Wednesday, February 24, 2010

UC Hothouse - plans for Sport Studies

Keane, Jason, Sandy, Disa, John and I met today to discuss a rough project plan for the Hothouse project we won funding for recently - a 12 week schedule to develop skills and understanding of online communication tools to support the unit Sport Research and Practice - encapsulated within a program called The Australian Sporting Industry, in which a group of people from the USA come to Australia and tour sport facilities and the like, attending seminars and meetings and getting to know the sport system in Australia. Same for a group of Australians going to the USA.

So our meeting was to discuss what we will do in the Hothouse on a weekly basis to prepare for this exchange. We all agreed it should be something online - to prepare for and support the exchange program.

We have 12 weeks in the Hothouse project, and we listed off 6 things we would like to look at in the project:

  1. The use of Youtube to make introductions and set assignments
  2. The development of a web page for the program
  3. Photo sharing, presentations, and slide shows
  4. Making academic content multi media (for example, an assignment described on Youtube, linked to a slide presentation, linked to a text document)
  5. Student diaries as blogs
  6. Using laptops and wireless Internet in Australia and the USA

Devices we discussed researching and possibly purchasing with the project budget:
  • Hard drive video camera
  • Wireless lapel microphone
  • Smart phone
  • Laptop with USB wireless key

Our available weekly meeting time to look at these things and more is Mondays 1-3pm. Probably we will align our agenda with other Hothouse project interests, and host seminars on these topics at this time.

This Friday, I will attend the Hothouse project meeting, representing the Sport Studies team. Here are the slides intended for the 5 minute talk I am to give in that meeting:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Free vs paywall learning

Check out this info graphic, ts a beauty.. click to see bigger

Now, one for free learning vs paywall learning:

If you are into free learning - this is what you get
  1. Google search
  2. Start learning

If you are into paywall learning - this is what you get

  1. Google search barely found the institution you thought would offer the course you're thinking to take
  2. Navigate the website of the found institution, never to find how much it actually costs
  3. Think you found the course you want
  4. Call the institution to find out how to enroll
  5. Get sent a form that asks your sex, race, religion, ethnicity, age, educational status, address, phone number, mothers maiden name etc
  6. Get sent an invoice
  7. Get sent some marketing survey
  8. Get given an email account with a crappy password system, and even worse features, and told your teachers will only communicate with you on that email account
  9. Get sent an info package with everything but useful information
  10. Get told to buy 5 expensive text books, and that the library is no use because all the content is online behind a paywall website
  11. Try to login to that paywall website only to find out the password you were sent doesn't work
  12. Call helpdesk (only open between 9 and 5pm), and get told the server was down for the weekend and to please try again in a few hours when they think the problem will have been fixed
  13. Finally get in to the paywall website revealing some pretty crap content from the POV of one pretty mediocre teacher, who barely knows how to use the Internet, let alone the paywall website itself... you have to sign into this each day.
  14. Do a Google search for one of the assignments you have to do, only to find close to the same course is freely available as open education.. finally you ask why!
  15. Get a grade with feedback you don't understand, and finally a feedback survey that can only be filled in with pen and you have to send it back by mail yourself!
  16. Get a reminder invoice for the fee, plus interest.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The institution is stronger than the revolutionaries

I started writing yet another rant about just how difficult it is to develop appreciation and practice of networked teaching and research in higher education. At a pause between repetitive paragraphs I noticed George's tweet to his post Teaching in Social and Technological Networks.

George's post is somewhat repetitive also (if you've been following him for a while) and so I felt a little more at ease with my own broken record. As always though, George is concise and thought provoking/reminding, and yet - while he works in a tertiary education institution himself, I can't help thinking that not enough consideration is given to just how strong and deeply embedded our culture of institutionalised education is.

Perhaps George looks 30-50 years out (if so, I think some indication of time is needed in his writings), but in my own time span of 5-10 years, I see claims by many including my own, going on about how this technology has changed society (clearly it has) and so it follows (does it?) That education, teaching and research practices will change also.., but I see very little evidence of any REAL change at all!

