With visions of EduGlu dancing in their twisted spamblogging heads…

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Stephen Downes mentions that David Wiley’s WordPress-based OpenCourseWare proof of concept mixed with one of Tony Hirst’s many bits of rich, RSS-flavoured open learning goodness might make something extra yummy. By one of those weird strange quarks (strangeness and charms) of serendipity or synchronicity Tony and Jim Groom are looking at each others’ stuff. Jim gets inspired to take the next step, (one of those steps that seems obvious in retrospect — but if they are so obvious, how come nobody else is taking them?), and pulls off something so astonishing that I am blogging it at 2 AM:

The first course from the OpenLearn site I republished was titled Goya. I chose this one for two reasons: a) I wanted to learn more about Goya, and b) it had a number of images and videos associated with it and I wanted to see how they would work. As a result, I now know more about Goya & the images and videos pulled into the site beautifully, very impressive XML! The first time I pulled this course the Introduction and background posts balked, this didn’t happen the second time I tested it however.

Image of th Goya Course in a WordPress Blog

Compare the re-published blog site above (click on the image to see it) with the original course in the OpenLearn OER here.

Moreover, each of the course sections was in the proper logical order, meaning that the topmost post on the blog was the introduction, next the background, etc. This fortunate happenstance made reproducing the course outline on the sidebar of the blog simple. I just included the recent posts widget and re-titled it Unit Outline. After that, I had an entire course republished in my WPMu account within minutes.

As for the other two courses I tested (Hume and Word and image), they work perfectly save for a few stray a tags on the Word and image site. Compare the original Hume course on the OpenLearn site with the re-published blog site here. Do the same for the original Word and image course and the republished one here.

This was a pretty amazing experiment for me because it illustrates just how much I learn from reading blogs on a daily basis. Ideas happen in a series of relations, and I so thoroughly enjoy taking other people’s genius and testing it out. When I saw the Goya class get pulled in successfully in just over a minute, I started to realize just how powerful these open resources can be once they are freed from their repositories. [My emphasis.]

To add a wonderfully perverse touch, Jim is employing a classic web jujitsu move, using Wp-O-Matic, “a tried and true spamblogging plugin.”

Meanwhile, all D’Arcy Norman is doing is building EduGlu.

Wait… what?

Students add feeds to the system, placing them in any relevant groups, and tagging the feed appropriately. Items from these feeds are then aggregated, inheriting the feed’s tags and group settings. Students are able to view the incoming content in any (or all) of their groups at a glance, and apply social rating to sort and rank the items – items ranked over a threshold are pushed to the front page of the site. Tag clouds are generated, allowing easy browsing of content. And a full search engine is available, providing some pretty fully featured data mining tools. The aggregated items are archived for as long as needed, and discussion can occur within the context of the EduGlu website rather than being spread across dozens/hundreds of blogs and other applications scattered around the web.

The beauty of this implementation is that it involved no custom code. I didn’t write a single line of code. All I did was integrate a set of off-the-shelf modules for Drupal. This is all generalizable and re-implementable in any number of various ways. [My emphasis.]

Oh, did I mention it’s my privilege to convene a session at Northern Voice that Jim and D’Arcy are doing entitled “Don’t call it a Blog, Call it an Educational Publishing Platform.” Given what these fellows have pulled off in the past week, I shudder to think what they might be up to one week from now…

What I find most compelling about this burst of development is the strong suspicion that similar frenzies are being played out in other relevant domains right now as well. There really is undeniable power at work when words like “open” and “free” don’t merely function as abstract principles, but as keys that unlock doors…

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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2 Responses to With visions of EduGlu dancing in their twisted spamblogging heads…

  1. I’m glad other people are coding; I’m so tied up with %$$%#^% lawyers right now it will be the next millennium before I can ever let code loose on the world again…

  2. Brian says:

    Stephen – I’m (almost) as frustrated as you must be.

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