National Workshop on Seamless Learning Support with SURF Academy

The videos are now online and the talk is recorded very nice! Thanks SURF Academy!

Today I gave a keynote at the Symposium:

“Altijd en overal vertrouwd toegang tot de leer- en samenwerkingsomgeving” 

“Anytime and Everywhere Personal Access to your Learning and Collaboration Facilities”

About 100 persons mostly from higher education are participating in the event, you can download my introdoctury keynote here: 


Specht, M. (2013, 21 March). Seamless Learning Support. Keynote given at the Seminar Altijd en overal vertrouwd toegang tot de leer- en samenwerkingsomgeving organized by SURF Academy, De Glazen Ruimte, Maarssen, The Netherlands.
In the introduction I talked about “the seams” in learning and how we can bridge these gaps with different technologies.
In the parallel session there have been very interesting presentions both on technological questions as sharing hardware and network facilities, or usage of 4G for the mobile learning of the future as also more requirements analysis or user oriented design issues.

New Publication

Keywords: Wireless networks and mobile devices are widely



This allows not only for education independent from

time and place. Also, adaption to individuals, places, and situations

may be realized, and different scenarios are seamlessly



Lucke, U., Specht, M. (2012). Mobilität, Adaptivität und Kontextbewusstsein im E-Learning. i-Com 1.2012.

Instant gratification and slow food ?

Tony Shin has recently created an infographic on instant gratification and changes on the time of feedback and reward in an information society.

I think this gives an interesting perspective on our perception of time, our patience and asks you some reflection.

Some facts from the infographic are:

  • when the replies to Google Searches would be reduced by 4/10ths of a second this would bring down the searches by 8 mil a day from the total 3 bil
  • if your webpage takes more than 4 secs to load 1 in 4 will kill the load
  • 40% of shoppers will abandon the shoppage when it takes longer than 3sec
  • and this is not only visible for information but also for food, half would not return to a restaurant where you would need to wait, 1 in 5 would become rude to the person serving too slow …

So in general I think there are some important problems we will face when looking forward into an ever faster consumption and delivery of information and we need to tackle these points earlier or later:

  1. Ever faster delivery of information leads to impatience of users, but was this like that before? I was in Turin last week and me and my colleague Fred de Vries went to a very nice restaurant, we did not have a reservation before but the waiting in the cue and becoming an appointment for half an hour later was not a sign for the bad quality of the restaurant. In the contrary the full restaurant was the high quality! In the low quality stuff you can get everything everytime, of course in low quality. So you can argue that in the digital age there is an other economy of scale and another relation between the quality of service and the delivery of digital and physical goods. I would be inline with that partly for the level of digital services but I think we tend to forget the human part in information consumption and … learning and making use of delivered information. So I think one should reflect about the quality of human decision making, learning, and we need to define a new quality of human knowledge in an age of instant infromation delivery.
  2. I think it is somehow scaring if humans loose awareness of when they transfer ways of interacting with digital goods onto everyday environments and human-to-human interaction as also their own behavior. I a sense through this human tend to forget about their “unique selling point” in a world where robots alreay win rock-paper-scissors 100%
  3. A certainly related topic is notification and I think one qualitative change in computer systems that has an important impact Technology Enhanced Learning is the ability to use and feedback real time data to humans from ambient and ubiquitous sensor systems. This will definitely leed to an overflow of notification and feedback systems, so shortening the feedback cycles for humans also has a big drawback, i.e. doing that over a longer period of time they loose their tolerance of frustration (btw a basic point of discussion in the education of kids ;-P)

Of course lots of other things to say about this. Thanks Tony for the nice infographic you can find at



Slow food mobile learning

Last week I was participating in a very inspiring workshop at ITC ILO in Turino. With a very interesting group we have been discussing issues around technologies, policies, trends, and questions of mobile learning in a global context. I have learned quite a lot about the use of mobiles in Africa and trends and developments in South Africa.

Jacqueline Batchelor and Adele Botha have been sharing some of their projects and experiences and I think this is very innovative and interesting work and opens a lot of new perspectives also in my perception on mobiles and their potential in an African and world wide context. As I noted earlier in some of my talks often we make the mistake of seeing technology in general too stongly from our cultural context and the development therein. This is perfectly fine as a user as a research in technology development and the use of the technology it is an absolute necessity to reframe ones perspective on the technology and it’s function in a cultural context. This is definitely what you have to and can learn from intercultural research exchange.


Furthermore Turin is a lovely place and one can feel the mood of slow food there this links to another cultural difference and recent reading I have came across. (see next post)

Dual Screen iOS apps and synchronization of media channels

In my model on ambient learning support called AICHE I have described several processes important for learning with ambient and embedded information technology.

