Friday, August 26, 2005

More on EdNA Groups Vs the Open Network

Picture by Kanko'

Earlier this month I posted about the Education Network Australia's use of Moodle to facilitate group discussion. I reckoned that the use of Moodle and forums with an option to be closed in particular were/are in fact stunting the growth of the education network in Australia, keeping it introverted, network illiterate, and disconnected from the broader more global discourse.

Stephen Downes backed me up, extracting the key points out of my windy rave by quoting,
Its better if we use more global and reliable services I think... EdNA Moodle groups is diluting the impact that individuals could be having on the global conversation. Its keeping many in Australian education disengaged from the world beyond EdNA... The valuable time of teachers and educationalists would be better spent engaged with the open Network, learning the popular tools and understanding the nature of the Internet so that they may teach people how to learn in an open Network.
And Marty Cielens joined with support for the idea of open dialogue etc, and along with other anonymous comments made the point that its not necessarily the tool (in this case Moodle) that is the problem, but more the policy, practices and perspectives of people using it.

Just this week Mark Tranthim-Fryer, Assistant Manager of EdNA Services posted a response to my post, to which I'd like to keep an open discussion going here. Firstly I think Mark deserves credit for responding to my rave and not choosing to ignore it as most organisations probably would - orgs afraid of the attention, the unpredictable nature of public conversation with unknowns like me, and of course the drag on resources it take to read and respond to these posts. So thanks Mark.

Picture by Kanko'

At first read Mark's response strikes me as a little defensive (understandably), but informative non the less (Though it could do with a few links). Mark gives background of EdNA groups and an account of its current uses. He then extends into talk about EdNA's view of Moodle having interface limitations, and mentioned that this will be looked at more closely by EdNA in the future... Does this suggest that EdNA will be funding further development of Moodle, or looking towards another system? I hope its the first.

But in all, I think it is the rationale behind EdNA groups that Mark listed for us that is of interest.

Following is the rationale for the preferred approach, which seeks to provide a service for both public and restricted community spaces:
  • Extensive consultation with all sectors of the Australian education and training community has strongly endorsed the provision of both open and closed online community spaces
  • Group owners make the decision about the appropriateness of whether their Group is public or private – EdNA stakeholders have considered this pluralism to be a strength of the service
  • The EdNA project does not support and is not funded to provide collaborative tools for use by students, the general public and international communities except under specific criteria
  • Educators have emphatically endorsed the service in its current form – usage has quadrupled in six months from the former EdNA collaborative services it replaced

Picture by Kanko'

On point 1: I must have missed the extensive consultation somewhere, as I don't recall and don't think I know anyone who was included in that consultation - not to say that it didn't happen, but is to say that perhaps it wasn't open and therefore extensive enough. I think we do have the technology to be able to manage very open public consultation processes.

On point 2: While I appreciate that there are many who prefer 'private' online forum, and while I do think most of these preferences are unnecessary and stem from poorly understood fear and loathing of the Internet. There are just as easy and therefore more valuable ways to achieve these privacy settings using the popular tools. For example, I might simply keep this post as a draft and not publish it but give access to my friends at least... or other more innovative ways such as using a Gmail account with group access for file storage and private serving to restricted blogs and wikis for example... (A strategy dawned apon by a colleague Jude Cooke, with more thorough explination in a future post I think).

On point 3: Why is EdNA not funded to support students? I don't think it would cost much more at all to offer storage for 'student' activity. Where is the clear distinction between teacher/trainers and students anyway, should there even be one? I'm not sure if I even qualify for EdNA... being a consultant who is employed only occasionally by education and training organisations, and a learner in many ways, perhaps I'm just general public? Again where is the distinction and need there even be one?

On point 4: If educators have emphatically endorsed the service in its current form, then I am one who does not. It is a curious thing about the usage stats. How might we compare the popularity of EdNA groups with the more informal channels like blogs, eGroups and wikis? But focusing on EdNA Group's apparent popularity - It could be any number of things such as the fame of Moodle lately and EdNA providing a chance for people to get in and try this new LMS, not to mention the fact that the close of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework Community Forums has no doubt left quite a few people high and dry and in need of some measure of connectivity that is comfortably close enough to the format of the AFLF Community forums. And then there's the inevitable if somewhat slow uptake of ICTs in Australian Education that might be simply a matter of good timing for EdNA groups. No doubt EdNA groups are popular, but that is precisely the problem. See my original point in quote above.

