Widgets meetup in London

The Widgets Working Group gathered in London last week to share ideas and their work on developing widgets infrastructure for teaching and learning. Following the  introduction to the day by Wilbert Kraan, our first speaker, Ross Gardler from the JISC OSS watch and Apache Software Foundation gave a brief overview of the Foundation’s developments and the strategy and mechanism they have adopted to support the developer community in engaging with open sources software. This was echoed by Scott Wilson, from a project perspective, shared his own experience, of community building and open sources projects management (audio) within the Apache Software Foundation. He then updated us on his recent work on the Apache Wookie widget engine and the progress on plug-in to LAMS, MOODLE, WORDPRESS and Elgg 1.0 through Wookie. He also demonstrated the new widgets he has developed and indicated the future directions of the work.

Wilbert followed up with a talk on the newly realised Google Wave preview and Wookie (audio). In his presentation, he discussed the similarities and differences between wookie and wave as widget platforms, as well as the different levels of interoperability between them. He also demonstrated how to input widgets from Wookie to Wave and the other way round. Finally, Ross McLarnon and Alan Brown from Youth Media, showed the Youthwire desktop widget platform that has been adopted by many universities and colleges. They have recently developed a prototype Wookie integration that enables users to select and use Wookie widgets within the Youthwire platform (audio). Lastly, Andrew Savory from the LiMo Foundation talk about developments in widgets in a range of Linux based mobile phones, and particularly how the BONDI specification improves interoperability and functionality in that area. An important part of that work is the open source, Eclipse based BONDI Software Development Kit that is enabling widget development (audio here).

In the afternoon, the participants were divided into two groups: one focusing on widget development and application, the other one on widget engines and plug-in. A number of issues were raised during the discussion, such as communication between widgets and how widgets could be developed to support content distribution.

One of the most important outcomes of this meeting was that the group agreed that we shouldn’t only think about widget server and plug-in development, but that we need to shift our focus to teaching and learning use cases and think about what educators and learners really want from widgets. Therefore, it is necessary to involve some lecturers who are interested in using Widgets in their teaching into the conversation. Ideally, they can bring some use cases and cooperate with widget developers to explore what types of educational practice is enabled by widgets so that widgets developers can then write widgets to meet appropriate educational purposes.

If you are interested in this work and would like to join the Widgets Working Group, more information is available on the CETIS wiki.

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