I just wanted to say good bye to my friends at UniServity. I joined you all in late 2009 with the mandate to lead the company on a short two and a half year strategy. The mission was to build a new product and create a solid and profitable platform for the company to move forward.
Whilst the journey has been hard, particularly given the cuts in the education sector and lack of clear direction from central government on where I.T. and technology should sit within education. We have managed to successfully build a next generation learning platform using the very latest technologies and tools in this new cloud based, socially connected and mobile world. “Life” is the result of this thinking and the credit for this solely goes to the people at UniServity. The team are unique, professional, they have commitment, but above all, they care what happens in today’s schools and they see how technology can play a part in every child’s future. The people at UniServity get communities and they get how connecting these communities of learners on a global scale can enhance today’s classroom. They also get and understand how technology can engage, stimulate and broaden peoples horizons.
Back in 2010 when we were formulating a vision for “Life” we needed to give it a code name. We wanted something that would spark ideas, fuse thinking and pop into existence with a life of its own. We had a primeval soup of ingredients, thinking, technology and vision and we needed that spark to bring it all together. We needed to breath “Life” into our new product and hence the name stuck.
Good luck UniServity. Stick to what you believe in. You have a new product, you have the first installations under your belt, you have your first user community developing. Go forward and innovate.
So I tweeted some time ago about moving away from Microsoft server technology and in particular .NET. I’ve spent most of my professional career building server solutions or leading teams using the Microsoft stack. I’ve loved it for so many years and have spent the same years justifying its scaling credentials. We’ve even got many proven successes out their being used in anger. One success above all is the new Life platform that we’ve developed for UniServity. The scaling capability is proving itself over and over again and therefore my view of Microsoft server technology remains unchanged. However I’ve had my head turned slightly by simplicity in the last few weeks. Also by the increasing costs of licensing.
I’ve just started building a series of iPhone and iPad apps with a server / cloud component. I naturally turned to Microsoft for the answer, however the thought of opening up Visual Studio architecting this fantastic multi layered app with an MVC architecture fills me with dread, when all I need to do is build something simple that will access a database and scale. I’m also using a Mac now-a-days have have been for the last 5 years. So we now need to boot up parallels start up visual studio and get coding. All a bit much for my mac book air. (sorry slimmed down the hardware due to all the traveling)
So I dreamed of the days of Perl and CGI using BBEdit on my original macintosh to edit simple scripts.
PHP gave me the answer and when you start to dig a little deeper it really does provide a viable answer. It scales well, Facebook proves that with its 540 billion page impressions and its simple to get coding. I can use my mac as my server and I know it will easily port to a linux or unix platform in the future. I’ve downloaded some simple editing tools and with mysql i’m building my simple cloud based service for my iOS apps. Except its really not that simple any more. Its amazing how quick you can progress. Its also like riding a bike, you never forget the technology’s roots and you find that its back down to natural programming techniques. Rather than even more layers of abstraction you get with .NET.
AND above all no license fees and no policy of requiring even more hardware to run your software. It does scale very well I have to say and it does spark that programming geek in us all.
More to follow as I progress.
I’m heading out to Slovenia today to the Smart / Steljes launch in the Adriatic’s, thanks to my friends at Steljes we are piggy backing on their growth into this territory.
UniServity have been looking at Eastern Europe for some time. They seem to experiencing the same growth and appetite to education technology investment that the UK enjoyed some ten years back. Most of it is derived from European Union investment but there is a big appetite to invest at a national government level.
Its giving us a real test to see how Learning platforms are seen in today’s climate and we are getting some interesting feedback which helps understand how we should target new markets. My findings so far see a tie up with mobile devices and the ability to distribute content, learning activities and tasks to students on mobile / tablet devices. Lots of money is being made available for shiny new devices to replace books but there is also recognition that books cannot be one way any more, they need to be more interactive and community focussed in their new digital format. Its virgin territory heading east, however the learnings are helping for our emerging market offering and also to test some of our vision before rolling out mainstream back in the UK.
Tablets and digital content are definitely driving growth as they offer the means for digital text books. Learning platforms are certainly heading to become the infrastructure behind this new world but only if learning platform company’s continue to invest in R&D. Guess what we are working on behind the scenes.
UniServity is gearing up to make its technology available to partner organisations overseas. The Life learning cloud has been up and running for over 18 months now and its first wave of users are now fully deployed. We have been working with these user communities to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our platform and we are increasing R&D spend to further enhance the platform and provide more innovative features.
However we are gearing up to make our technology available to our partners. UniServity Life is already licensed through our Australian distributor Learnology. Learnology has helped with the success of this partnership and the rollout of the platform to a substantial number of users in Australia, we are now turning our sights to extend this model.
Next week UniServity are making available a licensed version of the learning cloud to partners, enabling Life to be provided by our partners and allowing those partners to add their own educational value to the product. What does this really mean? The life community will be enhanced and will provide different flavours to the educational community. We will start communicating more over the next few weeks. But watch out for announcements in Eastern Europe. More to follow….
Over the next few months we are opening up lifelabs @ UniServity so you can get a behind the scenes look at product development and concepts in the run up to Bett 2011. Watch mattclarkelive.com or http://www.lifeisaboutlearning.com for more information. Follow @mbclarke and @lifeisabout on Twitter.
As cloud based thinking moves out of the world of technology speak and into all our lives this year. We will all need to pay close attention to how we manage our life in the cloud. Digital responsibility will become a key thing to consider as our content and life starts to get tattooed onto cyberspace. Whilst awareness of this is key its something where the benefits overtake any disadvantages.
Education is a key area that will be revolutionised by cloud based thinking. Embracing social learning, connected learning communities, learning platforms and next generation web tools can provide an enhancement to traditional education processes. However we need to consider how we create a new digital learning movement in the cloud. Learners need something new, the education sector needs to refocus on where our digital learners are at.
My answer to this is “Life” life in the cloud, life is about learning, life is about embracing life long learning. Life will create a leaning movement a digital movement that provides life long learners with choice. Choice of tools, software, content, communities, approaches. Life goes beyond main stream education it reaches into our homes, our social life, our work and above all my life.
Watch the conversation as it evolves
Cloud and cloud-based thinking were very much the big thing in 2009 if you knew what it meant. The cloud means one thing to the technology world, it means a very different thing to the average consumer or business.
2010 will see this niche phrase spill over into the non-technical world. Our life in the cloud will become something we start to notice, and managing that life in the cloud will become an even bigger thing. Major technology providers like Microsoft, Google and Apple are providing clever tools to synchronise your life in the cloud with the many different devices with which you access it. Livemesh and MobileMe are examples of this functionality coming together. But these just handle your stuff and your devices, what about your family, your friends, your interests and your community? How does your world synchronise with your stuff and your devices?
How do you manage your tweets, Facebook friends, and Linkedin associates with your email, your schedule, your life? How do you maintain separation when it’s needed and provide collaboration and integration when required? More importantly how do you monitor it all, how can you watch the conversation, participate in it, ignore it, filter it? Will Google Wave provide some answers?
Our life in the cloud has never been more complicated and 2010 will see the start of innovative solutions to manage our new life; digital agencies have a perfect opportunity to grab a real problem that needs a real solution. So let’s look forward to some really creative and innovative solutions.