Thursday, May 28, 2009

Google I/O: Google Web Elements and HTML5

At Google I/O, Google announed Google Web Elements, a set of widgets that allow users to quickly integrate some of Google’s most popular products (e.g. Calendar, Maps, News) directly into their sites with a minimal amount of effort. Above is a News element (widget), searching for news on Sports.

At the same event, Google VP of Engineering Vic Gundotra talked in his keynote about HTML 5. You can find more about this keynote and HTML 5 features here, with several links to tutorials from the Opera, Mozilla, Palm, and Google teams working on HTML 5. Interesting stuff!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Zhaohui Wang

A photo with my dear friend Zhaohui Wang after the successful defense of his diploma thesis yesterday. I enjoyed the great discussions we had around the topic of mashup personal learning environments. Will write more about this in later posts.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mashup Personal Learning Environments

A PLE is a learner's gate to knowledge. It can be viewed as a self-defined collection of services, tools, and devices that help learners build their Personal Knowledge Networks (PKN), encompassing tacit knowledge nodes (i.e. people) and explicit knowledge nodes (i.e information). Thus, mechanisms that support learners in building their PLEs become crucial.

Mashups provide an interesting solution to developing PLEs. We can differentiate between two types of mashups:
  • Mashups by aggregation simply assemble sets of information from different sources side by side within a single interface. Mashups by aggregation do not require advanced programming skills and are often a matter of cutting and pasting from one site to another. Personalized start pages, which are individualized assemblages of feeds and widgets, fall into this category.
  • Mashups by integration create more complex applications that integrate different APIs in order to combine data from different sources. Unlike mashups by aggregation, the development of mashups by integration needs considerable programming expertise.
The figure above depicts an abstract view of PLEF, a framework for mashup personal learning environments. PLEF leverages the possibility to plug learning components from multiple sources into a learner-controlled space. This ranges from simply juxtaposing content from different different sources (e.g. feeds, widgets, media) into a single interface (mashup by aggregation), to a more complex remixing of different APIs into an integrated application, in order to create entirely different views or uses of the original data (mashup by integration).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Mother's Promise: Barack's Biography

A biography of Barack Obama ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Larry Page's University of Michigan commencement address

A video of Larry Page delivering the commencement address at the University of Michigan.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

LaaN Revisited

In my opinion, douple-loop learning and connectivism complement and enhance each other. Connectivism focuses on making connections (at external, conceptual, and neural levels) and seeing patterns. Connectivism, however, misses some of the douple-loop learning concepts which are crucial for learning, such as learning from failures, error detection and correction, inquiry, challenging and eventually changing our theories-in-use to meet the requirements of the new environment.

On the other hand, double-loop learning aims at detecting and correcting errors by changing the values, strategies, and assumptions of the theory-in-use according to the new setting. Double-loop learning, however, does not recognize the power of connections/networks that help us operate in dynamic and uncertain environments, characterized by knowledge overload and fast-paced change.

The Learning as a Network (LaaN) perspective draws together some of the concepts behind double-loop learning and connectivism. It starts from the learner and views learning as the continuous creation of a personal knowledge network (PKN). For each learner, a PKN is a unique adaptive repertoire of:
- One's theories-in-use. This includes norms for individual performance, strategies for achieving values, and assumptions that bind strategies and values together (conceptual/internal level)
- Tacit and explicit knowledge nodes (i.e. people and information) (external level)

The role of learning institutions would then be to help us build our PKNs, by providing an emergent environment, in which we can make connections, see patterns, reflect, (self)-criticize, detect/correct errors, inquire, test, challenge and eventually change our theories-in-use.

I believe CCK08 was a great example of such an environment. Each participant entered the course with his/her initial PKN, including individual theories-in-use, i.e. a personal string of norms, values, strategies, and assumptions, as well as a base set of external knowledge nodes. In my case, my theories-in-use included norms (understand what connectivism is), values (build my private image of connectivism), strategies (active participation by following and contributing to the distributed discussion), and assumptions (Building my private image of connectivism depends on the continual contribution to the discussion). My initial set of external  knowledge nodes involved selected people and a collection of reflections in form of articles and blogposts, that, prior to CCK08, helped me build a first private image of the connectivism perspective, which I tried to share here.

CCK08 then provided an open environment that fostered reflection, critique, trial-and-error, inquiry, and helped participants find their niches to make connections, compare and adjust their private images of connectivism. The result of CCK08 was a restructuring of one's PKN, that is, a reframing of one's theories-in-use (conceptual/internal level) and an extension of one's external network with new knowledge nodes (external level).

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Which Ajax framework should I use?

Matt Raible did a nice comparison of four popular Ajax frameworks, namely Dojo, Ext JS, GWT, and YUI, using different evaluation criteria. Here's his conclusion:
After working with the various frameworks, we believe that all the frameworks were very good and could be used to write applications with.
We're using GWT here and GWT-Ext here, and I highly recommend them for core Java developers.

Monday, May 04, 2009

How do ants know what to do?

A very interesting video of Deborah Golden talking about how ants learn and work...

In my opinion the behavior of ant colonies can serve as inspiration to help us change the way we learn/work within an increasingly complex and fast changing environment. There are many lessons that we can get from ant colony behavior:
- In ant colonies there is no central control and no ants directs the behavior of others; our learning/work is controlled/directed by the teacher/institution.
-  In ant colonies ants switch tasks, our learning is driven by one task, namely be a passive recipient of information.
- In ant colonies ants adjust to the environment (double-loop learning), we only act according to norms specified by an outside force (single-loop learning).
- Ant colonies are driven by emergence and self-organization, our learning/work is driven by command and control.