Thread on a new model for collaboration

Greg Smith gregsmitholpc at
Thu Oct 23 13:12:32 EDT 2008

Hi All,

Below is a thread I had with Juliano (learning team member with lots of 
experience in Brazil and more recently Rwanda) on collaboration. I 
wanted to share it with everyone, mostly verbatim.

I haven't had time to edit this for the list but I wanted to share it 
before waiting any longer.

The main idea is that there is another "asynchronous" concept of 
collaboration which we may be able to implement with less complexity 
than what we now call collaboration (e.g.

Comments and input welcome.


Greg S


Hi Greg,

Thanks for the answer. I will read your message more carefully since it 
has many ideas, so I can think and bring new ideas. But two points I can 
comment right now are that you can cite me in public messages. I just 
send it in private so I don't expose nobody and everybody are aware of 
the history of the idea. The other is that I know the edublog since the 
beginning, actually even before it start. Uruguay was interested in 
Using AMADIS, but I hold it since the tool, yet interesting, was very 
unstable. They became interested because, Léa Fagundes, my former boss, 
is very famous is Uruguay in the education area and made a lot of 
propaganda about amadis. After that, Pablo flores and others start 
thinking abou EduBlog. But I think we need something different than just 
a blog, however using some blog interface ideas.

You can thing some information about amadis in:

And in Portuguese in:

Maybe google translator can give you some help.

Write more soon. Thanks again,


On 24/09/2008, at 21:15, Greg Smith wrote:

