Ba dum… Education for the Open Web Fellowship: Uncourse Edu

A couple of weeks ago, I started getting tweets and emails linking to a call for an Education for the Open Web Fellowship from the Mozilla and Shuttleworth Foundations.

The way I read the call was that the fellowship provides an opportunity for an advocate of open ed on the web to do their thing with the backing of a programme that sees value in that approach…

…and so, I’ve popped an (un)application in (though not helped with having spent the weekend in a sick bed… bleurrrgh… man flu ;-) It’s not as polished as it should be, and it could be argued that it’s unfinished, but that is, erm, part of the point… After all, my take on the Fellowship is that the funders are seeking to act as a patron to a person and helping them achieve as much as they can, howsoever they can, as much as it is supporting a very specific project? (And if I’m wrong, then it’s right that my application is wrong, right?!;-)

The proposal – Uncourse Edu – is just an extension of what it is I spend much of my time doing anyway, as well as an attempt to advocate the approach through living it: trying to see what some of the future consequences of emerging tech might be, and demonstrating them (albeit often in way that feels too technical to most) in a loosely educational context. As well as being my personal notebook, an intended spin-off of this blog is to try help drive down barriers to use of web technologies, or demonstrate how technologies that are currently only available to skilled developers are becoming more widely usable, and access to them as building blocks is being “democratised”. As to what the barriers to adoption are, I see them as being at least two-fold: one is ease of use (how easy the technology is to actually use); the second is attitude: many people just aren’t, or don’t feel they’re allowed to be, playful. This stops them innovating in the workplace, as well as learning for themselves. (So for example, I’m not an auto-didact, I’m a free player…;-)

The Fellowship applications are templated (loosely) and submitted via the Drumbeat project pitching platform. This platform allows folk to pitch projects and hopefully gather support around a project idea, as well as soliciting (small amounts of) funding to help run a project. (It’d be interesting if in any future rounds of JISC Rapid Innovation Funding, projects were solicited this way and one of the marking criterion was the amount of support a pitched proposal received?)

I’m not sure if my application is allowed to change, but if it doesn’t get locked by the Drumbeat platform it may well do so… (Hopefully I’ll get to do at least another iteration of the text today…) In particular, I really need to post my own video about the project (that was my undone weekend task:-(

Of course, if you want to help out producing the video, and maybe even helping shape the project description, then why not join the project? Here’s the link again: Uncourse Edu.

PS I think there’s a package on this week’s OU co-produced episode of Digital Planet on BBC World Service (see also: Digital Planet on open2) that includes an interview with Mark Shuttleworth and a discussion about some of the work the Shuttleworth Foundation gets up to… (first broadcast is tomorrow, with repeats throughout the week).

DISCLAIMER: I’m the OU academic contact for the Digital Planet.

Using JISCPress/Digress.it for Reading List Publication

One of the things I’ve been doodling with but not managing to progress much thinking wise (not enough dog walking time lately!) is how we might be able to use the digress.it WordPress theme to support various course related functions in ways that exploit the disaggregating features of the theme.

Chatting with Huw Jones last week about his upcoming Arcadia seminar on “The Problem of Reading Lists” (this coming Tuesday, Nov 24th – all welcome;-) I started thinking again about the potential for using digress.it as a means of publishing, and collecting comments on, reading lists.

So for example, over on the doodlings WriteToReply site I’ve posted an example of how a reading list posted under the theme is automatically disaggregated into separate, uniquely identified references:

The reading list was generated simply by copying and pasting a PDF based reading list into a WordPress blog post. Looking at the format of the list, one could imagine adding further comments or notes relating to each reference using a blog comment. Given that the basis of each paragraph is a citation to a particular work, it might be possible to parse out enough information to generate a link to a search on the University OPAC for the corresponding work (and if so, pull back an indication of the availability of the book as, for example, my Library Traveler script used to do for books viewed on Amazon).

