UnLearned

What I used to think I knew isn't helping: adventures in higher ed open source

Archive for October 2009

Teachers Talking to Developers

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I often hear the problem of ensuring the relevance of development work to actual practice framed as “getting users and developers to talk to each other.” Now if by “developers” you mean anyone who has a constructive role in fashioning the end product, well, of course. That’s trivially true. But I think most of the time when I hear this it actually means getting end-users and coders to talk to each other, which sounds like a good idea but is not, I think, often very helpful.

Take the old Sakai requirements process of a few years back, which I think is generally regarded as a failure. Feature requests were itemized, voted on, and the biggest winners trumpeted, then very little happened. But I hear the failure described with variations of “developers didn’t implement” or “resource was not allocated to deliver,” and so forth. As though we had all the information we needed, and just didn’t execute. I think that really misunderstands the problem, mainly by not recognizing the design gap.

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Written by khomotso

October 22, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Posted in Sakai

Back to Basics

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A new issue of the quarterly newsletter for the UK-based Association for Learning Technologies (ALT) is out, and I’ve got a piece in there about Sakai 3 and the future of the VLE:

Back to basics: the web, academic values, and Sakai

It follows the outline of the keynote at AusSakai fairly closely.

Written by khomotso

October 22, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Posted in Sakai

AuSakai keynote videos

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A month back or so we were at the Bathurst campus of CSU in New South Wales – my first trip to Australia. The keynote addresses, including those from Michael Korcuska, Ian Boston and myself, are now up. I remember I was still working on my slides when Michael was talking, and I saw Ian working on his while I was talking. Or maybe he was continuing his cat and mouse game with National Defense. Hard to tell.

Not too far down that same Vimeo page for sakaivideo you can see clips from an interview with Matt Morton-Allen (taken during the Boston conference in July), one of our gracious hosts at CSU.

Written by khomotso

October 21, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Sakai

3akai round two

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As a label for the front end design work for Sakai 3, ‘3akai’ is now frowned upon in all the important circles. Me, I still like it for twitter and texting, and the fact that no one knows how to approach it phonetically just cements its value in my view. ‘Course then there is the issue of whether it means anything anyone can identify. Probably going to have to give it up.

In any event, the next stage of serious design work for Sakai 3 is now really getting off the ground. CSU in Australia, UC Berkeley, HEC Montreal as well as 3akai veterans Cambridge and Georgia Tech have joined forces in sponsoring and supporting the work of a lead designer, Sam Peck. I expect to share fragments and insights as we stumble across them along the way. More polished announcements and presentations will probably go out to the Sakai community as well, but the blog can be my scrapbook where even half-formed an incorrect things can be tacked up.

Consider this a first installment. A couple of things that Sam has worked up during our conversations to help us be clear with each other what we’re talking about.

The Sakai Universe (click to see full image)

The Sakai Universe (click to see full image)

The Sakai Matrix, the first screen, is a kind of picture of the Sakai universe reminiscent of old diagrams in Science texts, like the ones that talk about different cosmological phases of the early universe. No? I guess we took different classes. Some of the graphics here are meant to be suggestive rather than precise (e.g. the lines of connection between types of users aren’t meant to show specific relationships), but if you don’t harp on the detail it’s a nice sweep of the ecosystem

The second one is an admirable representation of the regions of the Sakai application in the new UX framework. There are details in some of those little screens there to flesh out the picture, but the trick is not to get lost in them. It’s the overall picture and the regions that reveal different user journeys that I think is significant here. The area outside in ‘The World,’ for example, is meant to indicate the public representation of the internal site.

Sakai Regions and User Journeys (click to see full image)

Sakai Regions and User Journeys (click to see full image)

Not designs just yet, then, but good centerpieces and points of reference for discussion.

Written by khomotso

October 20, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Sakai

The Zombie Apocalypse as Crowdsourcing

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I spent a couple days last week with what seemed a big chunk of the IT operation at the University of Florida.  UF went through an extensive LMS review and selection process early this year, the two finalists were Angel and Sakai, and Sakai won out in the final analysis, but only by a hair. This was contentious for about a week, at the end of which Blackboard brought everyone back together again by buying out Angel. Now UF is on a very familiar hurried migration track because the WebCT license is going away, but let’s not linger over subjects that can trigger my PTSD.

I went representing mainly Georgia Tech, as a kind of welcome-to-the-neighborhood for Sakai in the Southeast. They were very gracious and friendly hosts, but seemed suprised and grateful that I would make the trip, as though this was altruism on my part. I almost didn’t want to explain how much it meant to have a Sakai collaborator within driving distance, to have someone nearby to lean on and work with – how I hope to use them. Probably too soon in the relationship to say, “we need you.” Maybe even creepy. So I didn’t.

A central figure in this initiative is Doug Johnson. Yes, that Doug Johnson. That’s where the vision for cooperation in a volatile environment comes from. And he seems to be something of a foodie, if our restaurant picks were any indication. As if the practical reasons for being excited about this collaboration weren’t great enough.

Written by khomotso

October 18, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Posted in Sakai