Friday, September 30, 2005

LAMS Developing a community

Macquarie Uni recently won a big juicy grant to be the 'official' voice for Open Source in Australia... probably stemming from their good idea to make the Learning Activity Management System open source. I reckon LAMS is a pretty interesting concept that has been done pretty well... but I reckon a lot of things about LAMS.

Anyway, just received an email from Ernie Ghiglione - the LAMS Project Manager, notifying me of the setup of a LAMS community to share ideas and resources about LAMS.

The Community features a number of separate communities based around
different educational sectors and also a LAMS learning sequences
repository where people can share sequences, rate them, comment on them,
etc.. the idea is a bit of "open source teaching"

This is good news for LAMS users.

So if you're an educational org or training provider who's still not convinced that running free and open is a good idea, then LAMS might be the better choice for systemised learning...

MIT getting close to the $100 laptop

Last night Sunshine and I had dinner at Michael and Fran Nelson's house to see their new baby! We spent most of the night talking about how much we need to get off the computers and spend more time in the real world with our families... no sooner had Sunshine and I gotten home, and Michael had sent me an email with the latest news on MIT's $100 laptops! Jeez Mike, you do have it bad.

Images from MIT Media

ITworld recently posted on the progress:

The 500MHz laptop will run a "skinny version" of the open-source Linux operating system. It will have a two-mode screen, so it can be viewed in color and then by pushing a button or activating software switch to a black-and-white display, which can be viewed in bright sunlight at four times normal resolution, according to Negroponte. He estimates the display will cost around $35.

The laptop can be powered either with an AC adapter or via a wind-up crank, which is stored in the housing of the laptop where the hinge is located. The laptops will have a 10 to 1 crank rate, so that a child will crank the handle for one minute to get 10 minutes of power and use. When closed, the hinge forms a handle and the AC cord can function as a carrying strap, according to Negroponte. The laptops will be ruggedized and probably made of rubber, he said. They will have four USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports, be Wi-Fi- and cell phone enabled and come with 1G byte of memory.

Each laptop will act as a node in a mesh peer-to-peer ad hoc network, Negroponte said, meaning that if one laptop is directly accessing the Internet, when other machines power on, they can share that single online connection.

The lab will initially target Brazil, China, Egypt, South Africa and Thailand, according to Negroponte, as well as the U.S. state of Massachusetts, which has just committed to equipping every schoolchild with a laptop. Negroponte hopes to start mass production of some 5 million to 15 million laptops for those markets towards the end of 2006. Come December 2007, he estimated production of the laptops at between 100 million and 150 million, three times the number of annual shipments of commercial laptops.

But MIT's media lab makes it plainly clear that:
Please note: these laptops are not in production. They are not, and will not, be available for purchase by individuals.

WHY THE HELL NOT! Could it be that MIT want to see Governments take responsibility for closing digital divides? Somehow I can't see any Australian Government waking up to this in less than 10 - 15 years! "Linux!", they'll say "we don't support Linux"...

From what I can tell by flicking through the blogs there appears to be nothing but praise and good words about the prospect of a $100 laptop for the kids. I can't wait!! Literally can not wait! There must be some way we could achieve the same here in Australia within 3 - 4 years. It'd probably take longer than that for the MIT ones to reach us.

MIT hints on how they do it:

  1. First, by dramatically lowering the cost of the display. The first-generation machine may use a novel, dual-mode LCD display commonly found in inexpensive DVD players, but that can also be used in black and white, in bright sunlight, and at four times the normal resolution, all at a cost of approximately $35.
  2. Second, we will get the fat out of the systems. Today's laptops have become obese. Two-thirds of their software is used to manage the other third, which mostly does the same functions nine different ways.
  3. Third, we will market the laptops in very large numbers (millions), directly to ministries of education, which can distribute them like textbooks.

We in Australia may not be able to pump them out in the millions, but what will that mean? $200 laptops? Let's get started.

No publicly educated Australian person need be without a laptop by 2007.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

North South East and West

Recently Stephen 'pondered' (vented) on the qualities of management - to which I originally intended to add my voice, but instead was caught by a comment under Stephen's post by Yaozhou, a Chinese based edublogger. I'll hold off on my comments about management for another post, because my experience with Yao Zhou's blog is more important than the never ending trial of management.

Yao Zhou warned in his comment to Stephen after dropping the link to his blog: "(mostly chinese character)", but I wasn't at all put off by that, in fact I was keen to see Yoa Zhou's blog after reading his comment. Thanks to Google's beta version of translation from Chinese (simplified) to English I was able to grasp quite a bit about Yoa Zhou's blog, in particular his/her passion for open dialogue and education:

unexpectedly meets by chance in here, has the reason has the reason.
Broadcasts the guest educates the movement The civilized conflict performs in Iraq, this is humanity's tragedy. East and West civilized need more exchanges, between north and south also need more exchanges. Lets PODCAST, BLOG and RSS leads us to move towards the freedom. (First like this, has point image slogan, later again will change) Podcast Education Movement Podcast, blog and rss will save human being from another clash of civilazation that humiliates every man on this planet, owing to that Failure in WhiteHouse. Let the free dissemination of intelligence to bridge the gap between East and West, South and North.

