Creating games with visual programming tools and …

Today I learned quite some things about the approaches followed at the MIT-STEP lab on creating mobile games with visual programming tools. One very interesting platform allows the creation of mobile location-based games with an online authoring environment. The project is called tale blazer (

Basically the system allows to define Agents and locate them on a map, one can also create different player roles for a game. What I liked very much is that defining all the logic of an the agents as also the players roles can be done with a visual programming approach similar to Scratch.

So you easily define rules to make agents visible on the map or activate other agents, update agents variables and so on. I will explore further what kind of games one can create with this. The games can be played on iOS and Android just get the client.

Just to wrap up a day of great experiences I had the opportunity to listen to Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantasique at the 20th aniversary concert of the MIT SUMMER PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA. So this was a really great experience and for me just was an impressive demonstration of the vibrant cultural community at MIT.

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Off to MIT …

I am really looking forward to my visit to MIT STEP. Lots of new things to learn, reflect on my own activities, set new goals, re-define my own interests and focus. Working on PhD publications and seeing my own publications in a broader context. So in generla what we call in German “Über den Tellerrand schauen.”

So what I am leaving with topic wise:

  • my work in the last years on sensor-based and ubiquitous computing for learning support. We are running three related European projects in that research topic at the moment: METALOGUE on multimodal dialogue and coaching people in negotiations, weKIT on capturing and transfering expert knowledge, and TESLA on creating more efficient assessment with multimodal assessment and logging.
  • personalization and personalized learning. This is probably what I am longest working on. I expect new perspectives on that from my visit. I think the work at STEP on games, creating games, exploring simulations spaces, creating software is very interesting to give a new notion to personalized learning looking more at the power of creativity and customisation.

Both of these topics are related to my work on competence management and development of competence-based education and learning support.

More to come … so stay tuned.

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Trends in Technology for Education SURF workshop

Today SURF organised a workshop on technology and trend scouting in education. The workshop was driven by the core ideas of flexible and personalised learning.

We started from several reports partly in dutch partly in english:

Kennisnet Trendrapport: Technologiekompas voor het onderwijs (dutch). Michael van Wetering presented his report on technology in education for 2016-2017. As one core component of the new developments he sees the data and information about human activities. The key question in this context is what and how we can enrich, augment, and enhance learning support with these data. He presented Gardner’s Hypecycle as an instrument to analyse the risk of investment in technology. In these sense the questions of adopting too early or adopting too late more relevant than to classify a phenomenon. Furthermore this can lead to hanging on too long on an old technology of giving up too soon on a technology development.

As example trends Michael presented the digital testing, the digital personal learning assistant, or mobile device management in school settings. To analyse the potential of technologies he also presented a matrix of organisational productivity (high, low) and personal productivity (high, low) leading to enabler technologies, corporate green light, people’s choices and hot spot technologies.

Second Robert Schuwer introduced the OECD report “Trends in shaping education”. Basically the report aims to stimulate reflection and identification of challenges in education. The report lists 5 main trends in the form of challenges: the dynamics of globalisation, future of nation state, rise of the megacity, family matters, brave new world. All of them have consequences for curriculum reform, new opportunities, upcoming challenges and risks.

Third Ria Jacobi presented the “Innovating Pedagogies 2015” report of the OU UK. This report identifies and describes 10 trends from crossover learning, context-based learning, remote labs, embodied learning, stealth assessment, analytics of emotions, just to name some. As a core Ria stressed the use of big data and personal data for learning support and as key topics she listed scaling, connecting people, reflection, personalisation). Furthermore Ria presented the final report of the FUTURA project “Next Generation Pedagogy” which differentiates between intelligent, distributed, engaging, agile and situated pedagogy.

Fourth Jeroen Bottema presented the “NMC Horizon Report 2016 for Higher Education”. The horizon reports present each year a number of trends and differentiates them according to short term, mid term, or long term impact. Beside others the technologies mentioned in the report are seamless and blended learning, BYOD, Learning Analytics, AR, Makerspaces, Affective Computing, and Robotics.
As interesting challenges in the context of TEL the report names the balancing between our connected and unconnected lives, digital literacy, and personalisation of learning.

