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Data Interoperability Framework

So, in an earlier post I was proposing that schools use their Student Information Systems to make their data readable in XML. It turns out that SIS makers have been working on this, as usual in an overly-complicated, clunky, and proprietary way. But, they seem to have given it some serious thought. There are two standards organizations, one for higher ed, IMS Global, and one for k12, SIF. Of course, this doesn’t mean schools will make this data available to the entrepreneurial cowboys bent on revolutionizing education through AJAX, even though that’s what they should do because that’s the only way to help drive innovation in this industry on a hill.

Classroom 2.0 Live Reflections

The most helpful part of Classroom 2.0 Live in San Francisco this past weekend was the lightning rounds and the product demos. The ones who did have an hour, including myself, probably would have been better off staying within fifteen minutes. Here are some products in the order of my personal preference:

1. Diigo (www.diigo.com) is perhaps the most useful site I’ve seen lately, of course elegant in its simplicity. It promotes a better version of social bookmarking with features that enable clipping, quoting, and annotating among much else.

2. Voicethread (www.voicethread.com) allows you to put up work (in the form of media and images) and discuss them in a way very similar to real life discussion and analysis. A really great way to get time to discuss each students work from both the teacher and peers.

3. Ustream (www.ustream.tv) enables live, interactive broadcasting from multiple broadcasters. You could, with a chat room, have a virtual review session with multiple instructors broadcasting and students participating from home.

4. Wikispaces (www.wikispaces.com/ ) in case you hadn’t heard of it is a very simple wiki host. Suggested activities include creating lecture summaries and test review sheets. Mandatory perfect grammar on all wikis is a good way to increase

5. Empressr (http://www.empressr.com/ ) is a sweet browser-based multi-media presentation editor. It’s really slick.

6. Vyew (http://vyew.com/) supposedly empowers teams to collaborate on documents and projects, like some sort of massively multiplayer visual editing system. To me it seemed too messy to be practical, but I was told that this is the last frontier in educational technology.

Edmodo(http://www.edmodo.com), Edu20(www.edu20.com ), and my own product Courses on Facebook (http://apps.facebook.com/courses) are offering totally free versions of Course Management Systems to complement existing tools.

Steve Hargadon, of Classroom 2.0 fame, the evangelist for Ning in educational settings, did a great job putting the event together and had just the right attitude and strength of character to make the event a more than swell experience. He’s modifying the CR2.0 Live concept a little and plans on making a replicable professional development model that can be scaled in the internet sense of the word.

Observations from the Bottom Up.

It’s not every day that some of the leading edubloggers give a noob a shout, but today both Michael Feldstein and Stephen Downes gave me air time. Downes even challenged me to write a little more often, so I thought I’d relay a depiction of a trend of which I seem to be a part.

There’s a lot of excitement for new internet products in education; in specific Web 2.0, scalable, affordable, interactive, usable, interoperable, and dependable products. This excitement didn’t come from administrators having shrimp and cocktail meetings with Blackboard, WebCT and D2L. It came from instructors seeing their students use products like Myspace, which suddenly made 100 million people publishers, and Facebook, which proved that it is possible to make highly scalable social networks while respecting privacy, and Ning, which made private social networks a few mouse clicks away. And let’s not forget those that came before – Friendster, Livejournal, and even Geocities – which managed to prove that young people are more than eager to leave Generation X and Why behind and move on to read/write, participatory, multimedia technoanarchademocratic culture.

Yes, Generation You has graduated and handed up their cultural tools to instructors, who are just now starting to realize the educational power of the read/write web. I will summarize this power in a single sentence: The web has the power to transform the work of a student shared with an audience of one teacher into a publication for all classmates, friends, peers, and the rest of the entire world. The entire set of excuses for apathy and lackadaisical efforts are no longer valid. The students’ work matters. It is no longer the practice, it is the event. It is no longer a 12 year audition, it’s a play in which everyone takes part and everyone has tickets.

Even till now, educational institutions have given poorly run technology firms hosting poorly made technology a monopoly of browser-based inter-school interaction. Each interaction is publishable only at the class level. Schools pay too much for not enough.

Conspicuously absent in all of this is the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial engine. Education is a locked gate, a closed door. It’s run by firms like Blackboard with BS patents and investors tied to Washington (Carlyle Group, so I hear).

This is on the verge of changing. There’s a silent movement boiling up. As long as instructors everywhere start demanding change, it will happen. Slowly, but surely. Forbidden Cities are opening their gates. Technlogies like Rails, CakePHP, and Django are letting kids with laptops build entire suites to solve problems in education. http://esc.frozeninflames.net/ put out William Li at Berkeley and Oycas! put out by Arash Sanieyan from come to mind. These still don’t have much traction, but that’s because interests are still too entrenched and barriers are still too high. So, professors and teachers need to keep working their way around archaic systems, and start becoming vocal about the contrasts between systems that are locked in and closed and ones that seem to be readily available on the web.

Hey, a man can dream, can’t he? Join Educators Using Facebook if you are on Facebook.

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