Archive for the ‘Open Source’ Category

Why the world needs OpenStreetMap

January 14th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

This clipping is from an excellent article in the Guardian newspaper about OpenStreetMap. With Geocoding and mapping becoming central to many of the apps we use today – especially on mobile, stopping the commercialisation of location data is important.

Why do we need a project like OpenStreetMap? The answer is simply that as a society, no one company should have a monopoly on place, just as no one company had a monopoly on time in the 1800s. Place is a shared resource, and when you give all that power to a single entity, you are giving them the power not only to tell you about your location, but to shape it. In summary, there are three concerns: who decides what gets shown on the map, who decides where you are and where you should go, and personal privacy.

via Why the world needs OpenStreetMap | Technology | theguardian.com.

Reflect – an App for recording ideas and learning

July 23rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Reflect is a free Android App for phones and tablets developed by students from Hochschule Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences) for Pontydysgu as part of the Learning Layers Project.

The app is presently in closed beta but will be open for use by everyone in August 2013. If you would like more details please email graham10 [at] mac [dot] com.

We demoed the App at a workshop jointly hosted by the UK National Health Service developers network Handi and the Learning Layers project in Bradford last month and share here the report we produced on the feedback.

Aim:

  • To elicit user feedback from developers and healthcare professionals
  • Evaluate potential of the App

Background and Key Idea:

The original idea came from talking with a doctor in the UK at a Learning layers workshop. He explained how little time he had to reflect on his ongoing learning. The most time he had, he told us, was when he was in his car between meetings and visiting patients.

The Reflect App was originally designed to make the recording of learning, both formal and informal, easy.

The App is voice controlled and translates voice recordings into text.

Users can build a ‘stack’ of questions by typing them into a simple form on a web interface. Then they can use an Android Phone App which reads them the questions. They can skip to the next question, resubmit their answer or ask for help. The answers are automatically converted to text and can be downloaded to their own computer or tablet.

What we hoped to learn:

We were concerned to get feedback about:

a)    The general idea and potential interest in the app

b)    Usability and UI

c)    Ideas for further development

Feedback from developers and healthcare professionals:

Negative feedback:

  • GPs are concerned about the level of security, regarding sensitive data.
  • Developers were concerned about quality of voice recognition and difficulties with background noise

Questions that were raised:

  • What is the maximum recording time?
  • Where does the voice recognition processing take place?
  • Is an off-line mode possible?
  • could Reflect be integrated into other systems (e.g. NHS)
  • What are business models for future sustainability?

Positive feedback and further potential:

  • Reflect could be a good tool to report back the first impressions on meetings
  • A future approach could be to develop an APi to allow use with other systems
  • Domains for groups to work together
  • Reflect could be used for research purposes e.g surveys
  • Learning tasks could be created for students (microanalysis)
  • Link to Evernote
  • Reflect provides strong support for scaffolding learning

Suggested Business Models:

  • Advertising
  • Premium domain accounts
  • Develop market ins tacks of questions for different occupations / domain and license under revenue sharing model

What Next?

We are continuing to test the App on a closed beta and are working on an open beta release for Reflect.

We are hoping to get further developer support for:

a)    Exploring off line potential

b)    Developing a API

c)    Porting to iOS

Evaluation of the activity:

From our point of view we were delighted with the critical and positive feedback. We especially noted the concern from external developers that there is a strong business model and suggest that this should be noted by other Learning layers development teams / design groups.

The workshop was very well organised. Whilst it would have been useful to have more health care professionals, the opportunity for engagement with so many developers and with commercial companies was extremely valuable.

Citing and valueing Open Data

July 2nd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The academic world has. perhaps unsurprisingly, been somewhat slow to respond to the challenge of recognising different sources of knowledge. A little strangely, one important step in developing recognition of different forms of scholarly research and knowledge is the development and use of forms of citation.

Si in that regard it is encouraging to see the publication of “The Amsterdam Manifesto on Data Citation Principles.”

In the preface they state:

We wish to promote best practices in data citation to facilitate access to data sets and to enable attribution and reward for those who publish data. Through formal data citation, the contributions to science by those that share their data will be recognized and potentially rewarded. To that end, we propose that:

1. Data should be considered citable products of research.

2. Such data should be held in persistent public repositories.

3. If a publication is based on data not included with the article, those data should be cited in the publication.

4. A data citation in a publication should resemble a bibliographic citation and be located in the publication’s reference list.

5. Such a data citation should include a unique persistent identifier (a DataCite DOI recommended, or other persistent identifiers already in use within the community).

