Archive for the ‘eLearning’ Category

Fish anyone?

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

I am just returning from the Plymouth E-Learning Conference (PeLC) in Cornwall wich was very inspiring for me.

After an outstanding keynote by Shelly Terell there was a plenary session with Shelly Terell, John Davitt, Andy J. Black and Peter Yeomans hosted by Steve Wheeler.

A question that got stuck in my mind was “How are we going to teach children what they need for the future?”.

In my opinion the answer is pretty simple: “We can’t!”

Andy Black said that there is going to be more change during the next 10 years than during the last 100 years. And he is probably right. Nobody saw the changes coming that happend the last years. 10 years ago, nobody thought of the success Facebook had.

In times where we have no idea how the world looks like in 10 years, how could we possible think we know what children need in their life? I’d say we can’t!

But …

… what we CAN do is to prepare children to be able to compete with challenges that life throws at them. We can teach them to experiment, explore, fight and think creatively. That should be all it takes to tackle pretty much any problem. At least it is what it took us so far.

In order to teach these abilities the focus has to shift from the content to learning principles. Instead of teacheing them a certain topic, we should rather go ahead and teach them how to learn what they need on their own. This way we can be sure that they will be able to gain the knowledge they’ll need not only to design our and their future, but also to teach it to their children for their future.

Big fish

This kind of reminds me on an old chinese saying:

“Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today.  Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime”
—Author unknown
What do you think? What is your opinion? Can we define what’s important for children in their future? Let me know and add a comment.

Integrated PLEs?

Friday, March 11th, 2011

The first time I read about PLEs and talked about them with Steve Wheeler, I was intrigued about the simplicity of PLEs. It’s so easy, take the tools you are already using and use them for learning. In order to improve, just mix and match. But why aren’t more people doing it? Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people are using those tools, just not for learning.

Inspired by the #elearning2020 discussion of Steve, I started thinking of the future of PLEs. What happens in other domains and areas? How are people improving and changing their tools?

Steve Wheeler once said to me: “You can create a tool and maybe suggest what the user is doing with it. But you can’t control what the user is actually going to do with it”. People will always use the tools for what they need it for. But does that mean it is optimized for it? I don’t think so.

Potato printingEven if you can print with potatoes, which is quite popular within elementary school in Germany, the process of printing has been improved over time. People, that had to handle with the technique on a daily basis, thought about the process and tried to eliminate drawbacks while improving the advantages.

Couldn’t that happen to learning tools? Isn’t there potential to improve some angles of learning tools?

I mean there will definitely be some downsides, like the freedom of using whatever the heck you want. But in my opinion a combined “building-block-kind-of-system” could offer the upside of integration. The system could be able to “know” what you did in all these tools and help you to find connections. You could easily add people you know from Facebook within your blog, point out the connections you have with a fellow blogger on and so on. There would also be the chance of using computing power to personalize certain things for the current user, which is just not possible in a class room and which current tools don’t have the features for. Even suggestions, based on your behaviour or your learning history could be useful.

For the current generation it is easy to use what they already know but the digital natives and the upcoming generation will probably use different or at least modified tools anyway. Think about MySpace it was quite popular some years ago and is now languishing away as a special place for musicians to upload their music.

We just have the chance to contribute to this modification at an early stage and try to push it into the right direction. What is you opinion on integrated systems for learning? What does outweigh, upsides or downsides?

The Bonsai Incident

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I just finished reading “The Element” from Sir Ken Robinson Ph.D., a must-read for everybody interested in education or personal development. The “One Element” is the activity you’re designed to do, that you forget time and space doing it.

He states that the human creativity and intelligence is nearly infinetely and most of all, diverse. I understand this in the sense of Howard Gardner’s “Multiple Intelligences“. I think therefore it is not sufficient to create a test like the Meyer-Briggs-Test that only holds like 5 or 6 categories to describe a human being, all his plans, feelings, dreams, and behaviours. For nearly 6 billion people you’ll need 6 billion categories.

