Archivio per novembre, 2007

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OpenEd: week 13 – The future of Open Education

I wish I had only a little part of the David’s imagination for writing an “alternate future” for OE, but unfortunately, I haven’t!

Then, I tried to elaborate on the OpenCourseWars paper, adding some thoughts while also reducing its US-centric point of view with some considerations ..from an Italian point of view :-):

  1. The role of the government. I’m convinced that without a clear pronouncement from political institutions on this field OER will not have a real future. In Italy the government is presently (nominally..) committed to Open Source Software but there are still no signals of attention for Open Education (please try this search on Google… You’ll find that the fifth result is …my own blog (!), no comment for the first result… :-)). Maybe we (I and my wonderful Italian classmates) will try to take the role of OE evangelists.. 🙂
  2. Licensing. David is suggesting two important points. The first is the imageweakness of the NC and SA clauses of the Creative Commons license. In David’s vision, NC would not resist to a well organized attack launched by publishers while SA would survive. Is it a realistic future? What if would happen the contrary? I feel these licences are still fragile… The most important point (and I was happy to read what I too think) is the need for a someway unified license. I’m ready to add some (few.. I’m only a poor teacher…) euros to the Hewlett Foundation bounty 🙂 if, over the compatibilty between FSF and CC, they’d further simplify the scene. I can deal no more with this terrific compatibility graph!!
  3. Going beyond the OCW model. I agree with the David’s vision that OCWs are little sustainable. We discussed about it in the past weeks. OCWs are now in their early steps, financed by foundations and encouraged by University boards but their future is uncertain. Of course they are precious resources, validated by prestigious institutions but they are read-only, have generally olny course-level granularity, are high-cost producing and maintaining… My opinion (which I previously expressed) is that a “Wikipedia-like model” may be the winner. In fact, right now we can observe that Wikipedia is presently the very unique image planetary project on OER, really multilingual, multi-prospective, crowd-feeded. For now, we in Italy have no OER/OCW initiatives in high education (nor in lower…) but we do have Wikipedia in Italian! And it is vital and growing! It is a real challenge for us: in Italy Universities are just approaching the “traditional e-learning”, generally based on LMSs, with high-protectionist policies: faculty generally live in fear for colleagues eventually spying and stealing ideas and materials.. It’s a long way to OER.. 🙂
  4. Trib. This point is strictly connected with the “Wikipedia model”. I’m sure this is a key point: maybe the future OER will not be named OER but they will be a mix of institutional content and user (students, teachers, parents, …)-created content. An OCW course could be really a disruptive resource if real students could add their comments, or materials from the real classroom. I’m figuring a sort of balanced content, not only institutional (it would be too read-only…) but also not only user-created (it would be not entirely reliable..). A good OER could result form a dialogue. This course and its evolution may be a good example: some valuable readings from the instructor but also very good content from the students’ assignments, the syllabus modified based on the interaction between the instructor and the students. Wow!
  5. The competency-based Universities. I’m a little puzzled by the WGU example stated in the paper. Really could the future of higher education be based only on assessments for earning a diploma? This model seems very similar to the already diffused corporate certifications by Microsoft, Cisco and others.. e.g. you can obtain a certification from Microsoft by passing an online test that measures very specific skills. Of course, there is a wide offer of preparation courses.. Well, Image by George Siemensit seems to me this is very far from the university-as-a-community model… and I’m still devoted to this old, good model… But I have to admit that OER may have a disruptive role for the evolution of educational institutions. Maybe the community will evolve as global networks, breaking the walls of schools and universities, which will retain only a certification role: in the future people will learn from the network and in the network (we can refer to the learning networks by Stephen Downes, grounded on the connectivism by George Siemens), and will only ask to institutions to assess the acquired skills. It might work!
  6. Mixing free content and paid services. I talked of such a model too. I guess it could be a very reasonable way for sustainibility.
  7. The general context.
    1. An e-book reader has recently been launched by Amazon… It’s quite affordable (even if not yet “a $100 piece of hardware”, it’s wireless and… for now … it’s sold out!!! Is it a sign?
    2. The digital culture is growing among the young people. It’s a pre-requisite for OER.. but, for example, we in Italy have still a large cohort of digital illiterate teachers in any grade of school, including universities. I argue this may be an obstacle because the production of high-quality and valuable resources cannot prescind totally from the participation of the “teaching staff”…
    3. Language and localization. Will we all have to speak English for full benefit of OER? It’s a point connected with the model: why do we have an Italian version of Wikipedia but no OER initiatives? Is it only a problem of lack of awareness by our educational institutions? Or lack of sponsors? Or a combination of them? I argue that there is no (or very little) space for an “Italian OCW” by a single University, then only if we’ll have a shift in the general (and academic..) culture and the model will be the “wikipedia model” or anycase a bottom-up, trib-based model, maybe we too, as a “province of the Empire”, will have a chance… Alternatively, we can still translate, and translate, and translate…

Some final words for briefly answering to my friends Alessandro and Stian (hey guys, the syllabus was so poor, that you felt encouraged to add a couple of questions? ;-)):

