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Workshop #PLEConf: Do you want to Connect? Recommendation Strategies for Personal Learning Networks

Last week, my colleague and supervisor Jan van Bruggen and I conducted a workshop on recommendation strategies at the PLE conference in Berlin. The conference itself was also very interesting but I will blog about it in a separate post. In this post, I will describe the workshop.

Our workshop focussed on recommendation strategies for social networks supporting Personal Learning Networks. Below you find my presentation.

 

The reasoning behind the research we conducted and the topic of the workshop is that current recommendation systems look for navigating through the abundance of people and resources out there. To minimize the choices, they are therefore created to look for items or people similar to the user. However, for learning, this may not be the most relevant strategy. For learning purposes, you would actually like to look at people or items that are related to whatever you are interested in, but that are different in some significant way. This difference creates an interest and a learning opportunity. In our workshop, we presented two methodologies to match people on similarity and on dissimilarity.

The workshop was very interesting from my point of view, for various reasons:

  1. It was very interesting to see that even in the select group of participants of our workshop, we could see very different types of matches emerging, by using the different methodologies.
  2. As we asked the participants to basically do the computer’s work, it was funny to see how quickly they brought in other, more intelligent steps to improve recommendations. We had to be quite strict in forcing them to follow the computer’s rules. As a designer, it certainly showed me the limitations of the technical side and, of course, our natural intelligence 🙂
  3. What I also liked was how quickly the participants had seemed to make up their mind about whom of the other participants to  connect with. Although we asked them to choose just one or two, most of them revealed to us afterwards that such a choice was difficult to make (although some did indicate initial preferences). Also, it was clear that such choices were dependent on a whole range of things, from professional to personal to other.

My reflections on the PLE conference will follow soon.

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Cloudworks

This morning I attended a workshop by Grainne Conole, who is visiting the Open Universiteit Nederland today.

Grainne talked about a new project she’s working on at the Open University, called Cloudworks.
Cloudworks is a social networking tool specifically designed to grasp the discussions on Learning Design by teachers, tutors and anyone else. I was very interested in the way the design of the tool was made, by starting from the practical experiences of teachers in the course of designing a course. It really highlighted to me again that the fact that any technology (but especially technology focused on social aspects of learning) should support existing processes and practices in social interactions.
I think technology can enhance these existing practices, but should not aim to change them at the beginning. (These processes and practices might change due to the existance of the technology, but this is at a later phase).

Cloudworks seems to be a simple way to grasp ongoing discussions, as it is basically a state-and-comment; share-your-opinion tool. It does not aim to do anything more. It offers some simple and easy ways to relate to new people, through topic-related discussions. It is interesting to see a log of history in the discussions and links to related resources.

The nature of tool makes it something very time-related (as is Twitter). I think it will of most use and interest if you are following and participating in ongoing discussions. However, it could also be used as a quick log to see the major different views on any particular topic (and as such it can be a learning resource too). And abundance of data will soon become an issue here too….

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And just when the going seemed to be good

Some days reading is hard….

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Progress

Over the last weeks, my PhD plan is slowly but surely taking shape. The argumentation is coming together, my research question seems obvious, the bibliography is getting longer and I even have some ideas of what my experiments could be.
The only thing is I am really taking a lot of time…..

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Deepavali coming up

Only two days left to Deepavali!!! I am planning to have a party with my family and a couple of friends that day. Still looking for bakshanam recipes…

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