Monday, September 28, 2009

Noel Pearson KOs the Greens

Bill Kerr maintains good commentary on Noel Pearson, a politician and spokesperson for Torres Straight Islanders and Aboriginal Australia generally. I want to thank Bill for facilitating my access to Noel's perspectives, I'm looking forward to returning home, and into these issues I feel more indebted to.

Bill's notes cover Noel's speech to the Writer's Festival in Brisbane recently, where he spoke about his views about self interest and social development, and disgust at the new environmentalism that is "offsetting the burden to those who can least bare it". While he focuses on issues in Queensland, I think we should be able to hear a voice for a big issue for global environmentalists generally.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Literacy is a word I'd rarely use without thinking

You know, I have heard teachers proclaim an understanding of what it means to be literate and numerate more times than I can count, and never have a heard a breath of self conscious doubt as to whether or not they know for sure what such a thing means these days. Some use language in their discussion that betrays a thinking that there is a definite line between literate and illiterate, others accept the idea of it being a continuum but little more than that. There are a few who talk about something called 21st Century Literacy, hardly in any depth and always seconds away from being dismissed by a skeptic who hasn't even considered the proposition.

Closer to home at the Poly, we even have a few people knowledgeable in alternative ways of thinking about literacy - particularly centered around a person's readiness to develop such skills.. Steiner.. or Postman's "Crap Detectors".. but such alternative thinking was long ago absent from our educated discussions..

Meanwhile, we the teachers of today, with our self assured yet precarious confidence and government mandates, devise measurement sticks to use on people we class as "learners", a stick that will tell them what we think we already knew - you are illiterate or you are literate. We don't dare measure ourselves, that's for sure, certainly not with any contemporary measure.

I'm just finished reading a post about this thing termed 21st Century Literacy.. and while it takes a broad brush, it perhaps (perhaps not) will stimulate a more self conscious consideration of what we deem as worth measuring in terms of literacy and numeracy:

An Operating System for the Mind

No ownership of ideas, no copyright. Public Domain if you like. Give, share, take, reuse.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Measuring social media's return on "influence"

Digital Royalty shares an interesting approach for measuring the influence something is having through social media. You could use this for straight up marketing of course, but what interest me most of all is how these methods and formulas could be used to measure the effectiveness of learning. At the very least you could measure learner engagement, but I think with a little tweaking, it could reveal a lot more as a formative assessment tool.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Measuring Open Education. Finishing stage 1: Usage

I think I can say that:
one teacher engaging in open educational practices (at Otago Polytechnic) using popular social media platforms, generates $5011 per year worth of savings and gains to their supporting oranisation. It costs $3000 to adequately train and equip such a person to a suitable level so as to be able to generate this sort of return.
Anyone care to check my math and reasoning on that?

My sickness, absence last month, and the unanticipated complications with ethics approval has delayed stage 2 of the project - to conduct an ethnographic evaluation of people engaged in the production and publishing of educational resources at the Polytechnic. While we try and sort out an approach to ethics, I have been focusing on finishing this usage evaluation.. trying to get an all too simple dollar value on the open ed work.

  • I have selected a sample of open educational resources produced by Otago Poltechnic staff, including resources on Wikieducator, Youtube, Slideshare and Blogs.
  • I have estimated the cost of producing those resources based on a low royalty fee for using a single image, how long it takes to produce a 1 page handout, 10 slide presentation, a 3 minute video. That goes down as a cost or production (although some argue the production of educational resources is part of teaching work).
  • Any free-for-reuse media used in the resources is subtracted from the cost of production based on the same estimate above. That goes down as a saving in production cost.
  • I have asked other institutions to estimate how much it costs to set up and maintain their own Wiki, media sharing site, and a blogging platform. That goes down as a saving in IT support.
  • I asked the marketing unit how much they spend on a billboard and a news paper ad, divided that by how many views they think that gets, to get a value per view. That value is multiplied by how many views the educational resources have. That result determines the worth of open educational resources in terms of simple brand awareness marketing. That goes down as a gain in brand awareness.
  • I estimated the training and technical resourcing of one staff member to produce and publish open educational resources. That goes down as a cost of production.
  • I have not put a unit of measure to things like learning outcomes, job satisfaction, responses as apposed to straight views of a resource.
  • I am still waiting on costings to serve Internet data out from, and into the Polytechnic. This would go down as either a cost or saving, depending on the location of the person who is viewing the resources.
Beth Kanter recently published a presentation on calculating ROI (Return of Investment). I hadn't considered that was what I was doing before, but of course! Beth's presentation offers some food for though on how I might go about measuring some more aspects to this question.

I hope to be able to argue that at the very least, supporting teachers who produce and publish open educational resources on popular social media sites is good for the organisation at a very basic operational level. I might even go as far as to argue that these dollars should be turned into incentives and rewards for those engaging in such practice, and special support for improving the quality and design of some of the more popular resources that have been generated. Another angle is to suggest to the marketing unit that open educational resources on popular social media platforms are a valuable tool for brand awareness marketing (at least) and that they might consider a future marketing budget that compliments the production of educational media instead of (or as well as) billboards and news papers ads.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Leaving Otago - going to Canberra

I resigned from Otago Polytechnic last week. I'll be taking up a position at the University of Canberra, starting in October, working 1 year with the National Institute of Sports Studies. The appointment is a little ironic, considering I haven't had much to do with the Otago Institute of Sport while at the Polytechnic. Browsing the courses at the NISS, I can see that Sports Media is probably an area I could help in.

The eternal optimist Keith Lyons landed me the job there after we reconnected through Facebook! I first met Keith back in 2005 when he invited me down to tour sports education facilities in Canberra. He and I both share an enthusiasm for social media, the Internet and their role in education. I'll have to focus this some, onto the topic of sport I see.. but I'm sure Keith and the team have good ideas. I have a few already, but better hold them until I know what is going on there.

Another big attraction to Canberra is the handful of extremely progressive educationalists I know working there. There's James Neil, Marg O'Connell and Leonard Low for starters... will be nice to have more chances to talk with them face to face.

Sunshine and I are both a little sad to leave Dunedin. We have to sell our house that we put so much into, and say goodbye to wonderful friends and colleagues. I feel like I'm leaving something I started as unfinished - the development of more independent open educational practices using social media... but its well started at least - Otago Polytechnic has set up the Open Educational Resource Foundation which will capitalise on that initial work, I'm sure.

Many thanks to Otago Polytechnic and the many supportive individuals there for these past 3 and a half years.