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Joseph Hart points to Google Pages, a very easy way for the kids of all ages to get a web site up for a school project, or something one off and static. You get a nice and easy URL with it too. Check out mine: http://leighblackall.googlepages.com

Amazing to think that it was only 4 years ago I was sweating it out over an opne book on Dreamweaver and HTML!!

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Sunshine and I are happily settling in to our new lives in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Actually, check out Sunshine’s beautiful work depicting it in a blog to get the real idea of how life just got really good for us).

My first few days at the Otago Polytechnic have been good. I’ve just been busying myself researching the history of the place and getting to know the layout of the campus. Which brings me to the topic of this post – Using Flickr and Wikipeda as tools to enhance staff induction.

That’s what I’ve been doing over the last 2 days. Self directing my own induction into this organisation. Everyone is quite busy this time of year, so I’ve been happily finding my way around and reckon I have learned a few things pretty well so far.

Firstly, I noticed that there was no entry for Otago Polytechnic in Wikipedia, so I used this as an opportunity to focus some of my learning. I found a few books and annual reports, and have set to work building up an entry in wikipedia. It so far includes a history of the institution, info about studying and working there, and a list of the types of course that are run – that I plan to populate (or encourage it so) with info as I go along around here. The final product is really a side issue, because what I want to point out most of all is just how effective that developing a wikipedia entry has been as a personal learning strategy. It has really done wonders for my motivation and cognition at least.

Secondly, I needed to orientate myself around the campus and get to know where everything is, and how it physically fits. So I grabbed a campus map and spent a morning strolling around taking photos of the buildings I visited. (Thanks Mike for the inspiring idea for this). But I took it a step further and uploaded the photos to Flickr, developing a naming and description convention, and thereby enhancing my learning of where, and what in Otago. Then I uploaded the map and used Flickr’s great little roll over notes features to create a kind of virtual tour.

Now, I really want to emphasize that it’s not so much the finished, not even nearly finished content that I have developed here that is important – but the learning through creation of content I am undergoing. That learner centered stuff, and learner generated content we always talk about. Seymour Papert’s Constructionism. I plan to continue to do this for at least the next 6 months as I get to know the place, and attend formal induction workshops. For me at least, I find it is a powerful and very efficient method of learning. Add to this some mobile technology, some elements of the student orientation programs, and some socially networked software and I’d say we could have quite a powerful and ongoing induction and orientation process for new staff and students.

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I just received an email from a friend with some pretty strong arguments from David Wiley for openness in education. I’ve just moved into my new home in Dunedin and am on dial up for a few days. I’ve been too busy to keep up with my news reader, so am grateful for this pointer. Have just cut and paste the email here:

1. http://www.smartmobs.com/archive/2006/02/15/the_case_for_op.html

David Wiley teaches Instructional Technology at Utah State University and directs the Center for Open and Sustainable Learning based at the school. Recent posts on his blog, iterating toward openness, report on testimony given earlier this month to the US Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education by Wiley and other leaders of the open content for learning movement.

Wiley’s summary of his testimony:

In summary, higher education has fallen out of step with business, science, and everyday life. In order to realign itself with changes in society and in its student base higher education must find the will to innovate in the area of openness, and then in connectedness, personalization, participation, and other key areas. Openness is the key to enabling other innovations and catalyzing improvements in the quality, accountability, affordability, and accessibility of higher education. The open infrastructure of the Internet has enabled a huge number of innovations at a speed and scale that could never have occurred if this infrastructure had been closed. I submit that content, faculty support, and peer support are the infrastructure of teaching and learning. To the extent that we open these, we can speed the adoption and scale of innovation in the teaching and learning space.

My recommendation to the Commission is this: please, set a bold goal of universal access to educational opportunity. It is the right thing to do for the citizenry, and the best thing to do for higher education. Openness can play a significant role in enabling this access and many other innovations in teaching and learning.

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Here with Rob Mann and Rick Toovey from the Horticulture Section of the Blue Mountains TAFE. We’re looking at everything you need to teach and learn online today and Thursday. Today we are focusing on the use of eGroups, wikis (in particular wikispecies), and geoblogging.
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Konrad Glogowski has a thought provoking strategy for developing writing, and more importantly reflective thinking processes and skills over in his blog of proximal development

I want them to see their writing as an attempt to capture the current state of their engagement with ideas not the final pronouncement on the assigned topic. Writing and learning itself are not about coming to immutable conclusions. They are about negotiation, about branching off into other avenues, about exploring possibilities.

We’ve been talking about writing a bit lately in the TALO egroup. So Konrad’s post comes at a good time.

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Michael Nelson has an excellent idea for reinvigorating a college orientation day with a bit if technology and interaction. The photo chase! Students use mobile phones and cameras, and are awarded points for obtaining pictures (and other media I might suggest) of important features of the college. Winner “takes all” as Mike puts it.

I’d also suggest uploading the pictures to Flickr under an agreed tag so that anyone who missed the day can catch up a bit by viewing the media captured…

Nice one Mike.

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When I worked for the Australian Trade Office in Taiwan, part of my job was to communicate with journos. Journos aren’t my favorite type of people to say the least, but expat journos seem to be the best of a bad lot. Dunno why really, perhaps its just that they have a more global perspective, and something in them that compelled them to leave home and explore.