Under the current in-testing digress.it theme, each paragraph on the page can be made available as a separate item in an RSS feed; that is, as well as the standard ‘single item’ RSS page feed that WordPress generates automatically, we can get an N-item feed from the page for the N-paragraphs contained on a page.

Which in terms means that to generate an itemised RSS feed version of a reading list, all I need to do is paste the reading list – with each reference in a separate paragraph – into a single blog post. (the same is true for disaggregating/feed itemising previous exam papers, for example, or I guess video links in order to generate a DeliTV programme bundle…?!)

(For more details of the various ways in which digress.it can automatically disaggregate/atomise a document, see Open Data: What Have We Got?.)

PS just a reminder again – Huw’s Reading List project talk, which is about far more than just reading lists, is on Tuesday in the Old Combination Room, Wolfson College, Cambridge, at 6pm.

Recommendations By Magic

I’m not sure how I feel about this – maybe the magic is good magic, maybe it’s voodoo magic, or maybe it’s fake magic, the work of a charlatan, but I wonder, I wonder, might Google’s ‘Personalised Ranking’ utility in Google Reader be useful in filtering, or at least ranking, latest issue table of contents feeds from somewhere like TicTocs?

Only have a 10-minute coffee break and want to see the best items first? All feeds now have a new sort option called “magic” that re-orders items in the feed based on your personal usage, and overall activity in Reader, instead of default chronological order. Click “Sort by magic” under the Folder Settings menu of your feed to switch to personalized ranking. Unlike the old “auto” ranking, this new ranking is personalized for you, and gets better with time as we learn what you like best — the more you “like” and “share” stuff, the better your magic sort will be. Give it a try on a high-volume feed folder or All items and see for yourself!

[Google Reader Personalised Ranking]

Now I believe that there is also a JISCRI project looking at a related sort of thing – Bayesian Feed Filter…: “The Bayesian Feed Filtering project will be trying to identify those articles that are of interest to specific researchers from a set of RSS feeds of Journal Tables of Content by applying the same approach that is used to filter out junk emails.” [Project Kicks Off]

So I’m thinking: it’d be great to see how their approach might filter subscribed to feeds bayesed (!;-) on what users read from those feeds, compared to the Google magic?

More Thinkses Around Twitter Hashtag Networks: #JISCRI

A brief next step on from Preliminary Thoughts on Visualising the OpenEd09 Twitter Network and A Quick Peek at the IWMW2009 Twitter Network with a couple of graphs that look at the hashtag network around the JISCRI event that’s going on this week.

The sample was a taken from a search of recent #jiscri hashtagged tweets captured last night using the Hashtag Twitterers pipe.

The first chart was to look at people who the hashtag twitterers were following in large numbers who weren’t using the hashtag (I think…my experimental protocol was a bit ropey last night… oops).

The graphs were plotted using Graphviz – firstly a radial plot:

jiscrinetExtGurus

And then a circular one:

jiscrinetExtGurus2

The circular one is quite fun, I think? :-) At a glance, it shows who the “external gurus” are, as well as the differences in their influence.

The second thing I looked at was the network graph of the JISCRI hashtaggers, showing who friended whom:

jiscriTwitterNet

Here’s the circular view:

jiscriTwitterNetCircular

For a large event, I think this sort of graph could be quite fun to generate at both the start of the event and at the end of the event, to show how connections can be formed during an event.

For conferences that publish lists of attendees, popping up a poster of the delegates’ twitter network might provide an interesting discussion thing for people to chat around.

PS See also Meet @HelloApp, Making Conferences More Fun.

UK HEI Boxee Channel

A week or so ago, Liz Azyan posted a list of UK HEI Youtube channels. Although not quite as polished as @liamgh et al’s OU Boxee app, I piucked up on a couple of suggestions Liam made over a pint last night about simply subscribing to an RSS feed in Boxee to roll my own UK HEI Youtube Boxee channel thing…

So here are the institutional channels:

and here’s a peek inside one of them:

This lets me watch the most recently uploaded videos to all (?) the UK HEIs’ most recent uploads to their Youtube channels, organised by institution via a lean back TV interface.

