Published June 29, 2004
I’m in Boulder for the Educause Leadership Institute this week, along with my colleagues Sara Gomez and Lori Stevens, and about 60 other participants.
So far there have been some really interesting sessions – most notably (for me, anyway) a session on emotional intelligence by Mark Sheehan from Montana State University. This was a new topic for me, and I liked the emphasis on how mood is a determining factor in leadership. Mark noted that while managers spend most of their time dealing with process, policy, and culture in organizations, leaders spend much time working with vision. That seemed like a deep insight to me.
Today there was a terrific session on IT policy in higher education from Tracy Mitrano from Cornell’s Office of IT Policy , talking about all of the people that have to be involved in formulating institutional policies around IT and how having policies can be very advantageous.
That was followed by a talk by Brian Hawkins, President of Educause. Brian talked about what is necessary to be a CIO in higher education. He stressed the need to be more than an person knowledgable about IT – that it’s necessary to be able to think and act knowledgeably in the interests of one’s institution no matter whether it’s in the realm of student recruitment and retention, faculty tenure matters, athletics or whatever.
And of course, we’re taking advantage of Boulder to get out and do some professional team-building – here’s some pictures of Sara, Lori and I taking a hike to to Boulder’s Red Rocks this afternoon.
I realized that I’ve been carrying around some more impressions from the Sakai Educational Partners Program meeting last week in Denver without communicating them.
While it’s still too early to assume that the Sakai effort to create an open source collaborative learning platform will be ultimately succesful, there is certainly a lot of momentum gathering behind the project. It seems like there is a fairly solid (though still evolving) technical architecture being created, a lot of smart people from major institutions around the country are thinking about how to contribute specific tools to the project, and (perhaps best of all) the community is forming around the project and learning how to express common concerns and work towards common goals.
While I still have some major concerns, most notably the thorny issue of how really good teaching/learning tools that have been created in languages other than Java (like our own Catalyst tools from the UW) can be integrated into this platform, I think that there’s enough there there to warrant spending a considerable amount of time and effort with the Sakai folks.
Mara is a beekeeper, and she points out that her experience in listening to the level of the buzz is applicable to her work on the Sakai board …
Berkeley is planning to use their new gradebook in pilot mode in Fall 2004, and then integrate it into Sakai. It has been developed as a Sakai application, but for the initial deployment they are wrapping the single tool with a “psuedo-Sakai” layer.
MIT is also developing a Sakai gradebook. MIT and Berkeley will look at possible convergence at some point.
Berkeley has a nice graphing option in the gradebook that shows a box-and-whisker graph of grade distributions. If you’re only looking at a single student it shows you a bar graph instead.
The psuedo-sakai approach uses JSF, Hibernate, and Spring as basic technologies.
ETUDES is the course management system used at Foothill-DeAnza College, developed by a Computer Science professor in 1995. Foothill created the Etudes Alliance in 2002 to ensure long-term sustainability of ETUDES for community colleges, mostly in California. They began a redesign and redevelopment of the software in 2002.
They undertook a needs analysis among faculty, and identified a list of some 50 features that would be necessary in a CMS for community colleges – about 30 of those are present in the initial release of Sakai.
In 2003 Hewlett Foundation approached Foothill with an invitation to develop something equivalent to MIT’s Open Courseware Initiative – they went back to Hewlett to say that in order to do this they need to have a common CMS platform for the content, at that point proposing developing ETUDES as an open source effort for community colleges.
They ended up with a scaled back program to create 20 sets of open courseware during 2004 – created an organization called SOFIA – (Sharing of Free Intellectual Assets). In addition they submitted a second proposal to extend Sakai to meet the needs of community colleges, which Hewlett funded. They are contributing two developers into the Sakai effort. Their priorities are designing/building a simple content authoring tool, migrating current ETUDES users to Sakai, and faculty training adn support.
Willie points out that there are pressures on the Sakai effort that need to be addressed. The formation of alliances with other areas is critical – e.g. bringing Educause more into the effort. It’s more than just technology – there has to be a strong communication layer to this effort, both among the partners and outside – we need to work together to unify efforts to avoid unnecessary duplication.
Chris Coppola from the rSmart group is talking about the Open Source Portfolio Initiative
OSPI is currently at release 1.5 – was derived from U of Minnesota’s software. It’s a Java-based piece of software.
The big realization for me, about two minutes into Chris’ talk is that an electronic portfolio is centered around an individual – not a course, not an institution. The portfolio will ideally persist throughout an individual’s career and will want to move with the person as they wander through their life. Portability that would enable this kind of persistence is one of the visions for OSPI.
