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May 25, 2007

Second Life events

Slbpstand As noted here, we currently have a small stand in the non-profits area as part of the exhibition associated with the SL Best Practices in Education 2007 conference.

For info... I've also agreed to speak at two other SL-related events.

On June 12th at 14.00 (UK time) I'll be facilitating a one hour in-world Second Life discussion session entitled, "Barriers to the mainstream adoption of Second Life for teaching" as part of the JISC Innovating e-Learning Online Conference.  The session will be held on Eduserv Island.

And the following day, I'll be repeating my "Second Life in 3600 second (or My life in the bush of avatars)" talk up at the University of Bath.

May 23, 2007

Symposium: streaming media

Symposiumviewingstations Almost all the Powerpoint slides and all the streaming media from the symposium are now available, both thru the Eduserv Web site and in-world on Eduserv Island.

Note that the slides are only available from the Web site. However, the streamed media contains a view of all the slides anyway, so you don't miss anything by viewing these presentations in-world.

For info... the Powerpoint slides are made available thru Slideshare, which means we can embed them back into the Eduserv Web site very nicely.  Jim Purbrick's slides are currently missing and there is a known problem with some of the images in Stephen Downes' presentation slides which we are currently in the process of fixing.

The Web streaming media should simply work, provided your browser has an appropriate plug-in (e.g. Quicktime) but get in touch if there are any problems.  In-world, there are six viewing stations along the side of the Virtual Congress Centre on Eduserv Island, one per presentation - click the screen to start each presentation.

May 20, 2007

SLashing it up

I quite readily admit that I'm still something of a Second Life noob, certainly when it comes to building things - all the work on designing and building Eduserv Island and the various constructions on it has been done by Andy - and my exploration of LSL scripting is still firmly at the "Hello world!" stage.

But the area which does fascinate me is how SL integrates with the Web, how objects within SL can get  (GET, even) data in from, or post (POST?) data out to, the Web, and how agents on the Web can post data in to, or get data out from, SL. Over on his ArtsPlace weblog, Andy referred to these sort of applications as "SLashups". ;-) (Umm, actually, re-reading his post again, he seemed to be referring more specifically to applications which surface the results within SL, so I'm not sure all my examples here qualify after all, but I'm not thinking up a new title now!)

Anyway, here are a few things I've come across recently (probably all well known to any SL-ers with a mildly technical bent!) which piqued my interest:

  • BlogHUD (created by SL resident Koz Farina): This is an SL weblogging client i.e. a scripted object which you attach to your avatar in SL as a HUD (a "heads-up display" - an object which is visible to you at a fixed point in the SL client window but doesn't appear to other users seeing your avatar in SL) to enable you to post weblog entries from within SL, using the content of the chat input box. The free version posts only to the BlogHUD web site (i.e. your weblog appears on the Web as e.g. in my case http://my.bloghud.com/peregrinejuneau/), but the "Pro" version has support for WordPress, Blogger, TypePad, LiveJournal and Friendster, so my first entry is cross-posted to both BlogHUD and Peregrine Juneau's WordPress weblog.

  • Sloog (developed by the people at Mosi-Mosi) and Gridmarker (from resident Sebastian Pedro). Andy already mentioned Sloog, a social bookmarking (or location-marking, I suppose) service for SL: they provide an SL object that allows you to post an entry which associates your current SL location with a set of tags, and displays the aggregated entries on a Web site. I just came across Gridmarker last week, and it provides similar functionality - though a post on the Gridmarker weblog highlights a couple of differences in their approach. I'd noticed that Sloog operated at a "parcel-level" "resolution". On the one hand, it means that more posts are grouped as being "about" the same subject location (e.g. Andy/Art and I probably weren't both standing on exactly the same spot on Eduserv Island when we each posted an entry to Sloog, but on the Sloog Web site our two posts are displayed as being "about" the same "place"); on the other, there is some loss of "precision". Compare that with the way data is displayed by Gridmarker: my first two posts to Gridmarker were made from two different points on the same parcel, but Gridmarker maintains the separation of those two locations while also indicating the number of posts about locations in the vicinity (according to an adjustable range). Gridmarker also allows me to provide a title and a comment for each location. Hmmm. I haven't made enough use of the two approaches yet to decide which I prefer (or is more useful), but Gridmarker does look like it has some neat features, while retaining a simple, clean presentation on the Web site (one if the reasons I like del.icio.us). Oh, and GridMarker is also open source (I think that applies to both the SL client and the server, but I'm not sure.)

