is a well respected academic in the area of metadata and Technology Enhanced Learning. An interview with him is available at, which is well worth a listen. Here he describes his famed "Snowflake Effect" among other things.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Courseware Engineering

I always new this term came from somewhere, but didn't know where until I found - this paper gives a great overview of what courseware engineering is all about. Essentially it is the use of software engineering methodologies in the development of courseware. The paper also gives a nice definition for courseware. A paper which predates this paper is a paper which was presented at IWALT 2000 by Uden, which presents a Courseware Engineering Methodology. This is interesting as it outlines the use of different models in the "engineering" of courseware.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A new blog is born

So here it is my blog for, I have been using eduspaces which is pretty neat, so why the change to blogger ( I want to say proposed change because I am still not completely convinced whether I want to continue using eduspaces or blogger) . Well the change is basically due to a URL being available - - tonight I got a lesson in how important it is to some people to have their name registered as a domain name - for example -, I never thought of this as really important, not unless I was going to use it, but today people seem to associate their domain name on the web with their sense of individual. I am Mark Melia in the real world, and in the web world.

So what does this mean - we will all be associated with domain names to uniquely id each other in the future - nope, well at least not in the future - think of your email address, this has long since happened. The next stage is a URL, or a URI Universal Resource Indicator - if you are interested in this - possibly you will be interested in some of the more philosophical arguments surrounding the semantic web, which looks to uniquely id every resource in the real world so that it can have a presence in the web and wont be confused with other resources.

So there you go - I got this blog just so I could uniquely identify it as my own because I could use syntax which is the same as my name in the real world - I like to have the virtual world and real world close together.