Lost in Translation

Whether something is innate or can be taught is a never ending debate. Designing a learning environment that makes sense may not be self-evident in all situations. Examine the following picture to see if you can make immediate sense of the information:

fire extinguisher message

TO CRASH IN ?  Perhaps also means “TO SMASH IN” or “TO BREAK IN” ?

Based on the definition of “crash” it appears there is a collision but does this describe the action that must occur to retrieve the fire extinguisher hose and operate it?

In another hotel, confusion often occurs in activating the elevator due to security access operation.  Here is how the message is presented to clients:

security card message

Note position of instructions on upper right corner destined to connect with device in lower left corner.  It is noteworthy that the non-smoking label has prominent visibility.  There is no indication of which device is the card reader or how to use the box in lower left corner … it is assumed that the message in the upper right is related to bottom left device.  The message reads:

card lock message

The aforementioned instructions are stated as three steps, but if not clearly understood you will be left standing in a motionless elevator.  Fortunately a preemptive instructional message is verbally communicated by the hostess upon receiving a card.

My overall observation is that intelligent design in nature is not automatic in artificial environments designed by humans.


Athabasca Landing

Listen and Learn

Your future may be the past you didn’t learn…or so I have been told many times.

Listening to those that “have been there and done that” is useful to saving time, not repeating history, and designing a better future.

What I am learning is that the modern net student wants to consume and construct information in a very different way than the past.  This change can partly be explained by rapid adoption of mobile technologies, and present learning environs.

These changes have a profound effect on design and development of digital spaces.  This has been examined through the concept of personal learning environments (1a,b).

Key observations by those professors of post-secondary learning environs:

  • ‘Death by Powerpoint’ – the  “digital overhead simulation” pushes information slide after slide until you are bored to death
  • Q and A – questions and answers have to be next to each other
  • One click/tap away – all content upfront, with no drill down necessary to access key information

For Consideration…

  • Content authoring via tablets.
  • Simplified content presentation
  • Open integration to existing enduser digital spaces
  • Socialized integration


  • LMS’s and MOOCS are constrictive analogue simulations by design
  • CMS and frameworks are potentially less restrictive
  • Accessibility is a major focus
  • Flat structures with less drill down to expedite content exposure


(1a) Original list of PLE Publications

(1b) Anderson, Terry (2006), PLE’s versus LMS: Are PLEs ready for Prime time?, Virtual Canuck, Blog

Athabasca Landing

MOOC portable mini

MOOC – Massive Open Online Courses can be run from cloud services, servers, and local hard server (1).  The MOOC software can be complex using a mix of technologies to deliver a web interface.

Distance education via the Internet tends to have several common core data attributes:

  1. messaging
  2. files
  3. administration
  4. network port

Messaging can be synchronous or asychronous that includes: email, forums, chat, teleconference, and whiteboard.

Files are what the messages become including documents, web pages (blog, wiki, html, xhtml, php, etcetera…).  Files may arguably be considered the source of data, whereas messaging is a transient data entry stage resulting in files.

Administration is required to organize and manage the data and the users of the data. Courses, lessons, and membership are examples of organization of the data.

A network port is the software/hardware required between the human and data interface for a communication commons.  Network communications include modem communication to a server port, and Internet communications.

Attempts at addressing interoperability of content include SCORM (2) and integrators applications (3).

However, what if you wish independance, portability, and ‘near’ future proofing?

A mini MOOC is possible with the available open-source content management systems such as Drupal and WordPress.  WordPress offers free plugins that will assist in building an administrative framework.  In addition there are several commercial LMS plugins for WordPress to achieve a similar but lite version of Moodle.  Drupal offers both distributions and modules that can be developed as MOOCS.

The disadvantages to Drupal and WordPress (and Moodle) are the dependencies on other applications to function such as a database engine (i.e., MYSQL), and scripting engine (i.e., PHP).  Hence, there are many layers of programs required to achieve a course lesson.  Fortunately all the programming layers are open source and can be assembled into one virtual data file; which is important for archival sustainability (4ab).


It is possible to create a portable MOOC using a self-contained mobile server.  The challenges for developing such a package includes stability, accessibility, transparency, and goals for the MOOC.



1. Massive open online course,

2. Sharable Content Object Reference Model,

3. Tin Can API,

4a. “Google’s Vint Cerf warns of ‘digital Dark Age'”, Pallab Ghosh,

4b. “Digital Vellum and the Expansion of the Internet into the Solar System”,