  • Snapshot_015TwitterBox (created by resident Ordinal Malaprop): This is an SL Twitter client i.e. an object which enables you to post (via a Web-based gateway) messages to Twitter and to review your last few Twitter entries. I've been signed up to Twitter for a while without ever really bothering to use it in any particularly purposeful way, but after the Symposium, and our post-event discussions about how to offer channels for dialogue between the SL and RL participants, I wondered whether using Twitter might have been one way of achieving that. At that point, I was imagining the SL participants posting to Twitter from their browser or from an IM client - something running on their desktop alongside the SL client - but my subsequent discovery that there are already tools for posting to Twitter from within SL puts a different perspective on it. (The image here shows the rather "cute" animation performed by the TwitterBox client when you issue a post in SL.)

  • Snapshot_097Last Sound System (Babbage Linden). I have to admit I've struggled to find SL music venues streaming anything to my taste ("Surprise, surprise", murmur the readers who are familiar with my musical tastes...). I've been an enthusiastic user of the Last.Fm Web service for a couple of years now. (Aside: Briefly, Last.Fm is a social recommender service for music: it gathers data on the music you play (via a plugin for your desktop mp3 player), assembles a profile based on your history, and makes recommendations for other users with similar profiles and/or for artists played by other users who listen to the tracks and artists in your profile. The really compelling thing about Last.Fm is that they not only provide the recommendations, but they have negotiated licences to stream a selection of tracks by a wide range of artists, so they can make available "user" ("stuff this user likes") and "artist" ("more stuff like Monolake") radio streams.) So I was delighted to come across this object which allows me to stream a Last.Fm radio station into Second Life (as the image here illustrates...).

Anyway, just to tie this back to the work of the Foundation (and to do something to dispel the impression that I spend my days tinkering around), I'm looking forward to seeing how these sort of techniques are used within the context of some of the (almost...) newly-funded projects mentioned by Andy the other day.

May 19, 2007

OpenID at XTech

There's a nice set of introductory slides about OpenID on Slideshare, taken from Simon Wllison's XTech presentation a few days ago.

As an aside, I note that slide 156 (out of 178!, don't worry the slides are each very brief) contains the quote:

People keep asking me to join the LinkedIn network, but I'm already part of a network, it's called the Internet.

by Gary McGraw, which kind of echos what I was saying about LinkedIn a few days back.  (I'm still trying to keep up with the LinkedIn Jones though! :-) ).

May 18, 2007

Identity management and Second Life

A few weeks back I went along to an 'identity management' brainstorming session in Bristol organised by Nicole Harris (JISC) and involving representatives from several of the JISC-funded services.  The intention was to spend some time thinking about the future of access and identity management, and in particular how the JISC should be steering the community and what kinds of things they should be funding.

To kick the session off Nicole ran through a useful overview of her take on what things are happening in this area and how she sees things developing.  There were no real surprises - which is good!  Towards the end she put up a slide that summarised the things that JISC are tending to get asked about at the moment w.r.t. AIM.  This included all the usual acronyms and names (OpenID, CardSpace, Shibboleth, the Federation, metadata, policies, etc., etc.).  One thing stood out though... Second Life was sitting there in the middle of the screen.  My initial reaction was, why!?

We got slightly side-tracked by this and had quite an interesting discussion about the role of SL in education and why it was appearing on the screen.  Actually, we almost got sidetracked by the 'what is identity' question, but fortunately managed to pull ourselves back from that particular kind of intellectual meltdown!

It seems to me that SL tends to highlight the not knowing who you are dealing with aspects of the online world rather more than 'traditional' means of interacting online tend to do.  In SL one is always aware that it's not clear whether you are dealing with a man or a woman, a person with disabilities or not, a student or a lecturer, etc., etc.

I made the point that this isn't really much different to the current situation.  For example, a distance learner that only ever interacts with their lecturer via email and their Bebo page isn't really in a much different situation than a student that interacts with their lecturer in SL.  But somehow, the not knowingness seems more obvious (to me at least).

