Friday, December 30, 2005

Choking on an Artichoke

I've been keeping a special eye out for anything New Zealand since receiving a letter confirming a job interview in Dunedin later in January. My trusty news reader came to the party this morning with a post by Alan pointing to Auckland based Artichoke.

Once I'd fallen into step with Art's off beat writing style (I can see why Alan picked it up), I began to get quite enthusiastic. The sharper edge of Art's statements nearly made me choke on the BBQ pork take away I was hurriedly eating while reading.

In particular I'm happy to find Art' is another voice not afraid to ask confronting questions about those sharable learning objects etc. However, that strange silence for any responses still prevails - seems to be the preferred strategy of present day leadership the world over.

Art', since you asked, (I dunno? did you ask?) let me point out some of the things I've had to say about learning objects, learning management systems and digital rights management etc in the past:
  1. LMS Comic
  2. More against the LMS
  3. EdNA Groups or the Open Network
  4. Digital Network Literacy
  5. Networked Learning
  6. The Post LMS Age
  7. Everything you need to teach and learn online
  8. Lawsuit forces Web 2 learning strategies
  9. ePortfolios - I don't get it?
  10. Die LMS die!

Well! If that doesn't get me on your "Edu Blogs that challenge" list Art', I dunno what will.

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Free and Open Source Software does more than save your school money

A great article from a small school in the USA using Free and Open Source Software.

Total Open Source Savings for Setup - $92,675.20
Ten Year Savings - $338,667.00

The reality of these figures for Noxon Schools is that if we had Microsoft products only we would not have185 computers we would have 50 because that is all we could sustain. That is the big difference for us.

Thanks Rob for the point.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The DJ/VJ in the class

Imagine a teacher as a DJ, keeping a class kicking like a dance floor - alive and inspired. David did, and what a fantastic idea! Of course, we'd have to wait for those long sox with shorts type teachers to go away for a while, but imagine it! With a plethora of media sourced from OurMedia, our teacher/s mix tunes, speaches, video and photos in an audio visual rave party in the classroom! Why the hell not? Some of the students give it a belt too... I'd like to take up the challenge. The next presentation I'm asked to give, will be with the lights down, smoke, strobe, tunes and VJs, and even a mirror ball! Great idea Dave! I'm inspired.

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An Introduction to Connective Knowledge: Stephen Downes

a. Types of Knowledge
b. Interpretation
c. Emergence
d. Physicality
e. Salience and Inference
f. Associationism
g. Distribution
h. Meaning
i. Shared Meaning
j. Organization
k. Social Knowledge
l. Power Laws and Inequalities
m. Knowledge
n. Public Knowledge
o. Knowing
p. Structure and Process
q. Reliable Networks
r. Network Structure
s. Truth
t. Knowing Networks
u. Remnants

What an article, all 21 of them! Downes does it again. I thought he was gunna run out of alphabetical markers for the sections in this post. An Introduction to Connective Knowledge has to be the most satisfactory explanation of the concept of connectivism I have come across yet. Have to agree with George, that Stephen's posting time has perhaps caused it to slip under the radar a bit, but it will surely pop up in 2006. Its a long read, and I really hope Stephen puts out an audio version for remixing some day. I find myself devoting less and less time to large reads, preferring comics and audio if possible.

LMS Comic

I've been meaning to draw up this comic idea about higher education and a learning management system (LMS) for a while now, but you know how some things go, they just sit in the to-do pile for too long.

Well, this new Flickr craze I'm having motivated me to finish the strip and load it up. Here it is.

I'd never noticed before, but was pretty disappointed to find that free Flickr accounts only allow 3 sets to be made! So I added this latest comic to the OpenCourseware set.

update: James bought me a pro flickr account for the year! What a legend. Now I can create as many sets as I like :)

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Project ideas for 2006

Sean FitzGerald recently posted to the TALO eGroup an announcement from the Australian Flexible Learning Framework that hints at the direction for funding projects in 2006.

