Harry Verwayen at “Images for the Future” in Holland has commented in his blog on the ambitions we’ve laid down for ode, which he broadly supports. Well, he believes strongly in the vision, but, like most people, hopes to see it done right as he believes liberating educational content is vital to embrace the modern student’s outlook and behaviors.

“This is an environment where changes have been notoriously slow to take root. Where the current generation of young children that have in fact been ‘born digital’ spend their free time between msn, gameconsoles and their pc but receive their education primarily through old fashioned books and whiteboards. “

This is an evident dichotomy facing education today. A student has to walk between two worlds, you might call them “analogue” (the classroom) and “digital” (everything outside the classroom).

We should take comfort in the fact that the line is blurring (there are loads of fantastic digital torch bearing educators out there, unfortunately they are still the minority) but essentially todays students are still immersed in the same education system you can trace back through generations.

I think what we’re doing is simply the next natural evolution in teaching. In fact I’d say education lends itself more naturally to this disaggregated approach to content than most other industries – teachers have always been extremely passionate about collecting the very best materials to suit their style and their students, no matter where they come from.

The Internet has given educators an unbelievable treasure trove of content and interaction but it’s not designed for that specific use, in fact the Internet is not ‘designed’ at all – you simply find the least painful resource e.g. Google and try your best to wring everything you can out of it.

But even the mighty Google is ham strung by being designed to work for everyone (which is another way of saying it’s designed to work for no one). So as we (the collective group) get “better” at the Internet the more sites like Google will frustrate us as our needs become deeper and more profound, well beyond keyword searching.

ode will be one of a number of new “find engines“, not “search engines”, for education. The difference being a search engine expects you to know exactly how best to search for something e.g. the right combination of keywords, and gives you a single object back (the right one hopefully), a find engine provides a number of facilities to help you locate data and resources around what you want (or indeed influenced by what you already have).

Ask.com has positioned itself as a find engine although I think it misses the point somewhat – it’s still a general search engine – and the term works much better in a specific domain. It’s a need that fits well into a vertical marketplace such as education or music where peer review, editorial recommendation and folksonomy help enormously.

Ultimately ode has a major battle on it’s hands on two fronts: convincing content owners to change the way they sell their content and educators to recognise how wonderful this might be for them and their students. Still, nothing good comes easy, right?

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