Once we got past the hurdle of SL, we had quite an interesting discussion about various facets of the way our world is changing, not least the implications of user-centric identity management (read OpenID) and the need for identity provision to span life-long learning.

As an aside, I'm interested in the use and application of OpenID in the context of Second Life and hope to do some playing in this area in the next few weeks.

Grants awarded (almost!)

Imgp0268_2 This is a slightly premature announcement, because we are still finalising contracts and so on, but news is slowly leaking out about the projects that we have funded under this year's grants call, so it seems sensible to at least announce the bare details here.

So... we are very pleased to be able to announce that we are in the process of funding the following projects under this year's call:

SLEUTH – Second Life Educational Undertakings in Theatre History

This 24 month project, led by Richard Beacham (Centre for Computing in the Humanities, KCL), will construct 20 historic theatres in Second Life, creating an extensive, content-rich range of research-based virtual environments, and generating highly innovative, interactive teaching and learning resources. The project will combine the pedagogical, research, technical and methodological expertise of a group of national and international leaders in their fields, including: Hugh Denard (Centre for Computing in the Humanities, KCL); the King's Visualisation Lab; The Higher Education Subject Centres for English, and for Dance, Drama and Music, as well as members of the communities that they serve; David Kaskel (LanguageLab); Mark Childs, consultant in Educational Technology, and King's Digital Consultancy Service.

Learning from Online Worlds; Teaching in Second Life

This 12 month project, led by Diane Carr and involving Martin Oliver and Andrew Burn (all at the London Knowledge Lab) will research and theorise learning in two online social worlds (World of Warcraft and Second Life). The project will use this theory to develop practical recommendations for learning and teaching, and test these by teaching courses in Second Life.

Online Learning with Immersive Virtual Environments using Sloodle

This 12 month project, led by Dan Livingstone (University of Paisley) and involving Jeremy Kemp (San Jose State University), will research and develop pedagogical theories relevant to multi-user 3D virtual worlds and use these to inform and lead the development of Sloodle and to support the growing community of educators using 3D virtual worlds.

Modelling4All – Web services to enable non-programmers to collaboratively build and analyse computer models

Computer modelling is playing an increasingly important role in fields as varied as sociology, epidemiology, zoology, economics, archaeology, ecology, climate, and engineering. This project, led by Ken Kahn and involving Howard Noble (both at the OUCS, University of Oxford), will attempt to make such modelling more widely accessible by developing easy to use Web 2.0 services for building, exploring and analysing models, encouraging the development of an on-line community where models and model components are shared, tagged, discussed, organised, and linked to other resources.  Furthermore, the project will explore the possibilities of providing an immersive first-hand experience of the execution of models within Second Life.

[Image: several grant recipients at the symposium.  L to R: Ed Barker (Eduserv Foundation), Howard Noble (OUCS), Ken Kahn (OUCS), Hugh Denard (KCL), Diane Carr (London Knowledge Lab), Dan Livingstone (University of Paisley)]

Symposium - on virtual venue layout

Andrew Middleton has a series of posts on his blog which provide a good overview of the symposium, particularly in terms of the day's content (thanks!).  (These posts weren't tagged with 'efsym2007', which is why we didn't spot them immediately.)  Overall, I agree with many of the points he raises.

In his own summary of the day he says:

On entering the conference room (lines of chairs facing a stage) we were flanked by several shiny huge plasma screens displaying the virtual congregation of attendees on Eduserv Island - also sitting facing a stage in SL. My heart sank. To see that here - how disappointing. Stale practice compounding stale practice. Sorry.

Well, firstly, there is no need for the 'sorry'.  I would argue that 'stale practice' is perhaps a bit too strong?  But I (we) certainly take the general point.

So what should we have done?  We were somewhat constrained in what we could do with the physical space - but obviously the virtual space was ours to do with what we liked.  And, yes, in designing the Virtual Congress Centre I was possibly too conservative.

Superficially we could have made the virtual event look very different from the RL event.  We could have not had a building as such for example (as per the Cybrary City and NMC venues).  We could have not put out any chairs?

My suspicion is that this wouldn't have made much practical difference?  Delegates would still have congregated around the stage in much the same formation as they did anyway - there was, of course, no requirement to sit on the chairs anyway - though interestingly, they did need to be within ear-shot (ear-shot for exchanging SL chat messages I mean!) for the local discussions to work.  We specifically laid out the chairs to try and ensure that everyone in the room would be able to converse with everyone else.

