Sunday, January 29, 2006

I disagree with Stephen's thinking on spam control

I gotta say, I'm a bit nervous posting this, but if I was Stephen I'd want to hear it if someone disagreed with me, and I'd do my best to set the cocky little upstart straight (in the nicest possible way).

Last week I was listening to Stephen's latest, and very interesting audio recordings from the Grand Yellowhead Seminar. In Part 3 he talks a bit about spam as the reason why educational organisations need to take control of content management. Best you listen to the audio, because my summary sentence doesn't seem quite right.

I pretty strongly disagree with Stephen on what he says about spam management though. Stephen suggests that educational organisations need to think about spam and consider hosting and serving their own content management systems to combat it. Stephen hosts and manages his own blogging and wiki software, where as I use free web based services. Stephen suggests that using free web based services leaves you open to spam and other sorded attacks on content, but I think hosting and managing your own software leaves you open.

I use Gmail, for example. I almost never get spam. Actually, I get a sh!t load, but Google's filter is working very well. When I worked for an educational organisation they expected me to use their email system, and I got a lot their too, but their filters weren't so good and most of it got through!

I use Blogger, and while it started off pure and beautiful, soon enough comment spam was creating quite a problem. Within a week or 2, Blogger offered not one but 4 ways to control unwanted comments.

Wikispaces was hit by spam once. And it was not light either. I think they learned from that. I haven't seen another hit since.

Basically what I'm saying is that schools and other educational organisations by themselves, even their State departments, have a very limited capacity to keep up to date with effective content controls as well as running the systems they have in place. From my experience, having used their systems, and now the free web based ones, it seems to me the free web based ones offer a whole heap more peace of mind compared to getting, hosting and managing your own server and apps.

But who know, maybe all these free web apps are part, or soon to become part, of the evil media empire and all the information I have posted along the way will leave me open to a much more effective form of spam advertising. But then, if that is a conspiracy going on at the moment, I really doubt the IT support section of my local school is on top of it either.

So it seems to me that the use of free web based applications offer simplicity of use and an ease of management that is hard to beat when compared to the systems in place within schools and colleges at the moment.

If I was an IT support dude, I'd be finding ways to work into these web app projects. Finding the open source versions and working with them to better service educational needs and keeping the bastards honest while they host the service and manage the content for you.

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Plunkers evaluates Nuvvo

Jason Plunkett, yet another valuable edu blogger from South Australia has done a much needed preliminary evaluation of Nuvvo - an exciting new approach and web based learning management system. Jason's a self confessed Moodle man, and it shows a bit in his evaluation. Dave Witter from Nuvvo has come in with comments thanking Jason fro the feedback, and the over all post has evolved into some insightful discussion on Nuvvo's development future.

Dave points out Nuvvo's belief in the philosophy of less is more, which is something I like very much about Nuvvo. It is very simple! From what I can see from it, I would be interested in using Nuvvo to manage enrollment and centralise course communications and stuff. With that taken care of, it'd be small pieces of blogs, wikis, RSS, tagging and networked bookmarks etc all used in different ways custom make the feature rich online course I needed.

I have been eagerly awaiting the course I have enrolled in, to test out Nuvvo from a student perspective - (note: there are heaps of free courses stacking up on Nuvvo!) . For my style of online learning, networked learning, Nuvvo looks very promising. So I hope it holds onto its simplicity and sticks to what it is offering to do best and leave the features of blogs, wikis, forums, and all the other stuff to the other web app providers that do it best.

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North Korea and South Australia agree on censorship: Web 2 banned

Bill Kerr (that's him on the left), a high school teacher and all round good bloke from South Australia is alerting us to some unbelievable censorship going on down there at the moment. A one size fits all filter that has effectively ruled out everything Web 2.

Now I've been reading Bill's blog for a few months now and all I can say is it's a darn shame that such an innovative and progressive teacher like Bill has had to put real work on hold and fight a very backward system indeed.

Some might say, "take it to the media Bill, blow the lid off it" - but from what I've seen and heard on the mainstream media toilet papers, teleblindness and radio monotony, they're buying into the fear frenzy and are not interested in representing a range of views on Internet censorship in schools.

What to do... Bill is aiming for alternative filtering software to start with. One that can differentiate between different users, so adults and children can work with different levels of "risk".