What do I take from this?
In general I would say a lot of trends presented and discussed are progressions from the years before. In the late 90’s for example there was a whole movement coming out of the user modelling research looking for standardized user modelling agents, basically this is standardisation work also now found in the xAPI developments. Nowadays we have the mass of data that leads to new qualities in the scale of data collection and the real-time data applications . So definitely one mega-trend with high potential for education is the available data and data-logging with potentially high impact on our ideas of assessment and competence-based education.

Also the whole mega-trend of gaming and educational games is of course a potentially high impact development on education. Basically games have the potential to really make learning fun and mastery addictive. Furthermore think about the possibilitirs of complex simulations which are nowadayas available on your fingertips. Students can interact with complex systems and understand and learn about real world problems in a much richer way.

Third also the whole development of the disappearing computer and connecting different locations and learning situations with mobile and ubiquitous computing devices can be a game changer in education as long as the computer really faciliates the access to relevant information for human sense making and discourse.

more to think about …

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What makes learning personal ?

… So to continue on my previous blogpost I would like to continue some reflection on what makes learning personal.

In principle this is very simple to answer when we start from broader angle: Things becomes personal when you use them or when you create them. But even in the case that you get a personalized educational offer or use an adapted educational product the effect that humans experience this as something personal grows over time.

In a joint article in 2009 about “Personalisation of Learning inVirtual Learning Environments” with Dominique Verpoorten, Christian Glahn, Milos Kravcik and Stefaan Ternier we have analysed and reflected on the components of “how learning becomes personal”. In the article we looked into some conceptual links between controllability of a learning situation by the learner, autonomy of the learner to make his/her own decisions and therefore build ownership of his/her own learning process and also outcome. In the research there is a relevant link also between the factos of autonomy, self-regulation, and motivation of learners.

There is little research on how this happens with media in distance education, nevertheless in adaptive and personalized hypermedia there is some research in this direction and key components in the personalisation process are the locus of control (teacher, media or system, and learner) or transparency of the adaptation processes. The article in 2009 describes components as Ownership, Participation, Diversity, Regulation, and Reflection.



One of my current research projects is together with Guido van Dijk on using SCRUM methodology for supporting agile learning. For me this is a very interesting project also considering the notion of personalisation. By using SCRUM in the classroom in the Niekee/Agora school student can choose their own learning objectives, they develop their own plan for solving their learning question and create a solution to their question together with others. Theyr use a SCRUM software form the TargetProcess to do this. In the first phase of the research we have now defined several important theoretical backgrounds and also developed a first mapping of the SCRUM process onto the learning process.

For me this project really represents the new definition and shift of meaning of personalisation as described above. I started my research into doing adaptive hypertext and adaptive learning environments and developed a classification model for adaptive methods. Nowadays I see peersonalisation as this huge space of opportunities from which you choose and the choice makes it personal.

Having choices and making use of them makes learning and everything else personal.




Some references:
Specht, M., & Oppermann, R. (1998). ACE – Adaptive Courseware Environment. New Review Of Hypermedia And Multimedia, 4, 1–26.
Verpoorten, D., Glahn, C., Kravcik, M., Ternier, S., & Specht, M.

Verpoorten, D., Glahn, C., Kravcik, M., Ternier, S., & Specht, M. (2009). Personalisation of Learning in Virtual Learning Environments. In U. Cress, V. Dimitrova & M. Specht (Eds.), Learning in the Synergy of Multiple Disciplines. Proceedings of the Fourth European Conference on Technology-Enhanced Learning (EC-TEL 2009) (pp. 52-66). September, 29 – October, 2, 2009, Nice, France. Lecture Notes in Computer Science Vol. 5794. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

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Some thoughts on personalisation …