My suspicion is that at the Cybrary City venue, where people are more able to sit or stand where they like, people are often out of ear-shot of each other, and therefore miss parts of the conversation.

Perhaps we should have arranged the chairs in a circle with the screens in the centre?

Or perhaps Andrew has something more drastic in mind?  If so, I'd love to hear it.  We think we got some stuff right on the day and we got some stuff stuff wrong and, as I've said before, I'm quite happy to focus on what we could have done better! :-)

May 17, 2007

De-briefing the symposium - running a blended real life/Second Life event

493815619_a83e87775b_b The third Eduserv Foundation Symposium took place at the Congress Centre in London on Thursday 10th May. The event was a blended real life (RL) and Second Life (SL) symposium with approximately 130 delegates in the RL venue and 75 delegates in three different SL venues.  We are very grateful to all the speakers on the day - Jim Purbrick, Roo Reynolds, Hamish MacLeod, Joanna Scott, Gilly Salmon and Stephen Downes - and to Diana Laurillard for chairing the panel session and speaking at the drinks reception and to Sara De Freitas for joining the panel.

This was the first time we have put together an event of this type.  We had to learn and/or make up a significant amount as we went along!  To try and consolidate our learning we spent some time de-briefing internally about how the day went, particularly in terms of the organisational and operational aspects.  What follows is a summary of our thoughts.  I share them here in the hope that they might be of interest to others and potentially of use to people who are organising similar kinds of events.

Note that the intention here is not to discuss the content of the talks during the day and/or the issues they raised - that will be done thru other entries in this blog and thru other blogs and articles in due course.  The intention here is to focus on the mechanics of the day itself in order to try and determine what worked well and what could have been done better.  Having said that, it is worth noting that there seems to be general consensus that the day offered a good balance of speakers and topics. In particular, the choice of Stephen Downes as the closing speaker was generally viewed very positively, even by those that don't necessarily agree with his views!  It was unfortunate that for personal reasons Gráinne Conole couldn’t be with us for the day. However, Diana Laurillard did a great job, both in chairing the final panel session and in summing up the event during the drinks reception.


Overall, the day seems to have been very successful and has attracted quite a lot of positive blog coverage. 92% of the returned RL evaluation forms (49 out of 53) rated the event overall as either Good or Excellent (with similar responses to the other questions). The virtual feedback buttons in SL endorsed this finding, with the vast majority rating the event as Good (out of the three options presented – Good, Average or Poor). However, the relatively small number of responses using this method and the fact that the voting buttons were only available in one of the SL venues means that this data is not necessarily indicative of the SL delegates as a whole.

Presentations from the RL event were video-streamed into each of the virtual venues. The stream consisted of a composite image containing both the speaker’s slides and a head shot.  The streaming was arranged and operated by i|s|media. Conversely, a view of SL was displayed on 6 large flat-screen monitors in the RL venue and this made it possible for questions raised during in-world chat to be relayed on to the RL speakers.  This view of SL was controlled by Pete Johnston (Peregrine Juneau), who also acted as our in-world greeter and MC for the whole day.

In general, people seemed very impressed with the way the technology worked. The SL flat-screen monitors in the RL venue (provided by Revelation, our event management company) were crisp and clear and the quality of the streamed video appears to have been very good (several blog entries noted that it was the best quality streaming that they had seen inside SL). The acoustics of the RL venue were also good.

We used the access control mechanisms in SL to control the number of avatars in the primary (Eduserv Island) venue. This worked very well and meant that we didn’t suffer too badly from the kind of lag-related problems that typically beset popular events in SL. We also made a virtual delegate bag available before the event and on the day, which provided SL delegates with information about the programme and speakers (and a free tee-shirt!).

Note that we were forced to use multiple SL venues because of limitations on the number of avatars that can be in one place at one time in SL. We are grateful to Alan Levine at NMC and Lori Bell at the Alliance Library System for the use of their venues for the virtual symposium.

There was a real buzz at the RL venue, most notably during the lunchtime break. The venue offered a good space for socialising and networking and it seems that most delegates took advantage of this. From the various blog entries, it would appear that there was a similar feeling in the SL venues.

