Wednesday, 16 June 2010

iPRISm- Bluetooth Based In class Response System

Interactive Personal Response and Information System - Well this is what I have chosen to call my new invention!

So what does it do? - What it says on the tin! Its a voting cum information push/pull system.

How does it work? - Using mobile phones with bluetooth ON the students can connect with the system in close vicinity of a lecturer's laptop (10 meters at best) to interact in a voting session. The laptop needs Bluetooth or can use a USB BT dongle.

Ok, What can it really do? - We have developed a basic version that will do voting, stats, attendance, registration of devices etc. Things that you would expect in a system of this nature.

How does it manage different versions of Bluetooth implemented by different manufacturers or how does it communicate with different implementations of BT?
 This has been a long standing problem with BT, anything you develop it has to be versioned for several different models/ manufacturers etc. Not this time, I have nailed it and we use the least common infrastructure across all implementations. However, Apple still escapes the reach of my system (but not for long).
What we did was we used the Bluetooth name field to allows users to type in their answer/vote/response to a question they see on the screen. Almost all phones allow you to change the name field of your phone and any bluetooth donggle can be used to read the nearby device friendly names etc. This helps in establishing a channel for communication. Change the friendly name and you have a way to communicate to the bluetooth donggle/PC your vote/response.

What are the limitations of the system?
We find that the system only works upto 7 may be 10 meters. Also students find using the friendly name field objectionable and cumbersome (here is an idea for an App for phones, including iphone). Also it takes longer if there are too many users in the class as the dongle sequentially reads the friendly names of all the phones in the vicinity. There is also the issue of not all students having Bluetooth phones.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Cloudy with a chance of Change! the way we provide online learning environments within our institutions. the way we see and form our learning networks. the way we become and continue to be lifelong learners.

In my previous post, Cloud Learning Environment - What it is?, I discussed how a CLE is different from a VLE and a PLE. This caused a lot of debate on twitter and on my post. Here is a summary of the main points as I see it.

Gauging the mood

Confusion in the use of terms: In the UK we call our institutional "walled garden" as the VLEs, where in the US people call it the LMS/CMS, ILE?. Some comments gave the impression that in the US the term PLE/PLN is synonymous with the term VLE in the US? On the whole the term VLE seems to have multiple meanings and causes confusion in what it actually means. While the term PLE is relatively better understood and is a term synonymous to informal learning and lifelong learning.

Poll and comments: Through useful comments from several people, it became clear that a vast majority of our students are still in the process of (to quote one comment) "developing digital citizenship", in other words, are still developing their personal online learning skills, networks and environment. It also became clear that what is in the way of all this is the "walled garden" approach to the "Institutional Learning environment". The poll results show this clearly (12% chose VLEs as what they would rather have for their institutions, most chose CLEs-46% and then PLEs-34%; at N=47). The poll asked about "what would I rather have for my institution?", with VLE/CLE/PLE/Chalk&Talk as 4 options.

What emerges from this is that a majority of the people are accepting of a new term CLE. It represent the openness, individual control and choice within an educational institution/formal learning. Some still argue that this open-ness is what a VLE should provide, no need to call it by another name i.e. CLE. Others in the US see no difference between a VLE and a PLE. No doubt there is confusion in the use of existing terms. Calling for a fresh start.

Even if we put together the votes for PLEs and VLEs, the votes for CLEs are still a greater percentage. This makes sense as with CLE we are talking about a system for use within our institutions AND one that accommodate/integrate PLEs of learners. A CLE is not like a PLE i.e. purely for informal or lifelong learning. It is also not like VLE/LMS/CMS purely for formal education.

What of PLE then?: PLEs are for lifelong learning and informal learning. 34% votes are in its favour. There are two issues here and I hope that at least one of these will resolve with time:

  1. Integration of PLEs with the institutional LMS/CMS (US usage) / VLEs (UK usage). maybe PLEs dont need to be integrated - but I sense that people want to be able to do so. reasons?
  2. Currently students seem to be still developing their online skills, networks and personal learning environments.

