The Pattern Language Network

Taming web2.0 in Higher Education

Posts Tagged ‘workshop’

Join us for a mini-Planet workshop – online!

Posted by Janet Finlay on February 22, 2009

The EXTEND project is hosting a mini-Planet workshop on Tuesday lunchtime from 12.30 UK time – full details in Cristina’s post. All welcome – we will be sharing examples of successful practice and discussing the Planet methodology.

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three workshops and a symposium

Posted by yishaym on February 20, 2009

March is going to be very, very busy. Apart from the expected business of writing reports and cleaning up project outputs, we’re going to be running three workshops and leading a symposium at CAL.

The Digital Identities Workshop (March 2nd) asks –

We use the term ‘digital identity’ to refer to the online representation of an individual within a community, as adopted by that individual and projected by others. An individual may have multiple digital identities in multiple communities. What is the impact of new technologies on digital identities within education? How should we design technologies and practices to address the complexities of digital identity?

This is a Workshop III type event, which means it is focused on scenarios and builds on previous work. It is therefore, regretfully, an invitation only event. But if you have a special interest in attending, please contact Steven Warburton.

Fast on its heals, we have a meta-workshop at the E-Learning Patterns conference in Tuebingen (March 5th)

This is intended to be a sort of old bikers’ gathering. Taking the opportunity of having many experienced design pattern folk around, we’re going to rev up our (methodological) engines, and compare the tunes.

Then, back in London, there’s a workshop on Patterns for civic empowerment (March 17th)

This is a joint initiative with the Public Sphere Project, and PRADSA network, celebrating the release of the Liberating Voices book. There are still a few places left but you better be quick!

Finally, if you’re coming to CAL’09: Learning in Digital Worlds, (March 23-25th 2009, Brighton) please join us for –

a symposium on The challenges of the design pattern paradigm for the development of learning environments and experiences. We’re bringing our participatory approach with us, so you’re welcome to make a contribution before, during and after the event.

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Visual Design Languages, Affect, Pedagogical Patterns: Workshops at ICALT’09 (July 14-18, Riga)

Posted by yishaym on February 4, 2009

Michael Derntl has pointed my attention to two workshops he’s co-organising at IEEE ICALT 2009, (July 14-18, 2009, Riga, Latvia). Both are relevant to our work:

VIDLATEL — International Workshop on Visual Design Languages and Applications for Technology Enhanced Learning

Many human activities are supported by the use of visual representations, which enable us to manage the complexity of real work problems by facilitating the use of our (commonly very limited) cognitive capabilities. Architects, musicians, surgeons or engineers use visual artifacts in their daily practice to plan, design and carry out their endeavors. Visuals can support imagination, creative thinking, communication, discussion, and organization of the work to be performed. Similarly, the difficult process of creation and provision of learning environments could be supported by the use of appropriate visual artifacts.

The achievement of learning is pursued by the performance of activities using learning objects, resources and tools. The ever increasing number of existing Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL) tools and applications (e.g., Moodle, dotLRN, RELOAD, LAMS) provide academic staff with lots of useful functionalities to design their TEL environments. Past research has focused mostly on the computational aspects of TEL environments. There are a number of specifications that allow computational representation of processes and contents (e.g., SCORM, IMS-LD, IMS-CP, IMS-QTI) intended to facilitate reuse and interoperability of solutions. Nevertheless, these specifications provide only limited help and hints about how such learning environments can be developed by the average user (i.e., the instructor, the teacher).

Despite the need for sound and user-friendly instructional design approaches to TEL, there is still a lack of cooperation and integration between the fields of TEL and instructional design. The workshop is intended to explore this integration through the use of visual design artifacts (languages, notation systems, tools, applications). These can support and enhance the quality of TEL systems, facilitate sharing ideas, collaboration, reuse, and learning from experience.