So, what can we learn?

Vcc_008So that was the positive summary!  However, there are always lessons that can be learnt from events of this kind, no matter how well they appear to have gone.

The following points arose from our internal de-briefing about the event, comments raised in delegate’s blog entries, comments on the RL feedback form and informal verbal feedback from delegates.

  • Despite a good balance of presentations, some delegates felt that there should have been more focus on the practical use of SL in education. Additionally, there could have been more demonstrations of the use of SL during the day.  We fully accept this view.  We had this in mind in our original vision for the event, but unfortunately it got lost as we turned the vision into reality :-(
  • The panel session was quite short and this made it difficult to properly integrate questions from SL delegates into the discussion. In particular, the limited bandwidth on the wireless network in the RL venue meant that it was impossible to get a second Eduserv avatar (Art Fossett) into SL during the panel session. The original intention was to use Art Fossett as the channel for questions. With hindsight, we now recognise that this would have backfired anyway. It was actually much better to have SL questions being asked in public. (Originally we were concerned that selecting from amongst a set of public questions might be problematic but this turned out not to be the case).
  • We probably should have advertised the SL streaming earlier and more widely, which would have resulted in greater in-world attendance. We didn't do this because it was our first attempt at streaming into SL and we wanted to be absolutely sure that it would work before announcing it too widely.
  • The streaming seems to have been very successful, though there were some minor issues at the beginning of the day with people seeing the stream upside-down. This appears to have been caused by a bug in the SL client, rather than by the streaming itself. The stream was delivered at a resolution of 320x240. This gave a perfectly acceptable image when embedded into SL using the screens at the venues. However, people viewing the stream on the Web (i.e. using their Web browser rather than their SL client) reported that the image was too small and they didn’t know how to re-size it. I suspect that we should have spent more time before the event documenting how to view the stream on the Web.  (Note that we did prepare some material, a YouTube video no less, explaining how to view the streaming media in SL).  Note that we paid the streaming company to support up to 500 connections, so I think we had plenty of bandwidth available on the day.
  • As noted above, we ran the day with a single member of Eduserv staff in-world, acting as a greeter and MC for all three venues. With hindsight, this was too much for Pete to take on alone. We needed a greeter at each venue for whole day in order that we could make repeated announcement s about what was happening and to encourage debate and discussion.
  • As chair of the RL event, I described the technical setup at the start of the day and asked a couple of trivial questions of both audiences to try and build a feeling of participation. More could have been made of this opening set of questions to try and bring the two audiences together. Furthermore, the description of the technical setup should have been repeated at several points in the day, particularly for the benefit of those SL delegates that joined as the day progressed.
  • We set up an in-world group called ‘Eduserv Symposium’ for SL delegates to use for discussions during the day. The notes we provided in the virtual delegate bag and the in-world announcements made by Pete explicitly encouraged in-world discussion during the talks. The intention of the SL group was to encourage discussion across the three virtual venues. However, in practice most SL discussions happened using the SL chat facility and were therefore limited to each of the venues. It is interesting to observe that people much prefer speaking openly to people that they can see than to people that they can't, even in a virtual world setting.
  • The wireless network in the RL venue appears to have been sufficient for delegates to access their email and so on. Unfortunately it did not offer sufficient bandwidth for accessing SL, either by delegates or by the other Eduserv staff in the room. This was somewhat unfortunate, though it didn't overtly affect the running of the day. For similar events in the future it would be nice to have sufficient wireless bandwidth available to allow a reasonable number of delegates to connect to SL.
  • It might also have been sensible for us to have looked into alternative, lightweight mechanisms by which RL delegates could have communicated directly with SL delegates. For example, we could have experimented with collaborative use of Twitter. We could have also considered using some kind of dual RL/SL voting mechanism to allow both audiences to be involved in the same activity at the same time.
  • In general therefore, the integration of the two parallel events was rather poorer than we would have liked. There was not enough cross-over between the two worlds (though, thankfully, the visibility of the SL delegates to the RL audience meant that at a couple of points during the day people in the RL audience were able to point out to me, as chair, that avatars in SL were wanting to ask questions of a speaker or panelist).
  • The SL audience wanted more input to the RL event. With hindsight, asking SL delegates to wait until the panel before asking questions wasn't the right thing to do. Putting ourselves in their shoes, it was probably not realistic to expect SL delegates to commit to sitting in front of SL all day waiting to ask the speaker they heard five hours previously a question. We should have allowed more time in RL for questions after each presentation and made sure we took some questions from SL. (In practice we did take some questions from SL in the morning sessions, but we should probably have said upfront that was what we were going to do).
  • A minor point, but perhaps worth noting, is that some SL participants complained about the noise from people taking snapshots interfering with the audio from the stream. As greeter, Pete took a few in-world snapshots without thinking about the noise. Note that there may be an option somewhere to switch off camera sound.
  • One of the reasons for lack of interaction between the two audiences was that there wasn't a great deal of time during the day for questions. One could argue that we should have dropped one of the speakers and allowed more room for questions and answers after each of the speakers.
  • Each of the SL venues was configured with two or more screens. We used one for the streamed video. The other was used to hold a single Eduserv Foundation Symposium slide, telling people what event they were at! With hindsight, we could have made more use of the second screen, perhaps putting up slides indicating who was currently talking and what point we were at in the programme. This would have been particularly helpful for delegates joining from different timezones.
  • As mentioned above, controlling access to the Eduserv Island venue was quite successful in terms of people's overall experience of the event. However, we should have put up an in-world sign outside the venue, explaining why access was restricted and pointing people that were denied access to the alternative venues.
  • The lunch break was very useful for RL delegates to socialise and network. For SL delegates it probably felt like they were being left out in the cold a little. It would have been nice if we could have found some sort of activity for SL delegates to do during the lunch break, preferably one that involved interaction with some of the RL delegates in some way.
  • Finally, it is somewhat inevitable that being the hosts of an RL event and having to deal with technical and other arrangements on the day meant that it was difficult for us to do as much networking as we would have liked. I felt somewhat frustrated on the day not to simply be able to sit down and chat to people!

