Archive for April, 2007

Experiments with

April 30, 2007

marc-kyte-tv.jpgFollowing an early-morning tipoff about a New York Times article about Kyte.TV, I thought I’d better give it a whirl.

What is Kyte.TV? Think YouTube + Twitter, with the convenience not only of mobile uploads but live chat and (in effect) live broadcasting from your mobile phone… nice idea, and a nice implementation. You have to download a little java applet for your phone (N70 users: disable security first – really!).

Here’s an early result (OK, it’s The first one was just a silent 3-snapshot just-in-time-upload test, but later ‘episodes’, visible by clicking on the ‘kmi’ bar underneath the main image below, will eventually reveal different styles, including emailed video clips), with a copy further below of some comments I sent back to paris_d who was online (yowzers, I had gathered 10 live viewers within 2 minutes, even as I was experimenting):



Does elearning have to be so awful?

April 26, 2007

I blogged on 13 April about my earlier Death Of Elearning stance(s), and how now it was time to be a little more constructive. So now I’ve written the abstract of my keynote address at the forthcoming International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies, which will hopefully be appearing on their site shortly. However, since it’s my own words, I’ll just paste it verbatim below, i.e. without quotes.

Does elearning have to be so awful? Time to mashup or shutup!


Advanced learning technologies have been touted for six decades as either a cost-effective or an exciting new way to provide real benefits to a wide audience. Yet, even given some stellar exceptions, the broader promise is demonstrably false.

The essence of the problem is that new-tech disguising old ideas is almost certainly doomed to failure. Learning Management Systems and Learning Objects, for example, despite the noble intentions of many protagonists, can in fact conceal neo-behaviourist drill-and-practice thinking. Equally frustrating is the paradox that, despite Moore’s Law, sustainable computing for schools gets more and more expensive annually in real human terms. And what about Elearnng2.0, Moodle, Semantic Multimedia, Wikiversity, The Grid, MySpace, Moblogging, Vodcasting, YouTube, Second Life campuses, Plazes, Bebo, Elgg, and Twitter? More promises, but for now the jury is out, and a parental backlash against computers in schools is underway!

But all is not gloom and doom. This presentation considers success stories ranging from decades-old cognitively-based intelligent tutoring systems and problem-based learning to current day learning ecosystems, star teachers, thumb-twitching social networking, geo-social mashups, simulations, peer-to-peer mentoring, numerous “banned” games and resources, and tasks that engender creativity and ownership directly in learners, in both formal and informal (non-school) settings. It also looks at the UK Open University’s OpenLearn initiative, which offers high quality educational resources for free, embeds them in a strong pedagogical framework, and encourages educators to download, re-mix and upload fresh material, while leveraging real-time peer presence awareness, large-scale multi-party video interactions and knowledge capture, and a purpose-built knowledge mapping tool.

Is this kind of peer-supported open educational resource the way of the future, and can it overcome some of the negative stereotyping of elearning? Maybe: much depends on a strong commitment from ICALT practitioners, and a willingness to confront some long-standing myths!

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Twitter = BETTER attention focus, not worse…

April 26, 2007

My June 2005 “Two orders of magnitude overload conjecture” claimed that each new technology that helped us ‘focus’ and ‘whittle down’ the information overload would itself lead to overload as users flocked to it, until we leapfrogged to ‘the next thing’. It went like this:

My conjecture is that tools like this (e.g. RSS aggregators) give users, especially early adopters of new technologies, a two-orders-of-magnitude (i.e. 100x) ‘power boost’ in dealing with the ‘knowledge flow’ (forget ‘information’ and ‘content’) whipping around us. Indeed, such tools are particularly valuable in helping foster and even accelerate knowledge flow among other early adopters (who tend to correlate highly with the ‘thought leaders’ involved in the knowledge that you want to be, well, flowing)! But whenever there’s a three, four, five, or six orders-of-magnitude (i.e. 1000x, 10,000x, 100,000x, or 1,000,000x) increase in ‘adopters of new technologies’, not only are such technologies not new any more, but a two-orders-of-magnitude ‘power boost’ is insufficient, so we turn to new technology to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

The point is that if you target ‘interesting’ people to follow, then you find out interesting things – you can define ‘interesting’ for yourself: that’s the idea!

So now I get interesting tweets by following interesting people on, even when I’m too overloaded to read their blogs, and even the feeds that come from their blogs (this in turn inspired by a throwaway remark from Stowe Boyd a few weeks ago: “what, you don’t use Twitter?”). In that circumstance (not always, but on many occasions), Twitter can provide more focus and interesting pointers to new activities, not less as a knee-jerk reaction would suggest.

Stay tuned for a new banner on my blog that’ll have a cute new tweetbox….