Workshop on Affect and Educational Design Patterns

In this workshop we aim to bring together research in educational design and affective computing. Recent progress in the two areas is opening up opportunities for synergy that could lead to radical improvements in learning experience design. We invite contributions from both the areas of Educational Design Patterns and Affective Science, and particularly those that explore (or show results of) the combination of the two.
On the one hand, educational design patterns describe reusable solutions to the design of learning tasks and environments. Essentially, a design pattern provides a generic, reusable solution to a recurring design problem or situation. The key is to describe the solution in a way that makes the solution reusable for similar problems. Today there are a significant number of design pattern initiatives and projects dealing with educational design patterns. Despite the general agreement that emotions have a significant impact on learning, they have not been considered in pedagogical designs, probably due to the difficulty posed in doing so up to this point.
On the other hand, affective computing, the design of systems that can recognize, interpret, and process human emotions, has made great progress of late and is now being integrated into current intelligent tutoring systems.
Recent advances in biomedical engineering, neuroscience and data mining have increased researchers ability to investigate this issue. We are at a point where significant accuracy in automatically recognizing emotional states is feasible through a number of approaches, even for collaborative situations. The identification of affective and mental states provides a magnifying glass for closer look into the processes involved in collaborative learning experiences.  We are finally in a position where the effect of emotional states on learning experiences, can be taken into account in order to improve the design of these experiences and the technologies that support them.
The envisaged outcomes of the workshop are:
•    Contributions on the state-of-the-art in affective computing related to educational technology, in particular technology enhanced collaborative learning.
•    Identification and discussion of ways of representing good practice in affective educational computing using the design pattern approach
•    Understanding the role and synergies of affective computing and design patterns in the development of advanced learning technologies.
•    Proposals of design patterns for affect-aware learning technologies.

If you’re going to EuroPLoP, you can probably continue straight to Riga.

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CETL ALiC Workshop Jan 27th

Posted by johnrg on January 28, 2009

Janet and I ran a workshop with the CETL ALiC user group yesterday where we got the participants to review their own approaches to designing student learning experiences and then to reflect on how useful some of the frameworks under consideration were in this context. We gave them copies of both Sally Fincher’s time based decision points framework and also the 6 themes used in the Disciplinary Commons (DC) project (Context, Content, Instructional Design, Delivery, Assessment and Evaluation). This was followed by an activity in which participants were asked to map the patterns stored in the Planet platform against their preferred framework.

One group choose to work with the DC themes modified to include levels concerned with individual, institutional and discipline wide decisions. This was chosen as it was simple and easy to work with. They also added an extra theme for ‘Students’ on the basis that students were a key element in the learning design process however when they mapped the patterns onto this framework none of the patterns were allocated to this theme! (perhaps because the students were an implicit aspect of everything). This group were able to review all the patterns in Planet and were able to map most of them – there were a number that were impossible to map as they were either empty or incomprehensible as patterns.

The second group combined both the decision based framework with the DC themes producing quite a complex structure that required them to give some deep thought to the mapping of patterns. As a result they were able to cover a subset of the available patterns but their mapping showed an interesting spread of patterns across time, numbers of students and level of decisions. They also found that some patterns could not be mapped again either because they were only a title or were difficult to understand.

It was clear from the discussions and comments of  participants that the different levels of development of the patterns made the activity very difficult and they did observe that a number of things presented as patterns were not actually patterns but examples of something that had worked in one context only (one ‘pattern’ was identified as a problem without a solution!).

We have videos of the groups working and will seek to provide some clips of the mapping outcomes. What is evident is that we do need to revisit the patterns we actually have with a view to identifying those that are clearly useful to us and moderating them to bring them up to pattern standard. As part of this process we need to introduce a separation between those items that are truly patterns and those that are ‘candidate patterns’ in order to help staff who may wish to use our patterns.

At the end of the workshop we spent a little time with the participants in order to get them to complete the workshops evaluation questionnaire as offered by Isobel. We will bring these to the meeting at York by which time I should have looked at them at identified useful outcomes.

We plan to run a further workshop with this group in March where they bring a specific issue or problem from their teaching experiences and support them in using a framework that helps them identify useful patterns for solving that problem.

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programme for the KMRC e-learning patterns workshop

Posted by yishaym on January 14, 2009

(cross posted from

Christian Kohls just sent me the programme for the e-Learning Patterns workshop in March, and it’s looking really good. Some of the names I spotted: Helen Sharp, Ulrike Cress, Davinia Hernándes-Leo, Till Schümmer, Frank Fischer, Andreas Harrer, Yannis Dimitriadis (random list).