While the translation may not be crystal clear, its clear enough - in fact reading the rest of the blog is like reading a book of poetry! Only better. I'd love to give it a whirl with a screen reader!
The brief descriptions to links are very handy.

Here's a test link to Google's translation of Yoa Zhoa's blog (hope it works).

I've been thinking for a while now (reminded by Yao Zhou's blog header) that my perspective on online learning is limited to information coming from mainly western sources. When I say 'West', I mean USA, Canada, UK, Australia, NewZealand and some European's confident in writing English. I have none from South East Asia, the Pacific, or East, North, Central Asia... I do have one or two from Africa I just remembered, but they hardly ever post.

While I regret that I cannot read Chinese (can speak a bit if any Mandarin speakers wan't to try a language exchange on GoogleTalk), and even worse still I don't read or speak a language from the South East Asian regions, I do still want to know what is going on there. So if anyone knows of any feeds coming out of the region - broadly to do with online education/communications, please send'm my (and Google Translator's) way.

Last time I put the word out for Australia/NZ voices I got a pretty good response. I'm almost at saturation point with my news reader (actually I'm beyond saturated) but a few good feeds from Asia would easily see some of the less inspired feeds I have, flicked off...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Udell is back, and on GoogleMaps

Jon Udell is back! At long last, with a cool as usual screencast looking at Googlemaps. Hopefully Jon will keep those Udell screencasts coming from now on.

Australian education, state systems, federal nasties

It's not like me to comment on such things, I understand very little of what goes on in the lah lah land of fed and state politics, but this recent press release from Gary Hardgrave strikes me as totally fascist (no surprise I know). In talking about some states here in Australia resisting parts of the national training plan put forward by the current fed government (note there were no links provided to the plan on Gary's press release) Gary's office says:

Those who have signed have shown they are keen to have a modern training system which positively responds to the needs of clients, industry and business.

If the offer is not accepted by 7 October 2005, the Government will have no alternative but to commence development of an alternative funding model for training delivery in those jurisdictions.

Basically sign up or pack up is what he's saying!

I don't think anyone in this country is opposeded to a "modern training system which positively responds to the needs -" (cut out rot words like "clients, industry and business"... society would be good enough Gary, which would include those who don't fit your narrow view of it).

There are other things behind the fed's plan of course, like the individual agreements that will be set up (union busting).

Monday, September 26, 2005

Education, PAR, Illich and Rogers

Was reading up on Participatory Action Research on Wikipedia this evening, when I came across a link to Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society - a text I've been meaning to read for a while now:

Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue's responsibility until it engulfs his pupils' lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education--and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries.

(By Ivan Illich, 1970:para 3)

Then Sean jumped on the GoogleTalk and messaged me to read up on Carl Rogers:

I wish to present some very brief remarks, in the hope that if they bring forth any reaction from you, I may get some new light on my own ideas.

a) My experience is that I cannot teach another person how to teach. To attempt it is for me, in the long run, futile.

b) It seems to me that anything that can be taught to another is relatively inconsequential and has little or no significant influence on behavior.

c) I realize increasingly that I am only interested in learnings which significantly influence behavior.

d) I have come to feel that the only learning which significantly influence behavior is self-discovered, self-appropriated learning.

e) Such self-discovered learning, truth that has been personally appropriated and assimilated in experience, cannot be directly communicated to another.

f) As a consequence of the above, I realize that I have lost interest in being a teacher.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Lawsuit forces Web2 learning strategies

Hardly surprising news, but very significant in my view. The FLOSSE blog in Finland points to a student from Capella University filing a lawsuit against the university for its use of an LMS (WebCT) that the student believes to be inaccessible and therefore discriminatory...

The student who filed the lawsuit, Jeffrey La Marca, says ...

He took courses from Capella as part of a master's program in information-technology-system design. After he completed one quarter at the university, in 2004, the administration installed a new software system, made by WebCT, for managing online courses. Mr. La Marca says he found the new setup confusing and difficult to work with. "It was just a navigational nightmare," he says. "It made it impossible for me to study."

Before the switch, he says, he received A's in the two courses he completed. With the new software in place, he says, he had trouble doing his assignments.

"I have a lot of educational experience, and I have never seen anything like this," says Mr. La Marca, a California resident who had already earned a master's degree in education -- taking traditional courses rather than online ones -- from California State University at San Bernardino. "Something needs to be done immediately about the accessibility to online courses."

Surely it is only a matter of time before the same activism happens here in Australia. Many of us have argued til blue in the face that Learning Management Systems are unusable and inaccessible, and place unnecessary pressure on a student.