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Back From The Dark Side

April 19, 2007

Hello World! I’m writing this entry from my shiny new MacBook Pro… after some 11 years ‘in the PC wilderness’…
no, I won’t bore you with Mac/Windows pro’s and con’s other than to say

a) I’m one of the world’s (well UK’s) original Apple ][, Lisa, and Mac users and fanatics

b) I switched to Windows in around 1996 for one simple reason: the pace of new Internet widgetry was so phenomenal that I felt I had to live in the PC world to take full advantage of it. Oh, and Mike Brayshaw and I had done some cool DOS/Prolog hacking in the 80’s, so I figured I could cope.

c) Now I can have the best of both worlds… end of story. I’ve got a Boot Camp partition that I can either boot natively, in which case I have one helluva nice PC laptop, or I can have my Parallels installation cannibalize the Boot Camp partition anyway, and run most things I need simultaneously. In any event I don’t need that much from the Windows side… it’s good enough for me to know it’s there.

d) I became pretty decent at Windows configuration/tweaking, but who cares? In fact down-and-dirty configuration/tweaking is, in my experience equally full of mystery in both worlds.

e) Anyone who knows me or my blog knows I’m a keyboard and touch-typing fanatic. This MacBook keyboard is ‘fair’… but consider that a condemnation. Why anyone would build a Rolls Royce and save a few pennies by installing a cheap and annoyingly-mis-shapen gas pedal is beyond me… that of course is what you get with the ‘RETURN’ and ‘ARROW’ keys on a UK Mac keyboard…. but I knew this in advance, so who’s complaining? I can guarantee that Steve Jobs has not used a UK keyboard, because he would not have been happy.

WHOOPS my Safari setup doesn’t have all my cool Technorati Tag and other bookmarklets, so no tags for this item until later…

[UPDATE 2: heh, and as Leander Kahney writes in his latest Cult of Mac article, I’m almost certainly 11 years too late; oh well..]

[UPDATE: Right; snagged it back… the only decent one out there IMHO is Oddiophile’s Technorati Tag Bookmarklet, so here are the tags]:

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MSG now with Google Maps, Moodle options

April 17, 2007

Our own AJAXified “MSG – the world’s simplest instant messenger” (nee BuddySpace) is now tightly coupled (if you want it that way) with both Moodle and Google Maps (along with a slick clustering option that outperforms the normal ‘push-pins everywhere’ default). Alex Little has just created the following nice screencast demo:


Virginia Tech double tragedy: horribleness fatigue?

April 17, 2007

First, condolences to all the bereaved families/friends and traumatised survivors. Almost worse than the horrible Virginia Tech mass shooting tragedy is the nagging sense that it almost feels less horrible than it should. This can only mean that, if we become immune or hardened to such tragic news, someone will be scheming something even worse. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

[Update: the most precise and detailed reporting I have found among scores of sites quickly scoured is this story at Robert Lindsay’s blog, where Lindsay assembles and (usually) analyses and (usually) attributes numerous sources from the blogosphere and conventional press.]

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Open Participatory Learning Infrastructure (OPLI)

April 16, 2007

Right on queue, in line with those e-learning death throes, comes a tipoff from Simon Buckingham Shum (“Open Sensemaking Communities“) about the major Review of Open Educational Resources (OER) Movement written by Dan Atkins, Director of Cyberinfrastructure at NSF; John Seely Brown, former Chief Scientist of Xerox PARC, and Allen Hammond, World Resources Institute. It looks a stunner. They conclude with a pair of heavy-hitting chapters, one on ‘Brewing a Perfect Storm’:

We advocate an initiative, building on OER, to create a global culture of learning. A culture of learning, or what some might call a learning ecosystem, is targeted at preparing people for thriving in a rapidly evolving, knowledge-based world.

and the other on Open Participatory Learning Infrastructure (OPLI):

…. weaving the threads of an expanded OER movement; the e-science movement; the e-humanities movement; new forms of participation around Web 2.0; social software; virtualization; and multimode, multimedia documents into a transformative open participatory learning infrastructure—the platform for a culture of learning. We are not recommending a direct assault on institutionalized higher education but rather establishing new alternatives to learning for more people in the world. Bold change at the edges of the formal education system, at all levels, will eventually propagate into and change the core.

Well… here’s a tome is worth printing out… just gonna do that now…

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New Media Dead Too

April 16, 2007

OK; while we’re busy killing off e-learning, might as well add New Media to the pile. (I know, I know, someone has undoubtedly already written the meta-posting on why ‘X is Dead’ is Dead).