OSPI is up to about 1,200 members in 77 countries – mostly people looking at the demo, “kicking the tires”. The reality is that they don’t know a lot about what people are doing with the software.
Version 1.5 features an XML/XSLT presentation engine.
For version 2.0, schedfuled for Spring of 2005, they have received funding from Mellon, U of Indiana, and rSmart. One object is to make the development process more transparent to the community. Individuals will be able to subscribe to some number of “common interest groups” which will provide structures. Examples of “common interest groups” might be a chess club, or undergraduate biology majors, or (in Indiana’s case) the set of common rubrics (large scale student learning objectives) used for undergraduate education.
The goal is to have the Portfolio as a Sakai tool.
SAMIGO is an assessment tool that uses an Asynchronous, Web-based Interaction model:
- instructor asks questions
-student responds; gets feedback (immediate or delayed)
- instructor grades and makes comments
A Sakai tool for creating, distributing, taking, and grading assessments. It grew out of previous work at Stanford and Indiana.
Features an item or question bank for instructors to keep their questions to pull from.
It allows for file upload and audio recording as types of question types (in addition to all the usual suspects).
They decided to support the IMS Question and Test Interoperability spec as their base data schema.
I’m at the first Sakai Educational Partners Program meeting in Denver.
Ken WIner is talking about uPortal and it’s relationship with Sakai.
uPortal is the open source portal software that is a project born from the Java Architectures Special Interest Group (JA-SIG). uPortal began in December 1999 and has a lot of traction in the higher ed community (over 130 implementing organizations in at least 13 countries).
Two emerging standards for portlets (portal channels) – JSR168 (a java community process) and WSRP (a web services approach).
WSRP is a presentation-oriented web service – once you get the SOAP message back from the web service it already contains markup so it can be thrown right to the screen.
You can imagine uPortal acting as a WSRP consumer or producer. It allows the portal to communicate with other applications across heterogeneous technologies.
Pluto is the Apache project that is a portlet container, that is used in uPortal. In uPortal 2.3 (the current release) you have to use a “Portlet Adapter Channel” in uPortal.
SAKAI has thre different versions of interaction with uPortal:
- Embedded – Sakai runs as a portlet within a stock uPortal
- Injected – Sakai tools run as individual channels within a modified version of uPortal
- Integrated – Sakai tools able to run as inter-communicating processes within a future stock version of uPortal.
Published June 23, 2004
Paul Beard points out a new entry from Ed Felten about “The Future of Filesharing”:
The best role for a university in the copyright wars is to do what a university does best: educate students. When I talk about education, I don’t mean a five-minute lecture at freshman initiation. I don’t mean adding three paragraphs on copyright to that rulebook that nobody reads. I don’t mean scare tactics. What I do mean is a real, substantive discussion of the copyright system.
My experience is that students are eager to have serious, intellectual discussions about why we have the copyright system we have. They will take seriously the economic justification for copyright, if it
is explained to them in a non-hysterical way. They’ll appreciate the wisdom of the limitations on copyright, such as fair use and the idea/expression dichotomy; and in so doing they’ll realize why there are not exceptions for other things.
I’m not sure I agree that it will make a difference at this point – I think sharing music files has likely achieved too much of a lifestyle-as-usual status among students to be derailed by any talk about the legal or economic system.
Published June 19, 2004
Music , Politics , Technology
Brian pointed me to this terrific talk that Cory Doctorow gave the other day to folks at Microsoft Research about why DRM does not and will not work. It’s a great read.
The same thing happened to a lot of people I know who used to rip
their CDs to WMA. You guys sold them software that produced
smaller, better-sounding rips that the MP3 rippers, but you also
fixed it so that the songs you ripped were device-locked to their
PCs. What that meant is that when they backed up their music to
another hard-drive and reinstalled their OS (something that the
spyware and malware wars has made more common than ever), they
discovered that after they restored their music that they could
no longer play it. The player saw the new OS as a different
machine, and locked them out of their own music.
There is no market demand for this “feature.” None of your
customers want you to make expensive modifications to your
products that make backing up and restoring even harder. And
there is no moment when your customers will be less forgiving
than the moment that they are recovering from catastrophic
Published June 19, 2004
I’ve got a Google mail account now (thanks, Liz!).
So far my minimal impressions are positive -
The signup process really impressed me – one very clean screen which hit on all the basics.
The web interface is clean and uncluttered. I like the fact that there are keyboard shortcuts available – that makes a mail client much more usable.
I’ll have to start directing some list traffic into gmail to really get a feel for how it works with some volume.
For now, see Rafe Colburn’s comments on the gmail interface.
More on gmail later.