Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The only thing worth teaching is how to learn

4am.. yep its another one of those sleepless mornings when counting sheep just won't settle the mind. Its like waiting for santa on christmas eve, or going through your paces before a big game... this time its what I'm going to say in the 10 minutes I've got today to sum up everything I represent in this game of teaching and learning.

I have 10 minutes to give a presentation in the first of 4 workshops as part of a course called Designing for Flexible Learning Practice. The course is part of a new certificate called "Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Learning and Teaching" being run in my place of work. It is a certificate that all teaching academic staff will likely be expected to have in our organisation, a trend of certification I am quite familiar with in Australia.

So anyway, I've decided to talk about the only thing worth teaching. My presentation is the last of 3. The others are talking to case studies in flexible learning design. One is talking about the development of an online learning resource, the other (I think) is talking about the development of an online learning community for a particular occupation area. The thing that has been worrying me (and the reason I'm awake at this hour) is that with a distributed and networked learning design (that's kinda what I want to talk about), it is difficult to find something that shows how it works at a glance.

That's why I love Jay Cross' graphic on informal learning. I intend to use this graphic to talk about what our organisation calls "graduate profile". A graduate profile is what a student will be like when they finish their time with us. It has statements in it about being a life long learner, a self directed learner, and stuff like that. I want to use that profile and combine it with Jay's illustration of informal learning, and set them up side by side and use them as the target learning outcome when designing for flexible learning.

So it might go something like this:

When a student comes to us, it is probably for one of 2 reasons. They are a novice learner and need support in starting out their learning in a particular area (a bus ride as Jay puts it); or they are an already expert learner (a bicycle rider as Jay puts it) and have to be here because some other piece of paper says they need this piece of paper. Not much I can do about the paper bit, and it certainly can be a demotivating distraction for some groups, but at least I can try to make the bus ride learning (designed for novice learners) interesting for bicycle riding self directed learners.

So, we have a group of novice learners in their first year. They are expert bicycle riders in other subject areas, but in ours they are confessing novice status and want to come on a bus ride (the lesson, or course plan). What we want to do as bus drivers is teach these people how to appreciate riding bicycles in our subject area. Make sense? Well it is 4:30am...

In short, we want these learners to be functional self directed learners in the field before they graduate. Our graduate profile is a bicycle rider.

What does this mean in real terms? It might go something like this:

In their first year (assuming we as teachers have the luxury of talking in years with our course plans) we join people to classrooms. These may be real 9 to 5 type classrooms or these may be virtual online classrooms. We start them off with presentations, lectures, our own learning materials, and otherwise passive/delivered information. But sooner than later we are asking them to start reproducing what they are learning and interacting with the subject.

In the second year (or phase) we introduce them to existing learning communities where they can witness a more informal learning process. It is here we start teaching how to learn this way. We wean them out of the classroom learning, building confidence around themselves and their understanding of the subject. We help them manage communications technology and the skills needed to work it to THEIR favour, and give incentives to use that technology in whatever informal learning they may already be involved in.

Finally in the third year or phase we add further incentives to now focus their informal learning processes on the subject. Taking their place in existing subject oriented learning communities, developing a voice within it and/or breaking away and starting a new learning community. The main point is to develop a person to be an expert self directed learner in the field before they walk out that "door" with a funny hat and a rolled up peice of paper.

Now with that seemingly obvious objective out of the way, what are some of the impediments to that happening? Well, the classroom for one. If by the end of the 3rd year or phase, your classroom or learning management system is still full, then the objective is still a long way off. You need to get as many as you can out of your classroom (bus) an on their own journey (bicycle) as you can in the short amount of tiime you have. In more than a few cases some people may take a lot longer to develop confidence in learning the field informally than others, a few of these may come to realise that your field is not what interests them. Other obstacles are in measuring learning or assessment, but these bureaucratic challenges are where the fun begins for a creative and energetic teacher.

