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

Yearly review of CALIBRATE shows green light

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!

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.

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.