6. The identifier should resolve to a page that either provides direct access to the data or information concerning its accessibility. Ideally, that landing page should be machine-actionable to promote interoperability of the data.

7. If the data are available in different versions, the identifier should provide a method to access the previous or related versions.

8. Data citation should facilitate attribution of credit to all contributors

The Manifesto was created during the Beyond the PDF 2 Conference in Amsterdam in March 2013.

The original authors were Mercè Crosas, Todd Carpenter, David Shotton and Christine Borgman.

 

Five reasons to use Open Source Software

June 30th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

With growing concerns over the Prism programmes spying on services offered by social software providers, there seems recently to have been somewhat of an resurgence in interest in Open Source Software in education. This excellent short video by Doug Belshaw from the Mozilla Foundation provides five compelling reasons to consider using Open Source Software. Doug used Mozilla Popcorn Maker to add text, something I have been meaning to have a look at for a long time. I also liked how he moved round his house for each section of the video, much more interesting than the usual head and shoulders production.

Give us back our data

June 27th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

We’ve always joked that security services were listening in on our email and chat. I suspect many of us thought it was not a joke but it sounded so madly paranoid we didn’t like to admit it. Some of my techy friends steered clear of social networks, others encrypted their email. This sounded a little over the top. Not any more. Thanks to public hero, Edward Snowden, we know the US and UK security services have been illegally intercepting millions of internet based communications (and of course the internet includes telephone) and mining the data for goodness knows what.

And guess what, people don’t like it.

In a recent article referring to “Without Permission: Privacy on the Line” published in the International Journal of Information Security and Privacy, by Johanne Pratt and Sue Conger the editors say:

This feeling of victimization and violation of privacy is the fuel behind the recent public outrage directed toward the NSA and companies utilizing big data in marketing. A recent post on NPR’s blog Monkeysee discusses the differences between the information gathering done by Apple and Target, for marketing purposes, and the government’s motives for data collection:

“Government has no such transparent single motive, like profit, but a variety of motives, not all of which people are confident they know about. What you believe to be the motives of a particular administration or government agency depends on a complicated, often highly charged calculus of politics, policy, media consumption, and internalized constitutional theory that you may not have even verbalized but know in your gut.”

Over the last week I have been having a series of conversations with different project partners about how we should react. We don’t really have anything to hide, nor do we carry commercially sensitive data. But it is just the feeling of outrage at the fact that they intercept and mine our data, Google for commercial reasons and the NSA for perhaps more sinister reasons. We were already uneasy about letting Google have our data. We were already looking for more efficient tools for project management. And I think overall we are looking for systems we can install on our own servers and maintain ourselves. Of course that will not stop intercepts, nor will it stop our data being hacked. But al least we will have some element of control back over how we store and manage our data. Longer term this could have quite profound implications for how the internet develops.

LMI for All API released

June 9th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I have written periodic updates on the work we have been doing for the UKCES on open data, developing an open API to provide access to Labour Market Information. Although the APi is specifically targeted towards careers guidance organisations and towards end users looking for data to help in careers choices, in the longer term it may be of interest to others involved in labour market analysis and planning and for those working in economic, education and social planning.

The project has had to overcome a number of barriers, especially around the issues of disclosure, confidentiality and statistical reliability. The first public release of the API is now available. The following text is based on an email sent to interested individuals and organisations. Get in touch if you would like more information or would like to develop applications based on the API.

The screenshot above is of one of the ten applications developed at a hack day organised by one of our partners in the project, Rewired State. You can see all ten on their website.

The first pilot release of LMI for All is now available and to send you some details about this. Although this is a pilot version, it is fully functional and it would be great if you could test it as a pilot and let us know what is working well and what needs to be improved.

The main LMI for All site is at http://www.lmiforall.org.uk/.  This contains information about LMI for All and how it can be used.

The APi web explorer for developers can be accessed at http://api.lmiforall.org.uk/.  The APi is currently open for you to test and explore the potential for  development. If you wish to deploy the APi in your web site or application please email us at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com and we will supply you with an APi key.

For technical details and details about the data go to our wiki at http://collab.lmiforall.org.uk/.  This includes all the documentation including details about what data LMI for All includes and how this can be used.  There is also a frequently asked questions section.

Ongoing feedback from your organisation is an important part of the ongoing development of this data tool because we want to ensure that future improvements to LMI for All are based on feedback from people who have used it. To enable us to integrate this feedback into the development process, if you use LMI for All we will want to contact you about every four to six months to ask how things are progressing with the data tool. Additionally, to help with the promotion and roll out of LMI for All towards the end of the development period (second half of 2014), we may ask you for your permission to showcase particular LMI applications that your organisation chooses to develop.