I’m facilitating a workshop on “cases to patterns” and also giving a talk on “Patterns for building patterns communities”. Here’s the draft abstract for my talk:

workshop1The construct of design pattern is often summarised as “the core of a solution to a problem in context”. What, then, is the problem that design patterns solve, and in which contexts?
As design patterns break new grounds in educational research and practice, challenging questions arise: how do we engage new audiences in the pattern paradigm? How do we adapt the form and modes of use of patterns to make them useful in diverse realms of practice? Why do we have such a strong conviction in the value of design patterns?
The tradition of design patterns refers to concepts such as “timelessness” and “expertise”. These are problematic in a world of accelerating change. Yet another fundamental principle is accentuated; the need to establish robust design languages capable of capturing the complexity of problems in our environment and offering verifiable solutions. I argue that design-level discourse is imperative in many critical domains of human activity, and that patterns should play a central role in such discourse. Over the last few years, my colleagues and I have been developing a methodology for participatory workshops for practical design patterns. This methodology has emerged from the “Learning Patterns” project, and is being refined by the “Pattern Language Network” project.
In this talk, I will describe the methodology, its history and future plans, and provide some illustrative examples. I will also highlight some of the fundamental questions which is provokes.

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Planet’s journey to the north

Posted by yishaym on November 4, 2008

On Nov. 13th we’ll be holding a workshop at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, on Teaching and Learning Computer Science. Contact Judy Robertson if you want to come along (or drop me a line).

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Planet 2-day meeting

Posted by Janet Finlay on October 29, 2008

My head is buzzing following our very productive two day meeting in London which finished yesterday. The first day was a meeting of the Planet team; on the second we were joined by distinguished guests with expertise in various areas of patterns and representations of practice. These included: Lorna Burns from Barnet College; Mark Childs from Coventry; Juliette Culver from the OU; Sally Fincher from University of Kent; Christian Kohls from the Knowledge Media Research Center in Tübingen, Germany; Diana Laurillard from London Knowledge Lab; Helen Sharp from the OU; and Niall Winters from London Knowledge Lab. Jill Jameson also joined us for the afternoon on the second day in her role as critical friend to the project. In between the two working days, the team and guests met for dinner at the wonderful Ottolenghi restaurant in Islington – well worth a visit! But back to the main business. 

Frankly it is difficult to know where to start. On day one we thrashed through some major issues to do with the process of eliciting patterns, the scaffolding we offer through our wiki, and the need for (and current lack of) an organising structure for the patterns that are emerging from our workshop activities. On the second day we had invited our guests to submit stories about their own successful teaching practice which we then used in the morning to give them a taste of our workshop approach to pattern elicitation. In the afternoon we invited them to feedback on this which led to a valuable discussion of the strengths and weaknesses in our approach and alternative approaches which really helped us to pin down the aspects we need to focus on in the remaining months of the project.

Each of these needs further consideration (and warrants its own blog post) but to summarize:

  • We are proposing a three workshop model, with active facilitation from a pattern-knowledgeable moderator pre and post each activity. Much of this is in place but needs closer specification so that what is currently “craft” knowledge is made explicit, the activities required of participants are more clearly defined and the case and pattern structures currently on the Wiki reflect what we are seeking in these two forms.
  • We need to agree what and how we are abstracting from case stories to make patterns: what are the salient questions to ask? And what order is it appropriate to ask them?
  • We urgently need an organising structure to help us make sense of the patterns that are already emerging, to identify gaps where new patterns are needed, and to scaffold the use of patterns in practice. We have some candidates and we need to start working with them: how do our existing patterns map onto these? where are the gaps? what sense do they make to users? The latter is key: whatever structure we choose must reflect the way teaching practitioners work and think about their practice or the patterns will not be used.
  • We currently have upwards of a dozen user groups, with whom we are working and talking. All are at different stages in the process, but it is important that one or two at least complete and evaluate the whole three workshop cycle. CETL ALiC and the e-formative assessment groups are furthest along this path so we need to make sure their forthcoming workshops reflect the process as it is developing.

There is much more to say and other team members will give their own reflections on the event. But for me this has been a significant activity and one which has really enabled us to examine what we are doing. There is a lot still to do but we are definitely making progress! The challenge now is to keep focused on these critical elements of work.

Posted in action items, pattern languages, patterns, project, reporting, workshops | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

e-learning patterns: workshop at KMRC, Tuebingen, March 4-6

Posted by yishaym on September 14, 2008

Once you start its hard to stop, but really I should. After all, this is the Planet project site – not the pattern herald. Still, this workshop is organized by Christian, so it has to be worth the trip. Plus, you can catch a gig at Tuebingen’s epplehaus.

