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Known and education: a love story

I started my career in education, writing e-learning tools for the University of Edinburgh. It was there that I met my Elgg co-founder, Dave Tosh (because they placed us together in an ex-broom closet with a window that didn't shut; a kind of gallows bonding experience). Elgg was designed as a community platform for education, that took the informal learning that was happening on the nascent social web in 2003 and applied it to the formal education space. It did well, and it's still in wide use in institutions today. Through Elgg, I've written and spoken widely about social learning environments.

The educational technology community has developed the dual concepts of the Personal Learning Environment and the eportfolio. The first is a tool that puts students at the center of their learning; the second is a way for them to represent themselves and their learning, to themselves, to their peers at their institution, and to the outside world once they graduate. In an educational setting, I think Known is very clearly both a PLE and an eportfolio:

  • Known profiles allow you to post to a space that represents you, using a variety of media, from any device
  • Known's syndication feature lets you post to your own profile, while syndicating to external sites and applications - like your campus's Learning Management System.

Educators agree. The Reclaim Your Domain project is a particular evolution of eportfolio thinking, where members of a campus's community own the domains that represent them (just like indieweb!), and we've developed a good relationship with this community. And we're discovering that more and more institutions around the world are coming to us, because they see how Known can help them to empower their students.

Universities have discovered that providing a social space that allows for personal reflection allows for deeper learning than a Learning Management System can provide. Known provides a layer for this that can either work with a campus's LMS or as a stand-alone product. It's easier for teachers to administer, and because it uses the latest modern web technologies, it works with the mobile devices that students are using to access the Internet more than 50% of the time.

Known works well as an educational product. Our experience building awesome social tools for education over the last decade allows us to more quickly understand the challenges involved, and to provide something that fits in with the culture of education. We're also aware that there are startups whose aim is to own a part of the education stack, and our grounding in indieweb and open source means that we reject that entirely. We have an open project that we have designed to empower; the intention is to provide more control, not remove it.

I couldn't be more excited to work deeply with educators to help them make electronic learning a more personal experience - and we want to hear from you. Software is a collaborative experience, and we couldn't think of better collaborators than the people who are helping to make the world a more informed and educated place.

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