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Initiating an open online course for making construals

The first Intellectual Output O1 for the CONSTRUIT! project is an open online course for making construals. The second Intellectual Output O2 is the evaluation of the evolving OOC with particular emphasis on the two concerns that are topical for each year of the project (for this year, accessibility and comprehensibility). Delivering these outputs will be an exercise in distributed participatory development involving the members of the project team and the learners we can recruit to trial the online resources. In thinking about possible roles within the project team, it is helpful to refer to the project timetable as displayed below and to the webpage that was posted in preparation for C5, where some subteam agendas were set out.

Where O1, and the complementary Intellectual Output O2 is concerned, two kinds of activity are currently most topical. On the one hand, we need to look back at the activities that were scheduled to take place in the period September-December 2014 and consolidate on the feedback that we gained from C1, C5 and the review activity O1/A2. On the other hand, we have to give more substance and wider exposure to the evaluation activities that are represented by activity O2/A1, and to ensure that future developments are fully informed by the wealth of expertise available in the consortium. These developments include, for instance, the refinement of JS-EDEN as an environment for making construals that has been taking place since C5 in activity O1/A3.

In the original proposal a degree of direct involvement of project team consultants at C5 had been envisaged - in practice, this was not feasible, and the relevant feedback has been obtained in more diverse and asynchronous ways (e.g. through the software contributions from Peter at Comenius, visits to Warwick by Piet and Erkki early in the new year, feedback from Jen and Hamish on the embryonic resources for an online course in mid-January, and a live interactive tutorial-style collaborative session with Manolis early in February). To ensure that our perspective on CONSTRUIT! is as well-informed as possible, we append a wide-ranging questionnaire to which we seek a response from all the members of the project team. These responses will be the basis for the official reports to be compiled on each of the timetabled activities.

Answers to the questionnaire can of course draw on your experience of C1 and/or C5, but other supplementary sources and links are supplied below. These relate to:

  1. The status of the open online course
  2. The current status and progress in developing the JS-EDEN environment
  3. Gaining further practical experience of making construals.

As far as 1 is concerned: given the timescale and limited resources, it was not possible to arrange the Virtual Workshop activity that was envisaged to run in parallel with C5. Online materials that could supply key ingredients of an OOC were developed in conjunction with C5, however. Jonathan Foss put these together in a Moodle-based environment as an embryonic CONSTRUIT! online course for making construals. In considering the challenges faced in delivering output O1, it is helpful to consult the additional rationale (yet to be taken into account) that was subsequently supplied by Meurig to guide the evaluation of the online resources by Hamish and Jen, and Steve's concise summary of their evaluation. (Meurig and Steve will be visiting Hamish and Jen at Edinburgh next week for further discussion.) Other feedback concerning the OOC obtained from Piet and members of the project team at Warwick has also been recorded but has yet to be fully documented.

As far as 2 is concerned: Jonny and Elizabeth Hudnott have been building on the refinements initiated by Tim Monks in the lead up to C5, taking account of feedback from Peter and the C5 participants. The development of the MCE is an integral part of the project, and this necessarily means that we shall update JS-EDEN construit regularly over the duration of CONSTRUIT!. (You may regard the full stop at the end of that sentence as a semantic error.) Note that the latest version of JS-EDEN construit differs from the previous versions that were deployed at C1 and C5. To revert to using these previous versions, you should now invoke JS-EDEN using 'construit.c1' and 'construit.c5' respectively. (You may regard the use of such indexing as a semantic error when you consider the future status of 'construit.c2' etc.) The principal innovation in the latest version of construit is that it enables two or more makers to interact with the same construal simultaneously over a network whilst maintaining independent views of the same state. This can be exploited by a single maker who wishes to link up a suite of workstations to explore and elaborate a construal from several different perspectives - something that is of course possible in principle on a single display, but is essentially infeasible on a small display (cf. the discussion of Matters Arising from C1).

As far as 3 is concerned, as a preliminary response to the issues raised by Hamish and Jen, and acting on a suggestion made by Chris Hall, Meurig and Jonny have developed a 'shopping construal' that is intended to be more accessible and more easily motivated than the construals that were introduced in C1 and C5. Preliminary resources for experimenting with the shopping construal are available at the following links:

  • shop9.js-e - a basic version of the shopping construal in which there is only one instance of each item
  • pricedepcorr.js-e - a file that supplies a missing dependency in shop9.js-e (see below)
  • shop9a.js-e - an extension of shop9.js-e that enables any number of instances of each item to be selected
  • shoppingconstrualdict.pdf - a 'dictionary' of the observables that feature in the construal shop9a.js-e
  • introShoppingConstrual.js-e - a skeletal presentation to sketch out possible extensions that might serve as open educational resources.

To load the shop9.js-e or the shop9a.js-e construal, invoke the JS-EDEN environment at then copy-and-paste the contents of the appropriate file into the Input Window and press Submit. Rudimentary instructions for playing with the construal are given in the Plain HTML View window. The shop9a.js-e construal both extends and corrects features of the shop9.js-e construal. For instance, it introduces a dependency to link the price of an item (price1, price2, ... etc) to the value of the item as displayed on the screen (item1text, item2text, ... etc). (The file pricedepcorr.js-e serves to introduce this dependency.) The idea of supplying a dictionary of natural language characterisations of observables takes up a suggestion from Carolina - in due course, it would be useful to incorporate this in the construal itself. To load the presentation introShoppingConstrual.js-e you should first load the JS-EDEN presentation environment using the JSPE button in the Project List, then load the shop9.js-e construal.