(You might be able to submenu the institutional channels/streams according to playlists they have specified, as well as tidying up things like icons/logos, maybe, but this was a 10 minute hack, rather than a half hour hack, ok?!;-)

Here’s the recipe…

1. Grab the table from Liz’s web page and create a feed from it:

2. Generate the feed URIs for the most recent uploads to each channel (in the form required by Boxe – e.g. rss://gdata.youtube.com/feeds/base/users/abertayTV/uploads?alt=rss&v=2&orderby=published):

Filter out stuff that isn’t a feed and complete the pipe:

We can now grab the RSS feed from the pipe in the normal way and subscribe to it via a personal account on the Boxee website.

If you now launch the Boxee app, select:

Video:

Internet

Video Feeds (My Feeds)

– the UK HEI Youtube Videos Channel

And from there, you should be able to browse – and play – the recent uploads to all the UK HEI Youtube channels that Liz has listed.

Not that I had a niggle with my Boxe player – I could hear the audio but not see the video for any of the Youtube videos when I tried to play them. If anyone else tries out this channel and gts the same problem, please let me know and I;ll see if it’s a feed problem. Otherwise, I’ll assume it’s a local glitch…

Here’s the RSS feed URI again: “UK HEI Youtube Channels on Boxee” RSS feed

PS out of interest, if I had bid to do this as a #jiscri project, how much should I have asked for?
planning: 10 mins chatting with Liam over a pint ysterday;
design: <5 mins looking up Youtube API/URI patterns
implementation:: <5 mins creating Yahoo pipe
configuration: <5 mins subscribing to the pipe feed in Boxee
testing: <5 mins seeing if it worked in Boxee (which it doesn’t, properly, but I’m blaming that on a local problem and trustung that it does actually work… err…?!;-)
Okay, so all told it was maybe a sub-20 minute hack rather than 5 minute one?
documentation: (i.e. blog post) 30-45 mins, incl grabbing screenshots.

And I’m on holiday today…

Browser Use In Higher Education – A Brake on Innovation?

A couple of weeks ago, I set up a quick poll to try to get a feel for what sort of browsers were being used as the default browser on computers in UK universities. I provided a little bit of rationale in a post on the IWMW blog (What’s the default browser on your network?) but the main reason was to get a feel for what sorts of browser any #jiscri apps might have to contend with if we wanted our JISCRI project apps to ever get used in that default user context (which is the point, right?!;-)

Anyway, here are the results, such as they are:

Hmmm…. (See also this Quirks Mode post on why “IE6 will continue to exist when IE7 has all but disappeared”.)

After a bit of consultation with @josswinn, I’ve popped up a more elaborate questionnaire here: JISCRI “What do we have to cope with browser wise” survey, so if you’ve a couple of minutes to spare, we’d appreciate you filling it in… (or not – what do I care?!;-)

If you want to create your own reports of the data, feel free (for a quick how to on that, see: Creating Your Own Results Charts for Surveys Created with Google Forms)

PS note that this is not an ‘official’ JISCRI survey, nor is it posted as part of a JISCRI project. I just thought it might be useful, that’s all… ;-)

Open University Podcasts on Your TV – Boxee App

Over the weekend, a submission went in from The Open University (in particular, from Liam GreenHughes (dev) and some of the OU Comms team Dave Winter in Online Services (design)), to the Boxee application competition (UK’s Open University on boxee).

For those of you who haven’t com across Boxee, it’s an easy to use video on demand aggregator that turns your computer into a video appliance and lets you watch video content from a wide range of providers (including BBC iPlayer) on your TV. Liam’s been evangelising it for some time, as well as exploring how to get OU Podcasts into it via RSS’n’OPML feeds (An OU Podcast RSS feed for Boxee).

