Mobile gaming, Work based training

Hmm…a bit of a rhyme there! This is fairly old news I guess but something I have only just come across as I’ve only recently started to have look over the fence into the mobile learning garden.

I’ve been reading about staff at Hilton Garden Inns in the USA doing work-based training on Sony PSPs. They’ve had a SIMS-like game developed for the Sony handheld device which is designed to train its employees in customer services. Created especially for Hilton Garden Inn by Virtual Heroes, Inc., Ultimate Team Play puts team members in a virtual Hilton Garden Inn hotel and in various scenarios, they will have to stop and decide what their best course of action will be to make sure they are able to fulfill a guest’s request and/or complete a specific job task within a limited time. Their immediate or non-immediate actions toward guests—since guest interaction is the primary focus of the game— will directly affect the mood of the guest as well as the hotel’s SALT (Satisfaction and Loyalty Tracking) scores. Nice.

Game-based customer service training

Game-based customer service training

Now this isn’t the only product that Virtual Heroes Inc. have developed. They’ve also made training simulations for the U.S. Army Special Forces and U.S. Secret Service and HumanSIM, which enables health care professionals to sharpen their assessment and decision-making skills – much better to do that virtually than on a real person I think!

Training for Healthcare

Training for Healthcare


Now, ok…we’re talking about a company with huge resources on one side and Government training on another but still, it’s a nice example of technology enhanced learning is it not! When I think about Mobile Learning right now I think of phone handsets, best case scenario iPhone/iPod Touch Apps (for me that’s the best handheld device at the moment). But I also like to wonder what technology my sons will be using in the years to come (they are 9, 8 & 4)…and this fits the bill. They’re glued to their PSPs & NDS’s and they like wandering through virtual worlds such as Runescape and Club Penguin, carrying out tasks. It strikes me as a no-brainer that education will soon have to make strides into these worlds. 

Anyone know of similar work in this country?

Google to deliver “cloud storage” solution?

Spotted a post on Lifehacker today concerning a possible future service from Google. A reader has spotted an option in the recently released Picasa for Mac beta to “move photo to Google Web Drive”. Mmmm…interesting.

Now I’ve already taken advantage of my Gmail space, using that as an online storage container – those interested in doing the same might be interested in the Firefox extension but Google Web Drive might just be more of an ‘official’, more focused service from Google…which would make sense as it’s an area you would think Google is perfectly placed for.

Strange thing is that I can’t actually see the option in my menus on Picasa for Mac, which is – incidentally – an application that I love. I always liked using it in my Windows days and am very happy to see it finally touchdown for Mac. So I would certainly recommend it to others.

Report on Identity Management for Lifelong Learning

The JISC have just released a report on Identify Management for Lifelong Learning in the Further and Higher Education Sector.

A full copy of the report can be downloaded from

There is also a summary and consultation on the JISC e-learning blog, comments welcomed. See

E-Infrastructures and Technologies for Lifelong Learning…

…a call for Chapter Proposals.

Dr. George Magoulis of Birkbeck College, University of London & Director of the recent JISC project, MyPlan ( is about to edit a book entitled “E-Infrastructures and Technologies for Lifelong Learning: Next Generation Environments”. 

The idea is to provide a comprehensive review of state-of-the-art technologies for e-learning and lifelong learning, covering theoretical approaches, models, architectures, systems and applications. 

We think that this is an area that people involved in JISC-funded projects and in particular Lifelong Learning Networks might be interested in, so on George’s behalf I’d like to share this announcement – a call for Chapter Proposals….


Proposal Submission Deadline: February 28, 2009
Full Chapter Submission : June 20, 2009
E-Infrastructures and Technologies for Lifelong Learning: Next Generation Environments

The emerging knowledge society places new requirements on the education sector to support the needs of individuals and organisations. In the area of lifelong learning in particular, which is one of the most important motors driving education in the 21st century, e-learning has become a collaborative and community-based process. This calls for tools to support the autonomous and dynamic creation of lifelong learning communities and new distributed e-learning services.

To this end, the integration of innovative models, methods and technologies for the creation, storage, use, and exchange of knowledge resources and user-generated content, learning activities and units of learning, competence development programs and networks for lifelong learning is being investigated world wide. Advanced technologies that employ decentralised solutions where both resources and computation can be distributed have been developed in the form of online communities created by online collaborative tools; blogs, wikis, webcasts, webinars and social networking applications. These applications facilitate the development of a technical, organisational infrastructure for lifelong learning in formal or informal learning contexts. This e-infrastructure is composed mostly of open-source, standards-based, sustainable and innovative technologies and provides easy access to facilities that enable the lifelong development of competencies and expertise in the various occupations and fields of knowledge.

