New projects and collaboration

It’s been a hectic end of the year.

The iTEC -project is moving forward with testing in school and new cycles of scenario creation and design work. The annual review of the project went fine. The reviews are important: they are quality control but also an opportunity to learn. We past the “control” and learned a lot.

The formal results of the iTEC project’s first year are available in the project website. We think the Report on Design Prototypes and Design Challenges for Education is worth of reading.

We have, however, some new and exciting projects going on and coming up. Some are small, some are large.

With the Learning + Technology Group at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering we have started a project studying, developing and designing online learning tools and social media for computer science learning. The group has developed many great software tools serving computer science studies and has interesting educational practices of teaching computer science. In the research project we are now looking possibilities of integrating the services, motivational questions of students and coherent design of all this.

Another national project we are involved in is called (in English) Open Networks for Learning. In it we support production of open educational resources by training teachers and other experts, creating and supporting networks and services and this way strengthening active citizenship and democracy. For this project we are, for instance, maintaining, supporting and training people to use LeMill, Wikimedia -services, and Creative Commons Finland -services. The project does not include a lot of research per se but provides as possibilities to bridge research and practice.

A third national project is service design project with the Pirkanmaa Hospital District renewing their organization to focus on value created for patients and to prepare the way for a construction of a new wing in the hospital building. In the project we are applying some learning theories and participatory design methods, as well as considering the role of new media (online, an in hospital) services and devices in the hands of the patients and hospital professionals. The first research publication (in press) from the research project is titled Games as Design Medium —
Utilizing Game Boards for Design Enquiry with Cancer Patients
by Juha Kronqvist et al.

Our colleges in the Tallinn University are getting together an interesting consortium of European top research groups in the field of mobile learning. With them we are right now preparing a research and project plan with several companies to start a new project in mid 2012.

We also have ongoing discussions with library operating bookmobiles: to study and redesign the service by introducing new media tools (tablets, projections, touch screens/tables, RFID etc.) and services in their offering. The possibilities to implement new kind of media education, youth work etc. with bookmobiles are huge. It is a great opportunity to do people-centric and participatory design research.

In addition to the European research in 2012 we are interested in to take part in the national Learning Solutions program by Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation. Let’s seen.

One more thing: As part of the Aalto on Waves we organized a Future of Learning study project with graduate students coming from the fields of art and design, engineering and technology and economics. We may expect interesting results.

iTEC, LeMill and some new projects in the pipeline

We have some news from the research group, which you may have read already from some other sources.

The iTEC project — the designing the future classroom — is now in a full speed. It is a four year project we started in September so the first results are expected to be out around April-May. To follow our work focusing on to engage teachers and learners in the future classroom you may visit the blog and wiki just set-up last week. Here is the link:

http://itec-wp3.taik.fi/

LeMill — the web community for finding, authoring and sharing open educational resources — developed and hosted by us is something that is getting better and better almost every week. The latest updates are reported in the blog of the service:

http://blog.lemill.net/en/

The LeMill community is also growing steadily. The statistics show that most of the growth right now comes from Lithuania, Russia and Hungary. Why from these countries? I think it is all word-of-mouth marketing from our stable community members in Estonia and Georgia. Where is the rest of the Europe, United States, Asia and Latin America? What are the competitors of LeMill in these countries or is it simply that teaches do not care? A lot of open questions. A good thing is that LeMill is getting better and better.

We are also soon starting some new projects. They are related to service design and use of ICT in informal learning in open spaces: offline and online.

LeMill ITK-päivillä

Tarkoituksemme on tuoda LeMill opettajien tietoisuuteen Suomen suurimmassa opetusteknologiatapahtumassa:

ITK’08 – Opi valitsemaan, olet aikaasi edellä

Toivottavasti pääset paikalle, tilaisuus on aina mielenkiintoinen ja meiltä on luvassa kolme ohjelmanumeroa. Tärkeimpänä workshop, tämä kutsu koskee sinua:

LeMill logo, green

ITK-08 workshop “LeMill opettajan työkaluna”

Järjestämme ITK-päivillä kaikille perus-, keski- ja korkea-asteen opettajille sopivan työpajan, jossa opitaan löytämään, käyttämään ja luomaan avoimia oppisisältöjä LeMill-ympäristössä. LeMill on vapaiden oppimateriaalien etsimiseen, jakamiseen ja luomiseen keskittyvä verkkoyhteisö opettajille. LeMill on MediaLabin Oppimisympäristöjen tutkimusryhmän ja eurooppalaisten yhteistyökumppaneiden kehittämä ja Euroopan opetusministeriöiden rahoittama ja tukema, joten sen käyttö on kaikille ilmaista ja tulee pysymään ilmaisena. (Käy ihmeessä tutustumassa ja ota käyttöön saman tien! http://lemill.net)