When I did my DipEd at Uni of Newcastle a few years ago, at least half my time at the computer labs was spent trying to help my classmates get their head around the LMS. The LMS being used there was Blackboard. About 3 people in that class of around 15 - 20 I reckon dropped out because of the LMS! I believe it had a lot to do with just not being able to handle the LMS on top of everything else about orientating into a uni course, and so not being able to keep up with the very demanding 1 year course. The LMS was unnecessary extra pressure!

So, what's the alternative? Open network learning of course! While there is still a technological hurdle for students to get over, it is more gentle - and what they learn this way can help them learn anywhere! Unlike the LMS model where each institute is using a different platform that does very little towards empowering the student to take control of their online learning.

Here's what I plan to do with my students next term.

  1. Collect emails, faxes numbers and mobile phone numbers from the students.
  2. Explain the open and public communication strategy I intend to use, suggest ways to maintain privacy by using an alias. Get each student to nominate all or some of these contact details to communicate with them about the course.
  3. Set up an email group, an SMS mailing list, and a fax list.
  4. Set up a course blog, and set it to send me an email everytime I post notes and resources.
  5. Using both the audio post feature and the text editor, announce on the blog the first lesson as a face to face orientation day, forward it from my email to the eGroup (can't seem to set it up to do it automatically but is very easy to forward manually), use the SMS list to announce the headline and blog link, and group fax the post to those who rely on fax. Maybe I'll even do a snail mail out seeing as its the first and most important communication.
  6. On the f2f day get feedback on the communication method and make sure everyone understands how the eGroup communication works. Show them the course blog and demonstrate how each week's resources will be available in both audio and text (plus what ever media happens to be used each week - loaded to Explain how each week's blog post will be forwarded to the eGroup, with headlines to SMS, and fax if need be.
  7. Assist each student in setting up their own blog/learning journal to keep their own notes, links and pictures. Show how to audio and moblog.
  8. In the next week - subscribe the eGroup and each student blog to my Bloglines, and set up a tag for the class, adding its feed to my bloglines as well.
  9. Post to the course blog the public Bloglines for the class and tag page, and announce the next face to face lesson. Forward to eGroup, SMS and fax.
  10. At the next face to face, review the course blog, and the workings of the eGroup (and student emails), SMS and fax; review the use of student blogs; introduce the tag page and explain how can be used to save good links and build a class resource; Have each student set up a account and save their blog to the class tag; Demo how can be used to find good links and have each student find a good link to add to the class tag; Demo how RSS works into Bloglines and have each student set up a bloglines account and subscribe to each other's blogs and the class delicious tag resource. Demonstrate again how bloglines can be used to track each other's work. (BTW each class session goes for 3 hours in case you were worried)
  11. 2 weeks later [comment: this class runs 3 hrs, one night a week, for 9 weeks] the class should be ready to start learning how to learn about the topic they have enrolled in. Each week I will post the week's notes and resources to the course blog, send it to the eGroup, remind everyone via SMS, and fax out the sheet if need be.

Many of the students will still be very unsure about how blogs, social bookmarks, and web feeds can work for them, so I'll need continue to offer face to face support each week in the context of what and how they're learning. But with the online options, the other students have the option to work flexibly.

The main point in the post is that there are viable and better alternatives to the LMS model. This strategy does not impact too much on my workload, it simply extends the reach of my normal lesson preparation and notes. The methods being used are more universal in that students (an me for that matter) can use the communication methods in many different contexts. The LMS model can only be used in the context of the organisation offering the LMS!

I should add of course that my doing this has cost the organisation I work for very very little. If the SMS and fax support continues to be needed, then that cost would amount to less than the photocopy bill in an average class. I haven't added pressure on already over stretched internal IT services, and instead used an array of free services that achieve the flexible learning goal more effectively.

For more insights to this model check out the links that Sean and I point to in our recent presentation Knowledge Sharing with Distributed Networking Tools

Friday, September 23, 2005

The TALO swap/meet Oct 21 - 22

The Teach and Learn Online swap/meet is coming up!

This is a great opportunity to visit the Blue Mountains, Australia and meet a great bunch of people at the same time.

The TALO swap/meet was originally suggested on the TALO eGroup as a chance for the 92 members to get together and share skills and ideas.

Now the Western Sydney Institute of TAFE NSW has offered to host the event at their Blue Mountains College - Wentworth Falls campus.

The event is free and open (of course) and will run over 2 days (October 21 - 22).

Friday will be chock full of discussions and workshops and Saturday is open for bushwalks, visiting lookouts and waterfalls, going shopping, or continuing on with more focused TALO biz ;) There will be facilities available to accommodate whatever groups decide.

Visit the TALO swap/meet wikispace and add your name to the guest list, and/or suggestions for topics.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Think free - thin client, application web servers!

Another web application here, but this one's a ripper!

Martin Whatman from the TALO eGroup alerted me to ThinkFree, and it looks pretty good!

ThinkFree® is the leader in next-generation productivity solutions for platform independent, anytime, anywhere-computing. ThinkFree usability extends beyond PCs and is perfect for Internet-connected devices, including thin client and mobile computing platforms.

