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In Dunedin and the Otago region there is a controversial issue with a fight brewing, to build another rugby stadium instead of an Institute of Design.

StopTheStadium has documented an amazing break down in process regarding the stadium idea, to the point that most people here must think there is corruption in our local, regional and national government processes. I suspect it is more like shrewed business people taking advantage of public, media and administration blind spots while initiating the project, and using that to build up and create unstoppable momentum for their short sighted aims. In short, its a classic case of lobbying for a project where the gains are private and the risks are public.

I can’t for the life of me see the worth of building an international grade rugby stadium down here, but I can certainly see the sense in developing the Institute of Design. It will certainly cost more to build the stadium than their spokespeople have publicly announced, and considering we can’t fill the stadium that already exists, I don’t see any evidence that another one will suddenly boost interest and sustain it long enough so as to fill the seats until the debt is paid off.. I might see the sense in an upgrade of the famous “Brook” though. Even if Dunedin did turn into the capital of the South with a population big enough and cashed up enough to be able to pay off the thing, I honestly can’t see what improvement it will bring to Otago industry, business, education, imagination and over-all sustainability.

Another, far less controversial proposal is on the table at the same time. The Otago Institute of Design, but the public funding pegged for that is being pulled!? Even without knowing any more about the Institute than its name, it is far more obvious how such a thing would contribute to Otago’s economic, industrial, business, educational and sustainable development.

Otago Polytechnic and Otago University are bringing their design departments together to form a new Otago Institute of Design. By pooling their expertise and resources they are creating a centre of excellence for design right here in Dunedin. This initiative will also take collaboration between design educators across NZ and the design industry to a new level, for instance, with their high-tech prototype and modeling facility that will be the most comprehensive currently available in Australasia.

But wouldn’t you know it, the Federal Government looks set to withdraw their 12.5 million dollar loan to develop the Institute, instead directing their funds to the rugby stadium to the tune of 15 million!

I can’t work this out. Rugby stadium / Institute of Design which one will have more bang for its buck when factoring in all bottom lines? When our local economy starts to feel the pinch of international trade and resource depletion, and we are in need of fresh and new innovation, what will help us? A game of rugby or a few thousand designers developing new technology and testing new ideas?

The only good thing I can think of about the stadium is that with its huge glass cover it will make a great biosphere to grow the food that we can longer import because the ships, trucks and trains needed new parts and different fuel.

This letter is sent to:
The Minister of Finance Hon. Bill English b.english@ministers.govt.nz
and Prime Minister, Hon John Key j.key@ministers.govt.nz
cc. Hon Anne Tolley, Minister for Education a.tolley@ministers.govt.nz

Here’s a Canadian’s perspective on why university education should be free by Heather Mallick. Of course, I think it well worth considering, even if the perspective comes across as more cold hard economic rationalism.. the comments therefore represent that line – but when in Rome hey! I still appear to be the only one in NZ giving free vocational education and training serious thought and development, that’s a worry. Any links anyone?

This is a draft version of a mini open source documentary we are putting together about Otago Polytechnic and its open educational resources and practices. Please help us to improve it by identifying errors or making suggestions. We’ve had a headache with camera codecs not matching up with the editor, so any compliments would help with production moral as well :)

After seeing Roger Stack's tour of Tasmanian Polytechnics, I thought to myself, "man! I know more about Tasmanian Polytechnic geography then I do New Zealand". So I set to work mking my owb version of Roger's Google Earth video just to study up on where NZ Polytechnic's are situated. Oh, and I learned a thing or two about Google Earth while I was at it.

First music track is some way old country by Ernst Thompson care of the Archive.

I stuffed up the credits in the video for the second track. It is called Thinking of New Zealand, but is by Adam Wojtanek – care of the Archive again.

I'll load up a new version with the correct credits tomorrow.

Thanks for the inspiration Roger. 

Some politicians in NZ have been working hard at reducing the levels of debt that NZs aquire if they become students.

And I’m interested in what the Polytechnic sector can do to help reduce the cost of study for individual NZers.

Oweing more than you own

Oweing more than you own

Tertiary education in NZ is funded partly by Government and partly by the institutions charging end user fees. I think, through smarter educational development work, we can do more to reduce those fees. A tour of the NZ University Campuses tells you pretty quickly they’re not short of money – yet fees for study rize dramatically regardless of mounting concern over high levels of student debt.

Why was tertiary education in New Zealand free in the 1970s and 80s? And why would the same people who enjoyed a free education at that time then go and career into managerial roles and apply fees for education in return?

