The Whys and Wherefores of Wookie


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A presentation made to the EEE project in Valladolid, 14th November 2011, talking about ways of thinking about widget services, and describing work carried out in the iTEC and Omelette projects

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The Whys and Wherefores of Wookie

  1. 1. The whys and wherefores of Wookie widgetsEEE, Valladolid November 14th 2011Professor David (Dai) GriffithsThe Institute for Educational CyberneticsThe University of
  2. 2. What is Wookie, and why am I talking about it?● At IEC we have developed a technical infrastructure for the delivery of services and resources using Widgets● It is now in the Apache incubator, & has created a lot of interest in TEL and in mobile telephony.● It is a potential enabling technology for the orchestration for EEE● I will not go into technical detail, which is available through Apache. I will discuss four ways that I think about the usefulness of the infrastructure● I hope that over the three days we can talk about ● If and how the technology I have described is relevant to EEE ● The research questions which are raised by the perspectives I offer
  3. 3. Four perspectives on Wookie(& widget based services in general)● Non-exclusive perspectives which we can use to understand why this generic infrastructure has resonated, and what importance it may have as – a learning design intervention – an interoperability tool – a support for teachers orchestration of the classroom – an articulation of institutional / personal technology● No implied hierarchy in the list
  4. 4. a) A learning design intervention● Common sense tells us... ● some learning activities are better than others ● we find ourselves enthused or bored ● we achieve our objectives or we fail to make progress● This suggests we should we be able to... ● identify activities which are effective ● describe them ● provide guidance instructional designers which will enable them to create optimal courses● Cognitivism, and constructivism are both problematic for this approach
  5. 5. Koper defined the underlying approach (building on Reigeluth) “...learning design knowldedge consists of a set of prescriptive rules with the following basic structure: if learning situation S, then use learning method M, with probability P.”● Situational, so distance learning is easier● A good rule improves the probability of desired outcomes in a situation● Probability is inexact, because it is situation dependent.● Rules are not value free. People prefer certain learning outcomes and methods above others.● When alternative methods can be used, the learning designer has to evaluate the various methods available and choose between them.
  6. 6. Orchestration of learning activities● Take the idea of learning rules● Formalise them (lots of issues here!)● Instantiate them in computer systems so that they could orchestrate activities● IMS LD was intended to do this● It was the starting point for much of the work I have been involved with over the past ten years
  7. 7. The technological problem... An implemented rule has to be both● context free (abstracted, so it can be run repeatedly) and● context specific (so that it can make use of the services which are available to each individual user)● How can this be achieved?● A number of groups worked on this in different ways, but our solution was Wookie
  8. 8.  Wookie is a widget server for W3C widgets (reference implementation), and largely compatible with Open Social Built by IEC by my colleagues: Scott Wilson, Paul Sharples and Kris Popat Now in the Apache incubator, and building a wider developer community Developed for IMS LD, but the problem of generalisable / localisable services had very wide application
  9. 9. How Wookie balances the general and the specific● Like any trade-off, the Wookie resolution to the problem has costs and benefits ● A single server providing multiple services ● One integration for many services ● You choose your Wookie server, which has default services on it ● Could be at the level of a University, a school authority, a country, the world... ● Specify the server when you set up the course ● No guarantee you will find what you need, but set up of Wookie and its services is simple ● A disk image available if you want to try it out. Contact me
  10. 10. b) Interoperability enables Wookie to provide LD services● Widgets are simple: HTML and Javascript, so they will run in any browser. So does an LD player.● Much widget content is delivered across the network, so they provide a tunnel between environments which can be used to provide services from a single source to multiple consumers● We added multi-user capabilities, roles and server side data storage to enable more sophisticated functionality● Delegated authentication to the container
