Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Speculating: Blogs as .......

I've been reading discussions over the past few weeks about blogs as personal learning environments. This got me thinking a lot about the personal development planning and eportfolio system I developed in 2001 and which never got to take off in my institution for a variety of reasons. Systems like ELGG came close to what I did and did a bit more on social networking/FOAF side with the metaphor of personal learning landscape. But the metaphor I had at the time I started was more of learning journey. But in the system I created there was the element of Etienne Wenger's "learning trajectory" - past, present and future all together. In Etienne's research agenda, the notion of identities also figures strongly and this I believe is an important element too. So right now I'm thinking of Blog as a combination and/or aggregation of ...

.... learning journey
.... learning trajectory
.... (learning) identities

In the system I built, the learner could connect different areas (knowledge, skills and attributes) of their learning together - cross-hyperlink them. I never did manage to display this visually in the way I wanted (as per the Brain software) but I still think all of these elements are important. The system is still missing important elements like showing connections to people, and the possibility of providing a genealogical view ... i.e. multiple ways of looking at the journey.

Now with our online identities being spread all over the net, in comments in various blogs, flickr,, etc., and at various events, we need a way to bring these together simply and quickly. And we need to visually show (semantically, socially and genealogically) our journey, trajectory and identities all in one ... something that aggregates and connects our learning into one visual interface for our lifelong personal portal (side track: I think this means we would need to be able to tag our own comments, not just our posts).

In Europe a year or so ago, eportfolio people were talking about an eportfolio for life. The notion of whatever we system we use being fir life is key if the ownership is really going to be, as it needs to be, with the individual (and not any one course or institution).

Blogs weren't ever designed for this purpose and, as they are now, aren't ready to do this. But the world has moved on a long way since the time when blogs were first developed. We need something now that will aggregate all of our 'selves' and visually display our journey, trajectory, and identities, in multiple ways. Maybe the front end is something like a personal portal/aggregator in (building out from the likes of protopage and netvibes) with an interface that allows for multiple representations of our aggregated selves.

The EduGlu project that D'Arcy and others are just starting to get going one element of this jigsaw - although maybe we need personalGlu, rather than EduGlu. But what are the other elements that are key? How do we connect them together? How can we display them in multiple ways? How do we tie this to the individual for their life (or as long as they want) and not a single course, or a single institution, or a single organization or a single community?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Offering online 'creation spaces' and being spread too thinly online

In one of the online spaces where I occassionally post, one of the members asked for comments on the idea of offering blogs to a community's members. His post got me thinking about how I might reply if I was one of the members of this community and was asked.

Obviously my answer depends a lot on my context. Although I'm not a prolific blogger, I've ended up with a number of blogs because of testing things out over the last 18 months or so. My first was in an early version of ELGG. Then I set up this one. At the same time, I had a shared Blogger blog for the Horizon VCOP. Then I was given one at Educause and more recently was gifted a WordPress account from an online colleague. Just 4 weeks ago, as part of the TESOL EVO podcasting_elt workshop, I set up a blog at edublogs and a podcasting blog at Podomatic. I also have a flickr account and a personal and group account. I also work in a number of online communities and subscribe to numerous other people's blogs (which, for the last year, is pretty much how I keep up-to-date with my field).

This is a lot of online spaces! I'm spread too thin! And posting to just this one blog intermittently is hard enough (I still need to form the habit of writing everyday!). So an offer of another blog wouldn't help at all.

But what would help is if all my different feeds were collated into one feed (using something like SuprGlu) and then this one feed was brought into the online community (perhaps using something like Feed2JS). This way I could retain ownership of my personal online spaces like my blogs, social photosharing site, social bookmarking site, etc. but all (or some) of this could be brought into the community to both share resources and to share a deeper understand of the community membership. Now if all the other members did the same, we would have a very rich and dynamic source of where members foci are at any point in time and also where they have been historically. And visualilizing this in some way I think would be a great thing for community memory (... or organizational memory if this was inside a company or a community of companies in a supply chain).

As a teacher and faculty developer, I've been thinking about this for my classes and for our instution. What if students' eportfolios were their suprlgu feed? The categories and tags within their personal social software spaces, could be used to selectively bring their work into a course that resided within a central learning management system, for the duration of that course. While at the same time their eportfolio, their online spaces glued RSSly together could collect/collate all their work, academic and non-academic, within and across semesters.

Could bringing 'the small pieces loosely joined' into a centralized commmunity system(s), at certain points in time and for specified durations, work to balance the distributed/centralized, person/community, individual/organization, private/public, personal ownership/shared ownership that is needed in learning in the 21st century?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Horizon Report 2006

I've just received the hard copy of the Horizon Report 2006 published by the New Media Consortium. This is the third annual report and it is produced by a panel. I was one of the panel members and, for the most part, we collaborated online using a wiki to work through a process facilitated by Larry Johnson, CEO of the NMC.

I think the report is a valuable read for anyone working in the area of teaching and learning in higher education. The report reviews emerging technologies that are likely to have a key impact on teaching and learning within three time-frames: a year, between 2-3 years and 4-5 years. The report is available online as a pdf file, so please distribute it to people in your institution.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Chinese New Year Slideshow (courtesy of flickr members)

Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. Thanks to my fellow flickrites for these great photos!