The award-winning ThinkFree Office is a Microsoft® Office compatible application suite comprised of word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation graphics software-all usable online and off.

ThinkFree Office is automatically installed and upgraded over the Web and features integrated, Internet-based file sharing and storage as well as end-to-end security. Built for cross-platform functionality, ThinkFree Office is compatible with Windows, Macintosh, Unix and Linux systems.

You get all that? I've tried it out, and while the Java application takes a while to load, once there it's a fully featured office suite!! The thin client world is almost here!!

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Emerging Technologies - A framework for thinking all right!

Sean FitzGerald (my news aggregator with a heart beat) recently made notice to the TALO egroup a rather important document by for the ACT DET - Emerging Technologies - A framework for thinking.

This is a hefty document that couldn't have come at a better time for me as I sweat it out over that critique I'm writing. It's pretty good actually with the exec summary stating:

Positioning the ACT DET to take advantage of emerging technologies will require acknowledgement of the need for cultural change and processes to support and manage it. Students today are ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. Many devices described in this report are banned by schools. A shift in culture is crucial to ensure that students’ uses of these devices are embraced as educational opportunities and that they become tools of the trade, rather than be considered contraband.

Many students are entering their school or college with multiple literacies that go beyond text, and this trend will strengthen over the coming years. Educators will need to acknowledge and recognise these new literacies, and build upon and extend them.

The success of such an approach will require that teachers/tutors have access to professional development opportunities to develop confidence in the use of educational technology, as well as informal support environments of peers.

... Use of emerging technologies, delivery devices and new methods of content distribution will require a flexible, simple and open digital rights management (DRM) regime that enables and supports sharing and exchange of content rather than blocking or limiting it. Cross-jurisdictional agreements on rights arrangements and trusted services agreements are precursors of content and data sharing across systems.
Jeez I could quote the whole summary really! It goes on to talk about open source software, web services, budget realities, repository based sharability (o-ho!), Wireless futures, and even a dot point list of "high level business requirements".

The 110 page document is very informative, but writen in a tone where action strategies could be left very much open to interpretation. It speaks the old language of content management, repositories and digital rights management, but refers to newer models of openness and network engaged... while i can understand why the document has this tone (it was written by mutliple authors in for the ACT DET after all) it is the room for interpretations by the broader readership I worry about. Will those who are well entrenched with closed, proprietry, top down, content centric models hear only the words that support their model, and ignore the newer words about open source, open networks, student and teacher empowerment, cultural change etc? I guess that's where us on the ground come in. This document gives our efforts more credibility I suppose. Opening just a few more doors to the ideas of change.

Section 5. The environmental context for emerging technologies, is the more interesting section for me:

The implementation and use of technology cannot be divorced from its environment, that is, the governance and security; political and legal; social and cultural; educational and technology environments that are already in place.

being someone who likes to think he keeps track of emerging technologies (enough to get by at least), its the educational, cultural and social context in which it comes into being that perplexes me to frustration. This document helps me to clarify my undersanding of it by looking at:

Security - stating that a balance needs to be found between rights and freedoms, and access control and security. The document makes an interesting point on security with regard to portable devices and wireless connectivity...

My thinking on security tends towards a model where all content and records that should be held and passed securely be done so at a security level different to content that is needed for educational reasons. When it comes to Internet access for educational purposes, I think it is simpler to provide open access free from liability than it is to try and filter usage to 'appropriate levels'. In cases of child protection, I think a teacher should have the power to turn on and off filtering services depending on the nature of the class they are working with.

Policy - The usual encouragement for the people to get involved!

Digital Rights and Intellectual property - the big nastey! I was very pleased to see that straight off the bat, the Creative Commons licenses get mentioned. The report describes CC in some length then goes on to mention that the complexity of the current system is causing frustration among teachers, implying that CC simplifies all that. That's great, and confirms my belief that the CC licenses are the most appropriate tools for managing public educational content and helping to simplify things for teachers. The big and unresolved issue of the use and misuse of licensed software gets a mention also.

Equity and Access - Acknowledging that ICTs could inflame social divides, the report recomends that:

The education system needs to recognise the learning skills that students have developed in their media-rich out-of-school environment, and learn to build upon the capability of the community. Schools have always done this with extra-curricular activities such as music and sport.

While I think its interesting to look at ICTs as an extra-curricular activity, I think its a little reckless to believe that people already have the opportunity to access ICTs out of school (be it at home or at a public venue of some sort). I don't think this does enough to take into account the various other things that prevent access such as distance, community cultural support and attitudes, not to mention the idea that library services aparently offer ICT services anywhere near what is required... maybe in Canberra they are, but not from where I'm sitting!

Cultural change (students)- While the intention may be there, the report makes the mistake of referencing Prensky's idea of digital imigrant and native. Prensky is a North American, and someone who I think is familiar with a particular class of North American. Australia and its class structures are a different matter, and I don't think Prensky's ideas work here. I'd sooner acknowledge Australian cultural stereotypes of laid back, sport loving, outdoor freaks as something that is preventing effective uptake of ICTs in Australia...

