Harold Jarche » Elgg and the LMS Patent

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/23

Harold Jarche posted a good analysis yesterday on why he thinks the Blackboard patent does not apply to the increasingly popular online learning tool Elgg.

After a rousing start (which I wholeheartedly agree with) ––

I think that the Blackboard patent filing is a load of crap, based on significant prior art, but here is my understanding of this patent in relation to Elgg’s design.

He says ––

A reasonable person could not interpret the following 44 points as applying to the Elgg Learning Landscape. Elgg uses a completely different model than most online learning systems. It does not use content (e.g. course) as the basic building block, but rather the individual person.



Berkun on ‘How to detect bullshit’

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/14

From Berkun’s latest ‘How to detect bullshit’

White lies are the spackle of civilization

That is awesome.



Nice ‘Long Tail’ visualization vid

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/12

Chris Anderson’s UK publisher came up with this very nice intro video to the concept of ‘The Long Tail’. Quite a nice visualization. Like the dots and morphing. Video was done by Apt Studio in Edinburgh. Thanks to Gernot Ross for the heads up.



Teens self organize a learning experience in Second Life

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/09

Just heard about via the Second Life Education Mailing List –– teens have self organized a learning experience on creating awareness about Child Sex Trafficking. Happened in an area of second life called the Teen Grid.

Looks like they created a maze that users would move through, digest facts, answer questions in exchange for Second Life stuff, and were given the opportunity to donate Second Life dollars at the end.

Pretty inventive and striking in it’s informality and self organization.

Here’s some details from the Global Kids blog entry.

On the effectiveness of the design ––

The thing I found interesting about this was how, by trying to address teenagers from a route which many are more comfortable in, and spend quite a bit of time in, they’re also managing to educate them, quite willingly in most places. As I went round the maze I saw many people stopping at each of the case studies and fact cards and reading them.

On the self organizing nature of it ––

Also evident throughout second life are members educating themselves or each other. For example, a lot of items are created by the members, who have had to learn how to build them, then learn programming for more interactive elements. Many of the kids on Teen grid didn’t know how to programme when they first arrived, however, through tutorials and people willing to help each other, they have learnt enough to complete items they are building, or have learnt where to go to find out more so they can continue to educate themselves.

On the inventiveness of their methodology ––

Raising money was also another part of the event that seemed to be working quite well. It can often be hard to get teenagers to donate money, however, within the virtual world they were a lot more willing. The one donation box had raised about L$6500 within a few hours, which is about $22. Although it does not seem that much, If the same people had passed a donation box in the street for the same cause, would so much have been donated?

 



Article: ‘e-learning 2.0 – How Web technologies are shaping education’

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/09

Great article this AM from the folks over at Read/Write Web on emerging Web 2.0 (yeah, I know, but we gotta call it something) trends in eLearning.

Article is titled ‘e-learning 2.0 – how Web technologies are shaping education’. Here’s an excerpt –– 

The traditional approach to e-learning has been to employ the use of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), software that is often cumbersome and expensive – and which tends to be structured around courses, timetables, and testing. That is an approach that is too often driven by the needs of the institution rather than the individual learner.

In contrast, e-learning 2.0 (as coined by Stephen Downes) takes a ‘small pieces, loosely joined’ approach that combines the use of discrete but complementary tools and web services – such as blogs, wikis, and other social software – to support the creation of ad-hoc learning communities.

This is the heart of what I will be going into detail on in ‘Blogs and Screencasts in the Quest for Training Attention’ for my Cerner Health Conference 2006 presentation in Orlando this October.



Blackboard adopts a ‘Patent the Obvious and Sue’ Revenue Model

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/08/02

Seems that eLearning vendor Blackboard is the latest tech company to switch to a “patent the obvious and sue” revenue model.

According to this post by Harold Jarche they’ve ––

  1. Been granted a far-reaching patent for “Internet-based education support system and methods”
  2. Already filed a lawsuit against its main competitor Desire2Learn

My understanding at this point is that their patent covers all rudimentary LMS functionality and seems to overlap with a lot of standard content management system (CMS) functionality as well. (Excerpt from the patent is below –– text of full patent is available here).

For instance, seems the patent guarantees a lock on ––

  1. Role based user functionality that defines some users as “administrator”, some as “instructors”, and some as “students”. (Patent claim, point 1)
  2. Grouping content into “courses” (Patent claim, point 1)
  3. Creation and editing of content that can be grouped into courses (Patent claim, point 2)
  4. Role based access to said courses (Patent claim, point 1)

I could go on, but you probably get the gist –– friendster has patented friend relationships reflected in technology –– and now blackboard has patented teacher/student relationships reflected in technology.

Can we take a moment and acknowledge how immoral this kind of corporate action is? Especially at the heart of emerging educational systems?