So, its 5 am and I think I'll sleep on it for an hour or so now. But at least I have it out now. Its rough, and may not make any sense to anyone but me - I bet there are a bunch of people who are thinking that I have just contradicted myself in all this, but I have that in mind and I don't think I have. When I come to re-reading this, all puffy eyed and at work - we'll see.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Teaching is dead, long live learning

It was for the AusTAFE 2005 conference I first uttered those words, along with a list of other provocative statements from the co presenters. Now, over a year later, I have the chance to say them again and back'm up with a bit more content specific to the statement. I plan to say them at Education Au's Global Summit:

Teaching is Dead, long live learning. Your comments, warnings, heads up and suggestions would be very much appreciated in the page's discussion forum of course.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

TALO Chat - I was there

I was there, be it 34 minutes late. According to the TALO wiki we were up for another online meet up through TeamSpeak... what's happening, we were going so well with that too..?

Next one is May 31st - 7pm Sydney time, that's 9pm my time.

Free, easy, web based, flow chart.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Joseph Hart!

Could you have a use for a free, incredibly easy to use, web based and therefore potentially collaborative flow chart/concept mapping tool? Who doesn't have a need for such a thing. I love this tool. I love you!!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Yet another reason to use Open Office

A colleague at work sent me this link today, as we increase our hopes of getting Open Office at least available on all school computers:
A new, yet-to-be-fixed security hole in Microsoft Word exposes computer users to cyberattack, Symantec warned Friday.

Would-be intruders already have attempted to compromise PCs at a Japanese government entity by exploiting the flaw, Vincent Weafer, the senior director at Symantec Security Response, said in an interview. In response, Symantec has raised its ThreatCon to Level 2, which means an outbreak is expected.
So that now means if you use Internet Explorer, Outlook, and Word, you are putting your work at risk. So use Firefox, Thunderbird and Open Office... they're better applications anyway!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Are the lackademics starting to get it

Right when I was poised to unsubscribe from that at times annoying EdNA feed, I was reminded of how valuable it has been for me. Today it pointed me to:

Scholarly Journals at the Crossroads: A Subversive Proposal for Electronic Publishing. An Internet Discussion about Scientific and Scholarly Journals and Their Future

The publication discusses the future of scholarship and science, back in 1995.

We have heard many sanguine predictions about the demise of paper publishing, but life is short and the inevitable day still seems a long way off. This is a subversive proposal that could radically hasten that day. It is applicable only to ESOTERIC (non-trade, no-market) scientific and scholarly publication (but that is the lion's share of the academic corpus anyway), namely, that body of work for which the author does not and never has expected to SELL the words. The scholarly author wants only to PUBLISH them, that is, to reach the eyes and minds of peers, fellow esoteric scientists and scholars the world over, so that they can build on one another's contributions in that cumulative. collaborative enterprise called learned inquiry. For centuries, it was only out of reluctant necessity that authors of esoteric publications entered into the Faustian bargain of allowing a price-tag to be erected as a barrier between their work and its (tiny) intended readership, for that was the only way they could make their work public at all during the age when paper publication (and its substantial real expenses) was their only option.
Given that this was aparently published way back in 1995 and was last updated in 2002, that must mean academics would be starting to read this one...

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Bill Kerr sticking it out for the good fight

Poor old Bill Kerr, high school teacher in South Australia is having to work under extreme conditions of Internet censorship in SA Schools. NSW schools have gone the same way, and I'm discovering some censorship here in New Zealand.

Bill posts a though provoking post on the issue, Censorware and fascist connections. As well as a too close to the bone bit of humour.

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There's truth in anti academia

Painting by the great Mark Tansey - Innocent Eye Test.

Was scrolling through the EdNA feed this morning when the headline Teacher Training Resource Bank caught my eye. But then I read the subtext lifted from the TTRB home page and I reach for my revolver...
provides access to the research & evidence base underpinning teacher education, and a range of other relevant materials. All materials are quality assured through a rigorous process of academic scrutiny and monitoring undertaken by a team of expert teacher educators from the United Kingdom.
My anti academia kicks in and I click the link to pull this shite to pieces..

No feed
Terms and conditions:

By registering on and using this web site you are accepting and will be bound by the terms and conditions set out below and by the Privacy Statement...
All rights, including copyright, in the content of these web pages, including but not limited to graphical images are owned or controlled for these purposes by RM.

