Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Web, Version 2

The original vision for the World Wide Web was a “Read/Write” Web.

Web pages would not only be hosted and “read” – but browsers would easily edit and “write” to these same pages.

This original vision took time to develop – with what some commentators call the “Read-Only” Version 1 of the Web persisting through the 1990s.

With the advent of collaborative tools, such as the wiki, then simple authoring for web logs (blogs) and finally social networking sites – the original vision of a “Read/Write” Web – a Web Version 2 – is now well established.

Will Richardson is one commentator who sees immense opportunities for using such a “Read/Write” Web in education. (Listen).



The process of creating content - not just consuming it - helps students exercise and develop their own understanding. The student is actively engaged in constructing a meaning for themselves. This is a constructivist view of learning, and when combined with the networked aspect of the Web, becomes a social, constructivist view.

Andrew Keen is a media critic who takes an opposite position to Will Richardson (Listen).



For Andrew Keen the “Read/Write” Web is a danger – for if everyone can be a writer and an author, if the barriers to publishing are so, so low – how do we identify the expert, authoritative authors that we should really learn from?

These two commentators lie at opposite ends of a spectrum of how we might think about using digital resources in our education systems.

But where in this spectrum does a technology such as IMS Common Cartridge belong?



We might suggest that content - authored by experts and published by an institution with an excellent academic reputation– such as the Common Cartridges available from the UK Open Learn website – most naturally belong at the Andrew Keen end of the spectrum.

But how helpful is the polarisation of opinion, for and against the Web, Version 2?

For most teachers the distinction between social, collaborative, constructivist learning and expert, didactic, authoritative exposition is not either/or - but both.

Teachers employ a variety of teaching styles – using their professional judgement to determine which teaching and learning style is best suited to a particular learning outcome, or even a particular student.

The Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform supports teachers who use such a variety of teaching styles.

Expert, authoritative, published content deployed to the Platform can be re-mixed and integrated with social environments.

See the screen shots below.


Expert, authoritative content published by the UK Open University and deployed to the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform, is easily added to the activity stream of a Facebook user and their social graph.

Open Learn Content in a mobile application
 Authoritative content is now blended into the personal learning and group dynamics of a student.



This blog entry is derived from a presentation given by Warwick Bailey, Icodeon to the European Union National Summer School at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (see video).




Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Open Learn

OpenLearn is an activity of the UK Open University to provide free access to Open University course materials. The Open Learn website - called LearningSpace - has hundreds of free study units - each of which can be exported in Common Cartridge format.

This page shows some examples of using the Icodeon Common Cartridge Platform URL Language with one of the Open Learn study units: Evolution through Natural Selection.

This first screen shot shows the Open Learn study unit displayed in the Icodeon Common Cartridge Explorer - an application built using only the Platform URL Language and an AJAX toolkit:


This kind of application is built by making requests to the Platform to return representations in the JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format. The JSON format is specified in the Platform URL language as an extension path variable.
  • .json extension:



    {host}/cartridges/{cartridge_id}/
    items/{item_id}.json
We can also use other extension path variables to request different representations. For example, it is easy to write an image tag to quickly place a thumbnail image on a different website.
  • .gif extension:



    <img src="{host}/cartridges/{cartridge_id}/
    items/{item_id}.gif">
In addition to supporting standard file extension path variables (like .gif and .jpg), the Platform APIs include some extensions that have specific meaning only within the Icodeon Platform.
  • .go extension: used to redirect to a file that is referenced by an item resource in the cartridge manifest. Secure links can be built using the .go extension and the redirect is a URL with a time-stamped expiry.



    <a href="{host}/cartridges/{cartridge_id}/
    items/{item_id}.go">Go to the page</a>
  • .do extension: used to redirect to a landing page. The landing page can be configured using a plug-in component on the Platform - and the algorithm that determines the landing page URL is passed a collection of properties and meta data about the item resource in the cartridge manifest. The default plug-in uses the properties and meta-data to set up a Google search.



    <a href="{host}/cartridges/{cartridge_id}/
    items/{item_id}.do">Go to the landing page</a>
These extension path variables can be used in the URL Language in exactly the same way as standard file extension path variables (like .gif and .jpg).

So the use of the Platform URL language, and different extension path variables, is a simple way to securely re-use and re-mix content  from study units on different consumer websites.

Below are the results when Platform URL language is used in this blog page:

1 Charles Darwin

Go to the page

Go to the landing page

The techniques of using the Platform URL language can be combined with other Web APIs.

An example of  combining the Icodeon Platform APIs with other web APIs is shown below - content on the Icodeon CC Platform can be easily and securely shared into a Facebook activity stream using both Platform and Facebook Web APIs:


(Click for full size image)

The content then becomes available to other apps, such as mobile applications that can read the users activity stream. See the screen shot below from a Blackberry mobile device:


(Click for full size image)

Page fragment embedded into to Google Blogger blog entry.