The thing that kills me is that we have to use up valuable brain cycles to discuss/combat this kind of dumb patent (can you say $$ lost via time spent on dumb stuff?)

Even with prior art (which there is tons of), combating it in legal/political channels is very expensive with no guarantee of “equitableconclusion being reached (depending on what the definition of Tubes is, of course).

So many resources that would be better spent building cool stuff -– not very often that you see this kind of “cost” calculated into these sorts of “revenue models”.

From my perspective, any company that tries to do this “patent the obvious and sue” tactic deserves to be called to account by the blogosphere — we’ve got small voices, but when you add them together they can get pretty loud.

––

From the patent ––

  1. A course-based system for providing to an educational community of users access to a plurality of online courses, comprising: a) a plurality of user computers, with each user computer being associated with a user of the system and with each user being capable of having predefined characteristics indicative of multiple predetermined roles in the system, each role providing a level of access to a plurality of data files associated with a particular course and a level of control over the data files associated with the course with the multiple predetermined user roles comprising at least two user’s predetermined roles selected from the group consisting of a student role in one or more course associated with a student user, an instructor role in one or more courses associated with an instructor user and an administrator role associated with an administrator user, and b) a server computer in communication with each of the user computers over a network, the server computer comprising: means for storing a plurality of data files associated with a course, means for assigning a level of access to and control of each data file based on a user of the system’s predetermined role in a course; means for determining whether access to a data file associated with the course is authorized; means for allowing access to and control of the data file associated with the course if authorization is granted based on the access level of the user of the system.


Creating Passionate Users: Organic creativity: the Roomba process

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/07/31

Kathy Sierra does it once again in Organic creativity: the Roomba process, this time summing up the importance of agile development methodology in a tight metaphor –– “the Roomba approach to organic design” ––

While this don’t-plan-every-damn-thing-in-advance model has started to gain popularity in the software development world, most, um, old-style programmers like me had an almost opposite model beat into us from the beginning. The well-intentioned concern for future extensibility, flexibility, scalability led us down the design garden path… skipping along assuming that WE were the smart ones who’d be ready when the dreaded yet inevitable Requirements/Specification Changes came in. With enough upfront design and extra coding, we could make our life down the road much easier. What we lost in time-to-release now would be more than made up for later. So we said.

But then the Extreme Programming and Agile Manifesto began to challenge that idea. While not everyone has drunk the XP koolaid (and oh how I hate forced pair-programming), most modern software development teams have been heavily influenced by at least some of the XP/Agile once-edgy, now more mainstream practices.

 



Intro to GTD

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/07/24

My GTD Meetup posts have prompted a few folks to ask me what GTD is all about. Thought I would post a link to ‘Getting started with “Getting Things Done”’ –– great GTD summary by Merlin Mann of 43 Folders (a great personal productivity blog).

Here’s an excerpt ––

Stuff is bouncing around in our heads and causing untold stress and anxiety. Evaluation meetings, bar mitzvahs, empty rolls of toilet paper, broken lawn mowers, college applications, your big gut, tooth decay, dirty underwear and imminent jury duty all compete for prime attention in our poor, addled brains. Stuff has no “home” and, consequently, no place to go, so it just keeps rattling around.

Worst off, we’re too neurotic to stop thinking about it, and we certainly don’t have time to actually do everything in one day. Jeez Louise, what the hell am I, Superman?

So you sprint from fire to fire, praying you haven’t forgotten anything, sapped of anything like creativity or even the basic human flexibility to adapt your own schedule to the needs of your friends, your family or yourself. Your “stuff” has taken over your brain like a virus now, dragging down every process it touches and rendering you spent and virtually useless. Sound familiar?



Interviewed on blogs and podcasting in the corporate environment

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/06/14

Caught up with Stuart Maxwell of the Seattle Podcasting Network (SPN) a few weeks ago at the Seattle TechCrunch party.

We talked about the challenges of using blogs, podcasting and new media tools in the corporate environment — great chat.

I cover some of the ins and outs of spreading the vision for these types of projects in healthcare (and other non-tech-industry) organizations (like the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford where I currently work).

Stuart recorded our conversation and has posted it to the as ‘SPN Podcast – TechCrunch Party Interviews: Part Two’.

Part 1 is also available from the SPN site.



Amnesty International: “It’s not happening here but it’s happening now”

Posted by bryanzug - 2006/06/13

Posting this here because it is such a great combination of design that provokes me beyond complacency. Caught this reference on 37 signals the other day to a new ad campaign Amnesty International is running in Switzerland.

Amnesty International it's not happening here but it's happening now example

Series is titled “It’s not happening here but it’s happening now”

wow.

Images are close-ups of currently occurring tortures and violence with transparent backgrounds that are inserted into bus/strain stop shelters.

Effect brings the given event right there to your doorstep so to speak — very engaging.