But I think the intentions of the report are sound - to argue for a need for cultural change within our educational organisations to embrace ICTs. Can't argue with that! And perhaps Prensky's ideas will be more the case here in 5 years anyway. Start our cultural change now, and we'll have a bloody good education system by then, ready for the Australian digital natives to come through...

Cultural change (educational community) - They get networked learning!:

Through the communications capabilities of emerging technologies, education communities extend beyond the institution’s grounds into parent communities, the general community, into industry, libraries, museums, and the global community.
Cultural change (teachers) - Calls for the need for more sustained professional development opportunities, but I think there is a cultural change needed within PD units! I think PD units would do well to stop focusing so much on sponsored proprietry based software training and start training teachers in more general digital and network skills such as file formats, file sizing manipulation, better searching, better resource management... in short balancing all the proprietry training already done with free and open software alternatives would help!

Cultural change (leaders) - Another one that is too brief. Leaders need to start using ICTs beyond email as well! Its one thing to reward teachers for experimenting with new practices with ICTs, but to leave it at that is a cop out. Unless managers and directors are actually using ICTs more effectively themselves how are they going to relate to the new practices and comprehend truly innovative work? Also, giving teachers the freedom to install software, would go a long way towards an innovative ICT environment.

moving right along..

Open source software - Its great to see open source software getting a plug, but only in the sense of the reduced license costs. The authors neglected to mention the potential increase in capacity the sector (especially in the ACT) might gain in being able to work with source code... they make a scary reference to open source for 'ePortfolios' - why I dunno, they could have found a better example. Sounds to me like the authors are not too experienced with desktop open source applications... I wonder if they've ever used Open Office, Linux, or GIMP? They need to make a distinction between desktop applications and server applications by the looks. Where's the reference to the Asia-Pacific Development Information Program e-Primer on free and open source in education?? I know you can't have them all, but not having this one is a big oversight in my view!

Emerging Technologies Section

Things are starting to look not so great for this report. There's a very odd depiction of the concept 'web services' with quite an alarming illustration of how the authors see the whole eLearning thing interweaving. Their view is that the Internet feeds into 'trusted' sources like EdNA, TLF, and VLORN? those trusted orgs then produce web services (my guess is that it is content filtered and sorted for delivery to the deliverer... the deliverer then coughs it up based on their cuuriculum - the learners interface with delivery devices with no connection to a broader network! Some sort of crazy top down reenactment of the classroom by the looks!

I now have a very bad taste in my mouth about this. This paper could be the wolfe in sheeps clothing that I worry about. Embracing the new ideas of open networked learning and making them fit into old models of content management and delivery. No mention of connectivism, real life learning, or engagement... please God let it come good again...

I skipped everything about standards as I could see it being related to sharable learning object concepts and repositories. For me its simple - if its digital, licensed creative commons, and has a URL that can be linked directly to, then I can reuse it... a real world, sharable learning object. As for sequencing the 'object' it'll always be up to the learner or the teacher in what ever context they are needing it in.

The section on technical infrastructure is great! Very informative towards wireless technologies and the things needing consideration. Even power line access gets in which shows the author is really onto it I reckon. It gives a big list of case studies of educational orgainsations around the world experimenting with wireless, making a firm point that wireless is the future. Sadly, free community wireless initiatives didn't get a mention.

The part about Web-based Administrative Tools and Applications Infrastructure freaks me out for reasons I've already expressed here and in the past (centralisation, control, monolithic etc).

For example the bit about LMSs starts out with a very strange sentence:
The delivery of quality e-learning programs from a technology perspective relies on effective Learning Management System (LMSs) software applications.
"from a technology perspective" - does that strike anyone else as odd?

Then there's this:
Many of our educational activities in future will take place within virtual classrooms, also known as virtual learning environments.
Hell, I've almost lost motivation to read on! There's stuff about ePortfolios - I don't get ePortfolios at all!

I'm going to stop picking out all the bad stuff and skip to the good stuff. I must keep positive... I must keep...

The stuff about Personalisation looks interesting. They reference personal start pages like MyYahoo, Sean FitzGerald has some ideas forming about personalisation of the interface between education and life...

I have to take a break, as I can see there's stuff still worth reading in here... need to go feed myself and get a fresh head and find the motivation to read on for the goods. What a big document! Too big perhaps? Take out all the old guff about LMSes and sharable learning objects and we'd have a readable document I reckon. Spose its good to be exposed to it though, within the concepts I object to are problems and ideas that could work well in other contexts...

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Digital literacy and how it affects teaching and learning practices.

I've been asked to write a critique for an academic audience. I'm calling it Digital and network literacy and how it affects teaching and learning practices. [note: perhaps it should be the other way around come to think about it! Teaching practices and how they affect digital and network literacies.]

It should probably be a paper or something... whatever! It should be a wiki page. So it is! Click the link and see. I thought I'd put it out for open peer review while I attempt to write it. I have to try and get it drafted in the next 48 hours! As you can tell, I'm avoiding it.

