Recently I wrote a piece asking for examples of true open source innovation, noting that many projects simply replicate what is done in the commercial world.
Today I want to present the first in what I hope will be a series of such project, called LAMS.
LAMS is a new generation of learning technology led by Dr. James Dalziel (right) of Macquarie University
the University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia.
As he wrote to me recently, "LAMS is unique in that it is a system for creating, running and monitoring 'digital lesson plans' - that is, a sequence of content and collaborative tasks for students to work through. Also unique to LAMS is the ability to capture these sequences of activities as a file that can be shared, re-used, adapted, etc"
There's more to it than that, of course, as Dalziel adds:
Under the hood, LAMS is a radically different piece of software compared to all other e-learning systems - it is, effectively, a workflow system for learning activities, rather than a website management tool for course pages.
For the past two years (and probably for at least another year into the future), no other system provides LAMS-like functionality at a production level (there are a few research projects in Europe) - open or closed source.
Another interesting aspect of LAMS is the authoring environment - it is a rich drag and drop web interface built in Flash. Not unique in itself, but very nice, and key to the success of LAMS with teachers (they find the visualisation really helpful).
Technologies like LAMS are vital because schools have wasted billions on technology over the last two decades, and most school systems are burned out on it. As soon as new PCs, or upgraded PCs, were bought, and software was bought, and teachers were trained to use it all, the whole thing was obsolete.
Open source isn't just about free software in this case. It's about getting value out of what you have, integrating software and hardware with the wetware of the human mind, and about having something that's effective even after the software is obsolete.
In this case, it's a lesson plan. By organizing educators as a community, on a common platform, LAMS can help turn around technology's bad reputation in the classroom. And that would be good for everyone.