You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2005.

Cool! Some brave people talking about ecology within learning and organisations now. Marie Jasinski, Robby Weatherly and Robert Woog – people I’ve been wanting to see for some time.

Marie kicks off with a rather nice tit bit.
Nasa’s greatest achievment:

Marie – Learning ecologies as a metaphor for learning in the knowledge era. Embraces the contradictions. Rich learning environments, more than ne way to learn.
We are not afraidI’m f**king terrified

Robby – Life based learning, extendeing from expert centred and work based learning. But its so obvious that it loses value. Elements include:

  • Who and how you know (connectivism).
  • High order thinking
  • Self motivation
  • Iterative process
  • Conversations

3 questions:

  1. What appeals (or doesn’t appeal) about the concept of life long learning?
  2. Describe a positive learning experience outside work – what factors, how does it contribute to your thinking?
  3. What are some new PD development models that embrace life based learning?

About Robert Woog: “…interested in post-positivist inquiry as it relates to society and the environment and the role of ethics and aesthetics in guiding a technocentric society.” (UWS)
Said, “big learning experiences were interesting, small learning experiences changed my life!”
Paradigmatic plurality… if you wanted to take control, you’ll muck it up. Things take care of themselves. Wisdom, metaphoric, ecological thinking.

Join the converstion look for the forum in one month time…

This was the first time the three presented their ideas. Stephan recorded it and should have an MP3 up soon.

Generally, I think it was great to have these thoughts intersect with that horrid rationalist stuff that the day kicked of with, but I felt they simplified it down a bit too much – staying theoretical, but not offering many links or references for people like me to chase up. Here’s one they should certainly add in: George Siemens Connectivity

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control room at the Novotel

Here I am at the Novotel in Sydney Olympic Park attending the AUSTAFE 2005 conference put together by ICVET. I’m here to present, but I’m listening in too.

I must admit, I came to AusTAFE2005 with a touch of prejudice towards the participants of this conference. A gathering of managers and directors of the Technical And Further Education TAFE) schools around Australia. OK, maybe that prejudice was more fear, as I can’t say I’ve ever really had a good experience with a TAFE manager, or managers more generally!

Any way, take a look at the program. In a room litterally full of suites, the first 3 speakers talked to the themes of international markets and best practice for Vocational Education and Training (VET). I gotta say I’m not impressed with what they had to say. Basically, a furthering of the economic rationalisation of education. As Stewart Brougham said, the New Zealand Goverenment is looking to fund VET based on quality and relevance. Them’s scary terms, especially when interpreted by rational suites. They start refering to industry standards and commercialising their IP.

What are the industry standards in a post industrial world? How can puiblic IP be commercialised, and what is it worth anyway?

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I was pretty chuffed to see Steven Downes quoting me in his blog recently, and saw him mentioning that he was looking to set up for digital video to make documentaries. I thought I’d help the old boy (a 46 year old digital native) out a bit with a post on what I know and reckon about it, seeing as I’ve made a few in my time.

The camera

Back in 2000 I bought the Sony DCR TRV110 E. It was the first of the Digital 8 products, and I don’t think they made one better! I bought another Sony D8 about 2 years later and it just doesn’t compare to the strength, performance, and practical design of the original.

The reasons I reckon TRV110E is the best has to do with strength, utility and versatility. It plays and records to Hi8, V8 and D8 tapes! That means if I’m out and about on a Sunday morning and find myself suddenly out of stock, even if I’m in the most backward, hillbilly, hick town of Sydney’s inner West, I will find a tape I can use. (Most servos and super markets for some strange reason don’t stock anything but these). Hi8 and V8 are really cheap too, and I reckon they are stronger than the miniDVs. Drop a miniDV tape and see how good it works… The TRV110E has RCA in/out (not the mini jack conversion type that will piss you off, but the good old yellow, red and white). It has an on board preamp so those little lapel mics go straight in no worries. And of course the DV in out. Sony’s night vision is the best too.