Finally I ask myself and othersCould a CLE (or an open VLE) help in the integration of student PLEs with the institutional system? Where a PLE is not already in existence could a CLE encourage students to use other cloud based tools and build their PLEs? (Setting our students up for life-long learning.)
Learning networks formed within a VLE/LMS/CMS may thrive and disintegrate from start to the finish of a course. Importantly, after the completion of a course, such systems do not always allow maintaining the networks for life. Creating barriers to lifelong learning opportunities within learning networks formed during formal educational years. Will a CLE change this by allowing PLEs to mix with and across institutional systems and with other cloud based inter-operable services? Such that when students graduate they can still access their learning network they formed during their course be it inside or outside of their institution.

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Formal and Informal divide

My year started with me making a guest post on Steve Wheeler's award winning blog which can be accessed at "Wisdom of Clouds". By the end of January, there had been a huge number of visits to the post on Steve's and my blog. This spurred a healthy debate which I analyse in another post -Cloudy with a chance of change!. The debate also highlighted this formal and informal divide once again.

 Maybe Graham Atwell misunderstood my stance on PLEs and to clear that I tweeted this on the 24rth of January:

I am not against the concept of #PLEs, in fact they are gr8 for lifelong learning: commented on @GrahamAttwell blog-post


 my only concern is about when people come to universities do they already have a #PLE, does our VLE/LMS/CMS encourage creation of PLEs? 11:43 PM Jan 24th  


are PLEs easily integrated within formal education? 11:44 PM Jan 24th from TweetDeck   

why do we want to separate formal and informal learning? when we all know learning knows no boundary 11:44 PM Jan 24th  

 As it happens on twitter, this started a discussion between a few of us who were up that late and joined in:

nlafferty: @manmalik they maybe don't have a #PLE when they come at the moment but another year or two or three and I think they will

me: @nlafferty all the more a reason for our VLEs to change and become more "open" as @sputuk would add :)

 nlafferty:@manmalik I agree they should be more open, do you think current VLEs are really learning environments or admin/management environment envt?

 me: @nlafferty I think they R gd as LMS/CMS & thr is potential 4 these 2 provide formal learning but not informal-not obvious atleast #ple #cle

 jamesclay:@manmalik once you integrate informal learning, it becomes formal learning. You can't plan or design informal learning.

 jamesclay:@manmalik once integrated they are no longer PLEs. You can add institutional systems to your PLE, but not the other way.

 me:@jamesclay re planning informal...I think U can collect stats on wht R the most commonly used informal ways students learn & integr8 some

 creativetallis: @jamesclay @manmalik No, but you can help to create conditions in which it thrives

 me:@jamesclay I do like wht U said abt both informal & PLEs...however there R ways 2 include & benefit from some informal approaches

 nlafferty: @manmalik LMS/CMS can deliver learning content & some tools can support formal learning - I'm interested in what students think of VLEs tho'

 nlafferty: @manmalik I'm using VLE as teacher & student - as a student I would say my learning is happening in my PLE. Agree with @jamesclay comments

 me:@nlafferty a PLE is gr8 for life-long learning, I take it you are a one :)

 nlafferty: @manmalik Yep, at least like to think of myself as one, partly why think important for students not just to use VLE but to develop their PLE

 nlafferty: @manmalik Maybe #CLE will speed up, interesting that OU have opted for google apps

 me:@nlafferty exactly my point, students need to develop a #ple they do not always have one, a #CLE introduces will perhaps speed this up :)

 me:@jamesclay re: adding instl syst 2 #ple & not the other way: I think if u have a #CLE U cn add PLE 2 an institutional #CLE too, nt with #VLE

 jamesclay: @creativetallis @manmalik exactly

 jamesclay:@manmalik as soon as you include it it becomes formal. Create environments for informal, but you can't make informal happen.

I am looking for some answers.

  1. Is mixing a PLE with the institutional system a one way process ("You can add institutional systems to your PLE, but not the other way")?  Or is this just a technical limitation of PLEs and existing Institutional systems (LMS/CMS/VLEs)?
  2. Is it true that educational institutions can just facilitate/create environments for informal learning and not make it happen?
  3. Is there a grey area between the formal and informal that needs attention of the academics? Especially with online learning environments and tools.

Some more interesting read on this I found through @C4lpt


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