Friday, July 18, 2008

World Mind Map

A few days ago I was invited by a friend to contribute to a new thing he developed together with a colleague. It's called World Mind Map ( The idea is relatively simple. I think most of you know the concept of mind mapping: using associations to relate a set of concept to one another. Often succesfully applied in brainstorming sessions. The additional value of Word Mind Map (as I understand it) is that you can immediately relate to associations that others have already made (and which are stored in the WoMiMa database). So I registered for a user account and made a first try-out. The very first word I entered immediately displayed a mindmap of all the concepts that appear to be related to that word. I was surprised. At this moment the mindmap that appeared is rather clear. I wonder what will happen after a few thousand members have entered their associations. Will there still be a clear overview? Sometimes I noticed that some of the words were displayed on top of each other which makes it difficult to read. The founders claim that this new concept can be a powerful way to make a map of your business and it's context. At this moment it's only in Dutch, but there are plans to make translations (or should I say associations) to other languages as well. For example the word 'computer' is the same in Dutch as it is in English. Well, if you became curious, just take a look and see what happens.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Give way to math education

After a long period of writing a coherent development programme, together with the department of applied mathematics, we finally received a 'go' on a series of four projects in the field of math education. The past years have painfully shown that a lot of students have trouble with their math subjects like Calculus. Although in most cases they achieved reasonably well scores in their final exams in secondary education, the math entrance test at the very beginning of their university career is often a great disappointment. Another issue that comes up during the curriculum is that students who have enrolled into a to a science curriculum also have to take some obligatory math courses. One of the questions they ask themselves is: "do we really need this?", i.e. there seems to be no clear relation between what is learnt in the math courses and what they will need in the further parts of their science curriculum. The math is given on a much more abstract level than they are used to, which makes it difficult to imagine how it can be applied in the context of their major curriculum. As a result some students tend to develop a negative attitude towards math and postpone taking exams in these math courses, sometimes until the very end of their bachelor program.
One of the projects in the new development programme aims at developing context-specific cases. However, this will be addressed in a much more integrated way in the sense that the abstract math theory will be part of a face-to-face introduction. The cases will be presented right after this introduction causing that students do have to apply their fresh knowledge in a context that relates to their main curriculum. So, a student in construction technology receives a different case than a student in chemical technology, although in both cases they may follow a course called 'Calculus I' for example. Besides an expected improvement in transfer of knowledge, we hope to find a spin-off effect in the sense that students may develop a more positive attitude towards math subjects, and possibly spend more time on the subject. And as we know from previous projects and research: spending more time on a subject is positively related to the results that will be achieved. The projects will be started during the summer. The first products (cases) should be available already in september 2008.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Back in blog-business

It has been quite a while since my last post. A number of reasons - which I will not bother you with - caused that I simply didn't have the time to maintain my blog. Hopefully this will change from now on. This week two important things came up, which made me decide that I should pick up blogging again. The first thing is that I will move to the next step in my career. As of september 2008 I will leave the University of Twente and start working as a senior consultant e-learning at Stoas Learning. A lot of interesting challenges over there in both the business as well as in the educational market. I am well aware of the fact that a commercial environment is completely different, but from previous job positions I think I know what choice I am making right now.

The second thing is the university board has made a final decision for the next VLE at the University of Twente (see for more information, partly in English). For outsiders it may seem rather surprising that the board made a decision for Blackboard. Well maybe it is. If you asked me four months agon what it would be, then I would have said 'probably SharePoint'. However, our SharePoint reports listed a lot of critical remarks and risks that need to be addressed in case a VLE will be based on MS SharePoint. Moreover, a united group of students wrote an open letter to the board of directors in which they criticize the possible choice of a Microsoft solution. Although Blackboard (6.3) was not considered 'good enough' in 2005 the board asked the project team to take a good look at Blackboard 8 and see how the newest release would meet the main decision criteria. Thanks to the close collaboration with our colleagues from the University of Delft we managed to conduct another quickscan within a very tight time schedule. Besides the fact that basic Bb functionality will be sufficient for the majority of our instructors and students, a great advantage is that we can collaborate with 'Delft' on the integration with OSIRIS (the new student information system for Delft and Twente). I think it's good that a choice has been made, it's time to move ahead to the next step. In my final weeks at the University I will be closely involved in the development of an implementation plan.