Capturing and Editing.

Without a doubt, iMovie that comes standard with any Mac these days is the kick arse, do everything, easy to use program to capture and edit movies on. But not all of us have the luxury of iMovie being available to us. The movie maker that comes with WinXP is pretty straight forward but typically, only plays and creates files in the windows format. I’m still waiting for a good open source video capture and edit program, JahTools seem to be getting there, but they’re off in some strange 3D animation land last I looked.

So I use Adobe Premier. Recently I bought a new laptop seeing as the Sony VAIOs are down in price in Australia at last, so I picked one up with Premier Standard on it. Haven’t had a belt of it yet, but looks similar at first glance. Nothing on Adobe’s site about “standard” but “elements” seems to be the new hobby user. No idea if it supports all the formats you need these days (Sorenson, MPG4, AVI for vi at least, and WAV, MP3 would be nice for audio).

(After thought!! I should have mentioned the Avid Free DV of course. Not used it, but I’m sure its very good and Avid gear is used by many pros I know)

The thing about Premier video editing to remember is that it works best if you have 2 physically separate hard drives to work on. One for the application (generally C) and one for the captured movie files. This seems to optimise the processes but that’s about as far as I know about that.

Its good to have at least 512 ram, and I seem to get by with a 1.6gig processor just fine. They say that your drives should be 7200rpm, but I get by with 5200 on laptops. If your computer doesn’t have a DV in out port you can get a DV in/out card to slide in to that big open space on the side of the laptop… wata they call it.. the PCYC or something…? And DV cards for desktops are real cheap. Check the port size on your camera and computer, and be sure to get the right firewire cable.

Flash (the MX generation) has some pretty cool things in video and is very easy to understand and use…

I reckon the best way to start is to first practice editing in camera. There’s nothing worse than having to capture and edit huge amounts of useless footage. A good camera person gets the shot, and in a good sequence if possible. The TRV110E has a good little in camera editing function.
Always look around you for stable surfaces to shoot from. It not only helps you take steady pictures, but often gives you an angle you might never have thought of. Usually, I never need a tripod with this technique.
After you have captured the footage and ready to edit, I think its good to start with a soundtrack before you think about the images. The beats and moods of music really help to make editing fun and easy. I generally treat the audio track as the most important part of video making. I think its important to have an audio track that can stand alone, for uses in radio and podcastinig for example, and you can usually play any audio track to video and it works in some way, which means video is quite flexible with how the audio mixes in with the pictures… the eye can hear music! something to think about.

Hope this helps a bit. Looking forward to seeing/hearing your first efforts.

Update: Here’s a number of digital video editors for Linux! and a very informative article on how to get set up cheaply for serious production

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Tom Hoffman lashed out at Marc Prensky a few days ago, and I gotta say I share his sentiments. While I mostly find Marc’s ideas of Digital Game Based Learning pretty good, his ideas of digital immigrants and natives just don’t reflect my experiences either. Perhaps Mark’s timeline is out of wack… he reckons anyone born before 1985 is an immigrant… But as Tom loudly proclaims:

I am thirty six, and I AM A DIGITAL NATIVE. I know you baby boomers have a hard time coping with this concept because it is a threat to your authority, and as a result you seem to be constantly reinventing the concept so that it can’t be applied to any actual adults who can compete with you professionally, but I’ve had it, and I’m calling bullshit.

I know Marc’s gotta make a living, and he has definately struck a chord with the over 50 teachers in Australia with his generationalist generalisations, but if people are gunna keep buying into it then we may as well take a look at the traits of other generations while we’re at it, and I reckon Tom’s on to it – the baby boomers are a frustrating problem.

Pretty much ever since I started up a newsreader to track blogs I have been subscribed to the interesting blog Eide Neurolearning Blog. It posts on research, study and opinion on neurology and learning.

