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.
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 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.
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.
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
We made some Christmas bugfixes and updated LeMill.net to 1.51.
The CALIBRATE EU project where we develop LeMill had its first year review this week. Three expert reviewers have been going through the deliverables and documentation for the past month, and on Tuesday we were in Brussels presenting our work and answering their questions.
All in all the review went well. This seems to be a serious project that actually does something. And reviewers were particularly pleased with our work package’s deliverables and thought quite highly of the Toolbox system we’ve developed (LeMill with a different skin and integration with the EUN LRE). The final review report is due before the year is over, but already the reviewers accepted all deliverables and with some recommendations the work we’re doing seems to be to their liking.
We’re now starting our group’s Xmas holidays, and we won’t be officially back to work until the 8th of January, although I probably have to read e-mail and keep the servers running. So happy holidays to everyone! Thanks for an interesting year, Sztaki, UiO and TLU!
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 1.5 is ready. Download from the Lemill.org -site. Also the public site, Lemill.net, was updated. Please, let us know how do you feel about it.
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.