Työpajassa perehdyt siihen mitä LeMillistä löytyy ja saat kokemukseen pohjautuvaa tietoa Internetistä löytyvistä vapaista opetusresursseista ja siitä, miten niitä kannattaa hyödyntää opetuksessa. Työpajan osallistujasta tulee omassa koulussaan se henkilö, joka tietää mistä taikoa tehtäviä, materiaalia ja ideoita tarvittaessa ja jonka luomat oppimateriaalit tunnetaan myös oman koulun ulkopuolella. Yritämme myös saada suomalaisen LeMill-yhteisön käyntiin ja kasvamaan –muu Eurooppa on jo edellämme.

Workshop pidetään Hämeenlinnassa, ITK-päivien workshop-päivänä 16.4. klo 14-17 Hotelli Aulangossa. Osallistuminen maksaa 50 € /osallistuja. Vetäjinä toimivat Tarmo Toikkanen (TAIK), Hans Põldoja (Tallinnan yliopisto) ja Jukka Purma (TAIK).

Ilmoittaudu workshopiin ITK-päivien ilmoittautumissivustolta, valitse workshop-lomakkeesta “WS:LeMill opettajan työkaluna”.

Ota workshopiin kannettava tietokone, jossa on langaton verkkoyhteys. Jos sinulla on verkkomateriaalia, jonka haluaisit julkaista avoimesti ja saada muilta opettajilta apua sen jatkokehittelyssä, ota kyseinen materiaali mukaan tietokoneellasi.

Aikataulu (joustaa osallistujien intressien mukaan):

14.00 Yleiskatsaus LeMillistä

14.20 Tunnusten luonti osallistujille ja ITK08-workshop-ryhmän perustaminen.

14.40 Omien kokoelmien laatiminen

15.00 Tauko15.10 Materiaalin tuottaminen

15.50 Katsaus sosiaaliseen mediaan ja avoimiin sisältöpalveluihin

16.10 Tauko

16.20 Oppimis- ja opetustarinoiden laatiminen

16.40 Seuraavat askeleet: Neuvoja LeMillin ja avoimen sisällön hyödyntämiseen

17.00 Workshopin päätös

Workshop-kutsu julisteena (pdf)

Jos aiot osallistua workshopiin, tai on ihan mitä tahansa LeMilliin tai ITK-päiviin liittyvää kysyttävää, jätä kommentti tämän postin perään!

Lisäksi Teemu, Tarmo ja Hans esiintyvät englanninkielisellä foorumilla torstaina 17.4, klo 14.30 otsikolla:

LeMill – Facebook for learning resources

Esityksessä he kertovat, miten sosiaalisen median ilmiöt voidaan valjastaa äärimmäisen hyödylliseen käyttöön, oppimateriaalien kehittämiseen.

Avoimet sisällöt -tori

Tarjoaa mahdollisuuden käydä konferenssin aikana
juttelemassa kehittäjien kanssa ja kokeilemassa LeMilliä.

Nähdään siellä,
Teemu Leinonen
Hans Põldoja
Jukka Purma
Katrina Silfvast
Tarmo Toikkanen

(Teemu toimii panelistina myös torstain Wikipedia-teemaseminaarissa, 15.15 [B] ja perjantain Sosiaalinen media ja oppiminen-teemaseminaarissa, 10.30 [A])

LeMill 2.0

Our final deliverable for CALIBRATE project is ready. The original promise was to develop an ‘open source learning toolbox for collaborative learning’ and this should be it.

It looks like our latest version announcement was from version 1.9, so 2.0 doesn’t seem so big a step, but really, we have gone a long way from that: 1.13 was our latest previous release. Our community has grown close to 900 people, 800 learning resources, 2300 media pieces plus tools, methods, groups and references. This is good growth, yet not explosion of popularity. One notable feature of LeMill has always been our multilingualism (12 working translations for LeMill, 3 partial) and this is really affecting our feeling of community: there are few very active countries (Estonia, Georgia) and for me having those visible, but difficult to understand, gives me a good general feel of what we want for our language group to do together. Instead of one story about evolution of LeMill community, there probably will be as many stories as there are teachers native languages.

For next few weeks we’ll have a lighter touch on development, and concentrate more on just observing how people use LeMill. Welcome.