Screen Shot 2014-03-11 at 15.42.35I am working on personalisation already quite some time (26 years) and would like to reflect in this blogpost a bit about the different notions and perceptions I learned to know about personalisation.
So some terms first:
Basically there is adaptability and adaptivity. Adaptability in its basic form describes the fact that a system can be adapted by the user. In my definition this close to customization. Adaptivity describes the possibility of an information system to adapt to a user. When you do adaptation in human-computer systems I use a process model of several phases in which either the user of the system can take the adaptation initiative. Out of these 4-5 phases and the different options one can define a whole spectrum of adaptive system approaches.
I started my research in the field of user modelling and adaptive systems. I like the work of Anthony Jameson about the process of personalisation. Anthony gave quite some lectures and workshops about user modelling and personalisation. Basically he describes implicit and explicit user modelling approaches but over the years of course also the rich source of social media and user tracking with implicit methods became huge. I have written some articles about this change from user modelling on the web and user context modelling in ubiquitous computing. Currently with all new sensor devices and technologies we are on the edge to a completely new scale of user modelling. In this context of course Learning Analytics is the topic of time. I think LA is a nice combination of making all the data we have about users very visible and also making it very clear that we need to ask the question first what you want to know from the data. This is not always the case but I think in a lot of educational scenarios where the tasks and role are predefined this holds.
When you have certain information you can adapt, but of course this has changed at the point in time when you have more information available that you could use. So at this point basically the approach changed to lets first define why we would like to adapt something. In learning you mostly do adaptation based on assumption of optimisation of efficient, effectiveness, or enjoyment.
Each of these adaptation goals has then different models why something becomes more efficient, effective, or enjoyable when it is personalised. Over the years here my perception clearly shifted from adaptive human-computer systems that become better because the computer suggests the rights things to do towards systems in which the optimisation of the learning is related to the expressive power a user gets with an adaptive computer system.
So basically speaking by having a more powerful tool humans can do better things. Humans have more personal experiences with more flexible tools as they give them more expressive power.
So personalisation is more about the things you do it is less about the things that are done to you 😉
to be continued …
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New IEEE article on sensor technology for learning support

The new Bulletin of the IEEE Technical Committee on Learning Technology (Volume 16) is now available at:

I have one overview article on sensors for learning support:

Abstract: One major technology revolution of the last 2-3 years is the broad integration of sensor technology into every day environments and end user products. This article explores the potential and possibilities of sensor technology for learning support. The author gives several examples and structures the potential implications according to different typical applications of learning technology.

An Jan Schneider a PhD Student of our group has an Article on the presentation trainer with which he also has won the demo award at the European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning:

Abstract: The increasing accessibility of sensors has made it possible to create instructional tools able to present immediate feedback to the learners. To study how this type of instruction is able to support learning, we developed the Presentation Trainer, a tool whose purpose is to train the non-verbal communication skills for public presentations. In this paper we present our findings about studying immediate feedback based on a first round of user tests with the Presentation Trainer.

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New publication about energy awareness at the workplace

Kalz, M., Börner, D., Ternier, S., & Specht, M. (2014). Mindergie: A pervasive learning game for pro environmental behaviour at the workplace. In L.-H. Wong, M. Milrad, & M. Specht (Eds.), Seamless Learning in the Age of Mobile Connectivity (397-417). Singapore: Springer.

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New publications about sensors and smart city learning

Bernardo Tabuenca has published two new articles. He is doing work in the area of integrating life-long learning services into every day environments and linking them to the objects we use every day in our studies and learning activities.

Title: NFC LearnTracker: Seamless support for learning with mobile and sensor technology
Authors: Tabuenca, Bernardo
Kalz, Marco
Specht, Marcus

Title: “Tap it again, Sam”: Harmonizing the frontiers between digital and real worlds in education
Authors: Tabuenca, Bernardo
Kalz, Marco
Specht, Marcus

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The difference in mobile technologies

Yesterday I gave a masterclass about mobile learning, you can watch the dutch video at:

or participate at the masterclass in dutch at (it’s free! thanks to sponsoring of SURF Academy)

One interesting issue of discussion was the question what different affordances different mobile technologies can offer and how this has consequences on the instructional design of mobile learning. I think this is definitely an interesting issue and if someone knows any research papers on this issue I would be interested to get some recommendations.

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Conferences 2014

So already lots of interesting things for 2014, prepare for 2014 I will personally contribute to the following events so far:

  • Methodologies and Intelligent Systems for TEL, Salamanca, 4th-6th June 2014 misTEL 2014
  • 3rd International conference on Advances in Computing, Communications, and Informatics see
  • Ideas in Mobile Learning Symposium, 6th – 7th March 2014, Watershed, Bristol UK,
  • 20th International Conference on Collaboration and Technology,
  • Die 12. e-Learning Fachtagung Informatik – DeLFI 2014, 15. – 17. September 2014, Universität Freiburg,
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