I responded with my ideas for projects in 2006 and asked for assistance in getting those ideas to meet the directions of both the AFLF and a training organisation here in Australia who will support applications like these. I haven't asked the Institute I work with yet, was going to stew on these ideas for a while:

  1. Toolboxes meet web 2.0 - creative commons, wikibook, feedbooks as Toolboxes.
  2. Networked Learning - a model for New Practices
  3. Pay it Forward Learning - a model for New Practices
  4. Open Courseware - a model New Pratices
  5. Digital network literacy - improving skills in networked teaching and learning, Learnscope
Was thinking that given Learnscope funding never seems to go very far, might be better to apply separately for separate literacies - one for using wikis, another for using RSS, and another for using tags...

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pay it forward courses model in Flickr

Going back over this blog's entries throughout 2005 has been a really valuable exercise. Not only am I going to be pubishing a book by the end of it, but I have dug out long forgotten ideas and revamped them a bit. Take the pay it forward course model idea for example. Its now in a Flickr slide show, updated and looking nice, and possibly reaching a wider audience as a result. I hope to find an opportunity to apply for funding and try out this model in 2006.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Teach and Learn Online in a book

Someone in my news reader made notice to Lulu, a place where you can upload a book, ready for binding and sending on a per order basis, sending you 80% of the takings and keeping 20% for their service! They have an option of size, hard cover or paper back, DVDs and CDs and a pretty easy to use interface.

obviously this is great for so many things... text book publishing, pop and that life story he made a few years ago, mum and her photo albums, me and my various teach and learn online productions...

Hey! what a great idea! I could go through my year old blog and pick out the good bits, including screencasts (I knew that PDF approach would pay off), comic strips and pdfs, photos, and compile them into the 2005 edition of Teach and Learn Online fit for the coffee table, staff room sitting area, old school boss' desk... I can't imagine how all this work will look in a bound and designed book! Different to the screen I'm certain.

So I'm hard at work compiling such a distro, ready for (hard or paper back? - why not both!) and for you, my faithful, supportive readers to order a copy and keep me fed for 2006! Start saving those pennies, I hope to have it up and ready for the new year.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

A model for open networked learning

A year ago I created this comic strip, depicting a model for networked learning and open courses. Originally I had the comic in a PDF for a 15 minute presentation (can you believe that!) at a conference in Sydney.

I just found the images again and have loaded them to flickr as the OpenCourseWare set.

I still like them now as much as then :) I'll have some audio to go with it soon.

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The relevance of moblogging

A while ago, people in the TALO eGroup were discussing how moblogging seems to carry little evidence to being a powerful teaching and learning tool, simply because at the moment it is mostly being used as a social tool...

It just occurred to me, while I was trying out moblogging to Flickr that perhaps proponents of the 'moblogging doesn't have much to offer in education' thinking are mistaken when trying to find examples of 'moblogs for specific educational contexts and outcomes'. If only because it is a clear example of trying to make the new paradigm fit the old...

You know all those ideas of life long learning, learning in life, life is learning, holistic learning and otherwise age old fights to get education to recognise that learning happens everywhere - well moblogging is part of that everywhere. So if you truly can't see the educational contexts and outcomes in moblogging, then you're understanding of and educational context is too narrow and old school.

Even if all a student uses moblogging for is little more than documenting social aspects of their lives, such as a photo of self sitting in class, photo of friends at the canteen, photo of teacher picking nose, then they are all examples of that person building an identity and personal affiliation around their learning context. If a teacher can inspire moblogging's use in assignment work and research - then great!

But sticking with the personal social use for a moment, if educational organisations, individuals, teachers aren't willing to accept the whole student (and their everyday moblogging) into their teaching contexts, then they are restricting how much 'real life' a student can bring into the classroom, therefore taking away motivation, relevance, and the importance of social settings in the school, not to mention opportunities to understand more about the people they spend so much time with.

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We can't go backwards

Right on Chuck!

A video on why copyright is a short back and sides, crazed, old, whisky shot fat man. If anyone you know is having trouble 'getting with' this new age, then show 'm this.

Thanks Roseg for the pointer, and for keeping me up to date with the depressing but extremely important fights in such a darkly humorous and creative way.

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Brilliant Failures

Meredith, the blogging librarian from Vermont has posted a worth while read - Brilliant Failures - reflecting on her experiences trying to impliment web 2.0 technologies in her workplace.
I’m definitely more cautious now about trying new things. In my excitement to make a difference and in a climate where I was basically given carte blanche, I think I tried to do too much too quickly. Now I know that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. I’m only going to try things where there is a real need (and not one only I see) and where the population is ready for what I’m trying to offer them.
Meredith is lucky to have a boss who will let her try out these things, and even let her blog her reflections on successes and failures.

