Serendipity. Gráinne Conole used that word a few times in her virtual field trip on Cloudworks today / tonight. And it was really serendipity for me that I learned about that field trip from the comfort of my home. Bob Reuter, a colleague of mine, wrote a brief blog post about Cloudworks earlier in the evening. Not too long after I saw the tweet about it, I read a tweet from @scope_community about Gráinne Conole presenting on the very same subject tonight taking us on a Virtual Field Trip Visiting Cloudworks (recording). She also set up a cloud for the field trip.
Cloudworks is an initiative by the Open University offering “a place to share, find and discuss learning and teaching ideas and experiences”. Gráinne spoke about Cloudworks in CCK08 last year. But back then, it was still fuzzy and not so easy to grasp as there was not much activity going on.
I have not yet had an account in Cloudworks (changed a few minutes ago), but had already taken a few looks at it a couple of months ago and was very impressed about the amount of discussion and activity in general going on.
It is great to see so many ideas in the open space. However, I asked the question in the session if it were possible to install the system on a server for a closed community. In the tech group of our bachelor program, the question came up how to make good student work accessible to others within the BScE. After mulling things over in my head and discarding a database in Moodle, I thought of Cloudworks and Alan Levine‘s Maricopa Learning eXchange (from a different web area, simpler, but still serves its purpose).
Our students produce a lot of research, data, teaching material, portfolio reflections and so on, but nobody in the program knows about them when you are not involved with the students producing these great things. Therefore, it would be useful to have a system where teachers, and I think also fellow students, could nominate works to be put into a repository for all students to check out. The nomination part is not exactly Cloudworks, but I believe good to show the students that their work is appreciated by others (besides receiving comments).
A lot of the artifacts our students create could be made openly available. But some of them not because they may contain videos or images of children from their internship classes. The parents only agree to having these displayed in password-protected areas of the university. It would be much harder to get the consent for open online publishing. Students may also feel comfortable with showing their work or also portfolio reflections to fellow students and teachers, but not to everybody.
Of course, being open has a lot of potentials, e.g. the artifacts can generate comments and / or discussions that may have never surfaced in a closed system, students would produce for a potentially larger audience and not just for themselves / their group / class.
Therefore, I am torn between openness and the walled garden. Maybe a combination will evolve where certain things would only be found on our server (then the problem persists of how to do that) and others in an open system. Before trying to find a system that would be useful on our server, I would jump in on the deep end and try Cloudworks with some of the work that students and teachers have done because
- it will be a good trial to open up more and to make the work done in the BScE more visible
- the system offers a number of possibilities for uploading, aggregating, interaction
- it would be a good experience for the students and teachers involved to learn how to manage in such an open space
And, we may be surprised to find out “how many people are open to openness” as Gráinne said.
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