Jason Plunket has come in on Bill's post with a great comment pointing out the filtering is in fact increasing the risk to students and unsavvy teachers.

I have suggested before for a more democratic system of content management, where teachers (and maybe even some students) can participate in training filters by flagging inappropriate content, and having the ability to unblock other content. Or a system a lot like some of Flickr's approach to managing content on their servers. Sure! some stuff may get through, its not like extreme filters work any better, but at least the liability is shared by the community, not taken on by the few.

Or perhaps schools should consider releasing their liability all together! They offer an Internet connection and that's it. Laptops are given out to the needy (and yes, with the money I've seen wasted on admin projects, we could afford to do that) and its up to the parents and community to decide what measures they will take to protect their kids. I know I'd prefer my kid to learn how to manage in the real world quite frankly, not some artificial world full of taboo and fear at every corner.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Networked learning for professional development

I've been thinking of where networked learning works best, and while I think it can work in almost any situation, it is clear that it is working best of all in the professional development and training of teachers and educationalist around the world.

It is hard to convince people who make directional decisions for educational organisations of the benefits and opportunities in networked learning, because to properly appreciate networked learning you need to be engaged in a networked learning community of some sort. Getting directors and managers engaged in a networked learning community is difficult to say the least - time, or the lack of it, are usually the responses from such people when encouraged to communicate with the TALO fold for example. The few who do come along, do so for a little look/see and eventually ask to be unsubscribed from the egroup because their email has over loaded, and few ever get around to keeping a blog, sharing resources via networked bookmarks, contribute to editing a wiki resource, or subscribing to feeds with a socially networked news reader.

Now, I'm beginning to hear the chorus. "But Leigh! Not everyone wants to blog, socially network their book marks, edit a wiki, or subscribe to RSS.." Basically that means not everyone wants to network their learning. And I hear the "time" factor again (or is it more accurately a want and priority thing..?) I guess I'll have to accept that, what can I say - my way or the high way? Yeah right, but the anecdotal evidence of the benefits of a networked learning to the professional development and training of so many teachers now seems compelling, and would certainly justify further research and attention.

If you're not already part of a networked learning community you might find yourself asking, "what anecdotal evidence?" How about the growth and current health of the TALO eGroup for example; the amazing increase in professional blogging in Australian education; the willingness and ability all of a sudden for so many of those Australian edu bloggers to communicate via RSS through their respective blogs; the curiosity at least, by units within many organisations, in networked learning models. There is clearly a sharp rise in the use of a networked learning by many individuals in the Australian education sector, but organisations, and particularly professional development units within organisations are still perplexed as to how to effectively use and manage netorked learning.

I think we need to do 3 things to help organisations consider networked learning more clearly:

  1. Sustained and participatory research to define and assess networked learning
  2. Case studies and documentaries
  3. Development of open network, digital literacies in our communities of practice

I have already started a wikipedia entry for networked learning, so the sustainable and participatory research for a definition at least has begun.

Development of case studies and documentaries will help assess networked learning and also help stimulate the 'want and prioritisation' in our organisations to fund and develop open network, digital literacies.

Once the capacity building via literacy development reaches a critical mass, I'd suggest that we go through those 3 steps again. A cycle of investigative, participatory, action research.

I think if we adopt those three projects (research, case studies and literacy development) then examples of networked learning will grow outside the arena of professional development in the education sector and into industry sectors, higher education, and community organisations. I would say, by then the directors and managers of educational organisations will be able to 'want and prioritise' networked learning in their work, and maybe even feel safe enough to openly engage with a community themselves.

So I know we have the funding opportunities here in Australia, will we have the collective ability to win that funding and apply it to something like this?

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Beyond the Blog. Alan Levine and Brian Lamb presentation to EduCause

A new style in Flickr presentations, Brian Lamb and Alan Levine join up as Looking for a Fish Taco, to give us: Beyond the Blog: Ready for Prime Time

Great slides, informative descriptions, all Creative Commons, non commercial, share alike.

Thanks guys...