Doug Johnson pointed me to Meredith, with his own post on learning from failures.

I'm still thinking about my failures, or too busy setting myself up for the next one. For me, reflecting on failures is a deep hole, as I never feel satisfied with the reasons or ideas popping out of them. But reading Meredith and Doug's posts has helped me out a bit...

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Free, easy and web based audio recording!

So, your on one of those locked down school computers, wishing you could install audacity so you could record some audio and publish it's mp3 to the Network, but you just cant seem to get the permission to install it, let alone the firewall open enough so you could upload the media to OurMedia.

Don't worry, Odeo has arrived. A free, web based, and god-darned-easy audio recorder that looks like it might be the Flickr of audio! Here's my trial of it.
I think audio blogging/podcasting just got a little more attractive to me...

Thanks JosephHart for the link.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Fantastic Flickr presentation looking at aspects of teenage fan fiction

I'm preying Anyaka will record some audio and load it up to OurMedia so we can listen along to these incredibly interesting slides!

Thanks Jo McLeay for the pointer!

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Borderland - A Northern Attitude

Doug keeps a very thoughtful and deeply interesting blog called Borderland. Right from the tone of its title, down to its blog roll, I can see Doug is a guy I want to be tapped in to.

My trusty friend Jude send me the link to his recent post The line between freedom and authority, because it relates to a recent discussion on the TALO egroup about Internet censorship in our schools.

Maybe its just the profile image and colour scheme of Borderland, but Doug seems to have a lot of patience. Especially in the freedom and authority post, but over all his blog. There aren't emotive calls to action like you might find here on Teach and Learn Online, the voice in it is quiet and humble. There is a zen like consideration in his posts, with valuable links out offering expansion to the perspectives he is considering.

How's this for a quote Doug pulls from Ira Shor, What is Critical Literacy:
The risk and difficulty of democratizing education should be apparent to those who read these lines or to those who have attempted critical literacy, perhaps encountering the awkward position of distributing authority to students who often do not want it or know how to use it….Dewey saw cooperative relations as central to democratizing education and society. To him, any social situation where people could not consult, collaborate, or negotiate was an activity of slaves rather than of a free people. Freedom and liberty are high-profile ‘god-words’ in American life, but, traditionally, teachers are trained and rewarded as unilateral authorities who transmit expert skills and official information, who not only take charge but stay in charge. At the same time, students are trained to be authority-dependent, waiting to be told what things mean and what to do, a position that encourages passive-aggressive submission and sabotage.
Thanks Doug, thanks Jude. Refreshed.

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The evil in NY

I am emotional right now, after discovering Futureman's post about a lawsuit against wikipedia. I became even more angry when I read the response Futureman got from to his letter of concern. So I wrote my own:

I just read about your action against wikipedia on Futureman's website. I am angry at your response to Futureman's concerns, especially when the concerns expressed by futureman must surely represent the vast majority of views held by wikipedia users. Your brash and disrespectful dismissal of those views will surely draw fire on your effort. But what is of concern to me is that there is no shortage of people with narrow and selfish views like yours, who will attract to your cause and potentially inflict serious damage on one of the only concepts in the world that in a way proves that human good-will exists and can be used to create great things!

This must be a joke, or some twisted way to draw attention to your site, and its google adds.

In my experience as a teacher, just about every school I have taught in uses wikipedia intelligently. Teachers and students use it as one of quite a few launching pads into topic investigation and research, using the links, history, discussion and general idea behind articles to begin working with. In most (almost all) cases I have found the content to be comprehensive and vastly useful.

I hope your site is only for attracting money via its google adds, and not for real. I suspect it is not for real, but even as a hoax, you do pose a threat to the conceptual spread of the wikipedia/open source model. The spread of ideas like transparency, trust, involvement, equality, community, a multi lingual Internet, etc, etc. You threaten those ideals, you threaten the hope I have for humanity.

Your action is evil.
But it turns out I may be a sucker! It looks like this site might be a hoax, as a quick check to wikipedia's entry on it turns up a load of interesting information. Ironic isn't it! Its not wikipedia that is a dodgy source of information here, its actually the only thing remotely credible in all this!!

