You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2007.

We’re soon to be running a Wisdom of Crowds experiment (a big hello if you’ve come here from the invite!). If you need to get your head round this theory that James Surowiecki proposes then I strongly suggest you read his book “Wisdom of Crowds – Why the many are smarter than the few“. It’s really rather brilliant.

Essentially the theory goes “the collective wisdom of the many is smarter than the expert opinion of the few.

The reason we are going to all this bother at all is that we (the so-called experts) cannot agree on something essential to ode. I’m not going to post at this point what the question is we’re trying to answer, suffice to say we think that it’s something we should put to the mob to see if they can do any better.

The good news for those that are coming is that there is a very special prize up for grabs…the very first ode t-shirt.

Gen-oo-ine, unique, one of a kind, first off the press, original ode wear. We think it rocks.

Of course Ed ordered it in skinny so if it doesn’t fit we promise to order you one that does (which means it won’t be unique anymore but on the plus side you will still be one of the cool kids and get invited to all the best parties). Plus there will also be ode cupcakes (seriously!) and smoothies.

ode t-shirt close up frontode t-shirt back

We’re always nattering away to our lovely users and we specifically tell them not to hold back their opinions (curiously not too hard with teachers). One theme that has come up a few times is free vs paid for.

The educator community currently sees the internet as a big ol’ free resource bank. One user (anonymously) said:

“…ultimately (ode content) costs money and there are so many free resources/resource xchanges/online collaboration etc why pay?”

Why pay? That’s a very good point and one worth discussing. How does a commercial service compete with multiple dedicated free services?

The internet is full of educational digital resources for schools, almost always constructed by enthusiastic amatuers and proams, sometimes professionally hosted, sometimes simply through the good grace of a particularly altruistic community, school or teacher. Occasionally you have to pay , the majority of the time it’s free.

So what can ode bring to the party? Well, the highlights would be:

  • Commercial disaggregated content unavailable anywhere else.
  • The barrier to entry for our customers will be very low – the content will be sold bit by bit meaning you can pick up professionally produced, authored and quality controlled digital content for very low cost.
  • The ability to use a single web application for all your resource needs, with added functionality such as a content library, a playlist constructor, personalisation and VLE ready content.
  • Comprehensive tagging linked against various curricular standards.

It’s worth mentioning that every single educator we’ve spoken to agrees on one thing: free is all very well and good but time saving is more important in the long run and ode will be a one stop shop with all your content purchasing, display and control functions built right in.

Some things in life are worth paying for, and free will always have it’s place. Hmm…but free (whisper it) doesn’t really mean free does it?:

  • How much is your time worth? Do you want to spend it surfing a multitude of different sites, most of which are amateur, all of which work differently?
  • Can you be sure of your rights to use and own that content?
  • What’s the quality like? How often does “free” translate as “just about good enough, I suppose, if you squint”.
  • Does it bother you that “free” often limits you to simple assets such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint files? Getting hold of high quality video or interactive games (which can add so much to an educational experience) is much harder when you want them for nothing.

The music industry had the same problem. Why would anyone buy music online if you can get it for free from a peer to peer service? Well, emusic recently sold it’s 100 millionth song and itunes flew past it’s 2 billionth download a few months ago. That’s still only a small percentage of what’s being traded for free but significant even so.

The lure of the free is a powerful pull. But I think we’re moving forward into an interesting area that doesn’t focus on a cost vs no cost argument but on a true value argument – I think everyone recognises now that most of the time free is great and occasionally the experience free is just not good enough and you reach for your card – your value decision might be moral, time saving or qualitative. But you’ll make it each time you say “I wish I had X content to fulfil Y need”.

This situation can only really exist when the end user has access to both options.

ode is not a VLE.
This is an important point to make. ode will contain no pupil tracking, no integrated assessment, no complex student topographies, no multiple log ins. This is quite deliberate – we have no ambitions to be a VLE type application – we will simply sell the bits of content to use in the VLE you probably already have. And if you don’t? You’ll be able to display your content in the ode player anyway.

ode is not supposed to replace large schemes or embedded whole class solutions.
will satisfy the immediate requirement of a student or perhaps a rapid reaction to a world or local event. That need could be:

  •  A set of interactive science simulations to keep the class busy at the end of a lesson.
  • 10 minutes worth of tough algebraic drill and practice activities for your high achievers.
  • Time lapse videos of butterflies hatching to compliment a one off nature ramble because the sun came out (then went in again).
  • A set of practice exam papers
  • WWI archive footage
  • Interactive maps of your local area
  • Digital posters about global warming for your whiteboard

Whole schemes and curricula naturally think rigidly in days, weeks, terms. ode thinks in minutes and seconds.

ode is not YouTube, Flickr or the TES resource bank.
A) we wish. B) The content on those sites is free (not copyright free, but cost free). ode will provide access to commercial content and user generated content across many different media types – video, audio, powerpoint, flash activities…you just buy the only bits you need and put them back together in any order you like.

ode does not want people to stop loving books.
We love books. We’ll just be selling digital versions. The advantage with a digital version is that you could sell the whole thing, or by chapter or unit, or make it interactive, or plain text for mobile delivery.

Sometimes it feels good not to try to be everything to everyone. Find out what you’re good at and focus on doing that job as best you can.

I’m not a big fan of simply reporting news on this blog (hey, there’s a million blogs out there better at it than this one) and in interweb time I’m about a billion years too late (it has even been reported on proper TV and everything!) but I felt this resonated with ode.

1) Stripping DRM from files can only be a good thing. Content is no longer confined to a monitor screen or book page.

2) Apple needed to add something else to the mix if they want to up the price but I’m not overly convinced by the “higher quality files” sales pitch – is it just me or does the current 128kps level sound perfectly fine? I do most of my listening through earphones (whilst distracted by something else) or in the car (background engine noise). Even burning a CD from a playlist of “lower quality” files doesn’t make it sound awful through my perfectly acceptable mid range stereo.

I wonder…perhaps it’s my ears that are the problem. I can just about tell the difference between 128kps and 256kps but in all honesty, who cares? Still, I read that in trials the higher quality files outsold the lower quality files by 10-1 so what do I know? The price difference is low enough to make that extra 20p acceptable.

But would that matter in the classroom? No DRM is the issue here – we want educators to move the content around between devices, to gain as much as they can from content they’ve bought. It will depend on the content and the publishers – some content just won’t really be that usable offline, such as interactive flash games or video clips.

But I take my hat off to Steve Jobs – he’s managed to get the price rise the labels were asking for and managed to come out of the DRM argument with barely a scratch on him. All MP3 makers will now be forced to adopt the aac file format. And considering I have owned 2 ipods now and both of them broke just out of warranty of course (grr) I would like to try another MP3 player without the music I’ve bought being obsolete, thank you very much.

This news is great as it backs up our desire to get people using the content they buy. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t protect where necessary but market movements such as this will see a further blossoming of digital content sales.

But what really caught my eye was the following slide:

“84% of digital consumers stated that they agreed, fully or somewhat, with the statement: ‘It is important to be able to transfer files between devices’ ”

That’s basically everyone saying “we want to choose what to play our content on”. The people have spoken.

What is ODE?

ODE will be a webstore where educators can buy little bits of digital educational content and put them back together any way they like. Simple.