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January 12th I had the pleasure of speaking at a day long seminar called Open Minds of the University of Leiden (Netherlands) and the University of Leuven (Belgium), which took place in the medieval Groot Begijnhof in Leuven. When the meeting was announced last november I thought that it would be interesting to attend, and was sorry to learn that it would be a closed session. A week later I received the invitation to be their key note speaker to start the day 🙂

After I had the opportunity to talk about my view on knowledge management, (personal) information management and its relation to social software based on the changes I see in the world, I had the pleasure to hear about cases where wiki’s and blogs were used in both universities, how Creative Commons might be used by academics for courseware, and how students experience the ‘new’ web ( I’m deliberately leaving out the Web 2.0 buzz word here) and the way these tools enter their education.

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From one of the cases concerning wiki use in a course there came a few interesting observations.
Students were somewhat fearful of just going ahead and edit content, if there wasn’t some structure provided already, or if explicit permission wasn’t given. Also the results were in a very classical ‘paper’ form which seemed to surprise the teacher. I don’t think it is very surprising really. Students have grown accustomed to being taught in a certain way, and being graded in a certain way. Now if you change the rules by allowing them free reign in a wiki, and perhaps you as a teacher don’t make clear that there will be new rules to follow, they will respond in the way they’ve come to expect you to want them to respond. In a different blogging experiment in a class room for instance it was making clear that they would be graded on collaboration as well that triggered joint commenting by students. Other lessons taken away from this wiki experiment was that you need community/group sense and group purpose to keep things going. Something we know also from the experience made by the Wikipedia community.

The day was concluded with another key note, by Wim Veen, of Delft University, who summarized the day in comparable terms to those with which I started it. The day was set in the beautiful Groot Begijnhof in Leuven, a medieval part of town, which provided a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. Only the way the general assembly room was prepared did not quite fit the themes discussed, with chairs bolted to the floor, a podium and a fixed microphone. Not quite a setting that invites interaction and conversation. Nonetheless it was a good day and a great learning experience.

All presentations were videotaped and should be available from the Open Minds website shortly.

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