Picture by Kanko'

While it may appear to some that I'm arguing for arguments sake alone here (I am after all a self declared SmackDown learner). I think this issue goes to the heart of a more serious educational matter. That being a school and teacher's constant struggle to be relevant, engaging, and accessible to learners. EdNA groups uses a tool that replicates the real (Internet) world, declaring that it insulates its users from 'the noise'. That 'noise' as Mark calls it is actually quite audible information once an adequate network literacy is obtained by the listener. I don't think EdNA groups is helping its users to obtain that adequate and essentially independent network literacy. In my view it is much like an old school, struggling to be relevant, engaging and accessible to learners.

Some of my original points and questions remain unresolved in the initial stages of this exchange, such as:
  • what guarantee can EdNA realistically make that the groups will be available in 2, 5, 10, 50, 100 years?
  • Will they alwayreceiveve the funding and political advocacy they need to keep themselves up to date with technological changes in order to remain connected to global perspectives?
  • Will they be able to keep their replicated communication channels open
  • even in times of financial and political hardship?
  • Or could they go the same way as AFLF Communities, or even just simply lose relevancy as users inevitably gain a more independent network literacy?

Picture by Zemoko

In spite of how it may sound here, I do see great value in EdNA groups in this present day and age. I am engaged in quite a few of the available groups and am part of some interesting and valuable exchanges. But all the while I wish that it all could be going on out in the open network, where there is a greater chance of meeting experts, getting broader more global perspectives, and all together better intergrated (by default) with emerging technologies and the global conversation... if it were, its users would be using tools that intrinsically practice and engage with communication techniques and technology that are more relevantnt, accessible and popular beyond the classroom of today, and into the classless room of tomorrow.

EdNA stands to play an important role in this open and network literate approach. Improving its RSS feeds would be a good start, setting up more opportunities for face to face conferences, training educationalists in open network literacy rather than in the use of Moodle or what ever CMS it is using on the day... helping groups to be independent with their use of ICTs, being an essential aggregator of this dispersed and decentralised network... just some half baked suggestions that could do with some teasing out, and intended to turn this post into more constructive criticism..

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Skype, Gizmo, Google Talk. Use them all!

Yesterday I chucked Google's new Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and Instant Messaging (IM) program Google Talk on my laptop. A couple of weeks ago I did the same with Gizmo. About a year before that was Skype. They all have their benefits, its not an either/or, I need all of them! Here's what I reckon:

There's no doubt that VOIP is a good thing and will certainly get better. I and many others in the free world have been enjoying long conversations with each other, across the globe, for 'free', well, almost free - depending on the type of Internet provision you have. Certainly free when compared to land and mobile phone rates at least... Many of us (in Australia at least) have experienced the frustrating limitations at times with VOIP, bandwidth, drop out, mysterious disconnections... but over all VOIP has a promising future.

Skype (Windows, Mac, Linux and Pocket PC) has been the most popular free VOIP software in my network for over a year now, and many in the education world have taken it up as their first VOIP application. It calls out to landlines and mobiles for cheap, while computer to computer is free. Skype's the only one that can go on a PDA at the moment something to think about in terms of free wireless, mobile communications!... Innovators have been recording Skype sessions, producing very interesting audio of interviews and conversations on any number of topics, and very easily creating valuable learning resources. But successfully recording with Skype is a heart ache of an exercise. What should be very easy, can turn out to be very difficult! Why Skype does not yet have a record feature in its free version is beyond me.

Enter the Gizmo Project (Windows, Mac, Linux, and open standard). Another VOIP app that calls out to landlines and mobile for cheap while offering computer to computer for free, but it happens to have a very nice little record button in it!! Recording VOIP could not be easier, well maybe it could be... Gizmo records to the .wav format which is fine, but MP3 is what we need. Because Gizmo uses open standands it is apparently compatible with Google Talk which I'll get to in a bit. A big down side about Gizmo though is that it doesn't currently have an Instant Messaging feature. IM is pretty important, especially if for what ever reason your voice session drops out, you can revert to IM to work out the problem. Looking into the Gizmo forums reveals that a version with IM enabled is probably only moments away.