Some say it was a totally different time back then. I’ll say it was! Education was free!!

Were there less students in the 1970s and 80s then there are now? In 1980 the population of NZ was 3,176,400. 28 years later, that population is at 4,297,377. I haven’t found a statistic stating how many students there were enrolled at these times, but I doubt its a simple comparison either.

In the 1970s and early 80s the baby boomer generation made up the student population.  I would hazard a guess that the baby boomers present a population bulge in pretty much all things they have been interested in as they progress through life – from pop music, fashion, education, social changes, equal opportunity at work, hedonism/individuality and Godlessness (just thought I’d throw that in there to check you’re reading), recent property investments, and now retirement and health. I’m thinking that same population bulge might be evident in student numbers at the time, and in teacher numbers today.

So the cost of providing education has gone up? Well yes. We perhaps have a higher teacher to student ratio – especially in the Polytechnic sector, (perhaps we have more than a few boomers holding on for retirement), but more noticeably in the university sector is their expenditure in property and other things. Huge buildings, beautifully fitted and refitted every year, immaculate gardens, investment in grand stadium projects, etc. That must cost a bit. And there’s IT and eLearning of course, spare no expense there!

What other factors are there that might explain why tertiary education has gone from 100% free for the individual NZers, to very very expensive?

NZ’s Gross Domestic Product per capita has been in consistent decline compared to the OECD since the early 70s, leaving us less and less money to collectively spend on education. The tax system was reformed in the 1980s reducing the highest tax rate, but introducing a goods and services tax across the board so I guess that balanced out in th elong run (did the rich get richer and the poor got poorer in that deal?)

Does all this explain a user pay tertiary education system? Should trades, services and vocational training be included in this user pay model? Is this user pay model working out for Polytechs – specifically trades related training? I don’t think it is at all!

Surely the Polytechnic Sector at least can recognise this petty user pay system is not working out for trades and services education at least – and as a result NZ has significant problems in this regard.

Its not just me who thinks fees for education are one of the biggest barriers to people considering a further education, the students think it too! And some politicians. But I am yet to walk into any meeting in the Polytech and hear anyone talking seriously about what we can do to address the student fee problem. I think we can try harder.

So this year I intend to work pretty hard at developing and testing ways in which we might offer our education without a fee to the end user. I consider this sound educational development work, directly related to flexible learning. At first glance at some of our courses, it seems it is possible and certanly worth testing. I’m thinking a combination of better and more efficient teaching and assessment practices, real community and industry engagement and partnerships, and something like Southern Institute’s approach to acheiving zero fees – but with better workplace relations.

I might need some political support at some point.

Some of the signs we made for the Stop the Stadium march a couple of weeks ago

Some of the signs we made for the Stop the Stadium march a couple of weeks ago

The Educational Development Centre is having a team meeting next week, and the team leader has asked us each to outline what we have been working on. Regular readers of this blog would already be aware of most of this, but I found it good for me to stop and take stock of recent events.

Its pretty early in the “academic year” here in NZ, so I feel like I am skimming the surface of only a few things, going deeper into just a few. But then again, I seem to always work like that… So here’s a bit of a snap shot on what I’ve been up to lately. I’ve tried to group things according to the general description of my job.

Research/Consultancy

  • Producing a mini video documentary for AKO about Otago Polytechnic’s efforts in open education reform… more info
  • Fulfilling a contracted role as a “learning designer” on the Second Life in Education in NZ (SLENZ) research and development project… more info
  • Testing ideas for fee-free education at OP… more info
  • Did a BlogTalk Radio (USA) interview about Otago Polytechnic developing open practices… more info
  • Participating in Otago Polytechnic’s Internationalisation project…
  • Keeping up with what’s going on in the world of educational development… more info

Programme Development

  • Developing a short course for people wanting to start a business… more info
  • Advising on curriculum development with the Tourism programme… more info
  • Preparing for the Flexible Learning course… more info

Staff development

  • Gave a talk at the Polytech PD day about assessment in an open access course… more info
  • Advising people about copyright… more info
  • Advising people about EDC support for the Blackboard to Moodle change over… more info
  • Blogs and wikis with the Tourism programme… more info
  • RSS, blogs and wikis with the Massage programme… more info
  • Helping VET nursing to develop their Anatomy text book… more info

Teaching, facilitating and assessing

  • Assessing the Facilitating Online course… more info
  • Assessing the Flexible learning course… more info
  • Facilitating the Networked Learning email forum… more info
  • Facilitating the Otago Sustainability email forum… more info

Warning! This is a 4am sleepless rant.