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Jocelyn Williams, Frank Sligo, Catherine Wallace - Free internet as an agent of community transformation

Interesting and important research coming out of New Zealand that I am finding quite challenging in terms of where I stand on the use of ICTs to improve social divides:

Free internet as an agent of community transformation

Does the internet empower communities or perpetuate the status quo? Can universal internet access resolve education, employment, and other social gaps? We report on our longitudinal assessment of low income community access to free internet in New Zealand, in terms of new internet users’ (1) community belonging, (2) internet connectedness, and (3) civic engagement. Findings show internet connectedness may have only a minimal impact on community capacity due to constraints such as family transience, difficult domestic circumstances, inadequate project resourcing, and poor literacy. Internet ubiquity may not be a strategically useful social objective unless contextual limitations are recognised and addressed.
Thanks Jude :) a gem of a link.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

mLearning, meet books...

As some readers of this blog know, I've been slowly writing a book using Lulu to self publish. I received my proof copy in the mail the other day, talk about a great feeling! A years worth of blogging, comics, photos, screencasts, all condensed into one highly portable, always on, reusable device! A book.

I've made some minor changes to the TALO book (making pictures larger, font smaller, spelling etc) So I'm waiting for the second proof to arrive before I do a launch. But I wanted to post about my renewed interest in the book for communication and learning, thanks to my experiences self publishing one through Lulu.

For the cost of a week's worth of mobile phone calls, or a month's worth of Internet, or a single CD, you can have a years worth of condensed content in text and pictures. $45 for a full colour book, $25 for black and white - printed on demand, delivered within 10-15 days. I don't have to worry about a network connection, battery life, or mysterious headaches from a screen. My book is light weight, always on, photocopyable, well bound, strong, versatile. For content, not much beats it! For communication, no arguments - the network is the goods.

But, I reckon more of us edubloggers should consider self publishing a book in Lulu. I'd be very happy to have a year's worth of Stephen Downes' blogging (with a CD of audio in the back) to catch up on. The years before I was on the scene especially. Getting it all through screen interactions is one thing (painful as it is at times) having it in a neatly bound, portable book is another. Having it in that format so I can get my grand dad (a retired school principle) up to speed with new ideas, a format that is still more tangible for old school managers needing a nudge ina new direction, a format that will still be respectable for many years to come.

I could still join in the discussion of course! Its not as though what Stephen said last year is not still worth talking about next year. I could read and listen to his older work, and perhaps draw him and others back into fresh perspectives on the stuff. I could read on the bus, in a tent up a mountain, in a boat on a river. And consider my responses on the way back down the mountain and into a network zone. mLearning meet book and outdoor recreation.

So, get ready to buy my book will yas. Test it out. There's a years worth of stuff I've done - much of it I bet you haven't seen due to the difficulty of flicking through the "pages" of a blog and hypertext resources. And I hope others will do the same with their work. I'm ready to buy more books. In the end, when the oil, gas and nuclear wars are over - it may be all we have left as a record to this amazing era in electrified communications.

PS. The picture shows a book with a black and white cover... not so. The black and white version comes in a colour cover - its the inside that is black and white.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Nice comics coming from John Pederson

Click the images to view their original context. Nice one Peter, you Mac head.

Lending Brian a connected hand

Brian Lamb of Abject Learning fame has put out the humble plea for assistance in proving the value of social connectedness in blogging (et al). So, I thought I'd jump on the opportunity to work a bit with Brian and add my response to his pretty hard questions:
  • What is most significant about the emergence of blogs and/or wikis?
The growth of a creative class
  • In your mind, what is most misunderstood (or little understood) about these tools?
The interconnectedness of it all and the long term benefits to engaged individuals
  • Are blogs and wikis evolving into something else?
Certainly! Just as when they become popular in 2004 and we saw an amazing array of creative interpretations (as well as a hell of a lot of basic, bland, low brow). Now, with the convergence and accessibility of technologies like mobile phones, images, audio and video - not to mention ready made widgets to add to ones blog - individual blogs are becoming a lot more media rich with vast depth in content and interconnectedness. Of course this will sprout yet another round of innovation and creative interpretations on established norms.
  • What are the implications of these publishing tools on ideas, public opinion and free speech?
A French revolution perhaps (printing press). A 'silent majority'. A class of people at odds with their local and national governments due to a deep chasm known as the digital disconnect.
  • What are a few of your essential blog reads or wiki communities?
It ebbs and flows. But I must say, that in the 14 months I have been blogging, I have witnessed a radical increase in the local (Australian/New Zealand) use of the technologies. As a result, I am finding myself reading less and less of what has been a very North American perspective, and reading more and more of my local network has to say.
  • Anything else?
I think your shout out for participation in this feedback/proof of social networking is an excellent and simple demonstration of what you are trying to show Brian. Good luck, and good on you for opening your floor up like this. Good luck.