The main processes that I have foreseen in 2009 have been aggregation, enrichment, synchronisation, and framing. See the complete paper here

Every now and then I see new apps or model popping up that support this idea but yesterday I really saw a nice fit and I think some quite nice interactive way of developing dual screen apps for iOS with Airplay for Apple TV.

Brightcove introduced a cloud-hosting service for apps which support the development especially of dual screen applications, a model that can recently be seen in several new hardware and software concepts introduced. New home entertainment consoles as the Nintendo Wii U which brings a tablet with additional meta-information and controller options of the introduction of the  “My Xbox Live for iPhone” for the XBOX360 follow a comparable model. SYnchronize different screen real estate and adapt the information adapted to the functionality needed of the function best supported by the device.

I think this is a general trend that can be seen in entertainment and mobile technologies that can be pretty useful for learning support. In the video of the introduction of the brightcove app cloud for dual display apps even educational applications are introduced as one model. The example is having multiple choice questions displays on a tablet while watching TV.

BTW from the Appleinsider article: “A recent survey by Razorfish and Yahoo of more than 2,000 smartphone users found that 80 percent of respondents use their mobile device while watching TV.”


Seminar on Tablets in Education


On the 16th of may I gave a keynote at the “seminar on the use of tablets in het onderwijs”.  There have been about 250 people from Basisschool, Secondary School, en Higher Education interested in the use of tablets in education.
I gave an overview of why tablets make a difference and what characteristics you should think of when designing the use of tablets in schools. Find my presentation in space for download:
Specht, M. (2012, 16 May). Tablet technologie in het onderwijs. Presentation given at the session on tablets in education at PH Limburg, Hasselt. Belgium.
The following presentation by Bart Boelen (Apple Distinguished Educator) gave an overview of the Apple Ecosystem and all iPad related services, apps, and functionalities. Learn more about his activities at ->
The third talk demonstrated the use of Android tablets and the Google EcoSystem as Google apps for education and how these can be used in the classroom. (Wouter Bouchez,
Fourth talk was a presentation of Windows 8 and it’s cross platform capabilities. Lots of setup seems to be quite similar to what Apple is doing: Cloud based documents and apps, app store, consistent touch well interface. One difference is well that the interface design seems to be consistent for all devices. Presented by Jurgen van Duvel, Microsoft Education.
Last talk was about if kids and teenagers are actually waiting for tablets in school. This was a great and inspiring talk from Pedro De Bruyckere, see his blogpost at:
Pedro is a great speaker keeping a fine balance between critical perspective on technology and constructive and inspiring recommendations on the use of technology.

TEL dictionary Adaptive Learning Environment

Thanks to Nicolas Balachef who is Chair of the STELLAR TEL dictionary, I have provided a new netry on the TEL deictionary about Adaptive Learning Environment.

In the entry I give a high level view on Adaptive Learning Environments and components. I did quite some research on this topic whi h actually started in my Doctoral Thesis at the University of Trier.

I started the thesis in 1995 and worked for about 3 years very intensively on the topic. Mainly implementing systems and doing experiments on adaptive hypermedia approaches. In this time also Peter Brusilovsky was a visiting scholar in Trier and I enjoyed this time very much and I think it was a very intense working group on the topic.

Also this time had quite some impact on research and market for adaptive educational systems I would say.

Peter Brusilovsky off course is “Mister Adaptive Hypermedia” and still doing lots of interesting research in this area. My doctoral supervisor Prof. Gerhard Weber developed the system we have been working on (based on CL-HTTP, Common Lisp Hypermedia Server from MIT) into a very powerful adaptive learning environment with authoring tool which is marketed under NetCoach as a commercial learning solution. Gerhard Weber also provides lots of very good online courses and materials on the PH Freiburg Learning Server. And still the grand father of all these systems is online the LISP tutorial so if you want to get in AI and learn some LISP this is the place to go ;-).

In my research there I explored some issues on adaptive annotation of hypertexts, adaptive recommender systems, adaptive user interfaces, and others. I have implemented prototypes for adaptive task sequencing, adaptive task selection and user models with different algorithms for modeling user knowledge. Interestingly a lot of the personalisation and adaptation discussion still circles around the basic concepts we have discussed in these days, but of course there are new ways to aggregate and collect data about users, environments and other sources for adaptation.

See Nicolas Blog post about the entry at

Some of my main papers about the works in adaptive hypermedia are:

Specht, M. and A. Kobsa (1999). Interaction of Domain Expertise and Interface Design in Adaptive Educational Hypermedia. Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Adaptive Systems and User Modeling on the World Wide Web at WWW-8, Toronto, Canada, and UM99, Banff, Canada, 89-93.

Specht, M., Oppermann, R., (1998). ACE – Adaptive Courseware Environment. The New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 4 (1998), 1, 141 -161. 