Portuguese Man o War Gulf Shores Alabama. By Joey Eads

Portuguese Man o' War Gulf Shores Alabama. By Joey Eads

When I was younger, I used to find time to surf. Just now I’ve been trying to think of something that would capture the feeling I get from work sometimes… out of the blue came the blue bottle sting.

I know… not a good sign right? To be lying awake at night thinking mostly about work and the thing that comes to mind is a blue bottle sting…

I’ve been stung by my share of blue bottles. They’re not pleasant. Once I copped one around my head, tangled around my ear, round my neck, in my eyes and even in my mouth! A real beauty too. Big and shiny, with a stinger several meters long. The hideous thing about blue bottles is that if you get tangled with one, getting it off makes the sting worse. Its a sawing feeling as the stinger drags along your body, spreading its pain to new levels. This particular sting interrupted my breathing for a while actually.. on that beautiful summer day with a cranking great shore break, I thought I was going to die by blue bottle sting!

Sometimes work can feel a bit like that, less the drama of a life and death situation in pain of course.. oh, and certainly no good surf – none. I started the year in high spirits. Sunshine and I had a good holiday, and I returned with rosey glasses on ready to try my forth year here.. omg! Things seemed set for real progress and smoother sailing (that’s the summer’s day/good surf bit). I’m afraid it hasn’t taken long to encounter a few stings, and trying to get out of it only wants to make it worse, and that constricting feeling comes over me like I’m finding it hard to breath.

What are those stings? Well a small part of it is the self censoring feeling I get writing this.. I can’t really say what it is or it will only get worse. It mostly boils down to communication. There isn’t effective communication. You’d think in this age of information and communications technology we wouldn’t have such a problem, but its clear we do. Its troubling that I can have better communication with people on the other side of the planet and in free time, resulting in some quite innovative and productive stuff, but struggle on a day to day basis in my own local to even hear and be heard.

This problem has a lot to do with a collision between 2 systems in communication and the culture that goes with them. The first being an older and way more common system based on hierarchy and centralisation, departmentalism and privacy, long term personal relationships and control politics. The readers. The second being significantly less hierarchical and anarchisticly distributed, participatory, transparent and documented to the extreem, and open to anyone at anytime. The writers.

I’m not trying to describe these two in ways that suggest one is “better” than the other, but its clear to me that there is a seemingly insurmountable barrier between the 2. Some commentators reckon it to be generational – I disagree. Others boil it down to old left/right politics – maybe. What ever it is, its there and  there are problems.

Given that I am one of only a small number who seem to communicate by the 2nd group of principles, perhaps this is just my problem and I should relearn what I unlearned (yes, I spent some time in the army). Thing is, method 1 has too many problems in itself for me to want to do that.

OK, this culture clash is discussed ad-nausea in the edublogosphere, so I’m sorry for this addition. The thing is, there is no “web2 revolution”, flattening of the world, cluetrain manifesto, “discussion”, paradigm shift, power redistribution, or any such thing in the education sector, so long as this clash exists. Its not a Weinberger vs Keen style debate either, nor is it a question of one being better than the other. Something unforeseen will emerge from the tension – some call it the middle ground, but that’s not it either. Its more a 1 + 1 = 3 kind of thing.

And its rather disempowering and more than a little disappointing to realise I don’t know what it will be and won’t be here to see it when it does emerge clearly.

Now, where’s that vinegar?

Otago Polytechnic’s leadership team announced last week that it is migrating from Blackboard to Moodle this year.

bobster1985

Migrant workers in Michigan, 1940. CC By: bobster1985

I would like to be able to say it was an ethical decision prompted by Blackboards intollerable patent grab, and offensive behaviour towards the education sector generally…

I would like to be able to say it is because Otago Polytechnic wishes to engage with the open source software and educational content community around Moodle and free software generally…

I would like to be able to say its because Otago Polytechnic reads major reports that recommend the use of free software as a way to cut costs and improve people’s skills.. in short paying people’s salaries and professional development instead of license fees…

And I would like to say the migration was because back in 2005 staff at Otago Polytechnic conducted research comparing Moodle to Blackboard and recommended that [Moodle] showed significant potential and should be seriously considered for further investigation…

But all I can do really is quote the leadership team:

This has been driven primarily from the uptake Moodle is getting within the sector.