  • I don’t see significative effects in K-12 due to the minor impact of “content” in this area. Yes, there are textbooks for elementary and first secondary schools and maybe we’ll arrive to define open curricula, alternative to commercial ones, but we’d have to print them since I don’t think that children should necessarily use electronic media in their early age. For now, I’m convinced that the real effective impact of OER is for high education and lifelong learning.
  • For developing countries, OER could be a real opportunity, an alternative to the “market model” that is dominant in education too… Yes, there are significative problems (in the previous weeks we talked about the risk of a “cultural colonization” by means of “western culture” OER) but I see more possibile benefits than threats. I consider especially important the signal that OER, Free Software and Open Education are carrying: it is that knowledge and instruction are not commercial products but they are a right for all the mankind. We, as citizens of the richest countries, have some obligation in this sense.

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Creative Commons LicenseQuesto/a opera è pubblicato sotto una Licenza Creative Commons.

Camtasia in edizione gratuita

image Camtasia è un ottimo software per la realizzazione di screencasting, perfetto ad esempio per aggiungere un commento audio ad una presentazione o mostrare l’uso di un software.

Techsmith offre ora gratuitamente la versione 3.1.2 di Camtasia Studio (è quella del 2006, non l’ultimissima ma già ampiamente valida). Basta scaricare il software e richiedere una chiave di attivazione prima di installarlo.

Vabbè lo so che ci sono altri modi per procurarsi software gratuito ;-), oltre alla possibilità di usare validi prodotti simili Open Source come CamStudio, però, insomma, perché non approfittare di questa occasione? Non capita tutti i giorni che qualcuno regali qualcosa, no?

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Gli amici dei miei amici…

Leggo sulla Repubblica di domenica 18 novembre il resoconto di una bella festa di compleanno. Il festeggiato è Goffredo Bettini, la cui didascalia obbligatoria è “il braccio destro di Veltroni”, auguri!

Bettini è un po’ una rarità nel suo genere perchè si è addirittura dimesso da senatore, complimenti a lui!

Leggo però che alla sua festa di compleanno ha invitato “illustri” amici tra cui politici misti e imprenditori come Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone.

Nulla da eccepire, l’amicizia è un nobile sentimento ma… perché avverto un certo disagio? Perché ho la sensazione che un amico di Caltagirone (cito lui solo perché è segnalato, addirittura con foto, nell’articolo) probabilmente non tutelerà molto bene gli interessi politici di una certa parte, segnatamente della mia parte che, tra l’altro, la festa di compleanno la fa (se la fa..) in pizzeria? Sono un ingenuo? Un invidioso? Un manicheo, bacchettone, vetero-comunista? Uno stupidotto che non ha ancora capito che i luoghi della politica oggi sono appunto feste, salotti e studi televisivi?

Sarà così, comunque non ho nascosto in precedenza i miei molti dubbi sul Partito Democratico e, sinceramente, questi dettagli (che annoto per memoria personale ;-)) non giovano…

OpenEd: week 12 – Commenting on Learning Objects

This week I read around classmates’ blogs and I commented some of their posts. I found this way more effective than summarizing comments on my blog: it seems to me that I had more personal contact with the colleagues, since I visited their own blogs.

I commented:

  • Andreas (on LOs seen as mere “technical stuff”);
  • Catia (insisting on importance of “adaptation”);
  • Jennifer (on her “evolutionary” point of view about LOs and OER);
  • Elisa (on the difference between commercial and OS authoring tools for education);
  • Alessandro (on the relation between LOs and visions of teaching and learning);
  • Emanuela (on the non-mutual exclusivity between LOs and OER);
  • Greg (on cultural issues about “adaptation” and general validity of some principles);
  • Karen (“e-learning is too important to be left to engineers”);
  • Stian (on the e-learning paradigms and their consequences, e.g.. LO+LMS = formal/institutional);
  • Thieme (on the present “proprietary LO economy”)

Now I’m tracking further comments on these blogs, using It’s a free service for following comments (a still unresolved trouble…) via RSS. Try it if you want 🙂

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Il connettivismo spiegato da lui stesso medesimo

Lui chi? Ma ovviamente George Siemens! Ha tenuto una serie di lezioni all’Università dell’Alaska e ha pensato (bene) di condividere le slide su Slideshare.  Tre presentazioni (1, 2, 3) per cercare di comprendere il connettivismo. Peccato che non ci sia l’audio, ma le slide sono già molto utili.

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Abilità critiche

Elisabetta mi chiede di raccontare come (se..) metto in pratica quotidianamente quella che lei, nel suo lavoro di ricerca per il suo (beh, anche il mio… ;-)) dottorato TSI, ha definito abilità critiche, secondo questa definizione:

CRITICAL ABILITIES: Such abilities are referred to the critical use of the network and its resources that is the evaluation of contents and relations. Contents need to be evaluated as for their quality, accuracy, reliability and pertinence; network relations (subjects) need to be evaluated as for their competencies, trustworthiness and reputation.