Recently Drs Fernette and Brock Eide posted about Mortimer Adler’s Paideia Proposal, An Educational Manifesto – I book and concept I knew nothing of (book now on order).

It was timely actually, as lately I’ve been a bit preoccupied by learning theory, trying to find something that will help me understand and explain the new learning enabled by the Internet.

Paideia is a Greek work as in Encyclopaideia and wikipaideia and is “the process of educating [humans] into [their] true form, the real and genuine human nature.” (Wikipedia).

Fernette and Brock talk about it in relation to Active Thinking and their interest in Mortimor Adler’s writing on education. They quote the three goals of Alder’s Paideia Proposal:

– Acquisition of Organized Knowledge (Didactic Teaching)
– Development of Intellectual Skills (Active Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening, Problem Solving, Exercising Control, Judging)
– Enlarged Understanding of Ideas and Values (Socratic Questioning, Discussion, Arts)

Then go on to say

Conventional education usually spends most of its time didactic teaching, and the least of its time on personal clarification of ideas and values.

I’d agree with that!

Despite its ancient name (Paideia – the whole education and training of children – mind and morals), the goals of Paideia are to prepare students for active and thoughtful engagement in the world. That means a regular practice as drawing parallels about ideas, practices, and theories in the present as well as in the past.

It seems to me that this ancient and classical learning theory, and Alder’s Proposal made in 1982 may have something to offer us when considering new teaching and learning models brought about by the Internet.

(Amazingly, just before I hit publish on this post, Peter Le Cornu posted a link to a paper by Gerry White for limited! Beyond the Horseless Carriage, looking at the evolution of ICTs in education, the reasons why education has been so slow to take up new technology, and an argument for the urgent need to review curriculum.)

Lately I have been hanging about at the Internet Archive checking out movies. Last night I found the 3o second commercial for Admiral Cigarettes made in 1897! Its a really lame ad by today’s standards or course, but is an extremely interesting case study to look at the early adoption of a new communicative technology. This little film offers us a chance to reflect on our own adoptions of another new medium more than 100 years later!

It might be worth getting the film so we’re on the same page with it. I grabbed the 256K Mpeg 4 Version, Its only 1.2meg and plays on the Quicktime player no worries. (You might have to open it through Quicktime though, as a double click straight on the file didn’t work for me first time round).

Did you see it? Wacky hey! It really struck me as a great example of how poorly prepared those early adopters were in understanding the uses and impact of that particular new technology. You can see in the film an almost zero comprehension of the grama of movies, no sense for the unique language structures of a movie that would begin to form more than 20 years later. Obviously the creators of the Admiral Cigarettes ad saw movies as simply an extension of the theatre. Actors on a stage, extroverted movements, big props, 2 dimensional… But they failed to understand and speak a new language of the new medium. Shall we call them movie immigrants?

I think we have faced the same language and perceptual barriers with the Internet as the Edison Manufacturing Co did with their cigarette ad in 1897. Its obvious really, especially if you look at art and education and their early attempts to enter the digital Internet era. When the Internet first started hitting my street in 1995, I was at art school. By 1998 the first websites started to come out for the art school, they were being called virtual galleries. These virtual galleries were simple click through tours of paintings, drawings, sculptures and the odd installation just to be difficult. Just as Admiral Cigarettes created a virtual stage, the ‘artists’ created virtual galleries. Some were so committed to the idea, that they even started looking into virtual reality technologies as a way to bring familiar dimension into their virtual galleries.

Of course much later, with the benefit of Internet hindsight I have been able to find many truly artistic expressions of the Internet that where being created at the same time, such as the work of Eric Loyer. Works that really engaged with the language of hypertext and connectivity, creating artistic experiences in those new languages and cultures. They weren’t as much recreations of what was already understood (gallery exhbitions) – they were something new, or at least beginning to exhibit something new.