To be fair, this sort of decision can’t be taken lightly, and I’m sure other’s had good reason to stay with Blackboard all this time.. what we have now however, is a large number of disgruntled staff who need to find time to migrate content from one system to another. The end in the use of Blackboard was inevitable if you’ve been following the NZ eLearning sector, and the Educational Development Centre (EDC) has been doing its best to inform and encourage staff to become independent of any particular Learning Management System so that they are not so affected by changes like this.

The EDC is recommending 4 possible approaches to those faced with this migration:

  1. Simply migrate content from Blackboard to Moodle and utilise the technical support from the IT support unit. A word of caution on this – there will no doubt be high demand on the IT Support people for this, so expect delays and get in early.
  2. Take this opportunity to review your content and find more up to date materials, review the way you teach or facilitate your online course and the interactions you set up, and consider your options before acting. EDC offer support for this option.
  3. Load content to the web by way of the OP Website, Blip.tv, Wikipedia, Wikibooks, Wikiversity or Educator, Survey Monkey, Blogger, Google Docs, GoogleMaps, etc and represent this now independent material in your Moodle by simple links and embed codes. Doing it this way frees the content up so that any migration is possible and simple. Getting to this level of independence is not for the faint hearted. EDC offers support for this option.
  4. Load the content to the web (as above) and run the course on the web without the use of a Learning Management System like Blackboard or Moodle. This approach will set you free :) EDC offers support for this option as well.
Otago Polytechnic internal marketing for sustainability

Otago Polytechnic internal marketing for sustainability

Samuel Mann keeps flying the flag for Otago Polytechnic and its efforts for Sustainability. This poster captures some interesting pointers and inspires me to do more.

We have Living Campus – an effort to turn the campus into a living, breathing, producing, educational model of sustainability, particularly in the gardens

We have SHaC – Sustainable Habitat Challenge where several institutions (Otago being the lead) are working on projects to improve the over all design of housing

We have the Education for Sustainability initiative – Where every graduate will be able to think and act sustainably, and go out into the workforce with the necessary skill sets to affect change for sustainability. This is more a goal statement project slowly building itself into curriculum, and probably an area I could do more on in our Educational Development work.

We have the Permaculture Design course – A not for profit course running on a trial basis. The last trial comes to an end soon and we might have to look for new home for it as the hosting school has not indicated a desire to continue with the course :( just when it was growing roots too! I plan to try and get the course formally established and propose it be hosted by the School of Design instead.

Front cover to original NZTE text

Front cover to original NZTE text

I’m happy to be able to say that the wonderful people at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) have given us permission to make a derivative of their very useful text, Starting a Business: Determine whether your business idea will work. The additions that Otago Polytechnic will be making (pending funding) will be to add a chapter to it on sustainability in business, a new layout in a variety of formats, and a range of support media and short seminars and workshops to go with it. The derivative content we make will be released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 New Zealand License.

Currently I am considering ways to publish the derivative text. Building on the success of the Anatomy and Physiology of Animals text, we will probably follow the Wikibooks and Lulu.com combination, with additional distribution channels like Google Docs and Archive.org

The main thing we need here is a high quality text, with supporting resources and events that will assist our students from all areas in planning for small business. Using the NZTE text as a basis will help ensure that what we do will compliment and perhaps integrate with existing business support services around New Zealand, as from what I can tell most of these services seem to be using this text as a standard.

The distribution of the derivative will ensure that as many people as possible will have access to the text, and with the unique features of the respective publishing platforms. For example, Wikibooks and its translation community as well as its new and improved Make a Book and Print to PDF; Archive.org for its archiving and audio books development; GoogleDocs and its ability to offer both web based and downloadable edit files; and Lulu.com for its printing and binding on demand as well as sales management.

Our development process will likely be:

  • Write sustainability chapter, sections and plan templates
  • Edit original NZTE files with additional chapter in Open Office and export to MediaWiki text
  • Upload MediaWiki export text files to a new Wikibook
  • Develop graphics, illustrations and photos for each chapter and section and upload these to Wikimedia Commons
  • Add graphics, illustrations and photos to the Wikibook
  • Add graphics, illustrations and photos to the Open Office Text file and upload to Google Docs
  • Upload the PDF and cover art to Lulu.com
  • Upload all media and edit files to Archive.org

At the same time, Hillary and I will develop a schedule for the course using the enveloped learning model.

Now, about that development funding…?

Copyright

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All original work licensed Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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