Learning 2.0 : User Generated Contents or User Generated Contexts ?

During a workshop organised to review a study on Learning 2.0 at IPTS in Seville, in order to express my vision of what Learning 2.0 might be about, I proposed to reflect on the concept of User Generated Context.

There are currently many discussions and initiatives relative to User Generated Contents, and this is often presented as one of the great achievements of Web 2.0. My position is that, while this is a good thing, this is not revolutionary: when I was a student, many of the polycopiés (printed course notes) were produced by students, often reviewed and validated by professors. And the Web 1.0 was very good at supporting and generalising this kind of practice. What has now changed, with technologies like wikis, is that it is easier to create course material collaboratively, keep it updated, connect it to many other kinds of resources and documents. For example, it is easy to cross-reference the portfolios of students who have worked on the contents of a particular course with the contents of the course itself, making the course material a kind of ‘learning magnet’ (rather than a ‘learning object’, but his is for another conversation), an attractor, an aggregator of ongoing intellectual production. The learning material becomes the result of a percolation process where the best of individual and collaborative production is being identified, recognised and celebrated.

I see what is happening with User Generated Contents, the ability to create, co-create, cross-reference knowledge as a first order learning. And moving from a system where learners as seen as mere consumers of contents, to a world where they are valued and celebrated as knowledge producers is certainly a worthwhile mental step. What I’m really interested in to explore is a second order of learning, where learners are not only the creators of contents but contexts, where learning outcomes are not simply contents but contexts, where the learning situation is flexible enough to be transformed in the very process of learning, where reflexive learning transforms learning—learning about learning.
EIfEL defines learning as the combination of individual, community, organisational, territorial and societal learning, which means that it is a transformative process which happens simultaneously within all these dimensions, each with their own rhythms of transformation. The context in which learning happens is not an invariant — group, institution, community etc. — but the outcome of previous learning and the starting point for further learning. But while we have some understanding of what a learning individual or organisation is, they are generally discussed in different communities, and rare are the teachers or parents that (want to) see the school as a learning organisation.

Moreover, the learning situation itself is a learning situation. While this sounds like a tautology, what I want to express is the idea that learning about learning, reflective learning transforms learning. The learning context is changed by the learning itself. This is not as elegant and striking as James Glieck writing “Life learned itself into existence”, who conveys the idea that learning and life are the two sides of the same object, but this is the same kind of idea that I would like to elicit by what will sound like a double tautology: “learning learned itself into learning”.

By moving the reflection from contents to contexts, we might have an opportunity to better connect individual and organisational learning, creating the conditions for institutional transformation, inviting pupils and parents to invent the school of tomorrow.

This also has an implication on the way we use technology, how learning environments are being constructed. The experience of pupils and students moving from the technology they use in ‘real life’ to the one used by institutions is often extremely frustrating as institutions are generally incapable of (or don’t want) providing state of the art technology — many school and university digital learning environments are wonderful time travel machine… to the past (in terms of technologies as well as pedagogies).

Why not use pupils and students to create the contexts in which they learn, using state of the art technology, inventing tomorrows technologies and practices. What we have today with digital technology such as social computing, virtual worlds, ePortfolios (individual and organisational) is the ability to create our own contexts and transform the contexts in which we operate. The context itself can become the artefact produced as outcome of a learning process. It should.

Of course, the very idea of User Generated Contexts renders obsolete the programme assigned to Learning Design (in the sense of IMS-LD and other Educational Modelling Languages – EML), unless EML had the ability to transform itself through some kind of auto-coding, while learning takes place. IMS-Learning Design being incapable of supporting such vision, it might be time to send it once for all to the dustbin of technology history.

PLE, PRM and ePortfolios

During the VRM (vendor relationship management) session at ePortfolio 2008 chaired by Graham Sadd (PAOGA) 2 presentations by Peter Murton (PAOGA) and Bart Stevens (iChoosr) reminded me the discussion relative to individual and organisational portfolio: is the organisational/community portfolio an aggregation of individual eportfolios or the individual ePortfolios a by-product of the construction of an organisational/community portfolio.

Peter Murton presented MySortingOffice, a VRM application with interesting features such as multiple persona, temporary email and telephone numbers, anonymisation, etc. so multiple identities can be used to manage relationships with vendors.
Bart Stevens presented the example of the use of RFP (request for proposals) by communities to order heating oil and get discounts over 20% in comparison of the prices individual buyers would get.
So, in one case we have a Personal Relationship Management System (PRM) and the other, a Community Relationship Management sytem. 