Most teachers (with the exception of what might be the 1%) just flat out lack the time/motivation or incentive to engage in these new practices. Their work place computing environments can't even operate the media sufficiently, some local networks going so far as to block or censor it, most others just "not supporting it". And above all is the software that is provided by their institutions. Those LMS, SMS, CMS, recording lecturns, email, and single-sign-ons, that encourage the business as usual practices, or "innovation" in a direction completely the opposite to the networked learning future George, others and myself see: IMS common cartridge, copyright, access management and restricted journal publishing scams.

I see little evidence of change in the 4 tertiary education institutions I have worked at, including one that took so called giant strides in the direction of open education using social media. In that one most hopeful case, in reality it was a very small minority of teachers who were willing to attempt the new practices against all odds. Those who did eventually work out a networked teaching/learning/research approach were seen as subversive, and either left or were made part time as an indirect result of their subversive work. Oh,but the rhetoric of openness, access, equity and networked futures was adopted, and sure enough some people have worked out how to profit using that rhetoric, but at the expense of real change.

Perhaps I am just too impatient, too intolerant, too bigoted as one person called me recently. Probably.

There are good conceptual ideas in George's post for the remaining 1% a little late to the garage party. George pointed to an interesting looking paper too: University knowledge in an age of supercomplexity. The abstract reads great, so I'm going home to read it through. Hopefully I'll re find my faith that has been slowly melting away over the past 12 months. Another one that looks like it might be worth a read is Thwarted Innovation, by Zemsky and Massy 2004.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Solving Youtubes webcam record problem

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click to Play

Youtube's webcam record feature is clipping the end of the recording. Use uStream to record from your webcam, and forward that through to Youtube. That way you have two online copies for backup, as well as the MP4 to download from Youtube and reupload to through to :) solid - and no software needed.

Solving Youtubes webcam record problem

Youtube's webcam record feature is clipping the end of the recording. Use uStream to record from your webcam, and forward that through to Youtube. That way you have two online copies for backup, as well as the MP4 to download from Youtube and reupload to through to :) solid - and no software needed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nothing Great about this Climate Change Debate

This is a rushed post. I'm on my way to the hospital to fetch my wife and baby (love saying that), so my quotes, names and references may be a little off, but the gist is here.

Watched the National Press Club's so called Great Climate Change Debate between Penny Wong and Greg Hunt, a couple of Australian politicians who argue for the sake of it. Wong set the scene for the debate, as it being a debate about belief, you either believe in the human caused climate change, or you don't.. they the other to her) being the don't. Then Hunt defused that attempt to polarize the issue saying he agreed on the science, so would rather debate just two proposed economic policies being put forward for action on that climate change.

What else can a popularist politician, who only know's how to combat ideas, and never collaborate, do? They can't take minority stances, not until polls say its safe, they can't talk about the threads of doubt, they can't cry, be humble, civil with one another, truthful and well meaning.. non of that. They can only think about an election not far from now, and talk only about 2 proposed policies, as though there is nothing else, and should be nothing else. What a waste of time, why bother?

The polarization of the issues surrounding climate change is the biggest problem, even bigger than climate change itself I'd say - deserving an open and frank discussion at the Press Club, not another debate! Now days, when I see or read anything that is divisive and using unnecessarily loaded words, targeting an "other" as if anyone else knows better, I dismiss it as cheap and wasteful. Such is the problem in Agmates/Infowars and the plethora of Climate Change agencies geared to defend the faith. So was Wong yesterday...

Wong used the agmate/infowar rhetoric to laugh at "denialism" yesterday. This example illustrates the point perfectly. She quoted the belief held by "conspiracy theorists" that climate change was a global conspiracy of the left to dismantle industrial society. Everyone laughed, no one thought about it.. all things predicated with "conspiracy theory" don't warrant any consideration, because - they don't think straight - we do, they use inflammatory language - we don't.

