The CALI 2005 conference is over now, and I’ve had some time to figure out what was truely important and interesting from the conference and what was not. The theme of the conference was, "Open Source :: Open Law :: Open Education". Being an open source enthusiast this was an exciting theme.
The speaker for the opening plenary session was Stephen Webber, and Poly Sci professor from UC Berkley. He gave an insightful presentation on the origins and underlying mechanics of the open source software projects. He also spoke about how Open Source has been able to overcome some big problems that commercial software houses have been struggling with for years, in particular Brooke’s Law. Brooke stated that for each additional programmer added to a project, the work done scale lineally, but the complications in the project increase geometrically. The way open source software is created does not seem to have this limitation, to the same degree, as closed source projects. He concluded by saying that he hopes that both open and closed source software project remain healthy, and that the competitiveness between the two will help create better software for everyone in the long run. The only thing that might be able to limit the ability of open source projects to continue to flourish is software patents.
The next session I went to was excellent as well. It was a demo of closed source piece of software called Onfolio. It is a research tool that integrates into your web browser (both IE and Firefox), and allows you to capture data from web pages, organize that data, mark up the data, and then publish that organized data to RSS feed, blogs. You can also share the data in a Point to Point network with people you are collaborating with. It looks like a great piece of software. I just need to find a research project to try it out on to see how well it does when pushed to its’ limits. For anyone doing research I recommend you download the 30 day trial version, it could help you be much more productive than you currently are when doing online research.
The next three sessions where good, but more technically geared. One was on Dspace, the next on congnative learning styles, and finally on Enterprise Storage and backup. Good info, but nothing earth shattering. There was also a good session on network security that was a good reminder of things that all Sys Admins know that they should be doing.
Next was a session on Class Scheduling. Not something that I have to do, but the software that was being demoed looks like it could save the person assigned to do the scheduling a ton of time, and make a better schedule as well. The software is called Schedule Whiz. It appears to have taken into account every conceivable variable when trying to schedule class rooms, student, professors and equipment. This means that it is very flexible and powerful, but could take some time to use the full power of it. I think that Yvonne (our administrator) will try out the 60 demo version this spring.
Finally the last session before I did my presentation was called Using Innovative Video Technology to Facilitate Skills Instruction. It was an EXCELLENT session. As you might have guessed by the title, Dr. Farmer from BYU is using laptop based video technology every week in his interviewing class. He found that only doing 4 video taped interviews per semester was not enough for the students to become proficient in the techniques he was trying to get them to learn, so he went from 4 exercises to 22 exercises, and the results were impressive. The law school bought 44 high quality web cameras and put them on reserve in the library. Students select one fact pattern to use throughout the semester. The Used sharepoint portal software to distribute materials during the class, including instructions fo the exercise, and then to store the video in a safe location for Dr. Famer to review them and grade them. Students reviewed their own videos and then Dr. Farmer commented on their self-reviews and added his own comments. I hope we can try something similar to this at UVic. They are in the middle of developing some custom software to capture the video and annotate bookmarks in the video files. There should be a video of the presentation on the conference web page in a week or two.
It was an enjoyable conference at Kent Law School in Chicago. The main items that I would like to see us move forward on at the UVic Law School are the Video Technology to teach skills, Schedule Whiz, and Onfolio. We are already using a lot of open source products at the law school.