Now there's Google Talk (Windows only but open standard). What Google's plans are is a mystery (as always). But safe is to say that what ever Google touches seems to signal a revolution in some way or another. Why Google would release a VIOP/IM app when the market is clearly drenched with VOIP/IM options already is an interesting question/signal. Perhaps there is a clue in this article... Google Watch have no view on it yet...
Google Talk is pretty nice, especially if you are already a Gmail user as it synchs with Gmail and adds a few features like a pop up notification when a new email comes in.

So as you can see, each of these VOIP options do different things well. So I settle on the attitude that I may as well have them all and use the one most appropriate at the time. So if someone wants to contact me on Skype, no worries. If that person wants to record an interview with me then we just hope over to Gizmo, no probs. And if a revolution is around the corner with Google Talk, I'm ready. And while I'm ready, I have a nice little enhancement to my Gmail.

Its not a matter of which one do I use.. they all work in a very similar way, so may as well get them all.

Post note: Skype goes open platform

Skype, the pioneering Global Internet Communications Company, which offers free high-quality phone calls to anyone with an Internet connection, is preparing to mark its second anniversary next week by opening up its platform to anyone who wants to integrate Skype’s presence and instant messaging services into their website or application. By opening up Skype’s platform to the web, it will now be simple for anyone to connect to Skype’s fast growing member base, which has already passed more than 51 million people in just 2 years.

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Protopage. Ultra simple personal start page!

Sean Fitzgerald likes to Skype text me when ever I'm online! I swear the guy never sleeps. I can hardly get any work done when Sean's around - its a good thing too, otherwise I'd miss some of the amazing links he sends me.

Just tonight he sent me Protopage...

the first thing I noticed was the clean and attractive interface, then I noticed the rather unusual interactions I was navigating, and just when I was about to give up and save it for another never day, I realised how perfect this service was for me. In the space of 20 minutes I now have an attractive and extremely easy to update home page. I have added links, created a portfolio, quick search box... basically drawn everything I currently have out there on the network into one spot. It was so easy too! You simply must have a go!

And if that wasn't enough, then Sean goes and mentions Flock! The revolutions just keep on coming! My head's gunna pop!

Friday, August 19, 2005

BOOK: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer

From Kevin Kelly's very cool blog, a book worth having on the shelf, perhaps even reading!
What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer

Review from Publishers Weekly as quoted on Amazon:
Since much of the research behind the development of the personal computer was conducted in 1960s California, it might seem obvious that the scientists were influenced by the cultural upheavals going on outside the lab. Very few people outside the computing scene, however, have connected the dots before Markoff's lively account. He shows how almost every feature of today's home computers, from the graphical interface to the mouse control, can be traced to two Stanford research facilities that were completely immersed in the counterculture. Crackling profiles of figures like Fred Moore (a pioneering pacifist and antiwar activist who tried to build political bridges through his work in digital connectivity) and Doug Engelbart (a research director who was driven by the drug-fueled vision that digital computers could augment human memory and performance) telescope the era and the ways its earnest idealism fueled a passion for a computing society. The combustive combination of radical politics and technological ambition is laid out so convincingly, in fact, that it's mildly disappointing when, in the closing pages, Markoff attaches momentous significance to a confrontation between the freewheeling Californian computer culture and a young Bill Gates only to bring the story to an abrupt halt. Hopefully, he's already started work on the sequel. Agent, John Brockman.(Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Michael Nelson points to the Smackdown Learning Method on Creating Passionate Users. I gotta say, I'm itching to try it out! Smackdown (what a great name for a learning method!) explains why I'm always stiring for a fight! Its good for my learning (and others).
FlickrFight might be a good way to introduce a Smackdown in class.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Importing photos, drawing, and basic animation in Flash

I've started teaching a small group up here in sequential art and animation.
We decided that knowing how to import photos into Flash would be useful, as well as basic drawing and animation.
So I knocked up this screencast to support next Monday night's class. It goes through the steps of importing a photo, using the drawing tools to trace the photo image, adding colour to the line drawing, and creating a basic animation on top of the line drawing.

So grabe the PDF and the MP3 here that will introduce you to this process in Flash. (Right click the next two links and save them to your folder).
  1. Photos and drawing in Flash demonstration for print - 540KB PDF
  2. Photos and drawing in Flash demonstration for audio - 3.3 Meg MP3

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Free Culture!