  11. 11. Interoperability generates applications for Wookie● As a matter of policy and convenience we used interoperability specifications: W3C widgets● We ensured that our extensions of the specification were aligned with the W3C● We positioned Wookie as an open source reference implementation for W3C widgets, and successfully applied for admission to the Apache Incubator● As a result Wookie could be used in many environments and platforms, for many purposes● The system we developed for IMS LD is now a focus of quite different research and development activities
  12. 12. Thanks to Chuck Severence
  13. 13. c) Support for teachers orchestration of the classroom● Learning design hoped to help the teacher by off-loading the responsibility for orchestration onto the computer● An alternative approach is to provide systems which amplify the teachers ability to orchestrate the classroom● A different balance between planning and response to evolving situations
  14. 14. The educational environment is highly standardised... We have a standard curriculum We have professionally produced learning materials We have pedagogic guidance and inspection And with IMS LD we have a standard way of analyzing and specifying activities
  15. 15. … but we still have “great teachers” and “bad teachers” We give them awards, and we fire them We ascribe the difference to “inspiration”, “personality”, “experience”. But it often seems to be some kind of magic teacher dust This may (or may not) be OK for traditional classroom teaching But when we design computer systems we have to be very explicit
  16. 16. A working hypothesis: teaching asmodulation of activity and discourse The “magic dust” is composed of coordination and micro-coordination of activity and discourse It is too detailed to show up on IMS Learning Design and similar activity designs It is not well understood, even by teachers... ...but good teachers have a good rhetoric applied at this level and deployed on-the-fly If so, how can we – describe it? – identify it? – analyze it? – support it with computer systems? Wookie provides a means of exploring these questions
  17. 17. iTEC● iTEC: large scale pilots to promote innovative use of IT in the school classroom● Wookie delivers services across platforms● Scenario is a Learning Story, supported by a Learning Activity Resource Guide● Like an LD environment & activity instruction● Leaving the teacher to carry out the coordination
  18. 18. Moodle example● ITEC target enviroments include LRN, Liferay, Moodle● The VLE is a means of controlling access to a set of services● Resolves problems of legality and complexity for teachers adapting Web services in the classroom.● The same widget, the same instantiation, can exist in multiple locations and platforms (whiteboard, phone, PC, tablet...)● The widget can be controlled by the teacher who can position learners (in Harrés sense) with tools which are to hand ● Change state learners device or access to resources (e.g. widget simulation) ● Provide learners with opportunities for collaboration (forum, shared text...) ● Enable learners to provide input (e.g. a clicker, vote...) ● Enable learners to control devices (embedded widgets? remote control?, RFID / near field...?)
  19. 19.
  20. 20. ITEC App Store● The iTEC services and resources need to be ● Stored somewhere ● Described ● Curated ● Made available● The iTEC App Store does this● Major effort, in collaboration with ROLE and OU UK ● removing widget management from Wookie ● revising the APIs ● developing the new App store server● Working prototype, full release summer 2012
  21. 21. d) Articulation of the institutional / personal● The idea of a Personal Learning Environment originated with Oleg Liber and his collaborators in IEC Bolton● Technology is increasingly in the hands of the learner, not just the institution● The institution provides services which can be consumed and amalgamated by the learner at their choice of ● time ● place ● Platform● But we didnt want to build one
  22. 22. Omelette● Uses Wookie, but not in eLearning: mobile mash-ups combining web and telecoms● Provides functionality which move us towards “PLE” style services which are situated in the users own environment Wookie can provide the same instance to a number of different platforms. The same chat with the same participants can be in your blog on Moodle and on your phone● IEC is working on ● Wookie ● Mash up definition software ● Specification for collections of widgets and their display ● Apache Rave, a lightweight container for widgets
  23. 23. Rave
  24. 24. Some Omelette widgets Some widgets from Scott Wilson ● International Campus Education - Students Map ● Video (back to coordination) ● Monstermath● Widgets working with the phone ● Phone poll
  25. 25. Some final comments● Widgets are just one strand in a number of interwoven technological developments, including ● HTML 5 ● Websockets ● NodeJS● I have related the technology to education, but educational certainties are also being challenged● In IEC we move in an ongoing dialogue between these two areas● How we model the causal efficacy of our interventions and their different aspects is a major challenge● Not a proposed truth about widgets but a suggestion for approaching a discussion of the technology
  26. 26. Gracias por su atención