Now taking a look at slow old education… The early adopters of these new mediums (digital and the Internet) have been suffering from the same incomprehension as the early adopters of movies. Just like the early adopters of movies, and the artist’s virtual galleries, educators using digital media and the Internet are largely relying on familiar methods, creating virtual classrooms, treating knowledge with traditional print industry processes, and trying very hard to retain the old teacher student relationship by narrowing scope into learning management systems to deliver courses.

I think its important to look at digital media and the Internet as separate entities in the language unfolding by the way. Its unfortunate that digital media and content creation has held the lime light in education for so long, and that the connectivity offered by the modem has, to a large degree been ignored. Most discussion in the eighties for example seemed to focus on computer programming, and developing experiences that could be understood as educational. Take a look at this edition of the Computer Chronicles TV series broadcast in 1984. In it the hosts and their guests are looking at computer programs in the classroom, and what sort of cognitive development such programs might achieve with students. Even though one of the speakers in this edition actually uses a modem to link into one of their demonstrations, they fail to even talk about the implications of that technology, instead they focus on content and that more tangible device the PC. And think about that Disney movie Tron. A movie that framed popular perceptions of computers but again focuses on programming and content without much interest at all in the connectivity offered by the modem.

Into the 90’s and the focus remained on content development with CD ROMs and Instructional design. Huge amounts of money were (and still are being) poured into “shelfware” that were really just finished content – digital text books with mildly interactive graphics, and the odd light weight program for drilling and quizzing. Here were attempts to bring bring the massively evolving spheres of information into portable content that could be used and understood in the terms of traditional teaching and learning practices.

When I came into the picture, after the millennium bug, I was a budding Flash developer being asked to develop still more finished content but this time for delivery over the network, not on CD ROM. The CD ROM developments were now being required to develop their content complient to standards, (theoretically sharable and adaptible content) deliverable over the network. Massive investments were being made in Learning Management Systems, that again failed to understand the new language of learning that was evolving, merely replicating the communications capacity of the Internet, leaving out the global connectivity in the name of IP, privacy and security. And this time I was creating more virtual classrooms and simulated training environments with the popular graphics and ‘interactiveness’ of Flash. All the while I must admit, I had a sneaky suspicion that what we were doing was way off and not the slightest bit ‘future proof’, but having no idea what the new language of learning would inevitably be in the approaching era of network learning and Internet 2.0.

Costly and unsustainable content development comes from the focus on computers and programs in education throughout the 80’s and 90’s and a lack of focus on the connectivity and collective learning offered by modem mediated communications. It seems to me that the content creation is very much tied to the process of learning, and that the connectivity offered by the Internet challenges everything about our traditional teacher / student / course / content methods. The content is created by learners as they learn, such as this blog post, what I’m typing and the links I am pointing to. Let me explain.

Tonight I have had an idea or a realisation, spawned from past ideas, readings and discussions, stimulated by a little old movie. The Internet and this blog gives me an opportunity to voice my idea to a network of readers, open for comment and reactions, now and in the future. That opportunity and openness motivates me to think about the argument I’m making, link together a few things to support what I’m saying, and format it into a reasonably coherent expression. Once ‘out there’, I both wait for comments and responses, and continue thinking about it until the next idea comes along that will build upon these past experiences. This is a learning process for me, and for those who engage with me in it. This post is not so much an outcome of any particular study (such as a paper or essay might be) but is more a piece in the process of learning. Its an ongoing conversation of learning, with the recorded voices in the conversation contributing to the content used in someone else’s learning.

This process seems to me to be quite a natural way to communicate and learn over the network, and a remarkably sustainable way of developing content. Already, technologies are developing that will improve the richness of this content. Audio blogging and podcasting bring audio to the record, and mobile phone connectivity with their multi media capabilities bring another dimension all together.

