Burnstation and Booki, learning by doing

At DkIT I teach a module called User Theories to year 4 of the BA (Hons) in Communications and Creative Multimedia. It centers around the distributive, collaborative and communicative properties of digital media and the creative opportunities these afford. So for example, we cover topics like digital distribution, Creative Commons licenses and online communities.

The module is assessed half through an exam and half through in-class, continuous assessment projects. CA project one is normally a virtual ethnography of an online community and it’s inhabitants. This means that three quarters of the assessed mark is based on solo work.

In 2009 the remaining 25% was allocated to an experiential learning project. In other words ‘learning by doing’. The students worked in groups to bring what they learned about open source licenses and digital distribution to the public in the tangible form of BurnStation, a mobile MP3 distribution centre. The DKIT Burn Station crew were fully endorsed by Platoniq, who set up the first copyleft copystation in Barcelona five years ago.

Bunny Burnstation from burnstation on Vimeo.

Burn Station DKIT/The Marshes Dundalk Ireland from burnstation on Vimeo.

For 2010 I wanted to continue with more experiential learning, with a strong focus on working collaboratively in the digital domain. I also sought to encourage more discussion of class topics outside of lecture time, because the 4 hours set aside for the module per week often isn’t enough time to digest the content. With this in mind I set 10% for use of the Moodle forums and 15% for the production of a textbook called ‘Emotive Design’ through a system called Booki

Booki is a web based, open source platform that facilitates the collaborative production of textbooks. It is based on the conventions of a wiki, providing an environment where users can write book chapters and edit each others content, working together in real time or asynchronously. It also allows the easy export of these Wiki based publications into custom formatted, print ready PDF files.

MALT S2 – Booki Screencast from Kieran Nolan on Vimeo.

I first learned about Booki through a blog post about the Transmediale Festival earlier in 2010, where I read about the 6 day book sprint that led to the book ‘Collaborative Futures’. This initiative inspired me to incorporate a book sprint of sorts into User Theories class later in the year.

Collaborative Futures from Michael Mandiberg on Vimeo.

The ‘Emotive Design’ project involved imagining a design concept that could reduce user frustration with interactive media. In other words looking at ideas to provide interactive products with personality (for instance, avatars) so that users feel a strong bond to their interactive product, so increasing their satisfaction with it. The students were asked to reflect on their assigned readings and come up with their own idea for an ‘emotive interface’. This was made up of a detailed diagram and text based description.

This project took place over three stages. First the class posted their initial concepts onto the Moodle forum for peer review. The next stage was to work together in Booki to structure all these design concepts together into one textbook. Stage three was the final class session to finish the book, linking up the students both in college and at home through cyberspace during the final lab class of the semester.

This class happened when Ireland was hit with a cold snap in December 2010 and many of the students were stuck at home due to the snow, but it never snows in cyberspace! Half the class were at home and half were in the lab, so we were communicating both in meatspace and cyberspace and by the end of the lab session had formatted together a draft copy of the ‘Emotive Design’ text through Booki.

Experiencing teaching a class live online and in the classroom simultaneously was a new experience for me, but one I really enjoyed. I mentioned in a post on the Booki blog that it “bridges the gap between digital and print media and produces a tangible product”. It also bridges the digital and physical learning environments, by providing a online space that facilitates communication and collaboration.

Anyhows, thanks to Platoniq and Booki for their great Open Source initiatives, and to the CM4 students for their hard work on these projects 🙂

Burnstation links:

Booki links:

Adam Hyde wrote about the use of Booki at DkIT in a chapter of ‘Learning Through Digital Media, Experiments in Technology and Pedagogy‘, on the Media Commons Press, edited by Trebor Sholz (link).

The ‘Emotive Design’ booki project itself is available at:

29. March 2011 by Kieran
Categories: Booki, teaching | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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