492317420_16b75b0e79_o Conclusion

The stated aim of the symposium was to "attempt to look past the hype surrounding virtual worlds such as Second Life and evaluate whether they offer real opportunities for learners at UK educational institutions". The day certainly succeeded in moving the community significantly towards that aim. It raised awareness of some of the issues around using SL, and gave people a chance to listen to and debate those issues.

One delegate commented in their evaluation form that they felt the day missed it's target because of the lack of depth about the practical use of SL for learning and teaching. As noted above, we think that is fair comment – the day as originally conceived might have met the aim rather better but for various reasons it fell short in practice. However, that view does not negate the other positive benefits of the day's events.  What we have clearly done is to start (or at least made an early contribution to) a debate that will continue into the future

I noted at the start of the day that the event gave Linden Lab, the commercial owners of Second Life, a good platform.  In many ways that is unusual for an academic conference. I make no apologies for this, for the reasons spelt out at the start of the symposium - SL is where much of the 3-D virtual world action is at the moment.  I think we have to acknowledge that and see SL for what it is - a useful place to experiment and learn about our potential future. It remains to be seen whether or how Linden Lab's position in the market will change.  For what it's worth, I don't think Linden Lab got an easy ride on the day, and to be fair to them I don't think they abused their position as a vendor on the day.  I think we simply had a good debate.

There is no doubt that timing worked in our favour for this event, in terms of the public awareness of 3-D virtual worlds. Getting coverage in the Education Guardian a few days before the event is evidence of that interest.   However, once facet of that level of interest was that we got oversubscribed for the RL event very quickly.  Within an hour of announcing the event to the lists we had 40 delegates registered - within three working days we had to close the registration form.  That took us completely by surprise and we had to spend a significant amount of time working out how we were going to turn people away from the event - which is unfortunate.  On the other hand, it's nice to have organised something that lots of people clearly wanted to attend! :-)

All in all I'd like to hope that Eduserv can continue to play a part in this area as the community continues to work out the role of Second Life and other 3-D virtual worlds in the future of learning and research.

[Images by Roo Reynolds, Peregrine Juneau and Silversprite Helsinki]

OpenID in Ariadne

The latest Ariadne is now available...

This issue contains an article by David Recordon (of Verisign) and myself about OpenID - OpenID: Decentralised Single Sign-on for the Web - which attempts to take a brief look at OpenID and ask what relevance it has to e-learning.