Nevertheless, there is a compelling 85-slide sequence from Ian Forrester at
with a decent story and some excellent links (this will be old news to some, but this is very much worth rifling through quickly IMHO, for the great 2006/2007 ‘zeitgeist’ tour), and if nothing else it shows how the BBC is ‘on the case’:

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Show-time on Death Of E-Learning

April 13, 2007

OK, it’s time (for me) to put up or shut up…

I’ve long proclaimed that e-learning is awful, dead, soul-destroying, or indeed some combination of the three – in fact, I’ve said literally that, or its equivalent, for decades in presentations I no longer have easy links to, and for at least 9 years in presentations, articles and interviews I fortunately do have links to (below). Now it’s time to be more constructive (because I’m keynoting at the IEEE International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies conference this summer), but I’ll have to dig deep.

In 1998 I wrote, in a joint introductory chapter with Tom Vincent to our book The Knowledge Web, a bit of deliberate gloom and doom to offset the book’s otherwise rosy glow:

Let’s face it, the Web even at its most ideal is a pretty awful medium for studying and undertaking course work…. [This] rather gloomy-sounding pragmatic utterance makes it clear that this is not a moan about slow connections of poor user interfaces, because it emphatically considers the Web even at its most ideal! This utterance is intended to bring our colleagues down to earth with a thud. Even when the interfaces are stunning, and connections are smooth and ultra-fast, we need to remind ourselves that we are still, after all, only looking at a computer screen. We know (better than most, we hope, and in a way we can demonstrate with numerous examples throughout the book) that there are creative things we can do with those stunning interfaces that put books to shame: we can motivate and empower learners, reach disabled students, simulate existing and as-yet-unimagined worlds, forge new relationships, create communities, and launch whole new endeavours of study. All of this is wonderful, but we mustn’t let it go to our heads. ‘Studying courses on the Web’, in our experience, is a sad misconception. In this book you’ll see how Web-related activities can augment course study, but you’re unlikely to hear us talk about delivering courses entirely on the Web [blah blah blah etc etc]

In a March 2001 Wall Street Journal article/interview I said “learning online is a soul-destroying experience”

Then, after proclaiming E-learning Dead, I clarified what I meant by extolling the virtues of the Open University’s Supported Open Learning Model

But even my E-Learning Dead spiel in 2004 included a positive note:

…The speech, equally dismissive of “Learning Management Systems”, “Learning Objects”, “Virtual Learning Environments”, and meta-tagging standards such as IMS, was nevertheless up-beat and forward-looking in terms of the possibilities for integrating new technologies into creative learning experiences. Items in the “what works” column included star teachers, social networking, simulations, peer-to-peer networks, certain “banned” games, and tasks that engendered creativity and content ownership directly in learners — including numerous examples cited from KMi’s own long experience in this arena. The greates challenges, argued Eisenstadt, were to “attain results at large scale, maintain a degree of warmth and humanity that is often lost in digital media, and ensure the buy-in of the highly over-stretched teaching workforce.” The Open University itself was cited as an acknowledged success in getting all these ingredients right, and a potentially valuable model for how to proceed. …

OK, it’s easy to be cynical. I’m not your run-of-the-mill Luddite, either. I like to think that I can both talk the talk and walk the walk – after all, this is what I have done for a long long time! So if I know what’s bad, how about coming up with more of what’s good? All the elearning2.0 community is on that same wavelength, and trying to do something constructive about it. Stephen Heppell and Stowe Boyd [UPDATE: see recent Stowe commentary about this gig] (among others) recently passed through this way to (paraphrasing wildly) beat us up and say “hey, you know that stuff you said above about star teachers, social networking, simulations, peer-to-peer networks, certain “banned” games, and tasks that engendered creativity and content ownership directly in learnerswell that can be done a lot better, and on a staggering scale – it ain’t easy, but we’ve been doing key elements of it for ages, and you can do it too”

Martin Weller has blogged a bit about what I’m referring to as the beat-up job above – hopefully we’ll hear more about that in due course, but for now I’ve got to get my act together and come up with some more constructive comments for ICALT. Being a gloom and doom merchant is relatively easy, but solving the problems is incredibly hard.

Anyone motivated enough to send me some shining success stories (beyond John Anderson’s Algebra Tutor) will be duly acknowledged. And no, I don’t care what it is called, or what genre it represents.

[Update 16 April: missed Stowe’s posting about the OU gig on Friday which crossed with this one of mine, so linking here:

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Catchin up w Stowe Boyd…

April 3, 2007

…who’s in town for some ‘stuff’ (more on that in due course)… visited KMi yesterday and we caught up on a few hundred things… including what was happening with semantic web (especially the forthcoming Watson super semantic search engine and ontology matcher, now in Alpha) and social software research in KMi and trying to patch a few missing links in the academic/entrepreneurial chain, which Stowe is great at.. and a little demo of what Vlad Tansescu and Mark Gaved are doing in Second Life (

Stowe also filled me in a few dozen different technologies that I’ve fallen out of touch with … yaaaa… I must be slowing down… “What, you don’t use Twitter?” etc… OK, now installed… must play with the various other things he recommended… further catchup Wednesday night, lookin forward to it…

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