Widget Bash – what a difference two days make

“I got more more done here in a day than I would have in three or four days in the office”. Just one of the comments during the wrap up session at our widget bash (#cetiswb).

And judging from other comments from the other delegates, having two days to work on developing “stuff” is one of the best ways to get actually move past the “oh, that’s interesting, I might have a play with that one day” stage to actually getting something up and running.

The widget bash was the latest in our series of “bash” events, which began many years ago with code bashes (back in the early days of IMS CP) and have evolved to cover learning design with our design bashes. This event was an opportunity to share, explore and extend practice around the use of widgets/apps/gadgets and to allow delegates to work with the Apache Wookie (Incubating) widget server which deploys widgets built to the W3C widget specification.

We started with a number of short presentations starting with presentations from most of the projects in the current JISC funded DVLE programme. Starting with the rapid innovation projects, Jen Fuller and Alex Walker gave an overview of their Examview plugin, then Stephen Green from the WIDE project, University of Teeside explained the user centred design approach they took to developing widgets. (More information on all of the rapid innovation projects is available here). We then moved to the institutionally focused projects staring with Mark Stubbs from the W2C project who took us through their “mega-mash up” plans. The DOULS project was next with Jason Platts sharing their mainly google based approached. Stephen Vickers from the ceLTIc project then outlined the work they have been doing around tools integration using the IMS LTI specification. We also had a remote presentation around LTI implementation from the EILE project. Rounding up the DVLE presentations, Karsten Lundqvist from the Develop project shared the work they have been doing primarily around building an embed video BB building block. Mark Johnson (University of Bolton) then shared some very exciting developments coming from the iTEC project where smartboard vendors have implemented wookie and have widget functionality embedded in their toolset allow teachers to literally drag and drop collaborative activities onto their smartboards at any point during a lesson. Our final presentation came from Alexander Mikroyannidis on the ROLE project which is exploring the use of widgets and developing a widget store.

After lunch we moved from “presentation” to doing “mode”. Ross Gardler took everyone through a basic widget building tutorial, despite dodgy wifi connections and issues of downloading the correct version on Ant, most people seemed to be able to complete the basic “hello world” tutorial. We then split into two groups, with Ross continuing the tutorials and moving creating geo- location widgets and Scott Wilson working with some of the more experienced widget builders in what almost become a trouble shooting surgery. However his demo of repackaging a pac-mac game as W3C widget did prove very popular.

The sun shone again on day two and with delegates more familiar with wookie and how to build widgets, and potential applications for their own contexts, the serious bashing began.

One of the great things about working with open source projects such as Apache Wookie (Incubating), is the community sharing of code and problem solving We had a couple of really nice examples of this in action, starting with the MMU drop in pc-location widget. The team had managed to work out some IE issues that the wookie team were struggling with (see their blog post), and inspired by the geo-location templates Ross showed on day 1, managed to develop their widget to include geo-location data. Now if users access the service from a geo-location aware device it will return a list of free computers nearest to their real-time location. The team were able to successfully test this on ipad, galaxy tab, iphone and android phone. For non-location aware devices the service returns an alphabetical list. You can try it out here.

Sam Rowley and colleagues from Staffordshire university decided to work on some DOM and jQuery and issues. Whilst downloading the wookie software they noticed a couple of bugs, so they fixed them and submitted a patch to the Wookie community.

Other interesting developments emerged from discussions around ways of getting data out of VLEs. The team from Strathclyde realised that by using the properties settings in wookie they could pass a lot of information fairly easily from Moodle to a widget. On day two they converted a Moodle reading list block to a wookie widget with an enhanced interface allowing users to specify parameters (such as course code etc). The team have promised to tidy up the code and submit to both the wookie and moodle communitys. Inspired by this Stephen Vickers is going to have a look at developing a powerlink for webCT/BB with similar functionality.

On a more pedagogical focus some of the members of the Coeducate project worked on developing a widget version of the the 8LEM inspired Hybrid Learning Model from the University of Ulster. By the end of the second day they were well on the way to developing a drag and drop sequencer and were also exploring multiuser collaboration opportunities through the google wave api functionality which wookie has adopted.

Overall there seemed to be a really sense of accomplishment from delegates who managed to do a huge amount despite having to fight with very temperamental wifi connections. Having two experts on hand proved really useful to delegates as they were able to ask the “stupid” and more often than not, not so stupid questions. Having the event run over two days also seemed to be very popular as it allowed delegates to actually move from the thinking about doing something to actually doing it. It also highlighted the positive side of contributing to an open-source community and hopeful the Apache Wookie community will continue to see the benefit of increased users from the UK education sector. We also hope to run another similar event later in the year, so if you have any ideas or would like to contribute please let me know.

For another view of the event, I’ve also created a storify version of selected tweets from the event.

5 thoughts on “Widget Bash – what a difference two days make

  1. Pingback: Widget Bashing at OSS Watch team blog

  2. Hi Chris

    Hopefully we will be running another “bash” later this year – so watch this space for more info

    Sheila

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