Friday, March 18, 2011

Who owns schools - ubiquitous learning

Some UC colleagues and I have been loosely collaborating around the idea to write a critique of the notion of ubiquitous learning. The experience of collaborating around a wikiversity article for this has been great, especially because the people I'm collaborating with are more closely known to me.

Through this project, I've met Ian Hart, who as far as I can tell may have been the first to link Illich's Deschooling Society to the emerging social movement in the Internet. He published Deschooling and the Web through a Routledge jounral back in 2001. Yes, I know! surely someone linked Illich to the web before then!?

Ian also wrote and directed the 1979 film, Who Owns Schools, which was banned by the Queensland government Ian tells me. I enjoyed a viewing Who Owns Schools at the National Film and Sound Archive yesterday. Many things impressed me about it, such as the rapid editing and story telling for a 1970s film that must have been seen as futuristic, certainly demonstrating great skill on the part of the film editor. The open ended moral to the story, being careful not to prescribe, even expressing self consciousness in this point. This was highlighted by a skit toward the end, featured 3 stereotypical teachers forecasting the future of a 15 year old girl. This scene in particular caused me to reflect on my own opinions and actions regarding education systems. But at the very end, as is so often the case, the film finally asked children the question, who owns schools? Perhaps revealing the film's original intent. I hope to play a role in getting a digital version of the film uploaded and made more readily accessible soon.

Who Owns Schools? is an enjoyable, funny film, about an all too serious question, from a time long enough ago to give us some perspective. What perspective? That not much has changed these last 32 years! The would-be change agents have achieved so little in the face of it all. All part of the larger failure of the "Left" perhaps, but why? What is this invisible force that overwhelms all attempts at change? False consciousness and hegemony? The fact that Queensland bureaucrats banned this film says something of the kind...

As for the wiki that might become our collaborative critique on ubiquitous learning, for some darker corner of the web known as a ranked journal, I have made a few more edits and additions. I thought to do more consolidating of sections, down to now 4:

  1. History of 'ubiquitous learning'
  2. Its not about the technology, or is it?
  3. Propinquity - the missing link in ubiquitous learning?
  4. Ubiquitous learning - as in freedom

I've added some research dug out by Pam Hook recently, that has been ignored in our futuristic techno-love - that reading comprehension rates are significantly reduced in screen based environments. See section 2 for a link to Pam's work. I've also added reference to a book (care of Barbara Dieu in a TALO discussion), and a documentary film, looking at the link between 1960's counter culture and the cyber culture utopianism of today. See section 1.

If you'd like to contribute to this collaborative critique, by all means!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How might we teach and learn social media?

I'm leading the next Creative Research Discussion Group session at the University of Canberra at 12 noon, on 23 March, in the Teaching Commons of UC. The aim of the session is to discuss how teachers and assessors at UC might consider social media topics, how we think people go about learning it, how - or if at all, we might go about teaching it, and how - or if at all, we would go about offering assessment and certification towards it.

Hopefully this discussion with inform the developments of the Social Media page on Wikiversity, perhaps as a shared space for those attempting to teach it and learn about it.

Proposal to use Wikibooks for The History of Paralympics

Based on the open textbook work developed at Otago Polytechnic and more recently at the University of Canberra's Psychology Department, Keith and I prepared a proposal to the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) - to use Wikibooks and Wikimedia Commons to produce a text and multi media resource called, The History of the Paralympic Movement in Australia.

When APC called for proposals we immediately responded by way of an open tender, authoring the first to the last word on Wikiversity, and submitting the final proposal as a PDF exported directly out of the wiki. Keith had the wonderful idea to extend an open invitation to all other tenderers, to join with our tender in whole or in part, if they saw particular strengths and weaknesses they could speak to.

Having the proposal openly available as it developed drew incredibly useful feedback, as well as support from potential partner organisations such as Wikimedia Australia. Graham Pearce, a Wikipedia Administrator in Western Australia and someone who does his work via use of a screenreader, offered a letter of support as well as some copy editing over the proposal. It was very reassuring to hear from Graham just how usable MediaWiki is for people using screenreaders. Graham is on our team now, to assist with copy writing, training and support, and to ensure we author documents that are as usable for screenreader technology as possible.

So, we now wait for official feedback from the APC, to which we have a 2 week period to respond before they make their final decision. Our invitation to collaboration still stands and it will be interesting to see if the APC sees fit in encouraging that to happen if the proposals they receive have equal strengths and weaknesses.

The whole process has been a much more the pleasant experience than proposal writing is normally. Firstly, the APC's call for proposals was informative and helpful in framing the need. Rather than proving a template to fill in, we were left to pitch our proposal in the best way we thought how. I would have liked to have produced a video with it (and may still do that).