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competition and cooperation

I nice bite from an interesting post from 2 Cents Worth:

That it is not appropriate and even counter-productive to say that we are educating our children so that we can compete in a global economy. It is more productive to say that we are preparing our children to cooperate in a global economy.

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Why aren't we listening to kids these days

Picture by Foxtongue.
I don't know if we've ever really listened to kids, but it seems to me that these days we have the opportunity and plenty of need to listen (even without them knowing) and have what they say dramatically improve what we do as teachers.

In a recent post by Artichoke (I just can't get enough from this mysterious person) a conversation followed when I offered a link to the US research paper Digital Disconnect, talking about kid's impressions of whether school is relevant or not.

I have proposed before, that we need much more of this type of research, and Art' sent me off to have a look at an attempt at this in New Zealand. But I got a similar impression to Art':
They sounded much like a "guess what the teacher wants" interviewee response - a giving the interviewer what we think he/she wants to hear stuff. Wonder how they conducted the interviews, individual or focus groups. Have issues with the validity of focus group interviews.
But that's where the US paper is different, in that it largely rang true my experiences talking with kids... Art went on to blog her very interesting conversation with a kid who was into Warcraft, which has led Art into an ongoing exploration of edugaming, and renewed my interest in any forms of participatory action research with kids in schools.

Michael Nelson was certainly miles ahead in the thinking, when he proposed months ago now, that we might tap into the technorati tags to seek frank and open remarks from students about their impressions of school. To me, Michael's suggestion hits home in regard to the value of kids engaged in the read write web. Soon enough (if we can get access for kids to writing to the Net that is) we won't need to send out stale impersonal surveys, you can just tap into the conversation and listen - with open hearts and minds I prey.

It's well worth following Art's links from our discussion following her post. It has some rich insight from kids, and analysis of some of the educational attributes of some games.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

What the teens predict

The 2006 Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which gauges Americans' attitudes toward invention and innovation, found that a third of teens (33 percent) predict the demise of gasoline-powered cars by the year 2015. One in four teens (26 percent) expects compact discs to be obsolete within the next decade, and roughly another one in five (22 percent) predicts desktop computers will be a thing of the past.

Thanks Derek for the pointer.

Some day TALO will rule the world!

ha ha ha haaa! It's early days yet, but make no bones about it! We intend to take over the world, and nothing can stop us. Join us now, or be lost forever...

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Teach and Learn Online now in French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Chinese (Simplified).

Recently I posted my attempts to get a Google translate link for multiple languages at the foot of each post. It wasn't working and I was at a loss how to fix it with my embarrassingly limited knowledge of code. Then Jo Kay came in and saved my day with an excellent link to step by step instructions that even the lamest bloggerliterate person could follow!

I opted for the WorldLingo option, and it really was as simple as copying the code on offer, and pasting it straight into the blogger template, anywhere between the tags. Then its just a matter of hitting preview a few times to get it in the spot you want it.

Many thanks Jo! And very pleased to have found yet another Australian eduBlogger blogging openly about her work.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Google Translate now straight out of this blog

I while back I noticed Eide NeuroLearning Blog using some fancy code at the bottom of each of their blog posts offering links to see a post in a range of languages. I emailed the good doctors asking for a copy of their code, the next day I had it. Now I have that tricky feature as well, but not in the languages I would prefer to be offering. Personally I'd rather Chinese Simplified, Thai, Indonesian, Arabic, Spanish, and French - just to name 6. At the moment I'm just testing it. I need to tweak it, fix the spacing, make sure it reliably works etc. frankly I wouldn't know where to start! But I like the idea.

I have to write back the the good doctors and ask them for the attribution for this code. Perhaps the original author could help me..

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Games in the mind

If you find yourself questioning if first person shooter games influence human behavior, child development, and social ideologies, then consider a letter to Mr Curly about football.

Nice positioning Art'!

And when you're done asking those sorts of questions, how about you shoot off to the blog of a student we have here, and download yourself a copy of his LAN game Silence Of The Terminals. Its a load of fun, and you just might learn something playing it!