Robinson compares the thrive for knowledge of humans with the thrive for growing within fauna. I think everybody who has ever seen a bonsai tree or ever has cut one can see that. A Bonsai will keep growing only within the possible conditions. As long as there is the slightest chance, it will grow! It is not getting as tall as it could, but it doesn’t give up either.

Manfred Spitzer wrote in “Learning: The human brain and the school of life” that every animal is optimized for a specific task. Birds are optimized for flying, the cheetah for running, and the human? The human is optimized for learning! No creature is better in adepting to new situations. So why are so many humans that much discouraged about something they are designed to do?

It could be, that often in education methods and knowledge is forced on children and nobody cares to explain why this knowledge is important for them. Nobody cares if this knowledge is useful to them or if only one of them is talented at what he is trying to teach to them. Additionally sometimes if learners try to verify their understanding of the content by asking questions, their opinion is not appreciated if it doesn’t match the one that is taught.

So how could learners or possible learners be motivated intrinsically? Could personalization be an option? Would personalized content be an motivating factor to boost or even initialize thrive for learning? I think if that’s the case, computers could help to determine a template for learners, based on several profiles of learners.

What’s your opinion? Could there be a personalized learning? Would it motivate learners? Could computers help with personalizing content? And if, to what degree would you think they can be of help?

Plymouth E-Learning Conference 2011

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

The Plymouth E-Learning Conference 2011 is coming soon. From April 6th to April 8th, Plymouth will be crowded with E-Learning researchers from all over the world. Within the University of Plymouth at Drake Circus, researchers will be talking about web 2.0, social media and technologies within the process of teaching and learning. Key note speakers this year include Jane Seale, Stephen Heppell, John Davitt and Inge De Waard. The motto this year is: “Digital Futures: Learning in a Connected World”.

As a regular attendee I’m really looking forward to interesting dialogs, presentations and meeting the community, following the call of Steve Wheeler every year. Hope to see you there.

What’s in it for me?

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

DecissionSteve Wheeler pointed in his blog post “Hanging in there” out some really good points. He posted “…informal learning is more reliant upon an individual’s intrinsic motivation than it is by any external pressures. In other words, we learn because we are interested.”
I couln’t agree more with that! But how to “create” that interest? Or better how is the interest in informal learning different from the one in formal learning? Is it the relation to the content? So that directly relation to the content causes intrinsic motivation (the chinese girlfriend) and an indirect relation (good grades lead to a good job leads to a good pay … some day) needs an extrinsic motivation?

Could it be possible for somebody to improve his motivation by creating intrinsic motivation, just by finding a way of directly relating the learning content to one self? That would imply to be very creative in order to relate any given topic to a current living situation.

But how to achieve that? Creativity is defined as “…thinking items together, that haven’t been thought together before and getting a value out of it…”. I would say that matches the need of connecting externally imposed demands of learning content and personal interests pretty much.

This again would emphasise a certain view on PLEs. Not only would they document ones successful learning history in an e-Portfolio and an overview on current learning activities but they could be used as a support for trying to find a relation between given learning content or topics and current personal situations. Situations of any professional or private nature. The closer to ones interest the better.
I guess with the help of some semantics in the future it will get easier for a PLE to find connections that not even me was thinking of.

My guess is, the more clear I can see what’s in it for me, the more important “it” is for me, the more motivated I am.

What’s your opinion? Any experiences with that? WVDA67ET62Q2

This time it’s personal

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

merged world eye stampedThinking of social e-learning instantly brings a community and interaction to mind. But … learning always starts at a personal level. And how exactly does my personal learning look like?

How is it that I’m not motivated at all to learn some cheap formulas for a cryptography exam but I’m highly motivated to learn a foreign language like Chinese, which by the way is slightly harder. My english professor always said: “The fastest way to learn a language is to have a girlfriend who just speaks this language.” I think in this case the motivation is kind of raised.
Why do we have different motivations for different things? How is it that my motivation is higher if I learn self-initiated and when I am passionate about the outcome as it is when somebody tells me to learn?

A personal learning includes intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and it includes formal and informal learning. Mostly it starts with informal learning during the days you try to stand up and walk, then it is more formal learning going through school, college or university and after that it becomes informal again. For instance if you learn a foreign language just for the fun of it or to stay active or if you discover a new sport or game.

