Learning technologies – should the tail wag the dog?

I’ve been well chuffed to see the amount of discussion that last week’s blog post on using reflection as a central concept in training people how to use the Mahara ePortfolio system – really didn’t think it would be something people would be overly interested in.

What made me particularly happy was to hear a completely dissenting view from mine. I’ve always liked it when that happens, as it makes me think through the assumptions I’m basing my argument on.

In this case, long time ePortfolio user Ian Knox made the following comment as a retort to my ideas on reflection:

If reflection is the main reason for ePortfolios I think they would already be dead in the water

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Open source ecosystems – a mathematical model

Beware - mathematics ahead!
Beware - mathematics ahead! (courtesy worldislandinfo.com)

It is a little known fact that my original career choice was mathematics, making it half way through a PhD at the University of Adelaide before realising how much my thesis (provisionally titled “Applications of the Hastings-Metropolis algorithm for calculating normalization constants in sparse multidimensional queueing networks“) did NOT do it for me. After a few years of wandering in the wilderness I discovered online learning as a valid career option, but I still hark back to my roots every now and then with a misty eye – mainly when I remember the bamboo-under-the-fingernails joy of hand-coding LaTeX using Vi.

My single favourite subject at Uni was an Honours subject I took called Mathematical Biology, which aimed to model a stack of different biological systems, mainly around how a species breeds, gets sick, dies, migrates and ultimately either perishes or reaches equilibrium in its numbers depending on a range of external and internal factors.

After having been involved with Moodle and other open source projects for a few years now it continues to strike me how much of an ecosystem each of these projects are – just like the biological systems I used to model back at Uni. They have a genesis, some are subsumed by other projects, some die off, and some thrive – like Moodle. Based on this I thought I’d try and use my time on QF756 to do something more productive than eating snacky cakes and playing Worms on my iPod, and hence please find below my first, definitely incomplete, probably flawed, mathematical model of an open source project.

Be warned – this is not like most of my other blog posts, and those with an aversion to mathematics should probably stop reading now.

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