I'm excited to preview the integration we've been working on at rSmart between Sakai and Google Docs. We expect to release this integration in the upcoming 2.7.1 version of our rSmart Sakai CLE distribution, and once we see it in action, contribute the integration to the broader Sakai community. Embedded here is a 7.5 minute demo of the integration that covers the basic functionality (you can also grab the fullblown movie). I've also attached an early case study rSmart produced in collaboration with Google on this functionality.
What makes this integration so cool is now Sakai users can harness the rich authoring and collaboration capabilities of Google Docs, and use Sakai to distribute their documents to other Sakai users, like students, classmates, or other collaborators. The integraton works with your personal Google user account, or if your institution uses Google Apps, your institutional Google identity.
This is a stellar example of all the new integrations we're seeing with the Sakai platform. Look to try out the integration yourself soon on rSmart's mySakai environment, where we'll turn it on once our 2.7.1 version is released.
I've long believed the open practices we follow in the Sakai community result in more, better, faster functionality, code, security, accessibility, standards-compliance, and innovation generally. But lately, evidence has been mounting to demonstrate the high value and wide acceptance of the open path more clearly than ever.
Today's announcement of a new partnership between rSmart and SunGard Higher Education (SGHE) to deliver and support Sakai is the latest manifestation of the huge body of valuable work being generated by those of us following the open path: commercial vendors, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, government entities, and individuals. Valuable work that is having real, positive effects on education.
A key part of rSmart and SGHE's work together is to extend Sakai's integration with SGHE's Banner Student Information System (SIS) platform to follow the latest IMS Learning Information System (LIS) standard. On the face of it, this sounds like a typical outcome of two technology firms working together, but that integration rests on a far larger body of work, produced collaboratively in our open community.
I'm trying an experiment with my daughters this week where I'm asking them to create a new project every day based on some simple ideas: they are participants, I am a very hands-off guide, they work together to do something worth while. They completed their first project today—Eat Your Yard—where they had to find edible plants in our yard, find/create recipes and build a dinner menu using them, and cook dinner. It occupied them the whole day and was a resounding success.
Feel free to use/modify the project I gave them below. I unveiled each new part only after they had completed the previous activities and we spent time while eating the dinner they made reflecting on the project and what we might do differently next time.
The girls sprung one welcome surprise on my plan: I was expecting them to find and follow existing recipes, but they instead created their own recipes from scratch. I'm encouraging them to record (at least) the more successful recipes, like the garden lettuce with basil and a lemon vinagrette, and the mango-apricot juice with blueberry icecubes.
Warning: While the project was largely self-propelled, cooking dinner took a full two hours with both 6 and 10 year-old chefs.
I was deeply honored to be named a 2010 Sakai Fellow—mostly because fellowship bestows a coveted black "ninja" sakaiger (pictured)—but also because I read my fellowship as evidence that the Sakai community recognizes and values all forms of contribution to our collaborative work.
Three out of 2010's six Sakai fellows have made their substantial contributions primarily in areas of actual technology development: Oxford's Matthew Buckett, Cape Town's David Horwitz, and Michigan's Gonzalo Silverio. I can't stress enough the high value and significance of these three fellows' work.
The other three 2010 Sakai fellows—Indiana's David Goodrum, Michigan's Steve Lonn, and myself—have made our primary contributions in what might seem "softer" areas of Sakai: coordination, communication, thought-work, and research. The very tangible outcomes of David's leadership in the formulation of the Sakai Learning Capabilities and Steve's continued focus on the invaluable research of Sakai's Multi-Institutional Survey Initiative are far better evidence than any of my own contributions of the value of work outside the Sakai codebase.
Unlike others who suggest a strong difference between what might be called the "write" and "read" communities within Sakai, I see this year's Sakai fellowships as testimony to my view that such a dichotomy is not so useful. Instead I see read/write activities in open communities as a continuum that generates a virtuous circle of outcomes: new reading generating new writing and vice versa, until the distinction between reading and writing becomes robustly fuzzy.
