Fle progress report

The rewrite of Fle3 on top of the Kala framework is progressing to the user interface part. Probably the largest difference to the earlier version is the move from DTML to ZPT in the page templates. Another new feature are human-readable URLs. The old Fle3 encodes its URLs in a very confusing way. The rewrite uses Zope’s folder hierarchy and the human-readable URLs it maps to as much as possible. This mostly works, although Zope expects applications to be structured in a tree hierarchy, and some tricks are needed before the structure of Fle fits into this.

For example in the old Fle, a jamming session in a course has the url http://localhost:8080/FLE/courses/1/jamming/js11? state_url=9,1course_id16,1inline19,12cc_order123, 9,10,2,157,10um_sortfirst_name14,1full_thread1_21, while in the new Fle the URL is http://localhost:8080/NewFle/courses/my_course/ jamming/jamming_instance/jam1, which can still be improved once we manage to convince Zope that the superfluous jamming_instance element can be dropped.

With the new Fle, it is possible to choose which modules you want to install. An installation with only knowledge building, only jamming or neither is possible. This is possible thanks to the Kala framework, which allows choosing the set of modules to install.

In the new modules, we’ve also started using Zope’s Python Script files to connect HTML requests to the Fle Python product, instead of parsing requests directly in the product API. This new convention makes the product API easier to understand and can help making lightweight customizations to installed Fle instances.

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.

LeMill development sprint

It’s been too long since our last development sprint, but this week is a sprint week. The Estonian developers split up, with two of them joining the Hungarians in Budapest, and one of them joining us here in Helsinki, Finland. We have a release in four days, and from our previous experiences with colocated sprints, we should have quite good progress during this week.

During this year I’ve really seen how challenging a dispersed development project is. Even though we’ve stayed on schedule, our efficiency would be many times greater if we all worked in the same room. Never mind the integrated development site, IRC, mailing lists, FlashMeetings, Skype, and whatnot, they don’t replace working side-by-side.

Fle3 development progressing nicely

We started the complete rewrite of Fle3 on the 25th of September. Now, after two months, our competent new Python guy Risto Saarelma has completed the KB and Webtop modules (without UI). During the next two weeks we should have the Jamming module done, after which we’ll do the UI to the entire thing before Christmas, and we should have a demo up and running before the year is over, and a release candidate early next year.

As the project manager of sorts, I’m happy that we’re moving from dtml to zpt, and that the product is now properly covered in automated unit tests.

If you’re interested in more details about the development, head over to the Fle3 development site. We’re using Trac which we’ve found an extremely useful and simple solution to our dispersed software project which is going on concurrently.

LeMill 1.3 released

Version 1.3 (codenamed Tijl Uilenspiegel) was released today. This is another cleanup release, with loads of usability and technical fixes, but not that much new stuff. I’m getting a bit anxious that we’re only doing bug fixes and not creating new stuff, but then again, getting the system to work correctly is of course a high priority goal.

From the user’s point of view the new feature of course is the PILOT learning resource type, which allows you to do rich media slideshows, which are designed for progressive inquiry learning. From the technical perspective this is nothing new, since it’s been available for a month now, but we just now got the critical bugs fixed from it.
For the next release we should finally have some improvements to the community section, which is still very much underdeveloped and underdesigned.

LeMill translations starting

We have finally stabilized the user interface of LeMill enough to start translations – version 1.2 was released last week. Today we sent the UI translation files to our project partners, who will translate the user interface to Czech, German, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Polish, and Slovenian. The UI is already translated into English, Finnish, and Estonian. If anyone wishes to contribute a translation to any other language, we have instructions.

LeMill 1.0 released

After one year of hard work in four countries, we have LeMill version 1.0 ready, as the project schedule demands. We still consider it a preview, but most of the basic functionality is there.

What makes LeMill different from all the other learning content authoring systems that are out there? The pedagogical perspective. LeMill is not just about learning materials, but (and in my mind more importantly) pedagogically meaningful activities and tools, and a community of teachers collaboratively working on all of them.

The LeMill demo is here: http://lemill.net

And more information about the development is here: http://lemill.org