Design patterns capture proven solutions for recurrent problems. The goal is to externalize the implicit knowledge of an expert, using a highly structured description format for documentation. Patterns have been around for decades, they are a success story in the field of software design, and recently have become very popular to describe recurrent teaching scenarios, instructional methods and tools.

This workshop aims to 

Capture and document the state-of-the art – Establish quality standards – Dissemination – Ties to related fields – Co-operation

For more information about the workshop, please contact Christian Kohls.
Mail: c.kohls(at)

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Singapore: what our users want

Posted by yishaym on August 19, 2008

Just finished a great workshop in Singapore. We had the great opportunity to work with teachers, curriculum designers and software developers from Singapore’s future schools programme.

We heard about a lot of daring experiments, and even more daring plans to use participatory technologies (Web2.0, MUVEs and games) in education.

Apart from the 8 case studies and 6 patterns, the workshop generated some excellent questions.

Fitting patterns into teachers’ practice

The workshop gave me a lot of ideas, and I can see the value of the pattern approach, but tomorrow I’m going back to my school – how can I use this approach there? How do I integrate it into the existing practices of the school team?

A very good question. Obviously, not limited to design patterns – you could ask the same about any innovative paradigm. But that would be someone else’s problem. In our case, we believe that the knowledge we generate in and between our workshops can help teachers, educational designers and software developers in their daily challenges. Yet if one or two teachers from a school attend a workshop, how will they introduce what they learned into their work environment? They had a pretty hard time taking it all in themselves, now they have to convince their colleagues that the effort of learning a new way of thinking and working will pay off.

The simple answer is that patterns are supposed to help practitioners solve design problems. In order to make effective use of them, teachers need to identify the challenges they need to address and phrase them as design problems, then search for the patterns which can be used in solving these problems.

I can see three scenarios for doing this:

  • Cross-school / cross-discipline pattern community: build on the links that where forged at the workshop, and use the on-line tools, to support continued discussions of the case studies, design patterns and scenarios which emerged from the workshop. The big idea is to create a circle of expertise which overlaps and connects the innate circles of practice. The members of this circle will bring in problems from their daily experience, and take back solutions derived from others’ experience, encapsulated in patterns.
  • School-based mini-workshops: Hold pattern workshops in schools, engaging the local work teams. This could be framed as a study group on learning design, meeting for a couple of hours every week. The big idea is to empower teachers as learning designers, by giving them a language and a space for design-level discussion of their daily needs. By using the on-line system, such groups could also benefit from feedback from peer groups and the project team.
  • Scenario based “media production teams”: Media production team was one of the most powerful patterns that emerged from the workshop (nb: it is still very much a work in progress). The core idea is that students learn by arranging themselves as a team producing some form of digital media – a game, a movie, a collaborative essay. Following the dog food principle, we should apply the same pattern to practitioners’ professional development. Arrange teams of teachers, curriculum designers and software developers, and let them develop eductational media in a new form. The process should use the framework of cases, patterns and scenarios, but should also result in artefacts which can be used in class. Each team would define a concrete learning scenario, compare it to existing case studies, identify relevant design patterns, and experiment with a solution. The big idea is to drive practitioners’ learning, and design-level discussions, by addressing a real problem. As several participants noted, pain is a strong learning motivator.

Finding the patterns I need

I can see how pattern X is relevant to my problem when you point me to it, but how can I find the patterns I need when you’re not around?

This question bring us back to Janet’s comments on structures. It highlights the need for powerful search tools, which can leverage meta-data and semantic information. That is also one of the main challenges implied by the pattern aggregator project. It also relates to the issue of confidence that Janet notes: as a user, I want to know that the pattern I’m going to use addresses the problem I’m facing, but I also want to know it does it well.

All this is a nice way to say that this is a hard problem, and we don’t have any solution, yet. Or at least not an automated one. A satisfactory pattern search tool would require some serious AI, a nice PhD project..

What we can offer is Human Intelligence. Given a scenario, we – the planet community – can suggest relevant patterns. Of course, to facilitate this we need to improve the on-line discussion interface, but that’s a problem of a much lesser scale.

Sustaining a pattern community

We had a good conversations here, we learned a lot from each other. The pattern paradigm seemed conducive to this effect. But to reap the full benefits of this discussion, we need to sustain it over time – form a genuine, vibrant interdisciplinary community. How do we do that?