Free Culture Presentation

Watch and listen to this. Think free and open courseware. Nuf said!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

ELGG. Another great learning system!

Jess Duggan from Edinburgh UK, brought ELGG to my attention this morning. Even though I had been reading an ELGG blog for the past week, I didn't realise it was part of this project!

So I've managed to have a little look around and it looks pretty good. Its a new learning system, yep! that's right! another one! But unlike almost all the others, this one gets a few ticks from me. Its up to date with all the trendy stuff, and it meets the criteria:
  • It is free (and open source)
  • And it looks pretty easy...
  • It is available as a web based system (hosted) so we don't have to buy and install servers... but I have a bad feeling that the hosted option is not free :(
So, at first glance this looks like the right one for this month... stay tuned though. Take a look at the Breeze demos of using ELGG and decide for yourself.

ELGG is just another reason why we shouldn't be adopting 'systems' and instead be working with what's already out there. Because like it or not, the moment you have all your staff trained up in the use of 'selected system' a new and better one pops up! In the end I'm more than happy with my bitsa system. It works better than all of them and is a hell of a lot more flexible. So while the educational institutions keep locking themselves into a one does all system, I'm free as a bird waiting to hear anything on the perfect learning management system...

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Tagging for collaboration - new screencast

At long last I've managed to wip up another screencast. This one's a little more advanced, talking about the combination of tagging, RSS, and wikis to generate a collaborative resource such as the Austafe presentation page.

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Tagging for collaboration

Its been a while, but here's a demo on using a web based favourite service, tagging, RSS and wikis to collaboratively build an online resource.

Get the PDF - 700KB
Get the MP3 - 2.2meg

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Going for the Samsung Grant

A little under a week ago I posted a list of funding opportunities with a number of ideas for bringing digital literacy into the community. A couple of people have taken me up on one of those ideas and we are working towards an application to the Samsung Digitall Hope initiative...

The basic idea so far:

People in Australia who have the finances to own and run a reliable computer and broadband network connection, and who also have a safe and supportive home environment including a family member or friend who is network literate and willing to assist - are people with considerable advantages in Australia's increasingly network reliant economy. Many young people in Australia do not have these advantages and are as a result experiencing a widening social divide and disconnection with that economy.

This project seeks to address this divide through an innovative approach to access provisioning and skills sharing. We aim to establish community support for free wireless 'hotspots'; distribute wireless enabled mobile phones and PDA's to young individuals; and teach how to use mobile devices to create and access media and communicate freely on wireless networks.

We believe that wireless enabled mobile devices - coupled with free wireless 'hotspots' in areas that suit the movements of young people, better meets the needs of young people in terms of portability, mobility and ease of use, 24/7 access, the potential for the development of a personal affiliation with the technology, and a significant reduction in the cost to engage in network communications.

With suitable teaching in the effective use of the devices, including how to create audio recordings, photos, and videos; how to manage personal websites and distribute and share their own media; and how to communicate freely through VOIP, IM, and email; we are certain that the participants will be excited by the possibilities and willing to own and engage with the technology. We aim to make sure through this innovative approach, that young people who are normally at a disadvantage with technology are not just 'given access' but are significantly empowered to a point where they are at an advantage with the technology and inspired by it.

That's the concept at this stage... any comments or advice would be appreciated.

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Tag clouds making research fun

Konrad Glogowski posts a good idea for the use of tag cloud visualising software.

Above is a screen grab of my tag cloud, using to visualise my account. I hadn't realised how much energy I had spent tagging resources for the AusTAFE conference!

Before reading Konrad's post the best use I could come up with for tag clouding was to help formulate a sentence about myself for a job application! Konrad's idea to use tag cloud software in class is a nice one.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Some of us are Digital Pioneers

Joan Vinall-Cox recommended reading Konrad Glogowski blog post Digital Pioneers... so I did. What a beauty! Konrad adds a quietly powerful voice to the discussion around new 'digital' literacies, proposing in his title an alternative view to the idea of digital immigrant/native.
Lawrence Lessig says that creativity and innovation always builds on the past. This is exactly what we're doing when we introduce our children to the digital world. Our role as educators, to paraphrase Lessig, is to ensure that the past, the linear, visual mode of thinking give rise to but does not limit the creativity and the energy of emerging technologies. This can happen only if we recognize that we cannot impose the old upon the new just as we cannot create the new in a vacuum. It is our job to ensure that our students acquire the skills necessary to intelligently share their views, whether it's in a wiki, an every-day conversation, or a traditional five-paragraph essay. We need to ensure, as Prensky suggests, that they learn both the legacy and future content. To do that, we need to acquire the skills of digital pioneers, we need to remix and feed forward.