All of us in the Sakai community are readers and writers at different times, of different texts, inspiring and supporting our whole collaborative endeavor.
Thank you Sakai!
After the announcement of Google's CloudCourse being open-sourced, I decided to give it a try and see exactly what's under the hood...at the very least, it would give me a chance to try out a Django app via Google App Engine, which alone is worth the time.
Long story short: I got CloudCourse up and running in a matter of minutes.
Any hullabaloo that CloudCourse as it stands now is a serious contender to existing full-featured online learning systems like Sakai, Moodle, Blackboard, or Desire2Learn is premature. CloudCourse is at its root a scheduling and rostering application, clearly designed for the internal training needs it was apparently developed to serve. No educational institution will be migrating from their current LMS to CloudCourse any time soon.
After almost a year in existence, the Sakai Product Council that I was honored to join is completing a planned review of its configuration and activities. My answers to the common questions posed to Councilors and community reviewers are below, but before you dig in to those details—or maybe instead, if you're pressed for time or interest—let me sum up my review here as briefly as I can.
First, let me stress again that the formation of the Council is a very important step in Sakai's evolution and is part of what makes Sakai different from every other enterprise online learning platform available today. The Council represents a process for open, transparent, formal product governance by the community, for the community. This model is important both within the Sakai community, where we will benefit from the increased structure and governance, and externally, where potential adopters can see a community that truly controls its own destiny.
Second, I think the Council's form and function are largely correct, but need some adjustment. Read on for further details.
Third, I am not satisfied with my own participation on the Council or the Council's accomplishments generally. I think we can and should do better. I have made some suggestions below that may help make this happen, and have read other suggestions from other reviewers that may also help. This review is an appropriate and constructive step in the Council's evolution.
I've been wondering how Sakai fares among professional schools in the USA, so as a first experiment, I grabbed the top 25 business schools in 2009 as per US News & World Report and did some research.
Given how business schools have the reputation of hewing to proprietary systems and going their own way, I was surprised by Sakai's strong showing. 3 of the the top 10 business schools use Sakai as their primary online learning system. At least 6 out of the top 25 schools either already use Sakai as their primary system or soon will. I also know that at least 9 other schools in this list are either actively investigating Sakai or have some impetus to adopt Sakai.
I'm still collecting information from a couple of campuses and I welcome your comments. If you know the priamry online learning system for any of the schools not accounted for yet here, leave a comment below or contact me and I'll update the list.
A recent exchange online with colleagues in the Moodle community led me to take another look at the statistics about which institutions are using Moodle in comparison with Sakai. Before you read further, know that I think of Moodle as a sister open-source project to Sakai and would celebrate Moodle's increased adoption and success just as I would Sakai's.
Up till now, I've always felt publicly available information about who is using Sakai has been inaccurate, erring on the side of undercounting, while Moodle's published usage statistics have always seemed unbelievably high and in need of a lot of interpretation. Steps are being taken in the Sakai Community to do a better job of reporting who is using Sakai and how, but I would like to see even better information available because I know what we have is not yet complete and accurate.
Taking a new look at Moodle's statistics: clearly, a lot of people download, install and somehow use Moodle, but I find it hard to distill a realistic picture of enterprise use in educational institutions from the big numbers on display. For example, the two instances on record for UNC Charlotte together have 118,352 users and 40,438 sites! There must be more to that story. Big numbers like that just lead me to question what is really being counted. Moodle publishes how their statistics are generated—and it sounds highly credible—but when I look at the actual stats, I'm still left feeling like I'm not getting an accurate picture that really tells me which institutions are using Moodle and how.