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Gee I love Tasmania

Sunshine and I just arrived home from Tasmania. We spent 10 days walking, shopping, climbing, moblogging and talking at TasLearnscope05.

If you haven't already, you can get the picture at my flickr account, and our moblog.

Highlights for me where climbing in Freycinet, walking up the Acropolis, shopping in Hobart, and a delayed flight home that had to circle 5 times right over the Blue Mountains on sunset!

I can't rave long enough about Tasmania. It has such intense history, amazing wilderness (getting logged faster than you can say World Heritage), fantastic people (even the ones in utes with bumper stickers reading "fertilise the bush, doze in a greeny" are... thought provoking).

But this blog is about teaching and learning... if anyone hears of a job going down south though, please let me know.

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Friday, December 09, 2005

Taslearnscope05 comes to an end

How about you shoot off and grab some of the photos from the day down in Launceston for the Tasmanian Learnscope 2005 roundup.

The audio I recorded has been edited and loaded to OurMedia under the taslearnscope05 tag.

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Wireless on the Church steeple

Before I gave my presentation down here in Launceston, I met and spoke with Jennifer Dunbabin - Framework Coordinator for TAS (FLAG Support), and manager for the Access to Bandwidth project. I am thoroughly interested in what Jen has to say about this access issue in Australia, and she strikes me as someone who not only knows quite a bit about the issues, but has great ideas on how to provide access to areas in Australia to acceptable levels of bandwidth.

We were discussing the idea of community wireless hotspots and free wireless projects. Jen mentioned the problem of capacity when offering wireless access on a large scale. I responded with the idea of community cooperatives, or small scale wireless offerings in cafes, businesses and public buildings etc. Jen mentioned the problem of maximising the reach of a wireless modem, and made the brilliant suggestion of using churches! That's right! A wireless modem strapped on to the holy symbols adorning your preferred congregation. When you think about it, its a bloody great idea. Churches, especially earlier Christian churches are usually central and on high ground. All a church need do is open a broadband account on their phone line, plug in a wireless modem and gaffa tape it to the steeple, and wait for the masses to come.

Of course, you don't have to be a church to offer this. If you live in an apartment building, talk to your neighbours and agree to share one account of the biggest fattest bandwidth via a wireless modem. Suddenly your monthly communication bill is down to $5 a month!

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Thursday, December 08, 2005


Sunshine and I are in Launceston Tasmania at the moment. I will be giving a presentation on Networked Learning to the Tasmanian Learnscope 2005 project teams. I've been asked to give a 40 minute presentation, followed by a workshop as well as the day's round up.

  1. For the presentation I'll use the Networked Learning Flickr slides.
  2. For the workshop I'll demo the usual Blogger, and Bloglines, and perhaps a quick look at Flickr and Creative Commons if the group's up to speed.
  3. For the day's roundup I'll tag pictures and audio recordings with taslearnscope05, and encourage others to do so as well.

Seeing as we're in Tasmania, Sunshine and I are taking the opportunity to see the sights. We've been moblogging along the way, and I've been loading pictures to Flickr whenever we get a connection. So far we have camped out at Cradle Mountain and driven around a bit.

After the conference we plan to walk the southern end of the Overland track, followed by some climbing at Mount Wellington, then out for swimming, snorkeling and climbing at Freycinet Peninsula.

So, will try to keep in touch as much as possible ;) til Dec 16.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

MySpace Generation

Will Richardson blogged a Business Week article called MySpace Generation. Will extracts some interesting thoughts from it:
In other words, kids are connecting to one another online. And when kids connect, no matter where they do it, they learn, just like we all do. And I'm going to guess that the things they are learning in these networks are more relevant to their lives than what they are learning in school. Not more important, but more relevant.
I find it infinitely interesting when I meet an Internet savvy 12 year old, finding out what blogging software they use (mostly MySpaces), but not aware of tagging RSS and other things..

Will flows through the article taking a concerned look at marketing in these spaces, finishing with this great line:

Oy. Coke cares about me. What about my teachers?

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Get your assessment questions into this game

Edward Smith has put out a call for questions to add into his edGame Silence of the Terminals. Here is your opportunity to simply drop your multi choice, quiz type questions on just about any topic for Edward to customise the game! What an offer! A few weeks from now, you could have your hands on a fully fledged first person shooter game to use in your first class next year. What a cool way to assess prior knowledge!

