Thursday Oct 25, 2007

The DHCP Server Ate My Homework

For two decades we've heard various theories about how computers were going to change education: make us learn faster, learn more, or expose us to new educational techniques. The bottom line is that computers have served to reinforce the social side of learning -- finding people with similar questions and problems, locating specific answers to specific questions, and making it far easier to detect potential plagiarism using search techniques. While we still learn through most of the approaches that have worked since Biblical times -- small groups, discussions, subject matter experts sharing their knowledge -- technology offers us significant opportunities to improve the context for learning.

Moodle is an open source course management system -- a blend of content management and educational logistics. "Moodle" has become vernacular around our house, as both of my kids use it daily for homework, after school class discussions, and to retrieve notes that would have been on infamous purple ditto sheets in my day. The audience for course management is tough -- they're used to iPods, video on demand, wireless service, and game consoles, so anything that is slow to respond, has a funky user interface or isn't reliable is going to generate a homework excuse. "The DHCP server ate my homework" hasn't popped up yet, but it's a matter of time.

Earlier this week Stuart Sim, CTO of Moodlerooms, joined me for an Innovating@Sun podcast to talk about how they're building out Moodle instances for the most demanding consumers of all (teenagers), at maximum scale, and making money from this open source project all at the same time. Our after-school program covers the spectrum from Moodleroom's use of Niagara-based servers to why term papers might become an historical artifact once and for all.

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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