I haven't looked at Pageflakes for a while and went there the other day. I registered as a new user, and it impressed me with the default content it provided. It picked up I was in Cardiff from my IP address and provided me with a decent set of Cardiff related content, including:
- Cardiff news stories
- Cardiff photos
- A google map with Cardiff events marked on it
- Cardiff weather
Several things struck me about this, apart from thinking 'that's cool!' (as an aside can a 40 year old actually use the term 'cool' in any context without embarrassment?). The first was that considering it only had one bit of info to go on, that's not bad personalisation. Imagine what a learning system could do that had course history, user preferences, learning styles (if such things really existed), scores, etc to go on?
Second, this level of purely automatic content selection (I don't suppose there was a little man selecting content for me at the Pageflakes garage) has only really been realisable recently as we have reached a critical mass of content that is tagged (the photos were from Flickr and just used the tag Cardiff) and which is subscribable and available. Having been an advocate of learning objects a few years back (and as a means of writing, I am still a fan), this critical mass was something they never really achieved and so the visions of a personalised course didn't materialise. It also demonstrates, if further demonstration were needed, that making your content available in RSS and accessible (ie not behind authentication) is the key to both getting it seen and to a personalised future.
The last thing was what could an institution like the OU do with something like this, maybe in conjunction with the BBC? Users could receive calendars with appropriate programmes slotted in, maps with relevant 'learning events' highlighted in their locality (which could be user generated e.g. a meeting of the physics club in the Cayo at 8pm), content that relates to both their subject and geographical area (e.g. an example of classic Georgian architecture can be found at...), plus a range of general subject content feeds.