Writing this way doesn't come naturally to me. Besides the effort and sense of double handling information I have already pointed to in this blog, I'm kinda hung up on a class war... Extracting all that into an accepted format for 'academic peer review' makes me quite uncomfortable. I'm already happy with my level of peer review, why do I need to now do it this way? Well there's a little bit of money there for me, there's one reason... there's the opportunity to reach readers who ignore the 'voice of the people', but what else? I'm told it will develop my writing... a chance to get my voice heared...

Well we'll see. I'm surprised a loose cannon like me has been invited into the canon so to speak. I'll try and keep a distance from their internal politics and try to suppress my personal politics. It will be interesting to see the result, if only I could motivate myself to write there and not here!

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

ePortfolios. I don't get it!

There's been a steady stream of talk around the idea of ePortfolios. I've been watching, interested in how the name alone is a good way to get people who are opposed to blogging, interested in what amounts to ... blogging! Amazing what a word can do.

I know, I hear the chorus "ePortfolios are more than blogging", but I'd like to sing my version of that: "blogging is more than ePortfolios!"

I just can't understand the persistent drive by so many in education to replicate the tools and opportunities that are already freely available on the open network. They'll bust a gut getting their IT support crew willing to get another server, bash their heads getting permission to install a system that will enable something like an ePortfolio, offer it up for teacher and/or student use, ignore the questions about student IP and life long holding of content (beyond the enrolled period), talk themselves into believing the system they have set up is a useful thing for staff and students, get thousands of dollars worth of PD training rolled out, run workshops for years on the use of their unpopular system, and 3 - 5 years later die in a ditch protecting it against new innovations that threaten it. Does the LMS ring any bells here?

The Internet (especially the web2 variety) has always been there, offering up a suite of tools for us to use, now, in the past, in the future, always. All we needed to do was spend a little time with it (out in the real world) understanding how it all worked, and come up with innovative uses for it in education. But instead we have spent millions trying to remodel the Internet into our classroom comfort zone, developing systems on a proprietary model, ignoring the opportunities to offer education to all, ignoring more serious issues like the local and global digital divide... We just don't need to be doing it any more! Think of all the places those millions could have been better spent! If only we had of realised. Will we ever?

The Internet is my (and millions of other's) ePortfolio! I don't need a SharePoint, digital rights manager, learning object repository, learning management system! Put a Google search in for my name (or I might us an alias if I'm scared of that), check my blogs if you need some insight to that result, check my wikiCV for links to everything I want in my portfolio, check my OurMedia user name for stuff I've made, call me on Skype if you want to interview me, you know the list goes go on. There are already so many options available for us to create and use ePortfolios, why would we even consider using a school-folder-like ePortfolio system? Its like having to wear the school jacket for the school photo, just to make the school look good! Are we teachers asking people to do that again? We really have to get over it!

The open network offers teachers a chance to make school learning relevant to the real world, and thus engaging and useful to students. Let's not spend another cent trying to replicate that opportunity into the limitations of an e-classroom mentality. Instead, lets spend what money we have left deconstructing and exiting this model - teaching teachers how to use the real world open network, how to achieve the safety and security they need with their students, how to join, create and exploit networks around the world, and how to embrace, recognise and assess the real folios of their students... not another cent on that old classroom, school uniform model!

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AU$695 for a blogging, wiki, and RSS workshop!!

Now I know I'm a very generous guy.
Trevor Cooke, from Jackson Wells Morris is running a workshop on blogging, wikis and rss for $695 a head!!
In that case I'd be happy to offer a workshop for $200 a head, so long as there are 10 people coming. Oh, and we'll do a hell of a lot more than just Blogging, wikis, and RSS ;)
And I came across this workshop via the EdNA feed... I haven't seen a single mention on the EdNA feeds of the workshops and presentations I run (to which attendence has been largely free - not to mention the free teach yourself resources myself and others have developed..). I'm getting the feeling that people in EdNA don't like me very much! Maybe if I put on a blue sports jacket and charged $600 a pop they'd like me more...

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Plagiarise, plagiarise... help spread the lies, plagiarise

Via The Blog Herald this free tool to check for cases of plagiarism...
I know some teachers out there are quite concerned about the possibility of their students spreading the lies, so this tool might help... CopyScape:
Copyscape is dedicated to defending your rights online, helping you fight against online plagiarism and content theft. Copyscape finds sites that have copied your content without permission, as well as those that have quoted you.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Macquarie Uni gets $200 000 for open source

Picked this up in Google's ads on my Gmail:

Macquarie University's e-Learning centre has been awarded a Federal grant of $200,000 to develop a service for providing information about open source software.


My guess is that this will go into their LAMS project, and not as broadly as is made out in the SMH coverage... A quick look at the Macquarie E-Learning Centre Of Excellence (MELCOE) turns up very little on it - Their news page is wildly out of date! No feed... WTF? $200 Gs is a lot of doe not to rate an update of the news service coming out of "an information provider about open source"...