The reason for the differentiation of informal and formal learning could be the same as intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, at least in most cases. So it would be fantastic to be able to transfer formal to informal learning or sometimes vice versa. Is there a chance to convert from one into the other? How could students be engaged to disregard the boundaries of formal learning and go beyond these boundaries? Could social learning be an approach to facilitate learners to simply forget about the boundaries of formal learning and just learn as it would be informal?

picture source:

Plymouth E-Learning Conference

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

conferenceAs I mentioned a long time ago, the Plymouth E-Learning Conference has succsessfully started today. After an enlightning key note from Mike Balmires, our Atlantis Project will have its own track. The track will contain 14 presentations during thursday and friday. If you are around stop by at one of our presentation to get an impression of our project. The first presentation is already running in Room 11.

Social networks @ CeBIT

Thursday, March 5th, 2009


After a walk through several halls, I spotted some more interessting stands offering quite innovative services in the field of social networking and eLearning.

Social online networks are not just a personal fun pages any more but very interesting for enterprises to use internally to improve collaboration within the enterprise or externally to cooperate with customers and suppliers. Blogtronix, a company located in Bulgaria, Canada and USA, offers social online networks especially tailored to enterprise needs.

André Ulrich and his company kontextwork offers Wikis, adapted to special needs of enterprises. Needs like online social networks, knowledge management, news, blogging and project-based collaboration can be served with wikis. Applicated Wikis are based on OpenSource projects and can be developed further to any kind of

Commetrix is a project of the Technical University of Berlin. It provides various ways to visualize social networks with a lot of input. Email traffic or online social networks can be analyzed and displayed. The results of the analysis can be tweaked and shaped in different ways like narrow it down by keyword. Taken its almost real-time character it is really useful for monitoring or getting snapshots of any kind of network.

A different approach of capture information about social networks is VennMaker. It doesn’t automatically import data from networks but offers the possibility of enter information manually as you talk to an individual. It focuses the subjective character of information provided by persons. Social networks can be drawn and exported in an easy way.

social virtPresenter
social virtPresenter developed by the University of Osnabrueck is an Facebook application that offers a lot of funktions for eLearning for the existing online social network. Videos of lectures can be watched online together with friends. Questions can be asked, according to specific points in the video. The watch behaviour is recorded and is visualized in the form of how often was a particular point watched.

eLearning @ CeBIT

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

After a good start, featuring a presentation of Prof. Dr. Udo Bleimann live on stage, talking about the Atlantis University Project, I took a brief look across projects about eLearning.

I had a very nice chat with a feller from Komuniki at our Stand. Komuniki is a young vibrant company based in Cyprus and Germany. They created a eLearning comunity featuring intercultural communication and collaboration. Attend an online class learning also about your virtual neighbor from India, China or wherever in the world.

Prof. Dr.-ing Krämer from Fern-Universität Hagen is creating a repository for eLearning media content called CampusContent. Why produce every little bit of media content yourself when there is already a bunch of content available. The repository will feature crontribution of new content and copy or reference things. It will also feature a licencing model in order to protect content from ilegal copying.

Kalmann Graffi a PhD candidate from TU Darmstadt is currently developing LiveSocial, a social network offering features similar to StudiVZ but with a peer-to-peer network model.

A company not directly involved in eLearning but still worth mentioning is an Liquiverse, founded by of a very innovative friend of mine. With Liquifile and Liquibase, Carsten Waldeck, is storming the field of browsing in a innovative manor. Even the official CeBIT website is featuring his liquid browsing to find exhibitors.

Atlantis @ CeBIT

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Schwarzenegger and MerkelOn March 2nd, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Angela Merkel will open the CeBIT fair in Hannover Germany and our eLearning project “Atlantis University Portal” will be present. Together with the Technical Transfer Network of the State Hessen, we will present our eLearning project. We will be located in the Hall 9 where eGovernment will be the main topic. Come and visit us at Hall 9 Stand C22.