While I couldn't help wading into the generational generalisation war last week, Konrad offers a more considered account, drawing from a good range of voices.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

Break down the (fire) wall!!


On the importance of teaching people how to learn for themselves, and in relation to the idea that graffiti is OK, I'd like to draw attention to the increasing ridiculousness (in my view) of the use of firewalls and network security in educational organisations.

Ever since I started working in education, firewalls and network security have been the bane of my existence! Every time I have wanted to do something innovative, different, or just experimental the same old endorsed paranoia always applies. Teachers can't install software to try out, not even popular free and open software without first getting admin rights (which could be never). Students can just forget it! And then there's what you can and can't see on the Internet, according to some robot policing what students and teachers are looking at.

Recently I sent an email to the TALO eGroup with a link to Banksy's latest stencil work on that recent wall that separates Israel from Palestine. Many in the TALO eGroup have to work under the iron curtain of education networks and it didn't take long for one member to write back saying that he had been blocked access to the site, with the robot classifying it as crime! But as that TALO member said,
Had a look from outside the firewall – and think the site is really thought-provoking with some great images.

And then another responded,
When working inside an Institute, I was blocked from refugee action sites during the height of the children overboard/woomera actions. Also heard the wall is a hassle for nursing teachers, as female health sites can be difficult to access. Aaah, the vagaries of keyword based gate-keepers and net-nannies.

And yet another in the space of 5 minutes!
I just got this spam below through to me at work...I know there areobviouslyy different processes at play here....but kinda weird when cant look up an apartment but can get plenty of support with life enhancement. Emailreceivedd at 1210 today: You know you need it. The longer and thicker you are, the better everyone involved will be. Don't delay on the world's best solution for your problem. Make "it" work like a king today. Up-size it.
What is this beast of a thing clamping down on our work, our freedoms, our access, and failing where it was most needed?

Lately I have been keeping a phone line in my bag for when I visiting those poor people locked behind the curtain. I don't even bother using their network when I arrive, I just pluggin to a spare phone line somewhere and use my dialup account to bypass the network. But sooner or later we have to stand up to this or it will becomeirreversiblyy worse.

So I've started a little bit of graffiti of my own on this wall. Anyone else who has some funny pictures, comics or what ever about institutional lock down, please save them to a flickr account and tag them "accessDETnied"

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South Africa!

South Africa is blowing me away! First I saw the entire curriculum of the SA in a wiki - with editing enabled! Now I see the free high school science texts being put out by the Free Software Foundation (note. Link goes to Savannah, a project of the FSF).
So far they have high school texts for physics, chemistry, mathematics, life sciences (biology) and computer literacy. All are available as a wikibook and as PDFs for printing. I loaded the maths and physics PDFs and they are very straight forward, clearly laid out, and from what I've read - easily comprehended. Indeed one of the project's stated objectives was to:
To provide a text that is easy to read and understand even for second-language English speakers
I wonder if anyone in Australia will attempt to map these texts to one of the State curriculums here, given that these texts are licensed to be freely copied,, distributed or modified? Many schools in the Northern Territory have students who speak English as a second or third language, and considering the relative size and therefore (I'd expect) flexibility of the NT education department, I reckon someone up there should/could give it a burl!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Getting back to accessibility and usability - we should never leave it!

An interesting paper by Kevin Carey titled Accessibility: The Current Situation and New Directions in the 44th Issue of Ariadne (A journal I had never heard of before Steven Downes pointed to it). In it Kevin makes some interesting observations and reflections, such as:
...I have already used the term 'functional gap' to describe the inadequate transactional outcome between digital information systems and people. I use this term most deliberately because the public policy analysis of why people have problems with digital information systems, notably those dependent upon the PC, has been predominantly anthropocentric. If only, politicians say, we could get alienated people to master word processing, the world would be a better place.

Regardless of whether or not this is true, the much more crucial issue is why these people have problems with PC/Windows bundles when they have no problems using VCR equipment, navigating the Sky Electronic Programme Guide, manipulating mobile phone settings, using SMS or, in a different field, passing a driving test, understanding the soccer off-side rule and finding items in supermarkets.

