zaterdag, december 15, 2007

Sakai is serious about internationalization

Within the Sakai community, everyone does tremendous work. Some of us work hard on the code of Sakai, others on quality, others on clear requirements and there is a group working on the user experience (done trhough the Fluid project). Today I want to highlight another important aspect of the Sakai community. This is the group of people that work hard on Sakai for the users in non-English speaking countries. This is the Internationalization Working Group, where Beth Kirschner is the coordinator.
This group not only deals with pure translation of everthing that's inside Sakai. No, they really do "Internationalization", which means that Sakai will also adhere to conventions in other countries. Just to name one issue within this realm: date and time formatting. Over here in Europe we don't use the AM and PM convention. We have 24 hours in one day!
If you want to know what's being worked on, please go to Known I18N problems - WG: I18N & L10N - Confluence, where you will find the Top Internationalization Problems. There is also a Internationalization dashboard (hosted in Amsterdam), that shows you how many files have been internationalized so far. There is also a page with current information on the Dutch translation. Still some work to be done! Good to know: LOI, Portfolio4u, Edia and A New Spring have joined forces to get things done. These are all commercial companies working with Sakai in The Netherlands.

dinsdag, december 11, 2007

ccLearn: very promising ideas!

ccLearn was 'publicly' launched during the Sakai conference in Amsterdam in June of this year (picture of Hal Abelson). ccLearn has made some interesting progress. ccLearn is partnering with Google to create a so-called "Web-scale open education search". Please check it out at:

Open Education Search — ccLearn
Institutions have done amazing work creating and publishing OERs on the web, but the infrastructure to fully realize the value of these investments is still at the Web 1.0 level. Web-scale open education search is a component of taking the OER ecosystem to the next level, as well as a driver for interoperability and standards across OER implementations. (..) the goal is to increase the visibility and traffic to all specialized
OER repositories. There will always be a need for repositories that
focus on specific subsets of OER or allow for interaction with OER in
specialized ways. Our belief is that web-scale search will enable a
quantum leap in the awareness and utilization of OER by directing
interested users to existing sites more successfully.

maandag, december 10, 2007

{Dutch} Alan Berg on Sakai

Alan Berg works at the University of Amsterdam. He wrote a piece on Sakai (in Dutch), with some interesting comments by fellow Sakai followers at the University of Amsterdam. Just go here: Open source LMS Sakai gedijt goed aan de UvA
De afgelopen week (van 4 tot en met 6 december) werd in de Amerikaanse stad Newport Beach de '8th Sakai Conference' gehouden, een conferentie over de open source digitale leeromgeving Sakai. Een van de deelnemers was Alan Berg, senior developer en 'fulltime probleemoplosser' binnen de Onderwijs- & Onderzoek Dienstengroep (ODG) van de Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA). In onderstaand artikel beschrijft hij de aard van Sakai, de relatie tussen Sakai en de UvA en houdt hij een rondgang langs een aantal betrokkenen.

donderdag, december 06, 2007

Apples & pears

The keynote of day two by Bob Sutor, VP of open source and standards at IBM was partly about something very familiar to Dutch innovators in Higher Education. Sutor spoke about something that has also been coined 'Generation Einstein' in the Netherlands. A new generation of learners entering the schools with a lot of computer skills and therefore more technological demands. But his talk 'from closed to open' was also about the role of open software in this development. Reasoning from the deception that the new generation faces when confronted with 'boring' educational software, open source developments in conjuction with the 'read/write' web 2.0 offer a possibility to start creating better educational systems that meet the demands of the new learners.

UC Berkely showed some of this in practise as they demonstrated their 'OpenCast' initiative. In collaboration with Apple they work on an architecture for producing, sharing and delivering webcasts in education. And it integrates with Youtube too, speaking about new demands. All together a far from trivial and challenging combination of technology, didactic concepts, new (open) business logic and so forth.
Like the OpenCast project, a general observation is that there are many professional and well-structured developments going on, that are either built in Sakai or integrated with it. Just take Sakai as given and you can put energy in shaping the environment to your philosophy of education.