A picture like this in the banner:

Ah! I know, here goes Leigh - poo pooing other's work again, but I just can't help it. Stuff like this - setting itself up to be something better, somehow worth more, dismissing the success of democratic authoring, maintaining the church... I just can't stand it. I have to face lackademics who think like this every day and I just say, "cock the hammer.."

Sorry, I will try to be more useful in the future. I'm aware that my rants are over riding my raves in this blog lately. I need to focus on the things I love, will try more and unsubscribe from feeds that keep bringing this into my field of reference.. perhaps I'm wrong about the TTRB, maybe there is good stuff in there, and maybe it is reaching the dark net.. who knows?

Anyway, if you want more useful stuff from me, check out my work blog, check out my screen recordings, check out my latest wikipedia contributions...

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Monday, May 15, 2006


Its posts like this that I wish I was a primary school teacher again...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What's in a name? Why some succeed and others fail

Look at these names:

Black Board, WebCT, Moodle, Drupal, Mambo, Janison

Pretend you're the average educational manager who knows nothing about computers, software and the Internet, let alone teaching and learning. Pretend you believed in LMS and had to decide what system you were going to force everyone to use. All you have to go by is your Microsoft trained, strangely anti social IT unit's advice, and because you know nothing about the Internet, you really wouldn't know where to start in getting a wide range of information... Any luck a few activists and subversives in your organisation have managed to confuse you with a list. What do you do? which one sounds as though it has anything to do with education?... Yep! I know what a Black Board is. I used it and chalk so much its what made me who I am today...

That's clearly how most managers and directors decide to spend hundreds of thousands if not million of dollars on LMS software. There can be no other explanation for it. To hell with proper research, perpetual consultation, needs analysis and investigation.. we don't have the time or motivation for that. The name says it all.

Look at these names:

ePortfolio, web journal, blog, wiki

Its pathetic isn't it, but I truly believe that the reason free and open source software and free and open ways of working have not been duly recognised sufficiently in education is simply because of the names. Moodle rhymes with doodle; blog sounds like poo; drupal sounds like a late night let down; wiki sounds like... well I dunno really, but GIMP! that says it all! Even though there are plenty of research papers, opinion, numbers and success stories getting published in clear favour of FOSS and its economic model, the people who just can't resist spending money just don't get read... and like sheep, those managers and directors "do what they've always done, so we get what we always got."

Even these days, in the so called FOSS heyday, when someone in education says free and open source LMS, people hear Moodle! Tell me, who said Moodle? FOSS is what was said? Sheep I say. The education sector (of which I am a part) should be ashamed of itself. We are an autocratic structure full of conservative bureaucratic thinkers. If we were half of what we demand our students to be, (life long learners, critical thinkers, risk takers, readers, good communicators, democratic) we'd be a lot better off, well.. come to think of it there'd be no such thing as teachers, managers and directors.

We'd be fare and equitable, we'd be supportive of freedom and openness, we'd be current and well read, we'd be 21st Century literate, we'd save a shit load of public money, we'd be making less teachers redundant, and we'd be attracting better people into our workforce.

On the rare occasion that I actually do meet someone even remotely informed on free and open source software in an educational role, about the only discussion I think is worth having is on performance of the software. Crap like support, industry standard, "real" cost, and other white wash makes me wanna puke fire.

It is true that Open Office is slower to start up than MS Office, but with all the better features, formats including MS, and the fact that it runs on ALL operating systems, its understandable really. I agree that GIMP can be a wildly difficult program to use and not as featuresome as Photoshop, but when I can't afford to buy Photoshop and all I have to edit images with is Windows Paint! You bet I'm going to download GIMP! And I can download, copy and distribute these to anyone I know without a single worry that some pale faced, black shirt is gunna come and sue me. Its just a real scandal that so few people in education are supportive, let alone aware of such opportunities.

I've been pushing for the equal use of free and open source software and educational materials for 2 years, a blip in time compared to the committed work of so many others. I can't be sure of seeing any progress though, and I think its because we are playing their game. What I have seen is a stronger union of those who do get it, but at the expense of being sidelined, labeled a subversive, and having to get angry and vent with posts like this. Enough pandering to the autocratic system! Those reports and proposals are just mechanisms to sponge away our energy and actual reach.

