Collaboration & dialogue

The role of collaboration and dialogue in the design process

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The Open University Learning Design Initiative applies a design approach toteaching and learning processes with the aim of enabling practitioners to make more informed choices about their creation of learning interventions and better use of good pedagogy and new technologies. An approach which:
  • Utilises a shared design language to both generate designs and as a mechanism for interpreting and discussing
  • Uses a notational system which helps us remember and navigate designs, enables designs to take form and be shared, and helps us sharpen and multiply abstract design categories
  • And recognises that different representations of a design are needed to articulate certain elements of the design, while ignoring others.

It sees design as a conscious process which involves a dialogue both with and about the materials. It is seen as a creative and communicative process and an essentially social activity.


One of the overarching findings from analysis of the empirical evidence we have gathered to date into how practitioners currently design their teaching interventions, and what would help improve their practice, is the desire to have examples from others and to have access to a network of practitioners to share and discuss ideas. The Cloudworks site was developed with the intention of addressing this need. We wanted to harness the best of social media practice for use in a learning and teaching context.  The site is attempting to address three inter-related issues:

  • The lack of uptake of technologies for learning and teaching (despite the fact as outline above that they have immense potential)
  • The new skills needed for engaging in a participatory digital landscape
  • When asked the question ‘what do you need in order to make better use of new technologies in your teaching?’ teachers invariably say they want examples and they want to be able to share and discuss their ideas with others.

Take the Cloudworks virtual field trip


CloudEngine is the software that powers Cloudworks and has been released on an OpenSource licence.

The CloudEngine HomepageFeatures

The software enables people to easily set up their own CloudEngine-powered site with loads of features:

  • Clouds, Cloudscapes.
  • Cloudstreams
  • Support for events – conferences, workshops, paper deadlines
  • Tags, search, user profiles.
  • Favourite & follow items.
  • Twitter feeds
  • Embed videos and multimedia (oEmbed)
  • Internationalized – currently in English and Greek!
  • Feeds, API
  • Administration panel including statistics.
  • Themable, Extensible…

Technical stuff

  • CloudEngine uses PHP 5 and a MySQL database.
  • It is built on the CodeIgniter framework – lightweight, easy to learn.
  • It prefers Apache and mod_rewrite.
  • With mod_rewrite come clean URLs
  • Includes jQuery and the Tiny MCE editor.
  • It uses Mollom for spam control}}}
  • It uses oEmbed for embedding from YouTube, Slideshare, Flickr.. (jQuery powered)
  • GNU Gettext for localization.
  • Many features (API, internationalization, moderation…) can be switched on/off and configured.

Get CloudEngine!