We should see this functionality gap as arising because of two major factors: the lack of skills or incentive on the part of the human user on the one hand, and the deficiency in the design of the system and its user interface on the other. There is, to cite an apparently trivial example, something perverse about a system which requires the activation of the 'on' switch to turn it off. Computer users with an incentive to master a system, easily forget its perversity until it either spontaneously modifies itself or an accidental operation is performed where in either case the correction is not susceptible to rational investigation. In a fundamental sense, almost universally overlooked by analysts and lobbyists who have an obsession with skills development, training in the use of systems is a cost shift from the producer to the consumer; the better the design, the more intuitive the functionality, the lower the degree of skill and training which are required to close the gap between system and user.

An interesting, if perhaps a little dense writing style making many profound points.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Grants for bringing digital literacy out into the community

I'm beginning to see that a lot of energy is spent here in TALO, and everywhere else on getting teachers up to speed with technology. Any 30 - 60 year old in a possition of teaching over recent years has had quite a few opportunities open to them for gaining a digital literacy. But our younger ones are by and large missing out. Much of that professional development money is not reaching the high schools, leaving many teachers and young learners in the dark ages when it comes to access, skills and knowledge of ICTs. In the end its the kid's learning and our collective cultural development that looses out.

Unless young people are privelged enough to have a computer and broadband network connection in their home, a supportinve home environment, and a family member or friend who is digitally literate, they'll be leaving home and school with very limited experience in the read write Internet. Schools simply don't have the time or resources to offer the access that many kids need to develop a worthwhile digital literacy.

Everyone needs affordable and reliable connectivity, access to technology, digital literacy, space and opportunities to develop skills, appreciation, and their own digital identities these days. (Tertiary) Teachers have, and continue to get such opportunities, and many now enjoy the benefits of free and uninterrupted access to the network, a reliable and serviced desktop, and access to continuing professional development. But they are priveleged. Apart form public libraries and locked down school labs, many young people don't enjoy such reliable access and support. I certainly know more digitally disinterested and illiterate young people than I do older people, and its not necessarily only due to having no access, it has a lot to do with not having a supportive or interested local community too.

So I'm shifting focus. I want to try and win some money from various sources, and set up opportunities for young kids to catch up with their teachers.

So here's a list of private and public grants I've found thanks to Mathew Hutchen's initial help. I've gone through many to arrive at this list. If anyone wants to join me in this effort I'd appreciate the help. Here goes:

"to capitalise on the unique qualities of Sony and contribute to the advancement of the Australian community by assisting its youth and fostering their talents."

I'd like to bring money into the local youth initiatives up here in the mountains, and out around Lithgow to set up and show young people how to blog, moblog, podcast, and develop digital audio visuals... etc. What could I call it? building digital identities?...

Sony says:

"Institutions or individuals seeking support from the Sony Foundation Australia must provide a written proposal including the following:

· A brief outline or description of the proposed activity/beneficiaries of the grant (please note that the Foundation will only support projects / organisations that specifically benefit Australian youth - 25 years and under)
· Details of the organisation / project
· Listing of major supporters and current funding sources
· Operating budget of the organisation
· Details of how funds will be administered
· Goals to be achieved
· List of benefits provided to the Sony Foundation
· Registered charitable status details (please provide registered charity number and or confirmation of tax deductible gift status under Sub Division 30-B of the ITAA 1997)

Samsung Digitall Hope seeks to bridge digital divides in South East Asia - including Australia. Their site is pretty out of date, but they (did) have quite a bit of money for the mission. 1.65 US million actually!
I'd like to score a few Samsung D500 phones (on plans) for a bunch of young kids to get moblogging and creating/sharing/remixing audio for listening on the phones.
Samsung say: "The new umbrella theme for 2005 is "imagine a brighter tomorrow today." Aimed at enriching lives with technology, Samsung Digitall Hope extends accross seven Asian countries - Austrlia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam." [In Australia, Indonesia and Malaysia, disadvantaged youth will be the beneficiaries.]

The Regional Arts Fund
" an Australian Government initiative supporting the arts in regional and remote Australia through providing funding for artform (including cross-artform) projects, multi-media projects and, in exceptional circumstances, festivals. It is designed to support arts and cultural activities that are sustainable, have long term cultural, economic and social benefits, develop partnerships and cultural networks, provide skills development opportunities and contribute to the wellbeing of individuals and communities."