A conspiracy to dismantling industrial society... sounds ridiculous doesn't it? And on the one hand it is, on the other it is not. Its all in the wording and an ability to listen.

Wong went on to explain the Carbon Pollution Reduction Plan (an ETS), saying it was complex, but it needed to be. In her words, "we are changing the economy to fix the problem (putting a price on pollution). They (the Liberals) are proposing business as usual, that being the thing that created this problem in the first place".

Can you see how what she says confirms the agmate/infowar idea about the Left? Both sides don't realise it is neither a conspiracy nor is it good will, what they both say is true, what they both say is false. The truth (an understanding) is missed by poor communication.

Wong and the party she represents, traditionally speaking, is on the Left. They have a plan to regulate the economy to fix the human problems that cause climate change. In other words, the left is conspiring to "dismantle industrial society". Nothing to laugh at there, why can't Wong see the two sides of the same coin here? Because of the language that agmates/infowars use, because of her effort to sideline them by laughing at them, she's simply not listening, and they are not using words to be heard. They want to use language not for negotiating an understanding, but simply to agitate their own, preaching to the converted, laughing at their enemies, spoiling for a fight. They're all the same.

This school yard nonsense needs some bloody shaming. Its as though we all actually prefer to fight, hung up on old fights still. I wouldn't be surprised if some violence is brewing in a small NE Victorian logging town aimed at a small group of hippies who used to chain themselves to dozers, trying to stake a claim for subsistent and convivial living there. Nor would I be surprised at the number of people positioning to profit from this waste of energy in fighting. I hope our "leaders" (the ones who put themselves in the high minded spotlight, that is), start thinking about their petty play of politics, and start self sacrificing a little, and actually give something to the other. Listen, paraphrase, read back, check for understanding, work with.

All we need is love. Makes you cringe doesn't it. We've lost all perspective and meaning in life. I'm disgusted by us all.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


Sunshine's waters broke at the local movie rental. I was called from work at 1230. We arrived at the hospital at 2. Eve Leyson Blackall (working title) was born at 4:39pm 8 Feb 2010! 3.2kg, 50cm long. Dark hair, eyes wide open, feeding and sleeping well.
Sunshine, "6th fastest baby deliverer in Australia", is well but under observation after some complications delivering the placenta, expected home on the 10th.


On this day the world has come closer. enemies are now friends, friends are now family, family is now as one.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Popular internet in teaching and research

Slides on Slideshare
Audio 12 minutes 3 meg mp3

A presentation given to the Faculty of Health at the University of Canberra, Dec 2009. (I forgot to record the talk on the day, so this is a recording made later). Links and references at

Popular internet in teaching and research

A presentation given to the Faculty of Health at the University of Canberra, Dec 2009. (I forgot to record the talk on the day, so this is a recording made later). Links and references at

Connecting, sharing, developing - The open PhD

Audio recording to the presentation made at the University of Canberra's PhD induction day. 4 Feb 2010

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Presentation on Open PhD

I've been asked to stand in for someone at UC to give a talk of connecting, sharing and developing in the PhD process. Who am I to advise people engaged in the PhD process!? I am only starting that track myself, but I think some people will find my initial ideas about and open PhD process of interest, so I'll talk about that. Here's the slides, hastely put together in a very distracted morning (I'll add them to Slideshare later):

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The horror - deliberation leads to horror

I'm reading Infotopia. Twitter notes (while they last).

Deliberation leads to polarisation and extremism. And group decisions based on deliberations often result in no better result than a simple vote without deliberation. This is because new information is almost always rejected by the group, preferring instead to stay with "common knowledge", and/or cascading decisions like groupthink. Deliberation strengthens this bias, often resulting in worse group decisions than by a straight non-deliberative vote!

He who controls common knowledge (or sub conscious) controls everything!

omg.. the horror.. reading on...