Ignorance and stupidity prevails, reject it!

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Peter Mellows - StudyTXT

Met Peter Mellows for dinner tonight. He is talking tomorrow about his StudyTXT project. Basically its a simple service in which students txt a course or subject code and get txt back a 100 or so character message with facts and figures. Here's a video of Peter demonstrating the service.

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Networked Learning workshops

I guess some people might be noticing the old Teach and Learn Online blog slowing down. Well I've noticed anyway. Its that fulltime job you see... its not that I'm not blogging! I'm still blogging as furious as ever, but more to do with my job. Below is a recent post that may be a little interesting to some readers of TALO. You can see what else I've been doing at my work journal.

Since the podcast about podcasting session, there's been an increase in the number of people at Otago Polytechnic interested in audio recording and publishing. We had a few people at the Digital Video Recording and Editing workshop yesteray. Merrolee wanted to find out how to make her mobile phone recordings available online. Julia is interested in how she can AV record her presentations and make them available online. Rachel is interested in current trends in video for use in her photography classes. Phil turned up to get ideas. Bronwyn was there as well. Ken couldn't make it because of a meeting, but her is interested in audio recording and podcasting lectures.

Seeing as this was the first workshop on digital video, I kinda held the floor for the hour going over all the different things involved, and explaining what it doesn't involve - for me.

I started off explaining how this workshop fits in the series of workshops in networked learning, and how there is an eMail list for the participants to continue discussion before and after workshops. I showed how everyone is a manager in that eMail list and urged everyone to invite and add others. I also demonstrated how to RSVP a time for workshops from the workshop calendar.

Then I moved into what the session is about. I pulled out my little pocket camera and explained my perspective on these camera's video recording capabilities. For the most part these cameras do a good enough job in terms of quality for use on today's internet. The fact that they can only record short lengths of video is a blessing in my view. Like the expense of film, storage issues for digital cameras means we are more careful and thoughtful in how we shoot video. This naturally leads us into a practice of in camera editing, which in the long run is a very good practice to get in to.

From that I showed YouTube. One of many free DIY video publishing web sites that offers free streaming for your videos. I showed some of my uses of YouTube and demonstrated the extra benefits of using socially networked services like YouTube - especially how when you upload a video of your own, it automatically relates your video with other videos like it, based on how you describe yours. This can be a valuable feature that will save we teachers from "reinventing wheels", and networking us with other video creators with similar interests.

I showed how I am largely using YouTube for screencasting. I use the free and open source screen recorder CamStudio to record demonstrations of using particular websites and software. I then upload the demos to YouTube and copy the code offered by YouTube and past it in this blog to display the video in context, as such:

If you are reading this post in your email, then it is likely that you cannot see the video. The email has been forwarded from the original blog post. Click the "educational development" link at the bottom of the email to see this post in its original context.

I then talked about the limitations of YouTube only really being usable to people who have access to broad band Internet. Unfortunately, YouTube does not yet offer a feature of being able to download the video to play offline. What we need is a service that will at least allow people to set their computers to download a video file so that they can walk away and come back next morning and have a video file to play.

So I showed OurMedia. OurMedia offers unlimited file storage, non commercially. It is the contemporary media capture arm of the Internet Archive, an impressive project working towards the goal of offering universal access to all human knowledge.

But before uploading video to OurMedia, it is a good idea to process our orginal video into a size and format that is optimized for the Internet. I use the free video converter Videora. Videora processes videos into the MPEG4 format which is playable in the Quicktime player, as well as the iPod video player. It is generally accepted to be the most widely used and playable format.

Once original video has been processed into MPEG4, it can be uploaded to OurMedia, and then the Universal Resource Locator (URL or Link) is offered by OurMedia for you to copy and use in your online communications. That is the link that people on slower connection can use to save the video to their computer for viewing later.

We talked about a whole bunch of other issues and potentials in the workshop, but hopefully these notes cover the core elements.

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