I'd like to introduce a few community art groups to blogging, audio blogging, and wikis. Skills in these areas of ICTs could simplify their news and announcements, enrich their online media developments and communications, and improve their collaborative writting efforts for grants etc. If this scope is too broad, then focus could be brought onto a particular group, such as the local live music scene up here in Katoomba. I think it would be valuable to start recording live music as it happens up here, and offer it up in promotional podcasts.

Regional Arts Funding is available to:
an organisation / agency / group; legally constituted and currently operational; be adequately insured under Workers' Compensation legislation or other applicable law, and public liability to the value of at least $10m. Be based in the regions as defined above... If you do not meet the above criteria, contact the Funding and Research Officer at RANSW to discuss your project.

Applications close Monday 15 August 2005 for projects commencing after 1 January 2006.

The Young Film Makers Fund is one I'm particularly interested in, though expect there would be quite a bit of competition.

"Grants of up to $30,000 are available to NSW residents aged eighteen to thirty-five for production or post-production costs. There is no restriction on format or type of film and the YFF has funded short dramas, documentaries, animation and experimental film projects."

Looking through the FAQ it seems that the YFF is flexible enough to accept almost any proposal including one to show young people how to make their own movies and distribute them on the Internet. I reckon a bit of digital story telling, moblogging, video making and distribution through Creative Commons and the Inernet Archive would go well... applications close on Monday 17 October 2005.

The Scanlon Foundation's grant applications are not taken until February 2006, with funding available in June that year. Their funding principles are:

  • We seek to fund projects which take a new approach to problems, support the evaluation of their trial, and if successful, their replication in other locations.
  • In seeking to maximise the value of our grants, we try to address the causes of problems, rather than treat the symptoms. Supporting social research is fundamental to this approach.
  • We want our grants to provide the opportunity for people from culturally diverse backgrounds to be empowered to participate more fully in society.
  • We try to fund programs that will continue to have an impact well beyond the period of our support. Will the grant be effective in bringing about structural change that will be significant (within its context) in ten years time?
  • We encourage applications from organisations that are working with others in their field. Our grants have greater impact when combined with support from other sources. These might include other trusts and foundations, government, business, and volunteers. We are very happy to be one of a number of supporters of a program.

I have saved a number of other funding opportunities with the tag "fundingsource" but will probably have to create more specific tags than that soon. But if anyone else is using and has links to funding opportunities along the lines I'm speaking of (bringing digital literacy out into the community), it'd be great if you added this tag to them or commented them in this blog. Apart from that, I think the TALO eGroup should start becoming more active in announcing alternative funding opportunities to each other.

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EdNA Groups or the Open Network

In 2003, Marty Cielens gave a talk on free and open source software in education at the Networking03 conference in Leura. Among the many tools and resource Marty overviewed that day, the "Course Management System" Moodle was one he mentioned quite a bit. I was really inspired by Marty's work, and if anyone it was he that set me on the rocky path to enlightenment that I'm on today.

Marty's a big user of Moodle and I wouldn't be surprised if he was seminal in getting Education Network Australia (EdNA) using Moodle to facilitate online group communications. But I'm not happy with it. Here's part of my reason why:

To use an EdNA Group, your organisation must be not-for-profit and non-commercial in the education and training sector, or a Registered Training Organisation (RTOs). School education students are not able to use these services.

EdNA Groups are not available to individual users, only to groups or organisations.

But my real reasons have to do with the ease and appropriateness of use that the use of Moodle offers EdNA groups. Those who know me, know that I don't think much of Learning Management Systems, Content Management Systems or Course Management Systems ... and as great as it is to see Australian education showing interest in open source, and as much as I hope that will influence free and open courses and help bring Australian education into the gift economy, I think EdNA is perpetuating bad practices in online ed, generating lock in for its users and lock out for its would-be users, if someone was to take that quote I noted above too seriously.

I've been posting into EdNA groups for a while now. I even facilitate one for a group of RTOs looking into network tools for online training provision. I can't say I'm enjoying the experience either. Its difficult to handle, doubles up on my normal way of communicating online, and confuses new users.

