Monthly Archives: March 2010

3rd Annual Ja-Sakai Conference Report

I was very pleased to join Lois Brooks at the 3rd Annual Ja-Sakai Conference (translated) hosted by Kumamoto University. The day prior to the conference Ryuichi Matsuba asked me to provide a presentation to his colleagues regarding how Indiana University’s software developments are organized and the various roles that team members play (slides link). I only was able to finish about one half of the presentation due to time constraints, but we did have some good discussion on related topics. I was very happy that Lois Brooks was able to participate in the discussion as she was able to field some of the questions I could not address directly. Thanks Lois!

Afterwards, Professor Makoto Miyazaki of Kumamoto University provided a sneak-peek of his Ja-Sakai presentation (kindly translated into English) detailing their ePortfolio development efforts which include:

  1. uPortal as the primary landing page for students. This provides the launch points for accessing both of their WebCT CE6 and Sakai 2.6 OSP instances.
  2. Student artifact submissions via the natural WebCT user interfaces.
  3. Automated batch transferal of the artifacts over to Sakai OSP Matrix for evaluation.
  4. A newly developed OSP tool which they call “Notifications” which is a type of dashboard that allows users to easily see pending work and links directly to the tools for completion.

This work is in support of their competency-based curriculum and will be presented at the 2010 Sakai Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado. For more information about Kumamoto University’s portfolio practices, see:

The following day was the conference which started with some very kind opening remarks from Dr. Shin-ichi Abe, Vice President and Trustee Kumamoto University and Dr. Takeshi Mase, Nagoya University Graduate School of Information Science. After the opening remarks, Lois Brooks provided a very nice presentation titled “Technology and Learning”.

Following Lois’ presentation, I delivered “Sakai 3 and the next major web technologies”:

The remainder of the conference was conducted in Japanese, so Lois and I were kindly escorted by Tomomi Nagata and Yuuki Tsunemoto to a vegetarian lunch with twelve different types of tofu and a traditional Japanese tea ceremony at the local Samurai house. We then finished our afternoon at Kumamoto castle before returning to the conference center for the Ja-Sakai reception.  Some key takeaways for me from the reception:

  1. Nagoya University has officially announced their plans to migrate from WebCT to Sakai. The other universities are watching very closely.
  2. Kansai University, the largest private university in Japan, has adopted Sakai in partnership with a commercial entity (NS Solutions?). Their biggest issue with Sakai is the lack of custom workflows and were very excited to see the work coming out of Sakai 3 to help resolve this issue.
  3. Learning Java is presenting a problem to Sakai related development and lowering this barrier to entry is an important concern (e.g. think PHP developers). Much of Sakai development is occurring at the edge in Japanese Universities.
  4. Japan now has at least two commercial partners that are active in the Sakai space.
  5. Internationalization and localization of both Sakai the software and Sakai the website continue to be a hurdle for Japan.

I would like to convey many special thanks to our very kind and generous hosts from Kumamoto:

  • Dr. Ryuichi Matsuba
  • Dr. Shin-ichiro Kubota
  • Dr. Hiroshi Nakano
  • Ms. Tomomi Nagata
  • Ms. Yuuki Tsunemoto

PS – Ryuichi Matsuba made good on his promise to Sakai last year and unveiled two new Sakaigers at the conference this year. As you can imagine, the Japanese find the Sakaiger very endearing and kawaii!

PPS – I was a bit overwhelmed at how many QR Codes I saw in Japan – they are everywhere! Maybe what piqued my curiosity the most was the fact that the promotional materials for the conference (both print and web) contained QR codes. I thought I remembered Google starting to promote QR codes with Google maps, and that was indeed correct. I have now equipped my iPhone with a QR reader called QuickMark QR Code Reader and now I am able to read QR codes. I am using the QR Code Generator from the ZXing Project to generate QR codes. It looks like this technology is on the verge of adoption in the US and we should encourage it. Scanning a QR code with your phone sure beats typing a URL on a mobile device! I have also seen these displayed on business cards for a quick way to get a new contact into your address book. Very cool!

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Sakai, Technology

Status Update on Basic LTI Widget for Sakai 3

I am returning from a very productive trip to Japan to participate in the 3rd Annual Ja-Sakai Conference (which I will blog about shortly) – but I did want to provide a quick update on the progress I have made in developing the Sakai 3 Basic LTI consumer widget. In my previous post on this subject, Sakai 3 Basic LTI Widget Sprint, I outlined five action items:

  1. At least one screencast demonstrating the work to date – probably two. One showing the Basic LTI plumbing and passing of the LTI certification tests, and another showing Sakai2 tool placements in Sakai 3 sites.
  2. Some of the information in an LTI launch needs to be secured from end users. This will be a chance for me to learn more about access control in Sakai 3; see: KERN-591.
  3. The widget itself needs some renovation. I will likely copy the existing Remote Content widget and add the LTI settings.
  4. Create some virtual tools for existing Sakai 2 tools and add these to the out of box Sakai 3 experience.
  5. Work on the Sakai 2 Basic LTI provider servlet to make it more robust and support the specific Sakai 2/3 integration use cases.

So let me address these in order:

  1. I still  do not have any screencasts to show. I have made some significant progress on #3 so I am waiting to complete the UI overhaul before recording any screencasts.  Please be patient – I will have something to show very soon.
  2. I am pleased to report that the implementation of securing the appropriate LTI launch parameters (i.e. secret and password) has been completed. Each launch node which contains the settings, now will have a sub-node which can only be read or modified by an administrative account. This sub-node contains the LTI secret and password. The service then masks the complexity of the implementation with this sub-node so that the user interface contract did not change. So the end result is that if the LTI related nodes are found via search or some other mechanism, we no longer need to be concerned that any related sensitive data will be exposed to unprivileged users.
  3. I am also pleased to say that some significant progress has been made on a new user interface for this widget. Using the code from the Remote Content widget is proving to be quite useful and delivering a nice user experience. There has been some debate about whether the Preview capabilities from the Remote Content widget are appropriate for this use case, but assuming that adding these capabilities to the service are not too time consuming, I plan on including this feature for user testing if nothing else. I personally believe the preview capability is worth providing, but I am willing to be proved wrong.
  4. No progress has been made regarding virtual tool registrations. I believe this use case is not unique and will extend beyond the Basic LTI needs. I have been procrastinating on this topic until I have the time to engage in the discussion fully.  I expect that will be when the other action items are complete and we can apply focus to this one particular aspect of delivery.
  5. Some good progress has been made on the Sakai 2 BasicLTI provider. Through my work on BLTI-24, the provider is a bit more robust. And through Steve Swinsburg’s work on BLTI-31 we are now closer to having a tighter relationship between the Sakai 3 consumer and the Sakai 2 provider. This tighter trust relationship assumes the consumer is closely related to the provider (e.g. maybe within the same domain). I envision using this high trust configuration in conjunction with some auto-provisioning to keep a Sakai 2 and Sakai 3 system in synchronization, which we expect to be common for most hybrid implementations.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Sakai, Technology