(For those of you who prefer to just stick with the Beeb, then the BBC iPlayer big screen version provides an interface optimised for use on your telly.)

As well as channeling online video services, and allowing users to wire in their own video and audio content via a feed feed, Boxee also provides a plugin architecture for adding additional services to your Boxee setup. The recent Boxee competition promoted this facility by encouraging developers to create new applications for it.

So what does the OU Podcasts Boxee app over and above a simple subscription to an OU podcasts feed?

A pleasing, branded experience, that’s what.

So for example, on installing the OU podcasts app (available from the Boxee App Box), an icon for it is added to your Internet Services applications.

Launching the application takes you to an OU podcasts browser that is organised along similar lines to the OU’s Youtube presence, that is, in terms of OU Learn, OU Research and OU Life content. The Featured content area also provides a mechanism for pushing editorially selected content to higher prominence. (Should this be the left-most, default option, I wonder, rather than the OU Learn channel?)

In the Research area, a single level of navigation exists, listing the various episodes available:

OU Boxee app

Th more comprehensive Learn area organises content into topic basic based themes/episode collections (listed in the right hand panel) with the episodes associated with a particular selected theme or collection displayed in the left hand panel. Selecting an episode in the left hand panel then reveals its description in the right hand panel (as in the screenshot above).

So for example, when we go to the OU Learn area, the Arts and Humanities episodes are listed in the left hand area (by default), and available collections in the right.

We can scroll down the collections and select one, Engineering for example:

Episodes in this collection are listed in the left hand panel, and further subcollections in the right hand panel (it all seems a little confusing to describe, but it actually seems to work okay… maybe?!;-)

Highlighting an actual episode then displays a description of it.

Selecting a program to play pops up a confirmation “play this” overlay, along with a link to further information for the episode:

Both audio and video content can be channeled to the service – selecting a video programme provides a full screen view of the episode, whilst audio is played within a player

The “Read More” option provides a description of the episode, as well as social rating and recommendation options:

Finally, a search tool allows for content to be discovered using user selected search terms,

If you search with an OU course code, and there is video on the OU podcasts site from the course, the search may turn that course related video up…

This wouldn’t be a OUseful post if I didn’t add my own 2p’s worth, of course, so what else would I have liked to have seen in this app. One thing that comes to mind is a seven day catch-up of OU co-pro content that has been broadcast on the BBC (or more generally, the ability to watch all OU co-pro content that is currntly available on the BBC iPlayer). I developed a proof-of-concept demonstrator of how such a service might work on the web, or for the iPhone/iPod Touch (iPhone 7 Day OU Programme CatchUp, via BBC iPlayer), so under the assumption that the Boxee API can provide the hooks you need to be able to play iPlayer content, I’d guess adding this sort of functionality shouldn’t take Liam much more than half-an-hour?!;-)

I also wonder if the application can be used to preserve local state in the form of personalisation information? For example, could a user create their own saved searches – and by default their own topic themed channels? Items in such a feed could also be nominally tagged with that search term back on a central server, if, for example, if a user watched an episode that had been retrieved using a particular search term all the way through?

To vote for the OU Boxee app, please go to: vote for your favorite apps, RSVP for the boxee event in SF.

PS the OU Podcasts app is not the only education related submission to the competition. There’s also OpenCourseWare on boxee, which porvides a single point of entry to several video collections from some of the major US OCW projects.

PPS it also turns out that KMi have a developer who’s currently working on a range of mobile apps for the iPhone/iPod Touch, Android phones and so on. If any OU readers have ideas for compelling OU related mobile apps, you just may get lucky in getting it built, so post the idea as a comment to this post, or contact, err, erm, @stuartbrown, maybe?

PPPS Now I’m not sure how much time was spent on the app, but as the competition was only launched on May 5th, with a closing date of June 14th, it can’t have been that long, putting things like even the JISC Rapid Innovation (JISCRI) process to shame…?!;-)