Gluing it all together

If we lived in a perfect world, we could design a learning system that would do everything right the first time and serve us perfectly forever after. However, in such a world, we could never get to the system which tends to evolve in similar ways organisms evolve. New revs mutate and some mutations are more suitable to the current environment so they survive. That's how we got some of the best in Web2.0 design inspite of the mirriad of Web2.0 mutations that didn't make it. In other words, this evolutationary approach is a great metaphorical vehicle for technological progress. However, it has a downside that is particularly keenly felt in Education. It leaves behind what has been called data rot.

Just think of all the multimedia CD-ROMs, all the old static websites, and all the Blackboard class materials! They were created by enthusiastic educators only to be orphaned once the new thing came along but nobody thought to update the materials whose original creators are long gone or disaffected or both.

Then, there are the students, whose little videos on YouTube, project reports, discussions on those ridiculous Blackboard forums, personal planning in PebblePad, and more is strewn all over the 'internets' and certainly does not allow the same level of systematisation that simply coming to class everyday can do. It's not that easy to figure out all the ins and outs of Facebook but students do it for the obvious rewards. But keeping up with their learning online has none of that level of immediacy or need.

Now there is SCORM but while that allows for data portability, it doesn't really provide the sort of service API we need for social learning (as far as I can tell).  It is only one ingredient to the glue! Then there other service APIs, and more.

Surprisingly, it appears that the humble RSS can provide more of this glu than I'd thought. See this reuse of OU materials or the singing of praises to it on Abject Learning.

Norman d'Arcy suggested that Drupal could provide such "Eduglu" and that is a solution dear to my heart. But another Drupaler, Bill Fitzgerald at Funny Monkey, took a more general approach and outlined an Open Learning system that seems to offer enough flexibility alongside the power.

The really interesting thing is that it combines a technological vision with a  pedagogical one! The problem lots of ICT managers in educational contexts are facing is a lack of vision-time. They get caught up on loats [pub intended] of fragmented projects trying to solve one thing at a time but do not have a comprehensive 'glu-vision' (and frequently not sufficient understanding of the issues) this combined with the limited ICT know-how of current managers can lead to situations where there is more data rotting away on a school's server than anybody knows what to do with (cut and paste, retyping and similar forms of replications are not uncommon in those rare cases anybody can actually find the stuff).

I suspect that an open data vision needs to be a part of any comprehensive ICT strategy if we're hoping for any real engagement with users!