Saturday, October 08, 2005

Raymond Yee

Towards Remixing Any Content from Any Source with Any Service:
Lowering the Barrier to Use of Content in Open Education

Raymond Yee, University of California at Berkeley
Friday, September 30, 2005, 10:00-10:45 am

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As the amount of open educational resources grows, the need for tools that allow users to interact with this content will also grow. What do users want from such tools? In Digital Resource Study: Conclusions and Next Steps14, Diane Harley and her colleagues, drawing from work to date on the “use of digital resources in undergraduate teaching contexts in the H/SS [humanities/social sciences],” write: Many [faculty] want a one-stop shop in which they can find and re-aggregate snippets from available resources into a customized resource for their own use. In other words, they would like to build their own reaggregated resources, using their own materials, mixing them with resources they have collected along the way. How to manage the array of available resources and integrate them into teaching practice is a concern for those involved in tools development. For faculty, there may be an array of tools available to them for collecting, developing, and managing resources, but the efficacy and interoperability of these tools for the immediate tasks faculty need supported are questionable. And yet another challenge, for those directly providing support to faculty, is the integration of learning management systems with library resources and other course content. Current Learning Management Systems (LMS) appear to have limited overall functionality, especially since existing LMS may not allow easy integration with many types of digital resources.

This description of how faculty members like to use educational digital resources echoes what members of the so-called “remix culture” are already doing. The remixers gather digital content from a variety of sources, create works derived from this material, and share the new products with others. Catchier coinages abound to encapsulate essentially the same idea: Apple’s “rip, mix, burn” or Yahoo’s new FUSE “find, use, share, expand.”

At the Interactive University Project at UC Berkeley, my colleagues and I have been building the Scholar’s Box, a tool that gives users “gather/ create/share” functionality, enabling them to gather resources from multiple digital repositories in order to create personal and themed collections and other reusable materials that can be shared with others for teaching and research. The Scholar’s Box can currently perform the following functions:

• Gather: From California Digital Library (CDL),,, NSDL, CalPhotos, RSS/Atom feeds, METS (digital library), WWW, CDL’s metasearch system, and the local file system.
• Create: Data and metadata gathered, annotated, and organized into personal collections via drag and drop
• Share: IMS-CP, Presentation or Text document, PDF, HTML, a METS document, a set of Endnote references, Chandler Parcel, or sent to a weblog via the Blogger API

At this point, the Scholar’s Box is primarily a prototype of an extensible general-purpose remix application geared to the educational community. Although there are more practical (but narrower) gather/create/share tools than the Scholar’s Box, there are unique aspects of the Scholar’s Box that should be of interest to the open education community:

• It is the one of few tools that connects domains that are of particular importance to educational users: digital libraries, educational technology, social software tools, and desktop content authoring.
• It is a tool that would have a particular affinity for open content, since it allows the manipulation of digital content on a fine grain level and the creation of derivative works in which the sources are explicitly tracked.
• It instantiates (if weakly) an architecture for a complete span of gather/create/share functionality

The current generation of gather/create/share tools represents only the first steps to enabling the robust re-aggregation of digital resources desired by educators. We predict that users will ultimately be satisfied by nothing less than a scholarly and educational information environment that gives them seamless access to any digital content source, handles any content type, and applies any software service to this content. Consider, for example, what a collection of bloggers expressed as their desires for next generation blogging tools:15

Bloggers want tools that are utterly simple, and allow them to blog everything that they can think, in any format, from any tool, from anywhere. Text is just the beginning: Bloggers want to branch out to multiple media types including rich and intelligent use of audio, photos, and video. With input, having a dialog box is also seen as just a starting place for some bloggers: everything from a visual tool to easy capture of things a blogger sees, hears or reads point to desirable future user interfaces for new generations of blogging tools.

Using the Scholar’s Box as a primary example, the talk will outline the many possibilities and challenges that face designers of tools for remixing content with services. We will analyze the progress that has been made towards the ubiquitous remixing of any content from any source with any service. In particular, this talk will consider what can be done specifically with open content to enable better reuse of open content by remixing applications.


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