Specht, M., (1998). Adaptive Methoden in computerbasierten Lehr/Lernsystemen. In: GMD research series, 98, 24, GMD, Sankt Augustin, (1998), 149 pages , ISBN 3-88457-348-9

Schoech, V., Specht, M., Weber, G., (1998). ADI – An Empirical Evaluation of a Pedagogical Agent. World Conference on Educational Multimedia, ED-MEDIA98. 1998. Freiburg, Germany

Specht, M. (1998). Empirical evaluation of adaptive annotation in hypermedia. In T. Ottmann and I. Tomek, editors, Proceedings of the 10th World Conference on Educational Telecommunications, ED-MEDIA & ED-Telecom ’98, Freiburg, Germany, pages 1327–1332, Charlottesville, VA, 1998. AACE.

Specht, M., Weber, G., and Brusilovsky, P., (1995). Episodische Benutzermodellierung zur individuellen Interfaceadaptation. Workshop Adaptivität und Benutzermodellierung in Interaktiven Softwaresystemen. München: Siemens AG. 




Matchmaking TopSectoren Media & ICT


Yesterday I participated in the Media and ICT matchmaking meeting in Hilversum. I did four pitches and as the organisers told I was the most busy pitcher ;-). In the pitches you could not make use of any slides and had 2 minutes to present and 3 minutes to answer questions.
The areas for pitches and my short stories have been:
  • Business Innovation Media and ICT: The Open University is busy with a new kind of educational model and business model behind it. We have to think out of the box to make the OER models happen but there are more and more success examples (flat world, coursera with Stanford courses of 200.000 participants, online MOOC, …) I am reall y curious to get this off the ground in the Netherlands so my pitch was to find the best partners to launch new initiatives for HE and CPD based on OER and online learning networks. 
  • Design thinking: I started of with the long history of CELSTEC/OTEC on instructional design and new developments in orchestration of learning. There are new needs and ways for designing learning in an always on, always available, always information world. We look at real time data streams from sensors, build artefacts and media representations that help users/learners to understand their environments and their own learning processes. We look for partners in this endeavour as also for companies that want to apply our research results to create new environments for performance support, active learning and curiosity.
  • Big Data: Starting with my history in user modelling, learner modelling and adaptive systems. The OU has a long history in personal learning support via online media. Nowadays the game has changed in social media you have lots of data. In our focus topic Learning Analytics we aggregate all these data sources and do research on how to mirror these data to learners to understand how can we support personal learning, reflection, performance support, and individual developments. In our pitch I was calling for partners to implement systems in their daily practice based on our models and technologies in LA. Furthermore I pitched for our activity on shared research data sets based on the DataTEL project. 
  • Smart and Social Media: I was talking about some of our experiences with learning media and metadata for media. Dropping numbers as that in 2011 mobile gaming was about 11 bil dollar business and a forecast for mobile learning is a 6.8 bil EUR business in 2015. Offerng opportunities for cooperation in research, laboratories, and education on new media. Based on current research programmes on learning networks and learning media CELSTEC is adding value in understanding how to use serious games, social media, and mobile media for learning and professional development. 
Comments welcome!


ARLearn published on Google Play

Today, I published ARLearn on Google Play, formerly known as the Google Market. There are still some glitches in the tool, but we decided to give this a try and start collecting feedback. So, this is a warm invitation to send us your ideas or feature request.

For those that are new to this topic: ARLearn is a toolkit that combines field-trips, augmented reality and serious games. With the toolkit one can create “games” (e.g. a simple field-trips) and “runs”. A game is a blueprint and captures the design of your mobile activities. A game can be materialized into many runs. Within a run, a fixed set of users can act and even compete. Also, actions performed by users, response that were given, etc are all collected within a run.

The tool that we released today is fully functional. However, so far we have not released the authoring tool yet. So if you want to be on the bleeding edge, go ahead and download. Drop us a note and we will help you to get your first run installed. If you rather see yourself as an early adopter, we advise you to wait for some more days. We are now working hard now on finishing the beta version of the authoring tool for ARLearn. With this tool it will become possible to create your own field trips, play them with students and collect results.

Read more about ARLearn.

Download the application on google play.

SIKS course on mobile, ubiquitous, and contextual Learning

Last week thursday friday we co-ordganized a SIKS course on mobile, personal and contextualised Learning: the “Advanced SIKS course on Technology-enhanced learning”.

In that context I gave an introduction to mobile and ubiquitous and contextual learning and highlighted some main aspects about mobility, context and what is important about these issues for learning.

The slides are available at

After the introduction we did the Invent your App session and did get quite interesting results of new apps that take into account the the students presented their apps as if they are planning for a new company with a highly innovative product. Was quite fun!