Like many other projects, the OER World Map is driven by a virtual team, which is working distributed in different cities, which are in our case Cologne, Berlin, and Milton Keynes. Though cooperation via the net works pretty well, it does not replace meeting personal for many reasons. Therefore we emphasize meeting personally on a regular basis.
From the 7th to the 9th of September our English colleague Rob was the host for our “physical team meeting”. We met at the Institute of Educational Technology of The Open University in Milton Keynes. Many thanks for the hospitality and for the guided tour through research labs of the institute!
Though two days initially seems to look like a lot of time, it actually is not, if you have to discuss literally hundreds of issues. One important session was the discussion of the goals for phase IV of the project, which we are currently preparing a proposal for (The goals for phase IV of the project as power point presentation).
But for sure we also discussed many issues, which are closer on our Roadmap and which will be implemented until the end of the year. One very major short-term goal will be to include a custom styled street layer following the visual identity of the OER World Map by using Mapbox Studio. This will allow to zoom in the map much deeper and show locations precisely. Though we do not know how important this improvement will be from a functional point of view, it was clear to see, that the look and feel of the site will benefit from the street layers enormously. Another important feature which is planned for the second half of the year are subcategories for the data types included in the OER World Map.
It was also very interesting to see the city of Milton Keynes. This town is one of the so-called New Towns built in the sixties. The really wide streets mostly with dual carriageway follow a grid pattern with countless roundabouts at the knots (good to see on the openstreetmap). The center of MK is not a traditional town center but a mere business and shopping district also planned like a chessboard. It is built for lots of cars, with really wide streets and lots of parking space. But the streets of the city center look green because of the thousands of trees planted between the lanes.
There is also much room for the few pedestrians: wide sidewalks and several underpasses at each road crossing. All in all, it felt like walking in a video game from the beginning of the millennium with the homogeneous architecture and the seldom pedestrians. To cross the streets between the crossings there are strange looking crosswalks. Each of them has five roofs between the lanes, so the walking people are protected from the British rain while waiting until the driving people have passed.
But for us visiting Milton Keynes the British weather made an exception and we enjoyed three days with a perfect blue sky. Before heading back to Berlin and Cologne we visited Bletchley Park, the central site for Britain’s now famous codebreakers during World War II. We loved to see the fascinating machines like the rebuilt ‘Turing-Welchman Bombe’ and learned how the complex processes of decoding the German signals were organised. The people building the exhibition at Bletchley Park did a great job not only by collecting lots of little old things like fountain pens, typewriters and telephones in addition to the impressive machines but also by creating a dense atmosphere in the small darkened rooms in the huts by reproducing the conversations and sounds of the people working there. Too less time for too many interesting things to see and try, we have to come again!