Back in 2009, at a CETIS Widgets Working Group meeting in London, a strong desire was expressed by the delegates that we should provide an opportunity for educators and developers to work together to build widgets that really meet the needs of teaching and learning. We finally managed to have our first attempt at this in the 2-day widget bash at Bolton last week. Over 30 people registered for the event and 18 participated in our pre- event survey. The data showed that 11 delegates considered themselves as developers and 7 as educators, providing an excellent environment of pedagogical and technical engagement.
To help prepare this event, my IEC colleagues, Stephen Powell, Dai Griffiths, Mark Johnson and Scott Wilson agreed to record some videos to share their knowledge and understanding on using and building W3C widgets in education. We put these on the CETIS wiki before the event and they were very well received, helping to spread the ideas and different perspectives on W3C widget development across communities. I hope that we will be able to provide ongoing widget-related knowledge and development updates and support through a collection of videos on “talking and building widgets” in the future.
Scott’s blogs have given detailed reports on activities and outcomes of the two days of widgets building. However, not all of the delegates wrote code or built a widget at the event as some spent their time discussing and sharing ideas on the possibilities of using widgets in education. The following are just a few of the observations and reflections on the event and some conversations among the delegates:and
- It is still too complicated for non-tech teachers to distinguish between widgets/gadgets and W3C widgets and to understand the relationship between W3C widgets, Wookie, plug ins and VLEs. However, most people felt that an event like this helps to clarify the confusions and the widget demos were especially very useful in allowing others to see how widgets have been built and used in educational context.
- Making widgets is simpler than might be thought but for most teachers it would still be difficult without easy to follow guidance, hands-on practice or support. I made my first widget myself with some support from colleagues in my office: an “Ideas Share” widget based on Scott’s “Share Links” widget. During the event, I also learned how to wrap a BBC online game into a W3C widget. I do think it would be useful if teachers could have clearer guidance for creating educational widgets or if some widget build tools could be built so that teachers can just do some drag and drop, change a few words or click a few buttons to make widgets for their own lessons.
- Developing W3C widgets (apps) stores for education. If we expect more and more teachers to use widget to engage with students within VLEs or in the classroom, we need to make sure that they know where to find an appropriate widget to meet their different needs and purposes, e.g. institutional management, teaching in VLEs or classrooms and learning support. I like the ideas that resources and tools sit outside an institution’s VLE and teachers only need to think about their students and activities, and to pull resources and tools into the VLE to complete their lessons. There is no doubt that having specifically designed educational apps in a “one stop shop” enabling teachers to find and share widgets could help move towards this direction.
- Security issues again were mentioned many times during the widgets and DVLE demo sessions. I had planned to embed the “ideas share” widget into CETIS wiki in order to gather ideas for building widgets before the event but failed because of security risk. It seems that lots of work still needs to be done in this aspect before widgets can be widely adopted in institutions.
As one of the delegates commented: “It (the widget bash) was useful to develop my understanding of what widgets are good for and for the things that are possibly too complicated for the ‘widgetisation’ approach”… We hope that we could bring more educators on board to share ideas and participate in using and developing widgets (or other technologies) for teaching and learning in our future widget events. If you have any suggestions, please let us know.