The focus of advanced technologies is moving from building large monolithic systems towards defining and constructing small components which can be integrated. This method permits the development of modular and flexible distributed systems, in which components can be added, removed or replaced more easily than in traditional models of e-learning systems, allowing new applications or systems to be composed from collections of available services. Furthermore, these technologies can be seamlessly integrated with pedagogic theories in order to be adopted into the everyday practices of educational organisations and independent learners, delivering lifelong learning and engaging learners in an empowering way.

Objective of the Book
The books aims to provide a comprehensive review of state-of-the-art technologies for e-learning and lifelong learning. It will cover theoretical approaches, models, architectures, systems and applications. It will address many issues in the field, providing readers with insight on the various stages of the technological life cycle, as well as applications in real world settings. It will act as a one-stop reference by providing a holistic view of the various issues in the area of advanced technologies for lifelong learning ranging from organisational issues to lifelong learning delivery issues. In the evolving educational landscape it is important to support informed decision-making and planning by successfully matching technologies, curriculum targets, lifelong learner needs, and organisational requirements for technology integration.

Target Audience
The target audience of this book will be composed of professionals and researchers working in the field of e-learning and lifelong learning systems, e.g. educational technologists and software developers, managerial staff involved in assessing the benefits of the various technologies for e-learning and lifelong learning, researchers working on the areas of technology-enhanced learning, web-based learning environments and personalised learning, instructors and e-learning systems developers interested in learning how to embrace new lifelong learning technologies effectively. Moreover, the book will provide a source of reference and a guide for students taking courses or working on projects related to large scale information systems, distributed systems and content delivery systems for e-learning and lifelong learning.

Recommended Topics
The book will aim to cover all aspects of lifelong learning systems, including creating, managing and modelling content and information, organisational strategy and management, technologies, curriculum development, instructional design, learning delivery, open problems, research issues. It will present original work and will be useful to a wide range of audience from different backgrounds working as a one-stop reference for those interested in technologies for e-learning and lifelong learning. Recommended topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Creating, managing and modelling content and information for e-learning and lifelong learning
– Organisational strategy and management issues in developing and supporting lifelong learning
– Technological issues
– Curriculum development issues in lifelong learning
– Instructional design issues and impact in lifelong learning
– e-learning and lifelong learning delivery issues
– e-learning and lifelong learning research methods and approaches
– Models of distributed systems for lifelong learning
– Security, trust and privacy considerations in lifelong learning e-infrastructures
– Decentralised user modelling for lifelong learning
– Collaborative web technologies for lifelong learning
– Free and open source software in lifelong learning infrastructures
– Web 2.0 technologies and lifelong learning
– User modelling and personalisation for lifelong learning
– Networked organisations for lifelong learning
– Semantic web technologies for lifelong learning
– Service-oriented architectures for e-learning and lifelong learning
– Interoperability and standards for e-learning and lifelong learning
– Communities of practice and communities of learning.
– Approaches to integration and personalisation of educational systems for lifelong learning

Submission Procedure
Researchers and practitioners are invited to submit on or before February 28, 2009, a 2-3 page chapter proposal clearly explaining the mission and concerns of his or her proposed chapter. Authors of accepted proposals will be notified by March 31, 2009 about the status of their proposals and sent chapter guidelines. Full chapters are expected to be submitted by June 20, 2009. All submitted chapters will be reviewed on a double-blind review basis. This book is scheduled to be published by IGI Global (

Inquiries and submissions can be forwarded electronically (Word document) or by mail to:

Dr. George D. Magoulas

Tel.: +44 20 7631 6717 
Fax: +44 20 7631 6727

Can we copy and move your data?

I’ve just watched an interesting presentation by Chris Adie, University of Edinburgh, at this year’s Eduserv Foundation Symposium. His topic was Web 2.0: Managing the risks

One of the risks is Data Protection and while all of the things spoken about were relevant and of interest this one particularly stood out a couple of hours later when I went to login to Yahoo (to check out the new 3rd party apps they have integrated apparently). I entered my password and was taken to the following page:

Yahoo alert page

Yahoo alert page

Firstly I’m being asked if it’s ok for Yahoo to copy my information to one of their servers in .