Anyway, wondering off a bit there. This was back in 2001. Something I noticed back then was how hard it was to get the journo I was speaking to, to simply click a link. I might have had a scoop on offer, or just an interesting story to push, rarely did I have to do any spin thank goodness, no matter how easy I made it for them on the Internet, they never went there. I would type up a brief and to the point email, maybe attach a picture or two, then a link to the full info and resources. Never did they go there. It was just a click for gods sake! But if I sent them a copy of a newspaper article, or even if all I said was to check out page so and so of the day’s paper, almost every time they’d get up, walk down to the corner shop, buy a copy of the paper I was referring to and read the article. How did I know, because they’d almost always get back to me with a comment! To my thinking at the time, this was a sure sign that the Internet was a failure.

But even today, with a significant increase in critical mass of Internet users, I still experience a similar frustration and disappointment from time to time. Quite a few times I have pushed what I considered to be my best work and contribution to the network, only to see it get missed altogether. And on the other hand, some of the most lame things I’ve written get picked up with excitement and my site counter goes through the roof!

Getting hard work missed in an online, and self managed network can be a real demotivator at times, which could become a big issue for many new teacher and student bloggers coming into our edublogging community these days. I dunno what to do about it, other than to advise people not to put all their online identity into one basket. Spread yourself out. Load your pictures and slide shows to Flickr and other picture sharing networks then link them into your blog, keep multiple blogs, use Frappr, join eGroups, what ever. Get your work seen by a wide and varied audience, because often the audience you intended to write for may miss or ignore your efforts, where as other groups may pick it up and offer the feedback you need for recognition and maybe some small reward. Motivation is a very important thing to look after in a learner, but something that is very easily neglected by an (at times) depersonalised, cross cultural network.

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A while back I resolved to seek political refuge outside Australia. The land of panel vans, a full time job, $1 spaghetti bolognaise, mullet hair cuts, a fair go and the possibility of socialism seems long gone. So New Zealand here I come, a place where refugees are treated better, nukes are not allowed, Iraq would be a nice place to visit, a treaty exists with the original people, and sheep live good lives. So I found a job, applied, and a few months later I find myself employed by the Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, with a very friendly team working on educational development. This time next week Sunshine and I will be packing our reduced belongings into a container, the dogs onto a jet, and by Friday, we’ll be moving into our new house in Broad Bay, partly along the North side of the Peninsula.

I’m really looking forward to this new life for Sunshine and I. I’ll get to do what I do and get paid for it, Sunshine gets a good discount on her Design studies at the polytech, and in our holidays we’ll to go skiing, mountaineering, canoeing, climbing, sailing, etc.

So, I might be a little slower than usual with the postings. But something tells me that in between the packing, I’ll still find time to turn on the computer and post to this blog. One things for sure, the computer and modem will be the last thing to get in the box.

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Interesting comments on the future of ownership and control in educational organisations by James stemming from my thoughts on the benefits of using free web based services (third party) over installing and maintaining your own system (host your own). On the observation that many more teachers are using free web based services instead, James says:

Is this a long tail thing then? I’m certain that the next generation of major online educational tools will arise out of use by individual teachers, schools and institutions but will these forever be (on the whole) beyond these groups and people to host themselves or will third party providers be the drivers here and will they be the next WebCTs etc. or will that only be achieved by large enterprise-install-yourself-systems?

I think so long as the culture of educational organisations continue to be hierarchial and all about control (right through to the attitudes of individual teachers and students), then some of the third party developments will indeed find it all too easy to become the next webCTs. But hopefully, the use of small pieces loosely joined and open networked learning models will inspire more flexible and sustainably independent levels of practice in the teaching professions, and we will see enough reflection and questioning from the practitioners as a result of that new practice, that the very culture of education will change. But I think it could only change once those new practices start attracting people into education sector who have remained largely outside because of cultural differences…

in short, cops will be cops, AJs (army jerks) will be AJs, teachers will be teachers, politicians will be politicians… these statements (while gross generalisations) must cary some truth in terms of being statements on things generally observable about the culture of the professions they’re referring to.

So changing the culture of the teaching profession, so that new and equally monolithic systems don’t emerge would be a miracle!

This inspiring paper by Dr Neil C Cranston, pointed to by Stephen really does stir up the revolution and shine a torch down the long tunnel of change, but not before it points out just how darn near impossible it might be to change the culture of the education sector.

Perhaps a little scorched earth might work…

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Some day I hope we can enjoy 2 way Internet access and communications in much the same way we can enjoy radio. Free! I buy a handset, you buy a handset, “big daddy, big daddy do you copy? over”

Sean Fitzgerald has had some exciting insights into were and how free Internet may be possible:

I’ve just been getting into wifi lately, so I did a bit of research and found out that it is possible to set up community networks using affordable technology that allows everyone’s wifi to act as a repeater station. This is called a mesh network. One Internet connection can be shared across a wide community.

Now all we need is for Sean to go back through his post and give us some links, and we’re all well on our way to seeing this happen. I’ve been saving my links to my del.icio.us tag freewireless and may have had some success in inspiring my local council up here in the Blue Mountains to offer free WiFi from their buildings! But Sean’s findings point to something very exciting indeed!

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