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Open Training and Education Network (OTEN) and Centre for Learning Innovation (CLI) - meet open networked mlearning

Alex Hayes invited me to give a talk to the Open Training and Education Network (OTEN) and the Centre for Learning Innovation (CLI) at Strathfield on Thursday. I thought it went pretty well. I rattled on for about an hour about where I think the Internet is going, free and open source software and the Creative Commons, Web 2.0 technologies and trends, ideas on networked learning, and plenty of opinion and outspoken remarks about learning management system based work, learning object production, repositories, digital rights management, and the like. After I finished, the polite crowd then went into an hour long discussion about it all, with some of the most insightful comments I have yet heard from an audience asked to endure my dissing.

Alex is a new face in at the CLI and he is there to research and develop mLearning. He brought me in to talk about Web 2 and the possible convergences with mLearning. Alex and I have talked about this before, and I believe it even more now - web 2.0 is mLearning!

When you think about it, the opportunity to move everything you do, say and learn to web based applications, without needing to open a single desktop application (but for a browser), basically means that a person invested in such practices is very mobile and flexible indeed. All that person really needs is an Inter-networked connection to a device with a browser, and away they go. That device could be a crappy desktop PC in a back room of a forgotten Internet/Gaming cafe, or a free community WiFi connection for their on PDA while sitting in the church grounds over looking the city. The thin client/web application/WiFi era has arrived, and this should spell out some clear directions for mLearning.

But back to the talk with OTEN and CLI. I have to hand it to them, even though what I had to say and show directly challenges a lot of the work being done there, from what I could tell that did not result in a backlash or overly defensive behaviour at all. Perhaps they'd heard all this before and just needed a catalyst within their organisation, but I think that their open minded consideration of the ideas is a sign of a some-what healthy organisation, and an indication that changes may be possible - to embrace the read write web, and ideas like open networked learning. Unfortunately, not many people stayed behind to introduce themselves and invite me into projects, but Alex assures me that an impression was made, and the ideas are amongst them at least.

So good luck CLI, I will be watching with keen interest to see what projects you get up this year.

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Copyright Symposium 2005

Gee! I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at the The 12th Biennial Copyright Law and Practice Symposium held in Sydney on 17 and 18 November 2005! I discovered the record of this talk fest through EdNA's Recent Items feed, where they promoted an unashamed job application by Michael Fraser, the CEO for the Copyright Agency Limited, called Information wants to be free? or as it was put in the Symposium's program, Copyleft in practice: issues & perspectives.

I am quite simply steaming after reading this last minute note from Fraser, it is filled with unreferenced "facts" and statements, misleading truths, and political side swiping. "These accusations are a bit rich coming from you Leigh" I might hear you say, but its one thing to write like Michael in the format of a blog, but to write like this and call it a paper! and pin a CEO's name to it, and present it at a symposium... like I said, I would have liked to have been a horse fly on the wall at the Maritime Museum at Darling harbor those days.

For reasons that become obvious later in Frasers application, he spends half his ink and paper taking swipes at the Copyleft movement. Never actually defining who he is actually talking about when he refers to "Copyleft" Fraser says,
The copyleft movement is anti-copyright because they are opposed to intellectual
property. Copyleft disparages copyright as a powerful monopoly, but actually copyright is just a property right.
I feel sick just looking through this pdf for things to copy and paste here. Come to think of it, I'm a bit nervous... Fraser has applied nothing short of shallow spin here. How about we dismiss the first sentence as a misunderstanding, and swap the last sentence around a bit... how's this? "Copyleft disparages powerful monopolies for their use of copyright as their sole property right".

My jaw just dropped off when Fraser just keeps spinning, he's like a kaleidoscopes top, I'm dizzy with amazement.
But in fact, if you look closely at Copyleft'’s ideals they are not really against property. Copyleft licensess allow for payments. Copyleft is not really against intellectual property. They are against other people'’s property, especially their competitors’.
What? where? is that a fact? who is he talking about? I dunno, but I get a strong sense that here we have yet another CEO not afraid embarrassess himself with displays of ignorance in attempts to spin his top.
The real danger posed by copyleft'’s anti-intellectual property, anti-copyright, is political. Copyleft adherents promote a weakening of copyright in policy and in law, especially by making the claim that copyright restricts the flow of ideas.