Thanks for that…one of your servers where, exactly? If it’s mainly personal stuff I use Yahoo for (I don’t as it happens, I hardly use it at all) then do I care and should I have to care where my information is stored? What if you’re dealing with files that could possibly have institutional IPR issues attached and start to bring the issue of confidentiality onto the main stage?

Secondly the links at the bottom for Terms of Service and the Privacy Policy made me think of another point Chris raised about just how many people actually bother to click on and read these things. It has huge potential to get hugely messy doesn’t it. Of course the situation above has arisen in my personal online life, while The Cloud at institutional level would require a much tighter approach and considerations to be taken by management at various levels.

These issues will be getting looked at by the CETIS Working Group in Cloud Computing much more closely and, engaging with institutional staff currently having to face this subject we will be working toward producing a briefing paper around it and a public dissemination event toward mid ’09.

More news will appear here as we go along. Meanwhile any and all pointers to existing, relevant resources would be most welcome!

Cloud Options: Amazon, Google & Microsoft

Cloud Computing (or my preferred term, Utility Computing) is probably my main area of interest right now – I think mobile technology is a close second though. The issue of educational institutions moving away from providing masses of storage, email services, expensive applications, etc. and toward a hosted setup is something I can see happening…just not sure when.

The topic is starting to get talked about more and more though and, unsurprisingly, it can lead to a bit of a mess of ideas. Cloud Computing, SaaS (Software as a Service), Shared Services, Outsourcing…it can – and does – seem to be getting lumped together in one box and I think that’s down to audience perhaps. When I think of this area I’m not thinking about payroll systems and other administrative areas but the interface between institution and student. Institutions creating email accounts for students and then having to setup and maintain the servers. Same goes for data storage…as students take increasing advantage of images, audio and video just how much of a hole does that burn into an institution’s budget when it comes to having the space for it all? Does a student care where their data is physically stored or their email is provided from? Should they? All questions that will be addressed over the coming months as part of the CETIS Working Group.

So, to the title of this post – I came upon (in a roundabout way, as you do in the Blogosphere) this rather helpful overview of the current Cloud offerings of ‘The Big 3′ on the blog of a guy called Scott Watermasysk. In it Scott gives a high-level comparison of the services in the Cloud that are being offered by Amazon, Google and Microsoft and his personal take on these.

I think for those people that are starting to look at this area and fancy an easily digestible introduction to what the current state of play is (not exhaustive, no, but a start) then this blog post ticks the box. Then all we have to do is dig further down to include the operators outside of these 3 and tease out the issues specific to education…dead easy! ;)

Scott’s blog post is at

Video hits the CETIS Conference

Well, it’s the day after the 5th Annual JISC CETIS Conference and once again I’m left feeling like it’s Boxing Day and I can’t get my head round how much I ate, drank and how many new presents there are everywhere!

I’ve noticed that the last couple of years have been much more laid back affairs, or at least a little bit less uptight. It’s a good group of people who gather in Birmingham to share ideas and thoughts and their enthusiasm never fails to give me a lift. Still…going back to the Boxing Day analogy…I need a few days to digest everything.

So…video. This year I’ve been introduced to the Flip Camcorder

A wonderfully inexpensive piece of kit that fits in your pocket and makes the job of capturing video a breeze. No memory cards, no forest of controls and menus; just switch on,  shoot and upload (using the built-in USB connector). I got to use the flip to capture session feedback (which I have to sort yet) and, even more fun, a short and lighthearted movie capturing the essence of this year’s conference.

So thanks to all those attending the conference for being so approachable and special thanks to Nic Whitton, my co-director on the evening :)

Now I have to get the CETIS communications people to sort it out so I can embed the videos in this blog….but in the meantime, enjoy!

Scan QR Code

Microsoft Office Web Apps not exclusive to Windows or IE

Well…Microsoft are ready to splash into the Web Apps water with their Office suite and the early, good news is that they have confirmed (and reiterated) that it won’t be tied to either Windows or Internet Explorer (Hurrah!!).

Thanks to it supporting Firefox and Safari (Opera anyone?), Office Web Applications will also run on Linux and the iPhone. Let’s face it, they had little choice really did they. Given their fear of Google they really have to entice people away from Google Docs and placing proprietary restrictions on the applications wouldn’t really have been a good starting place now would it!

On that point though, Microsoft still hasn’t stated whether there will be a free version, although it’s been said that the apps will be part of ‘Office Live’ which will come in both free and subscription flavours…so I think it’s fairly safe to assume that there will be a free-to-use option.