There are also several other interesting looking articles (I haven't had a chance to read them yet) covering topics as diverse as virtual research environments, repositories, approaches to story telling as a means to develop local cultural heritage, the use of blogs for formative assessment in teaching, a review of the W3C Technical Architecture Group and more.

May 16, 2007


Via Stephen Downes, via Jorge Gonçalves I note the emergence of Edtags, a social bookmarking service for educators.  I remain unconvinced...

When I first started at Eduserv I suggested internally that we think about developing something called Edutea, an installation of Connotea configured to focus on the needs of the education community.  There would have been little software development as such required to put this together because Connotea is Open Source.

In the end I decided not to progress this because I couldn't bring myself to create a service silo within the education domain.  As I blogged previously, I don't think the education community is best served by this kind of development.  Rather, we should use the tagging facilities in existing mainstream social services (in this case del.icio.us, Digg, Connotea or whatever) to partition learning-focused sub-sets of content within those broader services.

Perhaps I'm missing something more compelling about what Edtags are offering?

May 11, 2007

Symposium update...

A quick update on the symposium (yesterday) which by and large I think/hope(!) went very well.  Having said that, there were always going to be things that we could have done better and I hope that we can share our experiences in a way that helps with the running of similar events in the future.

For us, and probably for many people at the event (both in RL and SL), the 'blended' format of the symposium was quite experimental.  What I hope we can do as a community is to learn something about how these kinds of events work best, based on our shared experiences.  We therefore encourage people to blog, email or IM their thoughts, both on the mechanics of the day and on the issues raised by the presentations and discussion.  Constructive criticism and debate is absolutely encouraged!

We will, of course, be doing our own evaluation, based on completed evaluation forms (thank you), our analysis of blog and other commentary, verbal feedback on the day and so on.  We will share some of our own thoughts here in due course.

Just a reminder... if you are blogging about the event, or putting up photos on Flickr, or whatever, please use the 'efsym2007' tag so that we can easily track things using a Technorati search.

And finally, a big thank you to all the day's speakers, to Sara de Freitas for joining the panel and to Diana Laurillard for both chairing the panel session and for her kind and thoughtful closing remarks.

May 09, 2007

Almost there...

Foundationgroupshot_2 We're almost ready to go with the symposium.  Lucky really, since it kicks off tomorrow at 10.00am (2.00am Second Life time)!  As Pete noted, it hasn't all been plain sailing and all of us have been on a steep learning curve as we've tried to get the virtual venue ready, think out how the real and virtual incarnations of the symposium are going to intersect, manage access to the different SL venues and so on, as well as all the normal planning for an RL event of this kind.

There have been one or two panic attacks along the way - for example, a week ago we realised that the streaming company that we are using were planning on streaming in a format incompatible with Second Life!  But that's been resolved now and the streaming tests we did from the venue tonight looked good as far as we could tell.
Hey, I'm almost looking forward to it.

[Photo: the Foundation 'team' on stage in the Virtual Congress Centre on Eduserv Island, in final stages of preparation.]

May 08, 2007

Stage(s) fright

I'm discovering that it's a strange and occasionally bewildering experience trying to co-ordinate activity for an event which is being delivered simultaneously "in Second Life" and "in real life" (I can't quite bring myself to refer to "RL" just yet). The Eduserv Symposium is this Thursday, and last Friday the three of us (Andy, Ed and myself) sat in the office scribbling on the whiteboard trying to plan out our responsibilities throughout the day, and to work out which of us was going to be "where" at which point in the proceedings.

Which, with one physical venue and three virtual ones to consider, turned out to be far more complicated and confusing than it sounds! I remember the days when things were straightforward and there was no ambiguity in phrases like, "Ah, you'll be sitting on stage then". I think we've just about got our "movements" sorted out. Well, we'll see on Thursday!

Ed and Andy have done the lion's share of the work on organising the Symposium, and my own "public-facing" role on the day will probably be fairly limited, but I decided this was probably the point at which the virtual PJ should "scrub up" a little bit, so spent last night looking around for skin, hair, glasses etc. I have about as much enthusiasm for "mall shopping" in SL as I do in RL (oops). The physical PJ will look, err, much the same as usual....