At the end of the day, that would be – to a large extent – up to you. We provide the tools, the group space, the mailing list, the support – but all that would amount to nothing without your participation. That requires will, commitment, and time. The first two can only come from you. The third also involves your employers. How do you convince them that this is a worthwhile investment? I’m open to suggestions.

Getting the right level of granularity

One of the issues I found most confusing about writing design patterns is identifying the right level of granularity – too specific patterns add very little to a case study, and have a limited scope of application. On the other hand, when patterns are too abstract they have a wide scope, but its not clear how to apply them to any specific case.

This is probably one of the hardest challenges any pattern writer faces. There are no rules, but there are many heuristics.

  • If your pattern is universal, i.e. “applies always” then it is clearly too general. In defining the context, you should be able to say where this pattern does not apply.
  • Most good patterns either provide a detailed “recipe” for implementation, or describe an ensemble of more detailed, specific patterns.
  • Try to phrase the problem description as a configuration of domain-specific forces.
  • Apply the rule of three: “A pattern can be called a pattern only if it has been applied to a real world solution at least three times.

But most of all, its a matter of trial, error, shepherding and refinement. So the answer is: just write it, you’ll get it right latter.

Applying patterns

The patterns I saw look very convincing, but I still don’t know how to apply them to the problems I’m facing.

That’s what scenarios are for: you describe your problem, and then discuss it with others, compare it to case studies, and find the patterns that apply. Apart from that, the only way of doing it is just doing it. You have to try, stumble, try again. All this brings us back to the first issue – its hard to experiment with a new paradigm on your own, when your “day job” is so demanding. We need to think how to fit this in.

Learning the language of pattern languages

I feel a bit overwhelmed by the intensity of the day. I never heard about design patterns before, and I found myself speaking a new language before I could get a solid knowledge of it. How do I learn the language of design patterns and pattern languages?

Read, read, read. And go to conferneces:

if you participated in this workshop, please let me know of anything I missed. I’ve started working on a detailed case study about the workshop, and I’ve set a page for post-workshop reflections. Of course, you can leave a comment here or drop me an email.

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Planet makes stuff together

Posted by Janet Finlay on July 8, 2008

I had the rather rare but very welcome opportunity of acting as non-participant observer in yesterday’s “Making Stuff Together” Planet workshop at LKL. As we had started the day with a Planet project meeting we had a full complement of “staff” for the workshop so some of us stepped back to operate recording equipment and observe proceedings.

The theme for the day was “Making stuff together”, the aim to consider submitted case studies of teaching and learning in collaborative environments and tease out the elements that were successful in order to seed patterns. We had representatives from a couple of other Emerge projects on the day (APSTAIRS and MOOSE) as well as colleagues from elsewhere. It was a mixed group – some with particular interest in patterns and pattern capture, some with little knowledge of patterns but an interest in making things in MUVEs, others with interests in creative online collaboration tools. The potential for not finding commonality seemed high!

However we should not have worried. From the explanation of the first case study (of using Flashmeeting to support collaborative design activity) the group were engaged and animated, picking up connections relating to collaboration across a range of applications from World of Warcraft to Google! By lunchtime we had half a dozen potential “seed patterns” which were then taken up enthusiastically by the group in the afternoon and developed further. There is still work to do on these but the outputs of these labours can be found on the Planet wiki pattern page and feedback and comments are welcome from all (check the Created on 7th July ones – though comments are welcome on them all!).

As an observer it was also very interesting to see how the process worked and I can see some potential patterns emerging here as well. Group formation was certainly an issue both here and in our online workshop at the June Emerge event. Facilitation needs to carefully balance team and participant engagement and it is important to establish common ground in advance. Interestingly all of these were also highlighted in the discussions of making stuff together suggesting much similarity whether we are dealing with Second Life, face to face workshops, Elluminate or Google Docs. It is the human activity of collaboration which is critical, not the technology.

Thanks to all the participants for a really stimulating day – and to Yishay, Steve and Jim for facilitating it. Our next workshop is scheduled for July 21st in Leeds and is focused on one of our user groups, the multi-institutional CETL on Active Learning in Computing. We will be looking at experiences in assessment, project work, learning spaces and Web 2.0. Although primarily for this user group, other participants are welcome. Full details will be posted here as soon as possible but in the meantime if you are interested in coming along just let me know –

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