LeMill merged with Learning Toolbox

As some may already know, LeMill is developed in the CALIBRATE project and so far the teachers participating in the project have used a separate, closed copy of LeMill for their testing. A month ago it was decided to combined the closed Toolbox and the open LeMill communities. Instead of having two small communities, we now have one that is more vibrant, and hopefully closer to reaching critical mass.

From our perspective as shepherds of the LeMill community, this merge makes our job much more meaningful. If there’s a useful pedagogical method that we’d like to write about, we don’t need to do it twice in both environments. Also we hope that the interaction between the contracted CALIBRATE teachers and volunteer (or enthusiast) members of LeMill will prove to be fruitful.

In summary, for LeMill users the only change is that the community grew by 150 people and the list of resources got a bit larger. Toolbox users need to get accustomed to the slightly different skin (happily the layout and functionality itself is identical), and also as single sign-on is now disabled, they need to create separate accounts to LeMill, or change the passwords of their current accounts. Hopefully we’ll later get a more open SSO scheme working, most likely based on OpenID.

Publications coming

We today got together to organize work around preparation and writing of research papers. Our new research assistant Katrina is taking the greatest responsibility to keep us analyzing and reporting the research results from the last three or so years of work in the research group. We are working on the following papers (working titles):

Software as hypothesis – developing human-centered design research method through three design cases

Audio wiki for mobile communities – information systems for the rest of us

Design of LeMill – web community for finding, authoring and sharing learning resources

The first article is a formulation and conclusion of the design research method and practice we have been developing in the research group.

The second article is presenting new design direction for the MobilED project proposing that the audio wiki is probably more useful as an informal community information system rather than as an application for formal teaching and learning (for what it was originally designed for).

The third article is the first proper description of LeMill with explanation of principles behind it, design rationale and the process of designing it.

We are aiming to get these out in six coming months. We are targeting to some journals and some conferences. Can’t wait to get these out!

LeMill 1.9 released

LeMill 1.9 is another step in getting everything right. This time we’ve redesigned the collections, and worked more on the new front page, and converted group blogs into group forums. The last change came from discussions where we concluded that for blogs to truly enable dialog, they must be used in an extreme way, meaning that each participant must have his own blog, follow other blogs, comment on other blogs, write about stuff in other blogs and respond to comments in his blog. Anything less means that you’re not really blogging, but just keeping a diary. So we converted blog to forums, since forums aren’t that demanding to enable dialogue.

What I’m exceited about is the upcoming merge of LeMill.net with the Learning Toolbox. The Toolbox is a closed instance of LeMill which has been used by the teachers participating in the CALIBRATE project. In our last consortium meeting is was decided that the two environments will be merged. So hopefully next week I can transfer some 150 teachers and the resources they’ve produced into LeMill.net. And from then on we’ll have only one community to grow and foster, instead of two overlapping ones.

What a spring coming up: Fle5, LeMill, MobilED, Papanek’s machine (maybe?)

I just realized today that we have a good change to release three new major “products” still before the summer. I also have a student who is interested in to develop the Papanek idea machine. This would make it four.

So, what are these “products” and how they should be considered in the “academic context”?

Our products are actually our hypothesis. They represent and carry with them definitions of challenges related to some human activity system. They are also representing out understanding on how the challenges could be solved. As hypothesis they are also prototypes: they are something we can test if they really solve any of the challenges they are designed to solve. The product is not only a product, but also our definition of “better way of doing things”.

In the academic circles the “product” sounds very commercial. However, our products are avant-garde products. They are experimental and novel. This makes them naturally to be “products” coming from an University, rather than from any other place.

Are we going to have a major release party some day later in spring?

If, we’ll get all four products released before then end of May, I’ll promise to arrange a huge party. Hans will be the dj.

LeMill 1.8 released – no longer just a preview

On behalf of the development team, I’m proud to announce the release of LeMill version 1.8. We finally figured out a way to give more prominence to teacher-generated experience reports (now called teaching and learning stories). Collections now double as teaching and learning stories, and they will be shown on the brand new front page that’s been in the works for the last few weeks.

We’re still keeping the new front page locked away for a while, so we have time to generate a few good stories into LeMill.net, so the front page won’t look completely anemic. We’ll enable the front page next week. So keep tuned.
But I guess the major news is that Hans finally removed the “preview” part from the LeMill logo. Which means this is the first version that he’s not “ashamed to release as his design”, to quote his words. In web 2.0 terminology, I guess we now dropped the “beta” from the logo.

For more information:

  • lemill.net is the free, public online service that anyone can use
  • lemill.org is the fully open development site where you can more closely follow our development progress
  • you’re welcome to chat with us in IRC (irc://#lemill@freenode) which you can also conveniently access from the Community page of lemill.net
  • and of course there are the mailing lists