What's the story James?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Mike Newman - Love, Hate and Action

Mike Newman, one of the founders of the Centre for Popular Education at UTS is here at the Redefining Outreach Workshop to talk about conventional, confrontational and violent action. While the title of Mike's presentation is the role of passion in education, he started off by handing out a paper on these types of action.

Its after dinner, a few drinks, and Mike is starting out with some pretty serious issues... "how can one be cheerful" is his introduction - referring to the alarming news in the media on activism. David Hicks for example...

Mike wants to talk about love and hate in political action. "Love has been commoditised"... Mike reflects, and takes us through the popular perceptions of community action from the 60's through the 80's. Mike believes that in the 90's the state began to lose interest in its citizens, more interested in service to business, worse still service to itself. The community loses faith in its capacity to change. People stop going to marches, people disengage. Now, the state has control - people don't question. "All you need is love - has no sense of meaning in 2005"

"... so lets talk about hate" Mike brings us to. He asks the group to talk to each other about people they hate. We are then asked to refer to the text on conventional, confrontational and violent action and asked "what can you do?"...

Mike makes it very clear that he does not believe in violent action. However he states that to understand his moral position on violence, he must entertain the idea and consider it in all variations, both action and cause.

Mike talks to several examples, including Nelson Mandela (recommending reading Mandela's speeches), and of course - Mahatma Gandhi.

"I won't engage in violence, but I might engage in the menace of violence" referring to Gandhi's letter stating " Englishman will be harmed.." Interpreting it as a threat the India will burn...

Hazlitt: "The Pleasure of Hating"

Hazlitt gives Mike an understanding of hate and how we might use it. Mike reflects, "Hate is all very well in the hands of a reasonable person, but what about in the hands of a bigoted maniac?"

Back to love

I want to use hate to motivate, but how do I control it? Its too easy to talk of love as a balance, the benevelance of it.

1. Alaine Finkielkraut - The Wisdom of Love

2. Zygmund Bauman - Liquid Modernity

3. Rick Turner - The Eye of the Needle.

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Recording from Cool Results online conference

Gave an Elluminate presentation last night with Sean Fitzgerald on the Cool Results online conference. Talking about Web2, social software, web feeds, tagging, creative commons, networked learning and the future of the "VLE".

Here is an MP3 recording of the presentation to which you should listen to while looking at the presntation webpage.

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Redefining Outreach Workshop

Here I am at the Gibba Gunya Lodge in Picton NSW getting ready to give a networked learning presentation and wiki workshop to some of the best people in TAFE NSW - The Outreachers. (Note that Outreach does not yet have an entry in the real TAFE website).

Outreach, as its name implies is about reaching out to the disengaged in communities and bringing them into some form of education stream.

Derek Wadell kicked us of, raising the issue of Government clamp down on funding and staffing and introducing a list of interesting speakers. He announced the Federation has acknowledged that Outreach is a separate part of TAFE education. Nods of approval indicates that this is a good thing, and I tend to agree. This preserves the autonomy of Outreach and therefore the great things that they do! Now they just need to work hard to make sure they are not sidelined...

I believe that the Future of TAFE is Outreach. The Department has made some serious errors in judgment in their directions in online learning, commercialising education, spending way too much money on proprietary software and the unfortunate lock in in practice and staff PD, submitting to the IP culture, and basically doing everything they can do close down free and open access to public educational content - therefore making Outreach work very very important.

Outreach has been a little slow in its interest in ICT. That's been a blessing actually, they have not been sidetracked with the Department's directions. Now that the Department's direction is floundering, dealing with the backlash and rebellion in the ranks - I hope Outreach will step into the breach and demonstrate better models for the use of ICTs in education, and help open access to public education opportunities.

So I'm looking forward to my opportunity to give this rant and rave to this welcoming audience, and I really hope I manage to inspire the group and get a spirit of free and open education back into online learning strategies and public education.

Tag words: ,

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Going all the way

As you've probably guessed, I spend an immense amount of time online. Don't picture me at a desk in the wee hours of the morning though... (that's Sean Fitzgerald). I'm up and about, enjoying my wireless around the house, sometimes cooking while I type, sometimes watching a movie. I'm happy.


But I still have the problem of my two dogs not liking me on the computer wherever it may be! They've developed a bit of an issue with me and my computer... I guess its the association they make between computer and no walk!

So while I obsess over Internet things, in the corner of my eye are the pleading eyes begging me for a little attention, perhaps even a walk.

Today, I could take it no more. "I want to be a good dog owner", I explain to them, "its just that I'm busy these days.." - excuses -

Anyway, the relation this has with teaching and learning online is flexibility. Here I am, faced with approaching deadlines, golden links, and pleading dogs...

So I armed up my MP3 player with some educational discussions, printed out some readings (2 pages per sheet, double sided, draft ink), grabbed the lead and called "wanna go for a walk?"