If you have any questions, or need any further help, please use the FAQ space initially. However, if you have any specific questions which cannot be answered here, please use the LMI for All email address lmiforall [at] ukces [dot] org [dot] uk.

 

LMI for All – coming soon

May 12th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

A quick and overdue update on the Labour Market Information for All project, which we are developing together with Raycom, the University of Warwick and Rewired State and  is sponsored by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES).

LMI for All will provide an online data portal bringing together existing sources of labour market information (LMI) that can inform people’s decisions about their careers.  The database will contain robust LMI from national surveys and data sources providing a common and consistent baseline to use alongside less formal sources of intelligence. Due for release at the end of May 2013, access to the database will be through an open API. the results of queries can then be embedded by developers in their own web sites of apps. We will also provide a code library to assist developers.

The project builds on the commitment by the UK government to open data. despite this, it is not simple. As the Open Data White Paper (HM Government, 2012)highlights,  data gathered by the public sector is not always readily accessible. Quality of the data, intermittent publication and a lack of common standards are also barriers. A commitment is given to change the culture of organisations, to bring about change: ‘This must change and one of the barriers to change is cultural’ (p. 18).

We have talked to a considerable number of data providers including government bodies. It is striking that all have been cooperative and wishing to help us in providing access to data. However, the devil is in the detail.

Much of the data publicly collected, is done so on the condition that is is non disclosive e.e. that it is impossible to find out who submitted that data. And of course the lower the level of aggregation, the easier it is to identify where the data is coming from. And the more the data is linked, the more risk there s of disclosure.

We have developed ways of getting round this using both statistical methods (e.g. estimation) and technical approaches (data aggregation). But it remains a lot of work preparing the data for uploading to our database. And I guess that level of work will discourage others from utilising the potential of open data. It may explain why, transport excluded, their remain limited applications built on the open data movement in the UK.

It may suggest that the model we are working on, of a publicly funded project providing access to data, and then providing tools to build applications on top of that data, could provide a model for providing access to public data.

In the meantime if you are interested in using our API and developing your own applications for careers guidance and support, please get in touch.

 

Open Design

April 18th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking hard about the role of different stakeholders and potential partners in the Learning Layers project. As regular readers will know by now, Learning Layers is a large scale EU funded project, seeking to develop the use of technology and particularly mobile technologies for (informal) learning, initially in the construction and medical sectors.

The project has adopted a user centred design approach. This involves a series of use cases and studies, with direct involvement of potential end users in design workshops, leading towards iterative software development.. At present Layers is working on four design ideas, looking at functional requirements but more importantly sketching wireframes and designs and sharing these with users.

This is a fairly labour intensive job. And even in a generously funded project, it is dubious whether we will have the resources to develop all four as full and mature applications. Furthermore, the more we talk with end users, the more ideas they are giving us for possible applications. So should we stop collecting design ideas? And how do we prioritise development activities?How do we overcome the limited resources we have in terms of developers?

I was talking with Raymond Elferink last week in Dublin. Raymond runs Raycom, a Dutch software SME. I asked him if he would like to join our stakeholder group of Layers Associate partners. And naturally he asked me what Raycom would get out of such involvement. Well, I stuttered, you will get early access to our products. And we will invite you to an annual stakeholder meet up. Oh, and yes, we will send you a half yearly bulletin. None of this really seemed to cut the ice. So we talked longer about what a project like Layers could offer to engage software developers. In line with most information technology projects funded by the EU, Learning layers is committed to releasing code under an open source license. It is also envisaged that we will try to build a community of developers to guarantee the future development of teh project following the end of EU funding. But to Raymond it was not the code that was so important. As he siad, he can write the code himself. But what he saw as potentially valuable was access to design ideas – and in particular to design ideas that have been codeveloped and validated with end user groups.

This got me thinking. Instead of waiting until we have code and developing an open source community around that code, could we develop design ideas and build communities around that. We could even run hack days and launch competitions around the best prototype for a particular design idea. And instead of shutting out new ideas and designs, we could continue to develop such designs, with the community being encouraged to come in early, take the deigns and build applications. Layers could help and advise developers, as well as giving access to user groups for feedback and validation. In other words we could open up the project at an early stage to a wider community of developers. OK, I don’t know of any European project which has done this before but this does not seem impossible to do.~ At the moment, most of our design activities are coordinated through a closed wiki. But we could ensure that each design idea has a corresponding page or space on the project web site and make sure this is updated as each ‘mature’ version of the design idea comes out, rather in the same form of versioning which is used with open source software.