Apparently they also won’t be forcing Silverlight on users, its rival to Adobe Flash. Microsoft’s Sarah Perez, claimed on her blog that, “Silverlight is not required. Using Silverlight will enhance the user experience, resulting in
sharper images and improved rendering. Also, the Office Live Workspace
has integrated Silverlight technology into the multi-file upload
function for a better experience.”

So…interesting stuff. Now we have to wait for the technical preview.

New release of Elgg is just around the corner

Last week I interviewed Ben Werdmuller of Curverider, one of the brains behind the popular, open-source, social networking platform, Elgg ( Here Ben talks to us about the upcoming release of the new system, Elgg 1.0.


Elgg 1.0 is released soon – could you tell us what the significant developments are in this new version. What’s different from the current version and what your thinking was behind the decisions you made for the development of the platform.

Elgg 1.0 is a complete re-architecture of the Elgg software, taking into account the lessons and use cases that have been established since 2003. I’m extremely excited about the outcome; the new system is a fully-fledged social application engine. It can be used as an enterprise social network – and we’ve geared the features to make this use case as powerful and as usable as possible – but you can also use it to power any socially-aware application, or to add social functionality to existing software.


We’ve always espoused the “one size does not fit all” view of software. This version is significantly more flexible in terms of development, while being faster to develop for. Things like a model-view-controller architecture allow you to easily add, for example, an iPhone interface, or different kinds of feed formats to supplement RSS. The new input/output API (which plugins can add to) allows you to easily develop Java clients, for example for mobile phones.


The result is that, although Elgg is extremely flexible, you’re never in a situation where you have to hire an overpriced consultant to fit the software to your needs. It’s very simple. And of course, the software is free and open source, the documentation will be extensive, and there will be a set of equally free plugins to add functionality to it.


We’re all extremely excited about the Elgg 1.0 release, which happens on June 18th. We think it’s the best way to bring social technology to the enterprise, and it’s been engineered with that in mind.

I’ve read somewhere that Elgg 1.0 will be “featureless”. What does that mean?

Elgg 1.0 on its own will have no end-user features. We’re forcing nothing on you. Basically, we’ll provide some distributions with certain plugins pre-installed – one with a blog, file repository and RSS aggregator to match Elgg prior to 1.0, for example – but you can also pick, a la carte, exactly which features you need. We want to encourage you to decide which features you need, rather than the traditional situation, which is to adapt your requirements around what comes with the software.


Of course, to say that Elgg 1.0 comes with no features at all is disingenuous. The core contains a collection of very powerful back-end functionality which underlies everything: the granular access controls, cross-site tagging, internationalisation and templating that we’ve always had in Elgg, as well as very powerful auditing, full import/export, authentication management, event handling and administrator tools.

From a developer’s perspective, will there be Code documentation & a manual?
For instance, the RSS doesn’t update properly, but without knowing where all the code is, and what it affects, it’s very much trial and error. Finding dependencies has to be carried out in an ad hoc way, using find and replace.

Yes. We’ve gone to great lengths to provide extensive code documentation, and a development manual is also being simultaneously written with the software. An end-user manual and similar materials are also on the cards, and we will be available to provide on-site training.

On the topic of data portability you’re working with the Open Data Definition. Could you give us an overview of what it does and what led to its development.

We’ve been talking about data portability and the issue of data ownership since Elgg was established in 2003, and have remained ahead of the curve on the issue. (I was interviewed with Marc Canter and others about it in 2006: Recently, largely in light of Facebook’s decisions, the web industry has caught up and begun talking about how to allow users to move themselves and/or their data from one network to another.


I attended the Data Sharing Summit in the valley last September, alongside representatives from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Six Apart and others. I also had a subsequent meeting where I gave my feedback on what eventually became the Google Social Graph API. In both cases, it became clear that a lot of the companies behind the social web aren’t actually able to discuss true portability or interoperability; their business models won’t allow it. Just the words “data ownership” make the big players very nervous indeed, although they are tentatively in favour of exploring data portability. Basically, though, they’re not going to touch it until it becomes a big enough selling point that their business models dictate that they must.


