My take on Desire2Learn’s Learning Suite 10: Elegant and Extensible

passing car

cc: flickr.com/photos/wwworks

or, “Get out of my way and let me do stuff!”

I was honoured to be asked to speak at Desire2Learn’s Product Announcement yesterday. The event focused on the launch of Learning Suite 10. You can read all about it on their site.

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with Desire2Learn for over 12 years. I’ve seen the staff grow from a team of 5 coding in someone’s basement apartment over 400 people who make up the company today. It’s quite remarkable. I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing D2L’s software mature over the past 12 years to the world-class product it is today. Learning Suite 10 marks an important step in their evolution.

One of the things that sets D2L apart is their engagement with their clients, and that they actively seek out and listen to feedback from the community of users. D2L knows that I love to get sneak peeks at new tools, and I have a bit of a reputation for speaking my mind. So, at Guelph we’ve had guest access to Learning Suite 10 Early Access for about a month, to kick the tires.

This release, in a word is ELEGANT.

The layout is crisp, the navigation is slick, and the tools themselves fade into the background, which is awesome. It lets users focus on what’s important…teaching and learning. In some ways the best tools are the ones you don’t notice you’re using. It’s important for software developers to know when to get out of the way and let users focus on what they need/want to do. We shouldn’t have to discover the proper combination of clicks and to figure out how the tool was created in order to use it properly. First impressions of D2L’s Learning Suite 10 are that was built with this type of usability in mind.

It’s an elegant design. And what it creates is a solid foundation to work with and build on. I was happy to see in this release continued development on D2L’s Web services. These APIs will allow institutions like ours to build, integrate, and extend their teaching and learning tools and services.

I’m excited to start working with Learning Suite 10. I’m anxious to see how instructors and students start to shape this platform, and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with D2L on this and future developments.

Congratulations, John & Kenneth, Jeremy, the Brian’s, Heather…and all the rest. Great work. Keep it up!

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Yes, the iPad *will* transform education

…but not in the way you think it might.

There’s been a bunch of chatter about how Apple’s iPad might “transform” education. Here’s a couple posts to that effect:

THEY’RE ALL MISSING THE POINT.

An article in THE Journal, Measuring the iPad’s Potential for Education discusses iPad’s potential as a new publishing and development platform. The fact that it has it’s own software development kit will help to make it impactful in education, creating a new platform for educational apps to come to the market.

iPad on Tanmay's jeans

cc: flickr.com/photos/neuralchaos

BUT, the *real* change, in my opinion, is that (to use Steve Job’s words), the iPad is a “post-PC device”. By design, it extracts/elevates itself from the world of personal computing into *something different*. It changes the game in terms of how users (students) interact with it, how they access content and communicate with each other. You do not need to know how to use a computer in order to use an iPad, and that’s the point. Love it or hate it, it’s revolutionary. It’s changing the way that people use computers. It’s changing the way people learn.

This can be quite liberating. If an instructor or student doesn’t have to worry about how their device works (provided that it does work), maybe we can get on with what’s really important – teaching and learning.

What if you could rebuild the University from the ground up?

Some inspiration from from Michael Wesch:

Wait for the punchline at the end.

Envisioning 2020

TEDxGuelphU

This year’s TEDxGuelphU conference, envision 2020, will convene leading thinkers and doers of the community:

This is the second TEDxGuelphU, a student run initiative at the University. Props to this year’s organizing team for putting together an awesome event. Tickets for the live audience are sold out. The event will be livestreamed on on the TEDxGuelphU homepage.

Guelph Technology Economy, 2011 Conference

The Guelph technology sector is one of the key elements to the Guelph economy, and is growing. I was honoured to be asked to be part of the steering committee for the 2nd Annual Guelph Technology Economy Conference – January 18, 2011.

Guelph Technology Economy

I participated in the conference last year. It’s an important event for a number of reasons:

  • support for the technology sector in Guelph
  • awareness of the significance of the Guelph technology sector and knowledge-based companies
  • networking and connections between technology companies, higher education, and knowledge-based companies

There’s a great line-up for this, ranging from Jim Jarrell to Doug Minett to Kirk Roberts to Kelly Brooks and others.

Arts & Digital Media, Innovation Guelph, Mobile Applications, Cloud Computing, Data Acquisition and Processes and Local Recruiting, Food, Prizes, and all that.

Conference Website.
Registration.

4squarEd: Foursquare for Teaching and Learning?

I was interested to see that foursquare was has partnered with 20 US Universities to launch Foursquare For Universities. From Foursquare’s site:

Foursquare for universities helps students, alumni, and staff connect with each other, find new and interesting things to do, and earn rewards for exploring their campus and nearby areas. We combine a communication platform and a campus guidebook to create a fun experience for our users; students earn points, win ‘Mayorships’ and unlock badges for checking in to places and trying out new activities on campus.

Some big names in higher-ed have already climbed on board (Harvard, Stanford, Syracuse…). Others are sure to follow. This partnership makes good sense. An institution can create a page on the service, broadcast information, make recommendations, etc. Students can share tips on campus services and events. On-campus hospitality and entertainment venues can promote themselves.

But, what I’m interested in here goes beyond the gimmicky location-aware check-in and broadcasting what a user is eating for lunch. Higher-ed institutions need to think about how they can build upon the social-grid that service like foursquare are helping to foster to build a learning-grid where students and instructors can share in an easy, social, “knowledge-aware” way. It should be fun too.

Here’s my pitch: “Foursquare for Teaching and Learning” (or maybe you prefer “Foursquare for Education”) YES! 4squarEd. Here’s the script to the not-yet-created-and-maybe-never-will-be promo video:

Wish you were more aware of all the incredible learning experiences around you? With 4squarEd, you can unlock your learning and find happiness. You will need 4squarEd, a mobile device, and a passion for education.

Step 1: Download the 4squarEd application to your mobile device, and instantly connect with your library account, your institutional LMS, your ePortfolio, your social networks, registrarial services and more! Connect with your classmates and other learners within and outside of your institution to see what they’re learning. Build your Personal Learning Network (PLN).

Step 2: Tell your friends what you’re studying, what you’re learning and what you want to learn by checking in to one of the learning activities you’re institution’s 4squarEd lists, based on your current courses. Leave tips and resources for other learners. If the learning activity isn’t listed, you can add it to 4squarEd.

Step 3: Check out tips from your friends in your PLN and others outside it. Find recommendations for resources and suggestions for other activities.

Step 4: The more you use 4squarEd the more you’ll get out of it. Capture your activities, unlock learning objectives and earn points towards competencies based on what you’re learning. Check out stats at 4squarEd!

Step 5: Check-in frequently to become a mentor for a learning activity or competency.

Step 6: Use 4squarEd wherever you go: in museums, on your co-op placement, with your extra-curricular club or while you’re volunteering. You never know when you’ll come upon a little piece of learning!

What do you think?

School is a game. It’s just not a terribly well-designed game

At TEDxBoston, Seth Priebatsch looks at the next layer in progress: the “game layer,” a pervasive net of behavior-steering game dynamics that will reshape education and commerce.

School is a game. It’s just not a terribly well-designed game… There are levels. There are C. There are B. There is A. There are statuses. I mean, what is valedictorian, but a status? If we called valedictorian a “white knight paladin level 20”, I think people would probably work a lot harder.

Having fun yet?