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.

MobilED – mobile audio wiki engine

For some time we have been doing design research with the MobilED mobile audio wiki prototype we designed and implemented with our partners in South Africa.

The research has relied on research-based design approach with contextual inquiry, participatory design, prototyping and piloting of the prototype with real people in real life situations. In number of event and forums we have present the results of the research (we are still woring on with the main article). It’s been an interesting journey.

Now someone should take the MobilED technology – the mobile audio wiki engine – to a new level. If there is somewhere some software developer with coding skills related to one or more core technologies used in the MobilED, these are Asterisk and MediaWiki, we are happy to give the leadeship of the development for you.

We are happy to keep on hosting the development site (http://dev.mobiled.org/trac/), the SVN and give all the support one may need to get on working with this. Let us know if you are interested in.

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.

Fle3 + 2.0 = Fle5 (?)

I want to document the discussion we were having the other day about a name for a new version of Fle3.

The new Fle3 is totally new code. So, in that way it would make sense to call it Fle4. The number has been changing always when the software has been written from the scratch. The Wikipedia article about Fle3 explains the history of FLE.

When asked I have said that we will never do Fle4. Our new developer Risto’s fast reply to this was that we should then call the new version Fle5. Hans has been promoting (as a joke) the name FLE 2.0, which would relate the new version to Web 2.0 (and everything else with the 2.0 addition). I think that this is would be a bit unfair because FLE has been web 2.0 since 1998.

From this we got the formula: Fle3 + 2.0 = Fle5.

It is possible that the new Fle3 will be called Fle5, but no decisions have been made yet.

LeMill 1.4 released

Another release done on time. For 1.4 we concentrated on getting all bugs fixed, and that we did. Unfortunately Hans kept generating new ones, so some known problems still exist. Happily nothing serious. Main new things are Russian translation, partial Lithuanian translation, multilingual support in the PILOT player, revamped user profiles and such.

We’ll be doing one more release this year, and that’s in two weeks, just before the annual project review. Then we’ll take a breather and do some long range planing on what we want LeMill to do in 10 months time. We should by then also have some feedback from the teachers that are being trained to use the system (today 40 teachers were in a full day workshop in the Czech Republic). Just a few days ago we got some heuristic usability results from our Norwegian partners, and fixed some issues already for this release. More will follow.

Unesco Young Digital Creators Educators Kit

“Being creative and collaborative” is the motto of UNESCO’s Young Digital Creators (YDC). YDC is designed for young people of different cultures to gradually construct, through a collaborative process and creative tools, a deeper understanding of each other’s cultural values and shared perspectives on global issues of our time. YDC is a program making the Internet and the web work for the benefit of young digital creators around the globe.

Educators Kit is designed to help teachers and educators working in school, youth clubs and organizations to generate and manage project-based learning activities with young people. The focus is on creative use of information and communication technologies, global challenges of development, cultural diversity and dialogue among cultures.”

Written by Teemu Leinonen & Joanna Saad-Sulonen

I work in UNESCO YDC project as a designer. My task is to design an instructional book for teachers around the globe of the material that Teemu and Joanna have designed and written in collaboration with UNESCO people. I am creating illustrations, making the layout of the book, designing typography and taking care of the print work. My aim is to make the book accessible to all cultures, easy to approach, easy to read and most of all engaging and inspiring to work with.