There is no copyright in ideas. Copyright prevents copying. Copying someone else's
work without permission. Copyright does not restrict using or adapting any ideas.
Clearly the man ain't digital. And clearly he has never tried to edit a documentary that happens to have footage that has accidentally captured copyrighted posters, TV shows or soundtracks in the background. Or what about when he wanted to put favorite music to the video of his kid taking her first steps? And is he not following the madness in patent laws at the moment? Copyright is more than just copy rights! The was it has been up until now, it has restricted using and adapting ideas!

Eventually Fraser does cut to the chase, and leaves behind all this when he tries to position himself and his line of work as being relevant in this day and age.
From rather polemical beginnings, the Creative Commons has become a moderate and constructive movement. The Commons have come to respect copyright as a tool for promoting communications.
Oh I see it now, copyleft is what the Creative Commons used to be before it saw the light being shined by people like Michael Fraser! Give this man a raise!
So I have proposed to the Creative Commons that rights management organisations such as CAL should work together with the Creative Commons to facilitate online access to creative content, both the free content and the commercial content together.
And there it is! CAL wants a job. Thanks for the interest Mike, but personally I wouldn't want a guy like you trying to negotiate with people who come from heathier roots in the copyleft fields. Somehow I just don't think you're all going to see eye to eye on many things at all. I'm not too sure what you think CAL could offer here anyway? Google advanced search, Google Scholar, Yahoo advanced search, OurMedia, Flickr, and most other content management tools already offer rights management far beyond your reach. We might feasibly say goodbye to middle men like you, and start using these emerging pratices instead.

You might do better Mike, talking to the publishers, and explaining to them that their work gets good promotion in the free world, and they should reconsider their position on restricting third party property use. Work with them in thinking up better incentives to attract money from the exposure gained in the free world. Look to some areas in the slowly maturing music industry for ideas.

Looking at the Symposiums program though, there were some interesting and more informative presentations by the look. Well worth having a look through the available ones, and interesting to see where the copyright lawyers heads are at these days. Creative Commons and free and open source business models are well and truly on the radar I am pleased to see. How that gets interpreted by some though, is more than aembarrassingssing...

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Friday, January 13, 2006

May as well be in the Blue Mountains again

Sunshine and I visited the local pub in Blackheath today, the Ivanhoe Hotel. We went there to try out their free WiFi. While we had lunch, I wipped out the PDA, fired up skype and called around my mates to show off.

Then I got to thinking. This place would be OK for the TALO Swap Meet 2006! Seeing as so many people missed the 2005 and therefore a nice visit to the Blue Mountains, maybe we should have it here again.

  • 20c pool table.
  • $33 rooms with breakfast!
  • Free WiFi.
  • On the top of the Blue Mountains.

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On my way to NZ, and I've come across edublogger Derek Wenmoth.

Have received confirmation that I will be meeting with a Polytechnic in NZ to discuss work prospects in that fine land. Over the past month or so I have been keeping an eye out for New Zealand edubloggers to inform me better before I go. Recently I gave a talk at the Centre for Learning Innovation in Strathfield NSW Australia on Web 2 and networked learning ideas (a detailed post is coming), and I was passed a link to Derek Wenmoth's blog. Derek is the Director of eLearning CORE Education Ltd Christchurch, NZ making him one of the only edubloggers I know of who also happens to be the director of something. Derek's articles are giving me quite a bit of insight into birds eye view of the political and cultural climate in which online learning is growing in New Zealand, and I think we may see eye to eye on a few of the on the ground issues such developments face - not just in NZ, such as:
...While the anecdotal and small amount of research evidence available would indicate these initiatives [online strategies] have proven to be successful, the policy environment within which they operate (and the resourcing mechanisms that stem from that) continues to be based on notions of physical attendance at a physical school from which you receive all of your instruction.

NZ should take careful note of what Swanson and others are saying from these overseas experiences and put some serious effort into developing robust policies that are consistent with learning in a "learner-centred, digitally-minded" paradigm.

I'm off to read some more...

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The rights of a student - Internet censorship in Australia

Bill Kerr has kept the ball alive while others have fallen asleep on it. He is doing good leg work for the campaign to win back Internet freedoms in Australian (specifically South Australian) schools.
This issue isn't going to go away because with more great web apps coming on line everyday the educational importance of student ability to write to the web will grow commensurately.
Unfortunately for us in Australia, the use of Internet filters for censorship is becoming very popular. Australia has been gradually descending into a dark age these past 10 years, as fear, loathing and litigation weasel their way into our culture.