So while we eagerly walked to the local waterfall on Katoomba Creek, I listening to the audio discussions along the way. I used my other player/recorder to record myself whenever something struck me about what I was listening to - (yep, the money I saved NOT buying an iPod afforded me 2 MP3 player/recorders with change). And when we arrived I unleashed the dogs, press stop on the player, and started reading the print out. Every page or so, I'd get up and walk the dogs to the next landmark and sit down for the same. In the end the dogs and I were gone for more than 4 hours!

They're sleeping now, totally bushed from all the running they were doing, and I haven't missed a beat on what I needed to be doing for that deadline.

Here's a picture of one of my dogs Blackish sitting in the creek while I laid in the sun reading.

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Friday, September 09, 2005


Robyn Jay posted to the EdNA group for Learnscope (closed) a link to Writely, a new (beta) web based word processor.

What does Writely do?
Writely allows you to edit documents online with whomever you choose, and then publish them online -- also for whomever you choose.

How is it different than a wiki?
For one thing, it has permissions, so that you can invite only you choose to edit or view your documents. For another, it's easy to use. ;)

Why should I try it?
Because it's new and cool! Seriously, though, if you need any of the features mentioned below, then this could be the tool you've been looking for.

What can I do with it?
You can:

* Upload Word documents, HTML or text (or create documents from scratch).
* Use our simple WSIWYG editor to format your documents.
* Edit documents online with whomever you choose.
* View your documents' complete revision history and roll back to any version.
* Publish documents online to the world, or to just who you choose.
* Download documents to your desktop as Word, HTML or zip.

The screen grabs look good, but I haven't tried it yet. If it has spell check and image load then I'm sold. Also it'd be good if it creates PDF and is usable on a PDA...

Illawara TAFE, IT section free and open...

Free and open networked learning seems to have become the flavor of the month with IT at Illawara TAFE!

Recently I've been giving a couple of talks down there for the Dapto IT Learnscope - and seem to be finding friends. Yesterday I was invited back to a meeting of Head Teachers at the Nan Tien Temple (pictured). As a result of that meeting I've added some new faces to the TALO list.


Glyn Gardner - Dean of Studies Info Tech, Arts and Media - Dapto
Terry Kofod - Senior Head Teacher Information Technology - Wollongong West
Kathy Earl - Head Teacher Info Tech - Wollongong
John Coghlan - Head Teacher Info Tech - Nowra (my home town)
Janet Carrigan - Head Teacher Info Tech Dapto
Katrina Napolitano - Teacher Info Tech Dapto

and Lisa Bale and Christine Townsend, both of whom I didn't get a card for so can't add a title.

I promised I'd send a few links from the stuff I've been showing in the talks. Here's one to chew on! - most of what was shown and mentioned in the talk is linked to from this link.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

Tagging Feedback

Michael Nelson makes an excellent case for using Technorati tags as a student feedback system. Where some Institutes may go to great lengths to obtain feedback, employing or retraining staff to make phone calls and the like, the tag word 'TAFE' as Michael points to, turns up a number of interesting comments and photos.

So far I had only considered tagging as an effective way for classes to collaboratively build resources. Now Michael shows that is a valuable feedback mechanism as well.

The Real TAFE Homepage

wikipedia entry for TAFE

Day before yesterday I was doing my bit for free and open education, giving a 2 hour presentation to a group of IT teachers from TAFE NSW Illawarra.

Along the way I came across the usual things that make TAFE a bit of a joke... access denials, not being set up to play MPEG4 movies, and other stuff I can't really recall just now, but then the joke turned on me!

It was when I was up to the bit about wikis - using wikipedia, wikiversity, and the South African Curriculum wiki as examples. I thought I'd be smart and type in 'TAFE NSW' as a search in wikipedia. Cocky as always I pre-empted the results expecting a no show for my search when BAM! There it was! A wikipedia entry on Technical And Further Education in Australia! In a silly fumble to reclaim myself I said something like, "wow! this must have been put up in the last week, I'm sure it wasn't here a week ago.." Then one in the audience, displaying an excellent grasp of the bigger wiki picture that I was demonstrating suggested I look at the history of the entry. With my heart in my mouth I clicked page history and everyone saw... the entry had been started in 2003 with edits by quiet a number of people since then!

I think Bryan Derksen was the man who started it all off in March 2003 with:
In Australia, Technical and Further Education' or TAFE refers to institutions which offer a wide range of post-secondary education and training, generally in vocational fields (such as hospitality, tourism, construction, woodwork, secretarial skills, etc), often at a level of difficulty below that of a corresponding or related university course.
After that is was smooth sailing, with the entry developing into quite a site with pages on individual Institutes, their locations, other related information... in my opinion its a better site all together then any of the official sites out there!

What a great example of free and open development for TAFE.

Here we are, the free and open crusaders, talking up wikis, blogs, RSS, tagging etc etc... and then, right under our noses is quite a good entry about TAFE, with some very interesting page development and author name history.

How much do we love and cherish wikis and wikipedia?

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