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13 September 2007 @ 09:31 am
The excitement and confusion of getting a new year underway!  Our enrollment is low this year which at least offers more room for learning how to use these exciting new tools/ideas/methods  to conduct a more collaborative learning environment.  The tools are fun, sometimes distracting.  It is taking me more time to figure out useful strategies and techniques, and for finding the courage to cede some of the classroom structure and direction to the students.

Even more than the technology, I have appreciated the examples of others who have gone before, the HP community (http://ticc.mines.edu/hp/wiki), and the numerous other directions this has shown us.  For example, we are using Moodle to place our course materials and activities online.  We are using classroom presenter to replace whiteboards... because they not only allow us to annotate existing material, but they allow us to create a record of our scribblings for future reference.  We are experimenting with Windows Journal.

We hope to revisit the Blomidon Naturalist group later this month, and will be mapping a local historic community (Roxbury) on October 17th.  This will be a great time to get our Geomatics Programming students out in the field working with GPS and mapping software in the field.  Tablets are great!
Current Mood: energeticenergetic
15 August 2007 @ 11:43 am
Yesterday Heather spent the day with the Blomidon Field NaturHeather talks to the Blomidon Field Naturalistsalists in Wolfville (Nova Scotia, Canada) introducing GIS and the use of GPS units.  We expect this to be the last time we run a workshop the old way, without the HP wireless lab.  It was clear to all that a more interactive learning environment supported by an sustained internet community of resources and discussion is needed to make these workshops fulfill their fullest promise.  Heather will be holding another workshop with this group in the early autumn and this should give us an opportunity to judge the influence of the mobile geomatics lab, and the usefulness of the supporting community site we have set up. 
31 July 2007 @ 11:21 am
While Nathan continues building our wireless network configurations and we decide what software should be part of the OS build, we are preparing to test and practice setup at remote sites.  Our goal is to launch our first community mapping event in mid August.

I have been working with Greg, our web guy, to set up a community site called
GISSandbox Communities at http://gissandbox.net/

The site is still under construction.  We are just about finished with the basic infrastructure, and are beginning to seed it with initial content.  However much of the richness of the site is expected to come from the user community.  If you are interested in GIS, community mapping, or the mobile geomatics lab project check us out, or join us.

24 July 2007 @ 09:02 am
We see two different contexts in which the lab will be used: 

  1. by students in core programs either in-house, or in the field;
  2. by community or school groups for special events

In the first case, we can build a learning community in a relatively stable environment over a period of one or two semesters.  Internet connectivity is assumed.

In the second case, we have would provide a pre-existing learning environment, but internet connectivity is either poor, highly restricted, or non-existent.

These scenarios have guided our view of how the software should be configured as shown in the following diagram.
(click on picture to see full size)

From another point of view, we envision three intersecting and cooperating communities: core programs, the gis community, and the local community in which we live. 

A supporting web site at http://gissandbox.net/ is being constructed to support internet mediated learning (using Moodle).  This will allow us to support interactive learning for full semester courses, activities for short term community or school events, and online tutorials in the use of GIS or GPS software and tools by engaged community members.

We also hope to launch a small gis community site centered initially around our current students, associates, and alumni.  One of the things that we would like to investigate is the feasibility of collaborating on open geomatics curriculums.  Curriculums benefit from constant review and renewal, and it would be useful where such ideas could be presented and discussed.

Finally, we hope the local community mapping community will want to create an online meeting place within the GISSandbox community.

20 July 2007 @ 12:14 pm
Boxes everywhere.  Nathan is working on establishing a common image, installing site-licensed versions of software, and creating different wireless modes for in-house or ad hoc situations.

The cabinet in the foreground is a storage for our tablets when not in use.  While in storage, the tablets can be plugged in and re-charged.  The cabinet is mobile.

Tools and Strategies for Community Building and Virtual Learning

In order to engage the community we need to find appropriate community building/virtual learning tools, and develop a strategy for using them.

For situations in which it is necessary to create a community of collaborators quickly, a formal context is probably best.  For this, Moodle, a learning environment built on social constructivist principles provides an excellent tool.  This approach supports student centered learning based on reflection, discussion, and collaboration and places emphasis on the completion of activities.  Moodle supports a variety of social networking tools in an interactive learning environment.

For situations in which it possible to allow relationships to grow organically, a small pieces loosely joined approach allows maximum flexibility.  In this case project participants will access a variety of social networking tools already available on the web, and use them together to work with other project participants.  These tools include blogs, chats and instant messaging, forums, and wikis.  These pieces will be held together informally as communication channels and venues are created as needed.  As well these various pieces can be brought together through RSS aggregation and displayed on a single page.

Since many of these tools, in fact the whole community building exercise, requires degrees and types of freedom which are would not be allowed in our community college context, we will need to rely on 3rd party web hosting.  The BlueHost hosting service provides a suitable service for $7/month, and there is already an example of its use following the small pieces loosely joined approach.  Furthermore, this web hosting site will support Moodle

These seems an excellent fit, with an infrastructure cost which can not be beat.
12 July 2007 @ 01:38 pm
On Monday (July 9,2007) the HP equipment arrived.  We were sent computers with French keyboards and HP quickly offered to replace them.  We decided to keep them, since they didn't seem that inconvenient and we have a number of French speaking communities along the French Shore of southwest Nova Scotia.

The equipment is very nice indeed.  Nathan is busy preparing them use, including setting up a number of wireless access points throughout the east end of the campus.  Meanwhile I am busy investigating various community building software/web options.  The use of LiveJournal is just the beginning for us.

We expect to take several weeks to install a basic image, and test it.  We hope to undertake our first exploratory community activities in August before the new school year starts.