My opinion is, on the matter of filter use and the importance of the protection of a child, is that every teacher should be given the ability to block and unblock sites, thereby playing an important collective role in training the filter. If a case of ambiguity arises where one teacher wants it blocked and another doesn't, then I would want a system that sides on freedom - so a system that still allows an individual teacher to block and unblock it based on their own judgment for the particular context they are in.

I have made this suggestion in conversations about censorship in schools before, and amazingly I get a quick response along the lines of, "oh, but we can't trust teachers with this". Can you believe that! We can trust teachers to walk around in a classroom of 30 or more kids, but we can't trust them in a virtual setting.

Of course, this is if we must use filters at all. I agree with Bill. The better protection we can offer a child is to teach them how to manage and protect themselves.

Bill's effort is urgent though, which is why I think we must focus on getting teachers the ability to block and unblock. He tells me that the filter used by South Australia is effectively blocking anything web2.0, that is, anything where people can write to the web! Flickr, Blogger, MySpaces, OurMedia... all not accessible. So if Bill, and other teachers in SA can get that permission, then their good work in teaching kids how to actually use the Internet safely can continue.

South Australia, meet North Korea. North Korea, meet South Australia.

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VOIP on a PDA, now for free community WiFi

Oh the joy when I discovered how easy it was to install Skype on the PDA I have on loan, and walk around the yard talking to friends for free!

And then I find out how cheap these PDAs are getting!

Now all we need is to start talking our local councils into setting up free community WiFi hotspots and we could be talking to friends for free, walking around the main street, recording and blogging while we go downloading, and uploading media till our heart's are content!

I working up towards a meeting with my local Mayor, are you?

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Phone call with Stephanie Rieger - Yiibu

I just got off the phone with Stephanie Rieger, designer and mLearning content producer with a Creative Commons flare. Stephanie and her husband Brian run the production and publishing company Yiibu - the same one I was raving about a couple of days ago. If you haven't already, you really should check out their Tale of Two Fish.

Stephanie agreed to talk with me on a recorded Gizmo session today. We talked about Creative Commons, mLearning content production issues, sharable learning object theory and practice, and free community WiFi.

Get the audio and logged links here.

I'm quite inspired by Stephanie and Brian's work, and am very glad they are members of the TALO eGroup. Their mission is good, and I think we could learn quite a bit from them in terms of learner centered content design and production, especially for mLearning. I hope they will stay with us and keep us posted on new developments and issues in their field.

Thanks Stephanie.

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EdNA's RSS getting much better - Open Access Libraries

I'm starting to notice that Education Network Australia's RSS feed recent items is getting much better. Everyday I'm getting things of interest either for myself, or someone I know. About 3 months ago, I was on the verge of unsubscribing.

Now, I'm watching with interest as more and more progressive stuff gets listed.

Today I picked up this PDF, Open Access Libraries:
Conventional fee-based publishing models fragment worldwide scholarly journal literature into numerous digital enclaves protected by various security systems that limit access to licensed users. What would global scholarship be like if its journal literature were freely available to all, regardless of whether the researcher worked at Harvard or a small liberal arts college, or he/she was in the United States or Zambia?
Recent Items has always had the interesting approach of being based on daily themes, yesterday was resources on Ancient Greece and contemporary Central Australian Aboriginal culture. Today the Aboriginal theme continues with libraries as the new them. This thematic approach to item listing is not new for the EdNA feed, but the themes are what's improved.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Joint Statement on education between Brazil-Australia could push free and open source software use in Australian education

You know Brazil leads the world in the use of Free and Open Source Software in their public institutions. Now that Australia and Brazil have an MOU that focuses on education, it would be wise for Australian education to adopt FOSS and open document formats so we can share records more efficiently with Brazil, and so students and teachers exchanging between the two nations have an opportunity to familiarise with each others software and digital works! Time to push harder for FOSS on all public education computers in Australia, and for the use of the open document format offered by OpenOffice.

On 4 January, the Minister of External Relations of Brazil, Ambassador Celso Amorim, and the Australian Foreign Minister, the Hon. Alexander Downer MP, had a working meeting in Brasilia, during which they reiterated a shared commitment to intensify the bilateral relationship. Minister Downer is visiting Brazil from 4 to 5 January 2006.