As an experiment, I analyzed the 7,724 US sites shown in the Moodle stats as of 11 Nov 2009. 2,070 are private and are not shown and thus unavailable for analysis—hopefully, real Moodle implementations at .EDU sites are not keeping themselves private, as that would be a disservice to the larger Moodle community. Of the remaining 5,654, I was able to find 574 potentially valid .EDU domains (below). Many of them are clearly not enterprise, higher ed implementations, but are rather departmental, project-based or even K12; others appear to be duplicates. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to comb through this list and extract which are actual enterprise, production implementations of Moodle.
While it may look good for Moodle to have such big numbers, I think potential enterprise adopters would be better served if they could find a credible list of peer institutions who have adopted Moodle as their primary, enterprise online learning platform without having to engage in such involved filtering. I'm working with others in the Sakai community to provide exactly that kind of data to help people connect with peers and generate a more useful picture of Sakai's use.
I've recently been enjoying some (possibly) healthy, irreverent debate with colleagues at Blackboard and beyond about some of the differences between such proprietary regimes and the open-source community of Sakai. While the Twitter channel we've been using generates plenty of pithy ripostes, at times a tweet calls out for more sustained thought and response.
A recent tweet from @georgekroner—one of my favorite Blackboarders—set me thinking and led to some longer—if not deeper—reflections, likely to be far less entertaining than the short salvos in our ongoing snarkument on Twitter.
The tweet that set me off was George sharing his concern that Sakai 3's planned capabilities might be "commonplace" by the time it is ready for widespread use.
I'm not entirely convinced George's concern is for real, given that Sakai is one of the most significant challenges to Blackboard's market dominance in learning technologies and it would seem any failure on Sakai's part would be cause for celebration rather concern over at Blackboard. But maybe George is just the kind of guy who wishes the best for everyone. Or maybe it's part of Blackboard's continued posture that having a near monopoly in the proprietary market is fine as long as there is at least one viable open-source alternative like Sakai, even while Blackboard itself acts like open source can't really compete.
But I'm not inspired here just to wipe away Blackboard's crocodile tears. George's tweet started me thinking: if he is right, and the kind of experience Sakai 3 will offer becomes commonplace, we should all celebrate rather than wring our hands.
If Sakai 3 ends up fitting within the broader scope of contemporary online experience, that means Sakai 3's open, social, user-centered, integrative paradigm shares in broader understandings of what online experience should be—both within education and beyond. It wouldn't just mean Sakai 3 "guessed right," it would also mean a very healthy, widespread vision of what the web can and should be has won out. Far from a concern, I would count Sakai 3's capabilities becoming "commonplace" as a major success, not only for Sakai, but for the web in general.
I suppose it is submerged memories that give to dreams their curious air of hyper-reality. But perhaps there is something else as well, something nebulous, gauze-like, through which everything one sees in a dream seems, paradoxically, much clearer. A pond becomes a lake, a breeze becomes a storm, a handful of dust is a desert, a grain of sulphur in the blood is a volcanic inferno. What manner of theatre is it, in which we are at once playwright, actor, stage manager, scene painter and audience?
This then, I thought, as I looked round about me, is the representation of history. It requires a falsification of perspective. We, the survivors, see everything from above, see everything at once, and still we do not know how it was.
Combustion is the hidden principle behind every artefact we create. The making of a fish-hook, manufacture of a china cup, or production of a television programme, all depend on the same process of combustion. Like our bodies and like our desires, the machines we have devised are possessed of a heart which is slowly reduced to embers. From the earliest times, human civilization has been no more than a strange luminescence growing more intense by the hour, of which no one can say when it will begin to wane and when it will fade away.
Perhaps we all lose our sense of reality to the precise degree to which we are engrossed in our own work, and perhaps that is why we see in the increasing complexity of our mental constructs a means for greater understanding, even while intuitively we know that we shall never be able to fathom the imponderables that govern our course through life.
Things that came up during the discussion (in no particular order):
In keeping with the theme of quasi-autobiographic meandering rants, our next reading will be Céline's Journey to the End of the Night (Voyage au bout de la nuit, 1932). We will meet at 3:30pm PT Sunday, 22 November 2009.