 > Hi Juliano,
 > Thanks a lot for reviewing the 9.1 page and for offering these
 > suggestions on where we should focus our development.
 > We all get bogged down in the daily challenge of deploying these
 > computers, but this kind of feedback is super valuable. I think
 > everyone is very receptive to the Learning team members taking the
 > lead in setting the direction of future development.
 > On the 9.1 page in general, its mostly a catch all place right now. I 
 > haven't had time to add more structure and categorization yet. I hope 
 > to focus on that starting late next week.
 > BTW If someone wants to take a stab at an overall pedagogical
 > strategy, that would be great! I have a section reserved for that at: 
 > I did get some related input from David when we had a brief chat in
 > August. I haven't fleshed that out but it resulted in two points in
 > the Collaboration Strategy section at bullets 2 and 3:
 > It doesn't really cover the workflow of collaborative building of
 > projects so I added bullet #4 to cover your comments. Edit and update
 > that to fit your conception. Just keep it short and we can add detail 
 > in the collaboration section below.
 > On your main idea, I like the way you break it in to synchronous and
 > asynchronous. I think that will resonate well with the engineers.
 > Starting with the synchronous, I have a thread with the lead GUI
 > engineer about how best to build an interface that let's kids take a
 > project home, do some work then integrate it in write when they are
 > all online. See:
 > The baseline idea right now is for each kid to write their stuff at
 > home, then in class the next day they open two instances of write. One
 > has their personal work and the other the shared write instance. Then
 > they can copy and paste from their personal one to the shared one. I
 > think we can do better than that. So far, the best idea is to have a
 > button "add to share" that just takes whatever is selected and copies
 > it to the shared instance. That saves the intermediate clipboard step.
 > Cleaner but still kuldgy as you have to look at two activities and
 > switch between them.
 > Any comments appreciated. One thing you could especially help with is
 > to explain exactly how kids collaborate on a common project together. 
 > If you can describe it in terms of who sits where, who types what and 
 > how they decide what goes in to the shared/final project, that will
 > help a lot. I've been asking my kids but I could use some more
 > explanation from people who have spent time in class. e.g. does one
 > kid type and other kids look over their shoulder and make 
suggestions? > Do they pass the shared project around and take turns? A 
take home
 > then come together example using paper and pencil examples is a good
 > place to start.
 > On the asynchronous case which is I think your main point, I
 > completely agree this is central to successful education. Do you have 
 > a link or any more info on AMADIS? As it happens, I have been 
involved > in a related project (started when I was a volunteer) called 
EduBlog. > You can see an overview of it here:
 > The most relevant part is the requirements at:
 > and you should especially look at the original Knights Challenge
 > description.
 > We focused on the user interface and XO - XS - Blog technology for
 > starters. In the end we built something that allows some passing
 > around of content for review and edit but mostly student to teacher.
 > We didn't really nail the whole flow from student to student to
 > student then to teacher then to post public or in school. The project 
 > is still going on (may even be picked up by Latu hiring engineers for 
 > it) and I think we built an infrastructure and workflow that will
 > support multiple revisions of content before posting.
 > Interestingly, we ran in to the same challenge with Moodle that you
 > did! We were open to modifying any existing tool (considered wiki,
 > drupal, wordpress and others). We ended up with Moodle because we had 
 > engineering support from Martin and he pushed us in that direction.
 > Since then we have found that the Moodle config overhead is a barrier 
 > to use by teachers.
 > My one concern of the asynchronous idea in general is it requires a
 > server. A lot of our target deployments wont have that. We may be 
able  > to build something P2P where the shared content resides in the
 > "network" but that is likely a lot more work and could delay the
 > implementation.
 > Do you think we will have enough deployments with servers who can 
take  > advantage of a tool that we build server-side? I'll ask Robert, 
David > and other the same question. Maybe this tool will be so valuable 
that > it will push more schools to want a server.
 > Do you have a suggestion for a lead school or country we can work 
with  > in the early design phase?
 > I'm completely with you on the core idea. The only major addition I
 > have is that it should also help kids publish their stuff to the
 > Internet when they are done with it. That has been a persistent
 > request out of Uruguay. Collaborating school to school or school to
 > world can be a phase II item as well.
 > The way I see it going is that we write up a detailed requirements
 > definition. Its in the top level strategic goals already. Next we
 > describe what it has to do and what kinds of workflow and core
 > functionality it has. Then we hand it over to engineering and ask for 
 > design proposals to implement it. Moodle or not can come later.
 > Sorry for the long e-mail. No time to edit as I'm behind on triaging
 > the 8.2 bugs ;-(
 > You're on to a core concept which wasn't well described on the 9.1
 > plan. Thanks a lot for bring it up early in the process!
 > Thanks,
 > Greg S
 >>   Dear all,
 >>   Today I spent sometime taking a look in the wiki page for 9.1.
 >> Among the many features requests present, I could find some that are
 >> requesting for ways to publish files to the server and also ways to
 >> more effectively support group work.
 >>   Since the requirements for 9.1 are still being defined, I would
 >> like to re-start a discussion I've being trying to raise among the
 >> OLPC tech team in the last year.
 >>    I personably think that the collaboration model that Sugar is
 >> currently using is very interesting, but it isn't the only way to use
 >> computers to provide collaboration and cooperation inside a school. 
 >> Actually, it is really useful just in a few situations that aren't 
at >> all the most common at the schools I've being so far. There are
 >> alternative ways to provide collaborative tools to kids that are 
also >> important and for sure much easier to implement that the current
 >> collaborations framework.
 >>    Some of the characteristics I miss in the current framework are
 >> asynchronous collaboration, lack of historicity and visibility.
 >>   The current framework is based in a synchronous/quasi-synchronous
 >> mechanism that requires students and kids to be sharing the same
 >> network. This is good to Instant Messaging and Chat as well to start
 >> projects, but is not the best way to long term projects, that is one
 >> of features we want to promote at schools. There is no way to a group
 >> work for a couple of months in the same project using different
 >> activities in the current framework. Remember, that would be perfect
 >> if the kids could event work at home or weekend (when they want to )
 >> and just sync their changes in the next school day.
 >>     Lack of visibility because the projects made aren't available to
 >> be seen by other teachers, classmates and parents. Even if the
 >> Neighborhood View show the currently shared projects, it will just
 >> show a subset of them, and just the ones that are currently being
 >> used. The Neighborhood View itself suffer from some design problems
 >> because you don't have any control to whom you see and in large
 >> school, the screen aren't going to be large enough to show all students.
 >>     Lack of historicity, because you don't know which children
 >> collaborated in which projects/assignments both in the short past as
 >> in the previous years. When I worked with projects in Brazil , one of
 >> the features we worked very hard was to keep a database of the
 >> project students did in the past, so new students could build upon
 >> what their classmates did in the past.
 >>      In the last 7 years I've been researching about web systems 
that  >> could enable more constructivist practices and support projects 
based >> pedagogies inside schools. I develop a system called AMADIS 
that we >> used during the XO trial in Porto Alegre since 2007. It isn't a
 >> product, just a proof of concept that I used to research this ideas. 
 >> I'm not here advocating the use of that system, but sharing my
 >> conviction that  a Web system installed in the XS could deliver
 >> alternatives methods of collaboration that would be a powerful tool
 >> for teachers build a more project based pedagogical praxis. I also
 >> think this doesn't exclude the current collaboration framework, just
 >> add to it.
 >>     I'm also convinced that Moodle isn't the solution for this 
issue. >> Yet Moodle is a great tool for Internet based courseware (I
 >> particularly used it in the past), it just replicates the exiting
 >> structure of school, something that the laptop project is trying to 
 >> question and not to reinforce. Besides that, there is a overhead
 >> involved in the moodle management, that is very hard to teachers 
find >> time to do. What we think we need is much more a SourceForge per
 >> school and an e-learning tool.
 >>    In the last GSoC, one of the students that worked with me in
 >> AMADIS proposed a project called WebJournal. The idea was quite
 >> simple: to offer an interface in the Journal that kids could easily 
 >> send their file to a server. Once in the server, the files would be 
 >> by default shared to the whole school, and teachers and classmates
 >> could have access to it. We suggested this idea based in the
 >> observations we did during a whole year in the Porto Alegre trial,
 >> about how teachers and students use the XO. Yet simple, in my
 >> perspective, this feature would enable a lot of interesting 
practices >> inside the school. The project wasn't qualified, but SJ and 
 >> accepted Robson as an intern during the summer.
 >>    Unfortunately (for the webjournal project) I was away from Porto
 >> Alegre during this summer. The webjournal became a recovery 
interface >> to the backup
 >> system, what made it useless as a tool to support sharing of files.
 >>    Well, telling this was just to inform you. My point here is really
 >> try to suggest some web-based method of collaboration that support
 >> the development of projects. I know that the development of this
 >> features are going to have a huge impact in our deployments that 
have  >> servers and is also very cheap and fast to develop. After having a
 >> inside school solution, we can try to figure out how to connect this 
 >> system in a region wide network to allow intercommunication between 
 >> schools (centralized solutions have being a challenge in the past 
due >> to the slow speed of the internet access of the schools and the
 >> nature of the projects students develop using rich media that
 >> generate large files)
 >>     Thanks,
 >>     Juliano

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