I don't like posting in the EdNA Group forums but I have to.
I keep this blog (among others), I facilitate on eGroup, I collaborate in wikis, and I subscribe to newsfeeds from all around. I like it out in the open, its sunny, its rewarding and its vastly interesting. But my local peers are being attracted into EdNA groups, many of them closed forums, and are missing their opportunity to start up a dialogue with the open International Network. So instead of me reading the points of view of my local peers on individual blogs, or open eGroups, I'm having to join and log in to EdNA groups, trawl for new additions, join a group and post there in that tiny one off location so that my contributions can be heard. I'd much rather post to my blog with the confidence that there is a growing awareness and use of blogs in Australian education, and that more than my target audience will see it. But people only have so much time in a day, so they go where the crowd is at the moment, and that's unfortunately in EdNA Moodle groups.

How long will the EdNA groups last? I mean it was just a bit of a bummer when the Australian Flexible Learning Communities shut down. All those contributions I and many others made... where did they go, where's the record? Lucky the Internet Archive's - WayBackMachine - caught some of it! Moving the AFLF community forums across to the EdNA Moodle groups was not as easy as some might make out. Its a whole new CMS! A whole new login, a whole new everything... and just when I was getting used to that other CMS that the AFLF Community was using.

Nope! Its better if we use more global and reliable services I think. Not only are the best for free, but their social networking software is state of the art and quickly links you with other practitioners with similar interests, the possibilities for shared individual aggregation of content go way beyond what Moodle could possibly keep up with, and what the small EdNA network could hope to achieve.

I know, many people don't want to blog, wiki, eGroup or what ever... They prefer the 'security' and relative privacy of an EdNA Moodle Group, even if it means they're walking around with the lights off! I dunno really what to say to that, other than everyone is welcome, everyone is needed, the more the better.

EdNA Moodle groups is diluting the impact that individuals could be having on the global conversation. Its keeping many in Australian education disengaged from the world beyond EdNA, and is preventing people developing a confidence in their own abilities and opinions in the open Network. The use of an CMS to facilitate communication perpetuates a protectionist thinking that you need an LMS to build online learning and communities, and stifles the opportunity for Australian education to build an early presence in the open Network. The valuable time of teachers and educationalists would be better spent engaged with the open Network, learning the popular tools and understanding the nature of the Internet so that they may teach people how to learn in an open Network.

End of preach, you may be seated.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Reflections on AUSTAFE2005 and our presentation on Networked Learning

sean moblogging an image of leigh

Our presentation and related efforts at the AUSTAFE2005 conference went really well. We had a pretty big audience in front of whom we talked about and demonstrated wikipedia, creative commons, RSS, blogging, audio blogging and podcasting, moblogging and the new literacy generally, with a few other things to do with freedom along the way.

The set up for our 30 minutes of fame was pretty cool too. We had three projection screens. One at the front and two to the sides. While I talked to the one at the front, the others would load up relevant screens to the side, and vice-versa. I'd say it was a pretty immersive kinda show for everyone who was there.

The audience was made up of TAFE big wigs (managers, directors, privileged staff, etc). Quite a few came up afterwards to congratulate us, some saying we were the highlight of the conference. Of course those sort of compliments are a good sign, but apart from creating an enigma around ourselves, did our message hit home?

In the end I think most of the audience were simply bewildered, and maybe a few felt sheepish. Certainly everyone understood, but what we were proposing was obviously paradigm shifting stuff and flew in the face of almost everything being practiced in TAFE colleges around Australia. People could see that we were saying most organised educations are heading in completely the wrong direction with regard to understanding the impact of the Internet on learning!

Anyway, Stephan Ridgway and Sean Fitzgerald did a fine job audio recording all the presentations and packing them into a podcast, and we're all in the process of uploading pictures. Anne Paterson, Marcus Ragus and Alex Hayes did an impressive job moblogging the conference, and I'd say Michael Nelson really captured the message with his bit. This presentation was a good opportunity for us to focus our thinking, helping us to understand what we are all doing and how it all fits.

As Stephan said over beers the night before our big 30 minutes. "...This conference is just a junket for people who are otherwise so caught up in the bureaucracy of it all... its a chance for them to get a moment away from all that, get an over view... but afterwards they back in it... what we have to say on the day will be just a brief blip on their radar.."

Slightly depressing I know, but realistic. Managers are as much in control of what happens as you or I.

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