Ecco il mio “compito”:

Il mio “centro informativo” (nel senso di recupero di NUOVE informazioni) è costituito principalmente da due fonti: l‘aggregatore RSS e le e-mail. Naturalmente ci sono altre fonti non digitali come giornali, TV, libri. Io normalmente inizio la giornata con la lettura delle e-mail che gestisco con un programma client: non mi trovo ancora del tutto a mio agio con la Webmail anche perché utilizzo il client come un vero e proprio archivio, indicizzato con GoogleDesktop. Tra le e-mail individuo le newsletter e le esamino velocemente. Se c’è qualcosa di interessante apro la notizia nel browser.

Il passaggio successivo è il lettore RSS. Io uso GoogleReader, al quale sono approdato dopo diversi passaggi con programmi desktop. Ho organizzato i feed in macro-categorie tra le quali ne ho una che chiamato “daily”, contenente i 10 feed che ritengo più importanti e che leggo, sempre, tutti i giorni. Gli altri invece, li leggo…quando trovo il tempo. Naturalmemnte i feed daily non sono fissi ma li modifico a seconda di quello che seguo di più in certo periodo. Ovviamente anche gli altri feed sono “variabili” anche se utilizzo una logica piuttosto accrescitiva, ovvero raramente cancello e più frequentemente aggiungo nuovi feed (sigh..).

Anche a causa di questo “accumulo” (che proviene forse dalla vita reale: non butto via niente!!), la lettura è sempre necessariamente molto veloce: il titolo del post è quindi per me molto importante, può capitare (è capitato..) di avere “scartato” qualche post solo perché mal-titolato…

Se trovo qualcosa di interessante, genealmente apro il post, lo leggo più approfonditamente, seguo i link, in alcuni casi commento e, generalmente, marco il post come “Condiviso”. In questo modo il post appare anche nell’apposito blocco presente qui a destra. In questo modo comunico agli altri che per me quel tale post è particolarmente interessante. In altri casi ancora lo inserisco su La valutazione sulla qualità del post è in genere implicita, basata sulla reputazione degli autori dei post ma, in qualche caso, approfondisco con ricerche mirate, soprattutto per capire meglio l’argomento o verificare qualche ipotesi di collegamento con mie idee o lavori precedenti.

Per gli input provenienti da fonti non digitali, ovviamente utilizzo direttamente eventuali link presenti o faccio ricerche (parto praticamente sempre da Google) nel caso non ve ne siano.

In qualche caso, scrivo a mia volta un post nel mio blog, riprendendo e commentando la notizia.

In estrema sintesi, ritengo che lo strumento principale sia RSS anche se il limite è il numero dei feed gestibili. Se ne hai molti sei costretto a filtrare in partenza (come la mia categoria daily) se non vuoi passare le giornate a scorrere i feed 🙂

Un nuovo diagramma per i PLE

Nell’ormai remoto gennaio 2005, Scott Wilson propose questo diagramma di un “VLE del futuro” (eh sì, ancora non si chiamava PLE…). E’ un grafico molto noto, ripreso da molti autori, nel quale si notava una netta distinzione tra sistemi istituzionali e personali (l’elemento centrale).

Ora Scott ne pubblica una versione aggiornata, nella quale compare un’area intermedia (“a coordination space“) tra il Personal Learning Environment (ora è presente, con la sua sigla :-)) e i sistemi istituzionali (LMS? VLE?) che, comunque, sono sempre visti come sistemi aperti, service-oriented.


I diagrammi sono di Scott Wilson, pubblicati con licenza image

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OpenEd: week 11 – On Learning Objects

Four years ago, I co-wrote a book about Learning Objects. It was one of the first to be written in Italian. I and my co-writer mainly grounded on the work of David Wiley and tried to explain to the italian readers the “LO movement” and present a critical point of view on this subject.

Our main criticism, that we also presented in a later article, was about the implicit pedagogical model of LOs. Maybe LOs were misundertood by the “market” but the reality is that they were (and still are…) largely intended as equivalent to SCORM packages, i.e. closed, single-user, self-paced, web-based multimedia content. The recent article by Wiley makes a “checkpoint” on the argument and presents an objective review of this very complicated matter, but I argue that the situation is almost consolidated on this equivalence.

I guess one reason for this difficulty is because we are pursuing an almost impossible goal: an easy, automatic, complete, reuse of content.

If we ask to any experienced teacher, he/she could says us that this “total reuse” is a chimera. Yes, of course, previous year materials could be reused, but near certainly they have to be adapted.

For me, this is the key: adaptation, not reuse!

So, first of all, we should think to LOs as those small units of content of which we talked in week 9 and limit the strong connections with technical specifications: standards are important but not so much important!

Next, if we need to modify them, we need source code, we need openness, not closed packages. It should be clear that if LOs are not open to modification and adaptation, they are not effective.

Even though we can continue to think to LOs as mere content, only if we can adapt them for use in different contexts (for example, we could translate or cut off some parts or add some other) they can be a good base for our work as teachers. It is necessary to abandon the idea of the LEGO metaphor: it’s definitely not working!

So, the OER movement could be important for “opening our eyes” on the real nature of educational content and the real meaning of reuse. Widening the perspective beyond economic advantages of reuse and shifting to think to reuse as sharing for adaptation.

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