For a massive use of UID

Interoperability is a key issue for the future on the Internet, and there are many different approaches to it: metadata and data model standards, web services, semantic web. What EIfEL has decided through the creation of EventFolio is to explore is another approach, based on the following idea:

– a life is a succession of events, and these events are linked to people, documents and a number of contextual information, like the theme of the event, the subjects being addressed. Now imagine that each event is tagged with a unique identifier (UID) and that all the elements linked to this event are tagged with this UID. Let’s say that you attend a workshop on interoperability with 25 other people in Caen (France) and that you ‘tag’ the name of the people (or more precisely the profile pointed by a URI where (one of) their ID is being stored) as well as the metata ‘interoperability’ as well as the city of Caen and  the date in the calendar.
Then imagine that this is done systematically for every event we generate or contribute to. It would then be easy for me to retrieve the list of the people who attended this event (if they kept the UID in their profile and if they accepted me as a viewer of this information). And of course, if this technique is massively used, then it would be easy to find the people with specific interests, create life stories (eportfolios) automatically, etc.

In this model, we don’t simply use tags to enrich a document or a profile, but a UID that connects me to a subject and to other people.
Of course, as we are dealing with personal data. there is a need to enforce privacy. The way we want to address this is through the creation of a foundation.
If you are interested to know more, don’t hesitate to contact us.

ePortfolio and Digital Identity….and Google birthday… still a long road for digital identity…

For its tenth birthday, Google has put in place a tool to do research with results such as how they look like in 2001.

Take a look at results of a search on ePortfolio and learning or ePortfolio and resume or how EIfEL looks like in 2001.

More seriously we are seeing here the risk for user personal identity if organisation such as Google is able to conserve/backup indexes for further use (this one as up to 1,326,920,000 web pages indexed) !!! How could I really manage my own digital identity ??

For example you could do backward research on other digital identity, look at Serge Ravet, CEO of EIfEL , fortunately for us the first result link Serge with… NVQ ! 😉
(I’ve tried with my name but I’ve seen that I was not born digitaly in 2001, even in French :))

But others could have less chance if a recruiter or his manager use this…

In our concept of user centric ePortfolio managed by the ePortfolio owner himself we are seeing here the need of concept such as IDentity Governance. Liberty Alliance is digging on this as well as european project such as TAS3 but even if technically we could imagine to put in place in a short future concept such as “Identity Watchdog” as we need also to be present on the web (so be part of Google) we clearly have to help students and future generations to better understand this issue and take care of their own digital identity…

New Liberty Alliance Group Focuses on Identity Management in the Education and Human Resources Sectors chaired by EIfEL

EIfEL is please to announce its participation in this new Liberty special interest group that will help to foster adoption of Europass initiative with support of privacy and digital identity !
The launch meeting will take place in Maastricht on 22nd October afternoon.

PARIS, October 15 /PRNewswire/ —
– Public Group Targeting Interoperability Across Education and HumanResources Applications and Services

Liberty Alliance, the global identity community working to build a more trustworthy Internet for businesses, governments and people worldwide, today announced the launch of the public Liberty Alliance Human Resources and Education Special Interest Group (SIG). The goal of the group is to foster interoperability, security and user privacy across online identity-enabled solutions in the global education and human resources sectors. The HumanResources and Education (HR-EDU) SIG will hold its first public face-to-face meeting on October 22 at the ePortfolio & Digital Identity 2008 conference in Maastricht, the Netherlands.
Members of the SIG include representatives from EIfEL, Entr’ouvert, EuroCV, IMS Global, iProfile.org, the French Ethics & Recruiting Association, the French Recruiting Syntec Syndicate, the OpenID European Foundation, Stepstone, Symlabs, Synergetics, 3s Unternehmens-beratung GmbH and the University of Kent. The group is working to advance the adoption of proven interoperable, secure and privacy-respecting Liberty Alliance specifications in education and human resources, and collaborating with other communities and specifications bodies to promote open standards and best practices fordigital identity management in the education and human resources sectors.
According to Marc Van Coillie, CTO with EIfEL and chair of the new Liberty Alliance HR-EDU SIG, “The formation of the new Liberty Alliance group marks an important milestone in bringing the education and human resources industries together to foster interoperability across online applications and services.”

About the Liberty Alliance HR-EDU SIG
Liberty Alliance members form special interest groups to solve regional, national, international and vertical-specific identity management challenges. The Human Resources and Education SIG is Liberty Alliance’s ninth open-to-the-public special interest group. During the October 22 face-to-face meeting members of the HR-EDU SIG will establish priorities for advancing interoperability and data portability among education and human resources applications. All individuals and organizations in the data portability, identity management, education and human resources sectors are encouraged to attend this public event.

More information about the HR-EDU SIG, including how to join the group’s mail list and how to register for the October 22 meeting, is available by visiting the group’s wiki at:

English: Russell DeVeau russd@projectliberty.org
French: secretariat-hr-edu-sig@projectliberty.org
Liberty Alliance