There are other players at work developing standards, but they’re often very academic in nature. They’re very interesting, and have some very complicated and intelligent thought processes behind them, but they are simply not ready to be incorporated into a piece of software right now. RSS and even HTML are widespread and usable by virtue of their simplicity. By and large, it’s going to take years before most of these formats develop into something similar, and I doubt many of them ever will. Simply put, although they’re powerful, they’re far too complicated for non-academic coders to bother with. For a format to take off, you need that widespread adoption.


Open Data Definition is a different take on the same problem. It’s a very simple XML format that allows for full import/export between networks, works as a syndication feed a la RSS, and can be used in continuous “fire hose” data stream applications. It’s also deliberately designed to be trivial to code support for.


You can find out more at and the accompanying mailing list.

How does the ODD relate to the LEAP 2.0 portfolio interoperability work-in-progress, as it sounds like there might be a lot of overlap?

Whereas LEAP 2.0 is an educational specification, Open Data Definition is designed for a wider audience. It’s not even specific to social networks, although it is perfect for that use case. However, the format is flexible enough that the LEAP folks could easily build an implementation on top of it. We’ll be releasing generic import / export libraries, so it could be a very quick way for them to establish a working format.

From an interoperability angle, does Elgg 1.0 play well with others, and if so, how?

As well as its full API system, which allows for various kinds of interoperability, Elgg 1.0 has extensive Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM) support. This means that it’s easier than ever to include third-party authentication; everything from OpenID to SAML 2 is possible, although we have no plans to build in support for the latter ourselves. The PAM system works with both the web-based authentication and the import/export API, so you can expand the way you access both.


Elgg 1.0 will also support OpenSocial, and plugins will allow for integrations with other types of open standard. To further our commitment to integrating with existing enterprise systems, WSDL support is also in the works.

Thanks Ben. So…when can we expect the release of v1.0?

It will be launched at the ElggJam at the Roxy Bar and Screen in London on June 18th. I’ll be talking about the new features and how they can be harnessed, of course, and there will be other speakers talking about how they’re using Elgg. The keynotes include Stan Stanier from the University of Brighton, as well as the rugby legend Will Carling, who both run Elgg-powered sites. It’s going to be a great day, and although places are limited, we’ll make sure people can access the talks via the Internet.

LLG Social Network springs to life

Well…touch wood I’ve not spoken too soon.

As part of my work operating the JISC CETIS Lifelong Learning Group I decided that I wanted to set up a space where the people working in (or just interested in) this area could get together for discussions and the like, make connections – not only across projects but wider. I looked at Google Groups (limited functionality), Elgg (didn’t want to have to install and host it) and EduSpaces (built using Elgg but bloody awful interface). I then got to Ning.

Creating a network is as simple as it gets, then you have the facility to change the look (either using Ning templates or putting together your own CSS…I’ve recently switched to the latter), decide what tools are going to be available…the usual suspects are there – forum, RSS and blogging, but then you can flex your muscles a bit and switch on/off some other treats (Groups? Check. Video? Check. OpenSocial Gadgets? I’ve left that one for now…)

I started off by inviting a small selection of people at first. People that I had talked to about this kind of thing before and whom I felt confident would engage. This was then followed up with an open invite to the 2 strands of the JISC eLearning Programme that I’m primarily involved with supporting – The Cross Institutional Support for Lifelong Learners (I and II) and HE in FE. Membership has slowly grown over time, with the odd bit of forum posting taking place but only recently do I feel it’s suddenly turned a corner and is now starting to look like an engaging space.

I think this was helped by the fact that the JISC Programme Managers agreed to encourage projects to get involved, particularly with a view to building up some content on the challenges projects are tackling so that we could build on it at the latest programme meeting (yesterday).

Perfect. One of the major reasons I wanted a network like this one is so we could have a place to continue and build upon the discussions and relationships that come about at these meetings. So many times I’ve been to a programme meeting where I hear lots of interesting people sharing lots of interesting ideas and thoughts, identifying shared issues and saying, “We really want to talk to you, you and you as your work is very similar to ours”. And then? Then you leave the meeting and everything goes quiet until 6 months pass by and you all get together again and…well, you know the rest.

So, more members have signed up. People are plugging upcoming events of interest to the community. Members are pulling in the RSS feed from their project blogs and some are even setting up blogs within the network. Oh and the video? Yep, we’ve got one on there now – what a great way for a project to introduce themselves.

Forgive me for sounding like a bit of loved-up fanboy but it’s nice to see something I have a keen desire to see blossom…well, blossoming :)

Still early days, I know. But there is life there…and I’m looking forward to seeing it grow.

Oh yeah… ;)