Archive for September, 2007

Metaplace – like Second Life, but open from the start?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Areae want to reinvent virtual worlds, using open standards and protocols. It sounds pretty good:

“Right now, there are lots of people who want to use virtual worlds for research, or education, or business, but it’s just too darn hard to get one going. Now [with Metaplace] you can create a world in just a few minutes and start tailoring it to your needs.”

Definitely worth looking into, when they recover from the Slashdotting…

I wonder how much Areae’s announcment influenced Linden Labs to announce their plans for the future of Second Life (or vice-versa).

Poster with bloated title wins award at ALT-C

Friday, September 14th, 2007

I gave my talk on ‘Cultural Capital and Community Development in the pursute of Slaying Dragons’ at the ALT-C e-learning conference last week. The talk was well received which was very encouraging. The poster of the talk won a runners-up prize in the poster competition! How much of this was down to tactical voting I cannot say but it would seem that the e-learning community is becoming gradually more interested in the possibleuse of Multi-User Virtual Environments.

Talking about Dragons with Dragons

Friday, September 14th, 2007

Last Friday I partook in a stressful but useful event run by JISC. Anyone who could make it had the chance to pitch their project ideas for the Users and Innovation callrun by Lawrie Phipps. The format was similar to the BBC ‘Dragons Den’ programme. Each project had to go before a couple of JISC representatives or ‘dragons’ and pitch their idea in a 5-10 min presentation. The dragons would then feedback on the idea and point out/discuss it’s pros and cons.

I was surprised to find that this process put me into my old ‘exam fear’ mode and I panicked for most of the day. However, there is nothing better for focusing an idea than knowing that you have to explain it to a third party, especially when some of it relates to World of Warcraft! It forced us to look at the marking criteria for the call and to turn vague details into well thought out project plans.

Our actual pitch to the dragons went well and their feedback was very helpful. It seems to make sense to do this kind of grilling before, not after the projects are underway. Hopefully it will lead to a better breed of projects.

A project in quotidian democracy

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

As mentioned before, Mako Hill is doing interesting things with voting software. He just posted an update, and the selectricity site is up. I made this quickvote to have a play – take a look!

CPD online courses for Autumn

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

We are launching a number of Continuing Professional Development courses, this Autumn including 2 new courses.

24th September

Introduction to Electronics

Patient-Based Evidence (NEW)

1st October

Perl for Bioinformatics

22nd October

Key Concepts in Health Care for People Experiencing Homelessness

5th November

Effective Online Tutoring (NEW)

For more information on these courses or to enroll on a course visit

Technologies, learning and belonging for a 3 year old

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

As I collected my daughter from nursery the other day I was struck by how they were using digital photography and the associated easy editing and printing to decorate the classroom.

When I was at school the walls were decorated with our artwork and it was part of what made my classroom feel like a place where I wanted to be. Now my daughter’s nursery not only decorate the walls with the outputs of what they have been doing, but pictures of them doing it. It is no longer only the artwork you can see on the walls, but the class dancing to the drummers who were at the carnival, visiting the theatre – or just pictures of all the kids eating their favorite food.


These images are just colour print outs, the quality is pretty bad, but it is good enough, you can see what is happening and that it is her and her friends doing it. This is their nursery full of the things they have been doing.

We work in adult distance learning so in the end everything we do has to be online (and not pitched at a 3 year old) but I think there are opportunities with these tools in terms of social presence and belonging that we could be exploring.

Point, Click … Eavesdrop

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Important information for privacy advocates and paranoiacs alike in an article over on Wired (based on the EFF‘s freedom of information requests), about the FBI’s Digital Collection System Network:

“the surveillance systems let FBI agents play back recordings even as they are being captured (like TiVo), create master wiretap files, send digital recordings to translators, track the rough location of targets in real time using cell-tower information, and even stream intercepts outward to mobile surveillance vans.”

If we can assume that the system is secure and the authorisation process (via the courts) is reliable, it looks like a really impressive law enforcement tool. However, software is usually buggy – so open to attack, and the courts don’t seem to matter – so the US government can spy on anyone they like.

Between this, free speech zones, detention without charge, and extraordinary rendition, it makes me worry about the state of the US (and the UK’s involvement). It even makes me nervous about the holiday in the New York I have booked.

Online courses for the Autumn

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

This autumn we are offering more short courses than ever before, including 7 new courses

10th September

Brontës (NEW)
Learning to Look at the Visual Arts
New Economic Powers
Study Skills

12th September

Jane Austen
Learning to Look at Western Architecture
Philosophy Gym
Political Philosophy

17th September

Exploring Roman Britain
Islamic Art and Architecture (NEW)
Victorian Fiction: an Introduction (NEW)

19th September

Contemporary British Fiction; an Introduction (NEW)
Critical Reading
Durer to Bruegel: Northern Renaissance Art c.1480-1580
Learning to look at Modern Art (NEW)
Philosophy of Religion
Reality, being and existence: An introduction to metaphysics

24th September

Philosophy of Mind
Theory of Knowledge (NEW)
Visual Arts of India

26th September

Playing God: an introduction to Bioethics (NEW)

For more information on these courses or to enrol on a course visit Online courses at Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education, email the online courses office or telephone +44 (0)1865 280974.

A system that works for me

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Andreas Lloyd has made his thesis on the social dynamics of the Ubuntu community available.

I’ve not read it all yet, but an initial look suggests that it relates quite well to the intersection of two strands of endeavour in TALL – online communities (who sometime meet in person – how do they work, are they useful for education?), and computer tech (what tools and services can we use/adapt/create?).

NB: Andreas has, with community spirit, released it under a Creative Commons license, meaning that anyone can redistribute it and add their comments.

What is Web 2.0 and how is it impacting on education?

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

Not my title but the title of a recent JISC podcast in which myself and JISC strand manager, Lawrie Phipps, discuss the nature of Web 2.0 and its possible relevance for education. We both take a cautious liberal view that recognises the potential in this new style of communicating and sharing whilst being clear that institutions can’t simply dive-in and appropriate the emerging online culture which seems to be in a permanent state of flux. If you are not sure what Web 2.0 is all about then this may be the non-technical introductory podcast for you.