Jeff Longland

Relax, don't worry – have a home brew!

Archive for July 2006

[WebCT Impact 2006] Wrap-up (Maybe)

Where to start… I felt a very strong sense of community at what will unfortunately be the last WebCT Impact conference. All future conferences will fall under the Blackboard title. I know it’s just a label and there will be some WebCT folks filling new positions, but I couldn’t shake the feeling throughout the conference. Time is very tight at the moment but I need to get some of this down before it’s washed away by current priorities:

  • Community, community, community. SIG meetings, informal discussions, birds of a feather at lunch, etc. I felt a rallying of the communities at this year’s conference and I think it will be important for them to remain active and engaged throughout the transition to Blackboard and beyond. I think community is one of WebCT’s biggest strength’s and by keeping Ask Dr. C, Blackboard realizes this as well.
  • Getting up in front of a few crowds. On the last morning of the conference (post-conference as referred to by a friend) I had the opportunity to speak alongside the wonderful folks from Purdue in “Mixing the Physical and the Virtual: Implementing Blended Pedagogy”. On the heels of that session I presented alongside my colleagues in “Decentralized Administration and Faculty Support”. The content of the sessions, their delivery, and their structure were completely different – I loved it. Apparently the Decentralized Admin session was blogged!
  • The folks at USask appear to have blogged a fair bit about the conference.
  • As part of the transition, name changes were announced. I won’t even get into, short of saying that all product names are prefixed with Blackboard Learning System.
  • Sasan Salari was just about everywhere promoting the WebCT-Elgg integration. Sasan has blogged a bit about his experiences at the conference.
  • The Blackboard vision for the future. The opening ceremony felt like a Steve Jobs presentation. The room was packed and I had to leave after my personal space was thoroughly invaded. There was one segment about sharing content between institutions that sounds really great in theory but I can imagine some IPO issues. An ambitious vision of the future, we’ll see how it pans out. Lanny Arvan has blogged his reflections on the Blackboard issue amongst other things.
  • HorizonWimba released a new product called Pronto. Prior to the conference I was pondering instant messaging – WebCT integration. The built-in Who’s Online tool is great but messaging would be received more easily if students could still manage their MSN/AIM/Jabber/Yahoo identities and use their preferred client. The sales fellow at the booth said that Pronto would allow students to manage other IM accounts alongside their list of classmates. Is this true?

I’m sure there’s more I want to mention, but it’s certainly not coming to me now. So I’m going to wrap-up this monster of a post. A big thank-you to everyone who makes these conferences possible – organizers, speakers, and attendees.

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Written by jlongland

July 29, 2006 at 5:02 pm

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Lightning and Possible Lowering?

Lightning Strikes

Tornado warning yesterday evening. I was trying to grab a picture of what might be a lowering – it was tough to see through the haze, but looking at the picture now it does seem to be a lowering. And even though I’m using a point-n-click, I managed to capture lightning striking!

Written by jlongland

July 28, 2006 at 9:47 pm

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Not much time

A very quick post this morning. Back safe and sound from the WebCT Conference. Had a great time but I’m happiest when I’m home. Back in the office this morning with my dual monitors, archive.org live band recordings, and Tim Horton’s coffee – oh Canada! Still more to say about the conference, but work beckons. “I type too slow to make expressions stick” – DCFC.

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July 19, 2006 at 8:57 am

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[WebCT Impact 2006] MERLOT & WebCT – The Next Generation

I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek of the new MERLOT PowerLink a few weeks ago while it was in-development. Since then I’ve been telling anyone who would listen about the upcoming release.  That said, I wasn’t aware that MERLOT was also on the cusp of releasing a new version of their “referratory”.  I wish I had a smartphone/PDA so I could take a picture of the new MERLOT – looks good.  Back to the PowerLink, it allows any instructor to easily search and link to MERLOT objects like they would any other tool inside the WebCT environment. There were many in the audience who were critical that these are only links and not local copies of the objects – I’m not sure why this is terribly important, is that not the nature of the web?  Kudos to the folks who’ve brought this to fruition – it will be released at the MERLOT conference in Ottawa in a few weeks.

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July 16, 2006 at 10:08 pm

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[WebCT Impact 2006] Service-Oriented Approaches, Web Services, and the Integrated Learning Architecture

Choosing a session to attend at the WebCT conference is no small task. I have five sessions during this timeslot that I would like to attend – I wish WebCT/Blackboard would provide podcasts of sessions. Anyhoo, as you can see from the title I’m in a technical session. Chris Vento, former CTO of WebCT is comparing eLearning 1.0 vs 2.0.  Of particular interest is his slide Potential Factors for the Next Generation SDK:

  • WS/JS interfaces
  • Service abstraction and interfaces for meta-level, inter-suite application, and system integration points
  • Continued evolution of component oriented frameworks and “connectors” to facilitate flexible integrations

I’m interested in how this will evolve.  My understanding of the current Blackboard Building Blocks is that the SDK is more about accessing modules/internal resources inside Blackboard rather than application bridges as exist currently in the Vista PowerLinks SDK.  If anyone out there can comment more about Building Blocks, please do as my understanding is limited.
Standards are a hot topic as well.  At the end of the session there was some discussion about mixing and matching components from the Next Generation product with other systems like Moodle or Sakai.  For example, integrating a WebCT/Blackboard Learning Outcomes system with Moodle.  Interesting…

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July 12, 2006 at 10:52 am

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[WebCT Impact 2006] Re-thinking Knowledge: Everything is Miscellaneous

So this is my first attempt at live-blogging a conference. I’m sitting in David Weinberger’s keynote entitled Re-thinking Knowledge: Everything is Miscellaneous at the WebCT Impact 2006 conference. There was one slide that really hit me – the distinction between data and metadata, or currently the lack thereof. Data is now metadata, and metadata is now data, one and the same. Thinking back to my experiences at a library conference several years ago and a keynote given at the time by a knowledge management expert – we’ve come a long way. At the time, there was much talk about taxonomies and the importance of structured metadata entered by a trained expert. Google, Flickr, Del.icio.us, et al. have certainly turned that concept on its ear with thousands of people informally tagging a variety of content. I wonder what that knowledge management expert would have to say these days. As David said, the “mess” of data is a form of organization. I think the Flickr tag system does a great job of making sense of the mess by analyzing associated tags and grouping tagged photos into clusters of similar types. David’s example was the tag “capri” and how Flickr groups the photos into cars, hotels, etc.
I’m really enjoying this session. Quite possibly the best keynote I’ve seen at a WebCT conference. I got a real kick out of David’s comments about the authority/validity of the Wikipedia and how its authority is increased through the ability to tag pages as biased, incomplete, etc. As he said “We’d never see this on the New York Times”.  Onwards to the next session.

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July 12, 2006 at 10:01 am

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Vacation Ends

2nd day back in the saddle today. Almost fell off 😉  Want to write more, but sleep beckons. Had an interesting discussion about tech literacy and the millenials / net generation. I won’t go into the specifics until I have more time, but the point I was generally pushing was that the next generation is not as tech savvy as we may perceive them. I know this deserves further explanation, and this post is something to make me come back.

Written by jlongland

July 4, 2006 at 11:13 pm

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