In fact, we have sort of started this process. In February, we had an ‘Application Partner Day’, with medical practitioners and administrators, in Bradford in England. Jen Hughes got talking to a doctor who said the main barrier to learning for him was lack of time. The only real time he got for reflection was when he was travelling in his car between meetings, appointments and visits ot patients. Jen and me dreamt up a mobile app to allow him to structure his thoughts and ideas whilst he was in his car. And through Andreas Schmidt, a professor at the HsKa institute in Karlsruhe, in Germany, we got to pitch the idea to a group of students on a business iCT course. they have a semester long course where they undertake a project for a commercial client. happily to say, the students voted to develop our app, codenamed ‘Reflect’. So the project is based on a design idea which has come out of the Layers project, but the resources to develop it further are external to the project. I will write more about this as the project takes shape.

 

Project Tin Can promises to recognise informal learning

September 11th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

I have never been a fan of SCORM.It is claimed that the SCORM standard has reduced the cost of elearning through ensuring that all e-learning content and LMSs can work with each other. However, it has always seemed to me that SCORM was built around a funnel idea of learning, rendering problematic more ambitious and constructivist pedagogies. Thus I have paid little attention to what ADL – who ‘own’ the SCORM standard are up to. Wrongly it seems.

Together with Rustici Software, ADL have released Project Tin Drum, which they say is a successor to SCORM. Critically they appear to be recognising that learning takes place in different contexts and want to recognise all learning, including informal learning. The Tin Can project web site says “The Tin Can API offers up methods to integrate real-world activities with digital learning.” They also make much of the fact that learning no longer has to take place in an LMS nor even in a browser. The centre of Tin Can is an open APi, allowing the capture of learning actions:

  • People learn from interactions with other people, content, and beyond. These actions can happen anywhere and signal an event where learning could occur. All of these can be recorded with the Tin Can API.
  • When an activity needs to be recorded, the application sends secure statements in the form of “Noun, verb, object” or “I did this” to a Learning Record Store (LRS.)
  • Learning Record Stores record all of the statements made. An LRS can share these statements with other LRSs. An LRS can exist on its own, or inside an LMS.

The basis of the APi is a simple Actor, verb, object syntax. the web site provides the following examples: “Jack completed safety training.” “Christie experienced the Berlin Wall in Second Life.”  The go on to say: “These statements can be simple or complex. The actors, verbs, and objects can vary widely, and can be described with varying levels of detail. Actors/learners can also be described in various different ways.”

Sequencing is based on the activities.

Whilst much is made of the simplicity of the standard, there is a danger that it will get more complex in implementation. At the moment there is only a limited infrastructure to support Tin Can. Rustici offer a cloud implementation, including a free low volume account. There is also a book marklet and should shortly be a plug in for WordPress. That WordPress may be one of the first workable implementation speaks volumes in itself of the difference from SCORM which was designed for heavyweight Learning Management Systems.

Project Tin Can looks fascinating. I would be intere4setd in hearing what others think.

Links via Stephen Downes and

Mendeley Open API

August 25th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

Mendeley’s Open API Approach Is On Course To Disrupt Academic Publishing, according to TechCrunch. They say: “Mendeley’s ecosystem has now produced over 240 research apps drawing on open data from its database under a Creative Commons license. Those generate more than 100 million API calls to Mendeley’s database per month….The information fueling this ecosystem is being produced by the scientific community itself, putting a social layer over each document and producing anonymised real-time information about the academic status, field of research, current interests, location of, and keywords generated by its readers. The applications can cover research collaboration, measurement, visualisation, semantic markup, and discovery…

Mendeley’s tools now touch about 1.9 million researchers, pooling 65 million documents and claims to cover 97.2% to 99.5% of all research articles published. By contrast commercial databases by Thomson Reuters and Elsevier contain 49 million and 47 million unique documents, respectively.”

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    Consultation

    Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.

    The deadline for contributions is 23 June at http://goo.gl/LwR65t.


    Social Tech Guide

    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”


    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.


    Open online STEM conference

    The Global 2013 STEMx Education Conference claims to be the world’s first massively open online conference for educators focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and more. The conference is being held over the course of three days, September 19-21, 2013, and is free to attend!
    STEMxCon is a highly inclusive event designed to engage students and educators around the globe and we encourage primary, secondary, and tertiary (K-16) educators around the world to share and learn about innovative approaches to STEMx learning and teaching.

    To find out about different sessions and to login to events go to http://bit.ly/1enFDFB


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