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, Media Lab Helsinki, MobilED and Reseda

It’s been quiet on this blog for some time.

No, we have not, shut down. We simply have been busy on other “forums”.

Recently a better locations to follow our work on online have been the LeMill blog, Media Lab Helsinki news blog and even the MobilED blog. Also our University research database, Reseda, is a good place to have a look of our latest publications and projects. E.g. you may search with Media Lab – Learning Environments.

There are some major results we should have wrote about on this blog, too, but …well you know. Sorry for this. We’ll try to be better in future.

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.

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!

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.

Article in International Journal on E-Learning

An article about PILOT project and our approach towards learning objects has been published in an international peer-reviewed journal. In PILOT project we are argue that learning objects should be designed and presented in a special way in order to promote truly social constructivist learning. We presented the article first time in March 2005 in ProLearn-iClass thematic workshop Learning Objects in Context. Now the papers from the workshop are peer-reviewed and published in a special issue of International Journal on E-Learning.

Unfortunately you can have free access only to the abstract. Full reference is as follows:

Põldoja, H., Leinonen, T., Väljataga, T., Ellonen, A. & Priha, M. (2006). Progressive Inquiry Learning Object Templates (PILOT). International Journal on E-Learning. 5 (1), pp. 103-111. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

We wish to thank our project partners from Uusimaa Regional Environment Centre and Tampere University of Technology.