I will be representing the Dutch Sakai SIG in the panel session “Sakai in your backyard' about organizing regional Sakai events. And it actually feels a bit like the backyard when I have to mention that in the Netherlands we are still busy comparing apples with pears in the backyard, whereas we should be reasoning about what kind of neat features and innovations we could develop within the community! Take Sakai as given, and direct the resources to make Sakai match optimally to your philosophy of education. Sometimes i think this is what it's all about: either you model the software to your organisation (open source) or you model your organisation to the software you have (closed source).

Next up for today is the technical demo of the Sign-up tool that Porfolio4U and Edia developed in the last month. A hot item because it turned out to be a classic case of concurrent development. Yale university, Stanford university and University of Michigan have or have had Sign-up projects. So what will happen? Can we agree to synchronize requirements and come up with one tool, or will there be different sign-up tools in the future? Think of it, there are in fact a lot of use cases for a sign-up tool, ranging from student meetings, tutoring sessions or even seminars and workshops.
Does anybody know a good alternative name for a tool that allows people to sign up for events such as seminars, workshops and the like?

woensdag, december 05, 2007

Connexions and Sakai?

Originally uploaded by swedishcoins
Through the photostream of Magnus (Stockholm University) I found this piece of great news: the Connexions project (at Rice University) is looking at the Sakai community (and Foundation). That would be good news if these two movements came together in the near future!
There is more stuff coming from Sweden! This is a weblog that I recently discovered: the Swedish Learning Space.

Day One in Newport Beach

Today the main Sakai conference started in Newport Beach, about 55 miles south of Los Angeles. The hotel and surroundings (picture taken from the hotel) provide an excellent environment for the coming days. I have been told that 411 people have registered for the conference, and I have counted three Dutchmen among them.

So what was on this morning? The day started off with an inspiring key note talk by Joel Thierstein, Executive Director of Connexions and Associate Provost of Rice University. The Connexions platform is definitely worth some further investigation. From a conceptual point of view, one could compare it with Dutch activities within the ‘educatieve contentketen’. Like in the Netherlands , (business)models of open content, re-use and sharing within a community are new, and therefore also require new and challenging forms of governance and leadership within such communities.

In another session, 'converting from an existing course management system to Sakai' by David Melone, I heard some interesting remarks on integrating Sakai with an existing Question Mark Perception instance. I turns out that they are interested in sharing an LDAP between the two systems and possibly report QMP grades to the Sakai gradebook. Since the University of Amsterdam now uses a QMP instance for their ICTO - Digital testing programme, I think it might be something to keep on our radar.

The Sakai Foundation executive director Micheal Korcuska gave an update on the Sakai Foundation in the third session. It seems that there has been a good debate within the foundation about the mission statement of Sakai and the priorities of the Sakai Foundation. The mission could be ‘Beat Blackboard’ , but Michael came up with a few more thoughtful statements:

· Create flexibility for education
· Facilitate innovation
· Reduce total costs of VLE’s
· Increase user satisfaction
· Promote openness

Next to that the two top priorities of the Sakai foundation should be to ‘create the highest quality core software’ and ‘Seek to engage new members of the community’.Regarding the last point, there is in fact some debate about the adoption of Sakai. The question is whether it is desired to have ( a lot) more institutions new to Sakai at this moment and seeing the complexity of managing the already large community rise.
This discussion also relates to the type of institutions, e.g community colleges, corporations etc. that are moving into the direction of Sakai. Mike Zackrison, vice-president of marketing and strategy at rSmart also touched on the debate in his session. rSmart has done a survey investigating various types of institutions and their future plans with regard to (open source) VLE’s, and they found some interesting issues. Those who are interested should contact rSmart to get a copy of the survey results. What made the talk especially interesting is that there seem to be differences in views on open source across different types of institutions. For example the rSmart survey concluded that community colleges (in the U.S) see open source as risky and do not tend to be interested in Sakai. Well, we all now that in The Netherlands community colleges have the largest install base of Sakai-OSP in the Dutch educational system, using the hosted solution by Portfolio4u. That shows the need of more market investigations throughout different regions and sharing them with the community, because the Sakai Foundation is debating these issues! The general idea however about the adoption of Sakai is that an increase of institutions using Sakai would be the preferred development. And in the end that is no surprise to me.

dinsdag, december 04, 2007

Make me jealous!

Unfortunately I cannot attend the current Sakai conference. So my question is: is anyone taking pictures at the conference (and outside the conference)? Can I see them?