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Friday, December 02, 2005

SOFT micros

WARNING! The following article, and especially the picture, may offend some readers...

I just had to blog this image! No one could be more embarrassed about the 80's than Bill Gates. Was software really a sexy thing back then, or was Bill in desperate need of...

It cracks me up!

But on a less funny note, our IT (non) support bosses are still stuck in this hey day era of thinking. But the dissapointment of growing older and even more disfunctional has led them to cynically stomp on their younger upstarts, blocking requests for free and open source software and decentralisation.

Recently, I felt compelled to spend what little free time I have defending a request to install Picasa (amongst other things - OpenOffice, GIMP, AvidFreeDV) when a colleague supporting the request, forwarded on IT (non) support's response...

Those IT boss men tried to white wash the request with more non speak over licenses (for Picasa this time) and business cases. I sent an email to Picasa asking if they could clarify their position on single user use when schools and colleges are involved. Picasa's reply in less than 2 days:
Hello Leigh,

Thank you for contacting Picasa customer support.

We are more than happy to allow your educational organization to use
Picasa on multiple computers.

In using Picasa, we ask that your organization does not:

*Redistribute the software for profit
*Profit directly from the use of Picasa
*Claim authorship of the software or any of its components
*Reverse engineer the software for any reason

We understand that your group has some concerns regarding the clause in
our End User License Agreement which states that "the agreement allows you
to install and use the Picasa Software on a single computer." This
agreement specifically applies to single users, so do not be concerned
with statements referring to single computers. It may be helpful to review
this document to make sure that your group will not be using Picasa in any
way that blatantly is at odds with the Agreement.

Please review our End User License Agreement below for specifics.
Why it had to me contacting Picasa about this is what troubles me most. I am a part time teacher for the organisation considering the request. Surely it is the job of IT support to thoroughly review the license, including contacting the software owners and reading the support forums!

Now, with the license issue out of the way, we are expected to argue a business case for using Picasa!! A BUSINESS CASE! Shouldn't they be asking for a LEARNING CASE? By the time we get this little piece of free image editing software approved, there'll be an even better one out!

I already know where they stand on OpenOffice, they have no idea - and GIMP, they probably think their slave in the basement has escaped again! And what if my enlightened head teacher requested a few machines with dual boot options into Linux or Windows? Forget it I'd imagine, expect no support from IT Support.

Now, before we all go and beat up the nearest IT geek, in my experience it is the IT bosses that are the problem (consider picture above). Those faceless suites hiding behind committees they controle with smoke, mirrors and fear. The everyday IT support staff are quite fearful of their bosses, and have expressed similar levels of frustration to me on a number of occasions.

There are numerous LEARNING cases to be made for offering free and open source OPTIONS in a school and college. Most have to do with access and equity, not to mention the basic need for a broader digital literacy in our community, and for people to be aware that there is a developing world outside microsoft and proprietary software. If we can get FOSS options available right along side the proprietary software in our schools, then those teachers and students out there that prefer, or are not able to spend large amounts of money on software have an option for the viable alternative. Those people could walk into school, turn on a computer, choose between Windows or Linux, choose between MS Office or Open Office, etc etc. Those privileged and ignorant people who insist that the proprietary software is what they will use (and pirate) will at least be forced to recognise accessibility issues, and start considering open standard formats more for their work. Listen to OpenOffice for example:
Users of office software are coming to realise that their real investment lies not in the software itself, but in the spreadsheets, databases, and wordprocessing documents which they have created: their own intellectual property. The only way to guarantee access to this investment long term is for the data to be stored in a vendor- neutral, open-standard format.
That's right fools! Are you thinking long term? Are you absolutely sure that Microsoft will be a dominant software vendor in 10-20 years? Things change didn't you know (consider picture above again). I'm one who already thinks that OpenOffice is the better office suite. What if those reading this decide that too? I'd say your closed Microsoft formats are in peril... your anxious excel sheets, poorly animated powerpoints, and try hard word layouts may not be worth much in the free and open world. Better open them in OpenOffice and start saving them in open standard formats quick smart, before you embarrass yourself in front of that wealthy Brazilian mining client knocking on your door.

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