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.