It's a world of possibilities

I and several others from the UK get quoted in an article in today's Education Guardian, It's a world of possibilities.  The article touches briefly on the use of Second Life in education and, I think, gives a fair and balanced view overall - though once again, it falls foul of simply repeating Linden Lab's 'sign-up' figures without questioning what they really mean.


Dunno if it's just me but there seems to have been a sudden spurt in activity around LinkedIn recently.  I've been a member for sometime, but it's only in the last few weeks that I've started getting invites to join people's networks on any kind of regular basis.

As an aside, my 11 year old son, Stan, was watching me on my laptop the other day and asked me what the point of LinkedIn was!?  I was somewhat at a loss to answer, other than to say that some people obviously take it as a challenge to grow their networks as big as possible.  Yes, I am suffering mildly from a case of LinkedIn network envy! :-)

Still, the fact that I only appear to have 9 friends gave him a good laugh ... which makes a change from him taking the mickey out of my Second Life activities!

May 04, 2007

When worlds collide...

20070501_datamodelmeeting_2 I spent Monday and Tuesday this week at an invitational meeting at the British Library in London entitled the Data Model meeting.  The primary purpose of the meeting was to compare notes on the ongoing work of both the DCMI, particularly in the areas of the DCMI Abstract Model and application profiles, and the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR (JSC), which is currently working towards a new standard: entitled RDA: Resource Description and Access.  The intent being to see how far we could share expertise and build on each other's work.

We spent the first day summarising where we are currently.  From the DCMI side of things this meant talking about the DCMI Abstract Model and its central role in the development of future DC application profiles.  We used the DC Eprints Application work (funded by the JISC) as an example, to show how fairly complex metadata 'description sets' can be built up from the combination of a 'domain model' (the model of the things that are being described) and the DCMI Abstract Model (the model of what DCMI metadata looks like).  More generally we talked about the value of disclosing metadata vocabularies, both properties (elements) and values (controlled vocabularies), on the Web at persistent 'http' URIs and using standard languages such as RDF, RDFS and SKOS to provide machine-readable declarations.

From the RDA side of things, Tom Delsey and Barbara Tillet spoke about the current status of the RDA work and the rational for the way it has been developed.

Good stuff, and it quickly became clear that one significant area of commonality in our different activities was the use of FRBR as the underlying 'domain model' in both the Eprints Application Profile and the RDA work.

The second day was spent in the British Library Board Room under the watchful eyes of a portrait of Anthony Panizzi, brainstorming how we can move things forward together.  As a group, we agreed the following statements, all of which seem very positive.

Firstly, we agreed that RDA and DCMI should work together to build on the existing work of both communities. We recommended that Committee of Principles (the body that oversees the development of RDA) and DCMI seek funding for work to develop an RDA DC Application Profile.  In order to do so,  the following activities need to be undertaken:

  • disclosure of an RDA Element Vocabulary
  • development of an RDA DC Application Profile based on FRBR and FRAD
  • disclosure of RDA Value Vocabularies using RDF/RDFS/SKOS

The benefits of this activity will be that:

  • the library community gets a metadata standard that is compatible with the Web Architecture and that is fully interoperable with other Semantic Web initiatives
  • the DCMI community gets a libraries application profile firmly based on the DCAM and FRBR (which will be a high profile exemplar for others to follow)
  • the Semantic Web community get a significant pool of well thought out metadata terms to re-use
  • there is wider uptake of RDA

In addition, the meeting agreed that DCMI and DC Application Profile developers consider the value of using conceptual models such as FRBR as the basis for describing intellectual or artistic creations.

I think the brevity of these conclusion masks the intellectual effort that went into getting us to where we are now, both in terms of the meeting itself and in terms of all the work that has gone before.  I'm convinced that this move to bring RDA and DCMI closer together is a big step in the right direction and that we'll see good things coming of this work over the next year or so.

[Image: meeting participants in the BL boardroom]

May 03, 2007

An email snapshot of the UK

The BBC report that the British Library are running a project during May to capture a snapshot of the UK through email.

The library is asking everyone in the UK to forward an e-mail from their inbox or sent mail box representing their life or interests.  Alternatively, people can submit a specially-composed message.

Emails should be submitted to email@emailbritain.co.uk.

As an aside, I note that a Google search for this story (first heard on BBC Radio 4 this morning) turned up coverage by the BBC and the Guardian, but nothing on the British Library Web site :-(.



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