Special attention was drawn to the intensification of people-to-people links, which had been expanding in recent years, particularly in areas such as education. They reaffirmed their commitment to the strengthening of the bilateral relationship.
If you're not aware just how well Brazil 'gets it' start by watching this video documenting their adoption of Creative Commons.

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Still choking on an Artichoke

New Zealand's controversial edublogger Artichoke has posted more wit and creative insight on the utter misguided implementations of learning management systems in the past with his post Smeckledorfed by learning management systems. I'm really enjoying reading Art. And I'm happy to see I've made it onto Art's EduBlogs that Challenge list :) But who is this Artichoke person?

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Free, easy, web based LMS!

2006 may see me endorsing an LMS!

Sean FitzGerald just posted the the TALO eGroup his thoughts on the free, web based learning management system - Nuvvo.

I just had a look around it, watched the screencast, and enrolled in a free course on Suburban Permaculture being offered by the 'Neshura Institute'. The course starts in February, and I'll be using it to hopefully learn a bit more about permaculture, as well as sus out this new learning management system.

Off the bat I feel a bit funny about it though. I feel like I'm returning to school or something, disempowered, on someone else's agenda... but realising that the education sector isn't likely to change much in the next 100 years, I suppose I better pop my head into classroom from time to time, and it may as well be one that comes close to my criteria.

  1. Free: Nuvvo will always be free, courses defualt to free, but the LMS has a ecommerce engine to handle paid for courses as well.
  2. Easy: Certainly the easiest LMS I have ever laid eyes on
  3. Web based: No need to install a thing! No need to talk to IT non support (unless they censor it of course), Ajax powered interface niceness

But 2006 will see me adding another criteria - Mobile.

Given that blogger, wikispaces, flickr, bloglines and delicious all work like a charm on the PDA I have on loan at the moment, will Nuvvo work on it? So far not very well. I have emailed Nuvvo support to point this out, as it should be an easy fix for them (its only the horizontal menu that gets all chomped up). So if it works on a PDA, then it gets the tick for mobile.

Once I do the permaculture course, I'll let you know what I think about it for teaching and learning online.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Make a great impression on your students this year

Make a great impression on your students this year, give them this CD:

The Software for Starving Students CD enhances the Windows and Mac desktop computing experiences by providing an easy way to install free, high-quality software titles via a user-friendly interface. It includes popular open source programs like Firefox and OpenOffice, intended to help students learn about and benefit from open source and free software programs. The SSS team put all the most commonly used free programs onto one CD to make it easier for students to install useful software (including fully-featured office suites, 3D graphic editors and much more) for free. To preview the new SSS interface, check out some screenshots of the latest release.
Thanks Rose!

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TALO Swap Meet 2006

I'm not very good with timing, and its probably not the most perfect time to post this request, but hey, I don't mind repeating myself, and we do have to think about funding.

If you don't know already, there is an eGroup attached to this blog. It is quite active. It's the reason why the comments to the posts here are not so active.

More photos from the TALO SwapMeet05
Anyway, we (the TALO eGroup) had our first face to face meeting up here in the Blue Mountains of NSW Australia a few months ago, and those who made it really enjoyed it. We all agreed that we should do it again sometime.

I want us to start talking about that "again sometime" in the hope that we can settle a date and place soon, so people can have time to apply for funding to be there. Alex Hayes has already nominated Hong Kong in late August as he's preferred location, for reasons to do with HK being a pretty central port for international participation. I'm pretty excited by that myself, but suspect there are many equally impressive suggestions out there.

So, let's start the ball rolling.

  • Do we want a TALO Swap Meet 06?
  • Why have a TALO Swap Meet 06?
  • Who's coming to it and how?
  • What things might we do for it?

I will keep track of ideas and stuff at the TALO SwapMeet 06 Wiki

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Free VOIP to landline

Thanks to Waraku pointing out VoipStunt I just made a free call to my Mum up in Byron Bay, and now I'm looking to make more free calls to normal landlines in a big list of countries available to VOIPStunt.

UPDATE: Aargh forget it! I reached my limit after only 4 calls! Sneaky devils! Pulling a stunt like that!

Free calls to any regular landline in:
Hong Kong
New Zealand
Slovak Republic
South Korea
United Kingdom
United States

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Those lego blocks are back!

Yiibu has a Flash presentation about sharable (learning) objects, revisiting the lego blocks analogy, giving it more meaning and worth!! Structured content 101. I just can't get enough of Yiibu this morning!

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