So, just as the movie started as a recreation of the theatre, later developing into a language and expression of its own, online learning will develop from virtual classrooms and courses to something more appreciative of connectivism. This is not to say that the methods and approaches we develop along the way will be superseded by such a new practice (theatre is still video recorded after all) it just means that a unique language and practice for the new medium will develop, and it will likely have no resemblance at all to the methods we recognise today.

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Further to my posts on beauty and charm in the design of learning resources, here’s a couple of rippa little tools that make it very quick and easy to get us boring old teachers at least half way there.

A good friend Jude Cooke just sent through this tool! DFilm. DFilm is a web based application where you can create your own little movies based on a range of templates predesigned by DFilm. Check out this one made by the naughty Leroy Black called Internet at School.

The possibilities are amazing with DFilm. You could use it to introduce topics, stimulate discussion, or make a political joke, such as Leroy is trying to do. Or you could use it the way Jude is – getting her students to create their own movies.

Another similar tool to DFilm is the French production Gnomz. I’ve been using Gnomz quite a bit in Blended Learning. Instead of creating movies as DFilm does, it lets you create comic strips.

You can customize your characters and settings to quite a large degree. To get your comic out of Gnomz, simply press the ‘print screen’ key on your keyboard. This will take a picture of the screen in front of you, ready for you to paste into an editing program. Most of us should have some sort of image editing program on our computer, GIMP is a good free one, or Picasa is nice and easy for those using a Microsoft Windows operating system. Both of these programs crop images – something you will need to do once you have opened your screen picture of your Gnomz comic.

Just a few little tools that make it quite easy to start getting ‘beauty and charm’ into our teaching resources.

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Picture by Jan Tik

The day I joined the school system I knew something was wrong with it. At the tender yet perceptive age of 5 I saw my fate and cried my eyes out for the entire first week. Gradually I found things to like – picking on girls, playing wars, fighting, swearing… At the age of 17, I was scoring pot and skipping class everyday searching for the relevance and authenticity that school had hidden so well. Every year between 5 and 17 is a tale of trouble and detentions.

Later, after a stint in the army then art school then Asia, I went back to school to study teaching. I had developed quite a social conscience in my time away and believed that education was all that really mattered in a world in dieing need of some change.

But I quickly saw or was it remembered, that education is not something schools are particularly good at. Schools were for socialisation – they’re good at that alright! Learning how to avoid bullies and teachers, learning how authority and systems are to be despised, learning how life and work will always be separate, learning that no matter if it was right or wrong – it was just how we did things… An education, if that’s what you really wanted, that was found elsewhere. [Fade out Pink Floyd The Wall]

Picture by Felicity and Phillip

I think teacher training helped me find confidence in this long held suspicion I had about school. First of all, there was an obvious disconnect between teacher training and teaching practice. “Oh. You’re in teacher training” the veteran teaching staff would say, “well, the first thing you need to learn about teaching is that you won’t use anything you learn in teacher training…” But I was pretty familiar with this attitude, it was a fact of life. What you learn in school has little or no relevance to what you need in life. I was not surprised to hear this at all.

But I did find something in my teacher training. It was when I was walking to the train station after handing in an essay on constructivism or Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or something. As I passed the bins I noticed a large pile of books. Being a poor and definitely struggling student at the time, I had no difficulty climbing right into those bins and spending a few minutes going through those books on education. One in particular caught my eye, and it ended up being the only one I read from that score of books.

It was called Teaching as a Subversive Activity of course! If there is anything I remember from my teacher training, it was just how much that book blew me away, and what I had to go through to find it. It was a book sorely missed on any of our reading lists. In fact, I don’t think anything from the 60’s and 70’s was on that reading list!

Now, my whole family are teachers did you know? I asked my parents, aunties and uncles about this little book, they all knew it well, along with the writings of Ivan Illich. Moved and motivated by the content of that book, and the mystery of why it was not on a reading list, I began to use the Internet – a lot. I started to find support and further criticisms of teaching practices, curriculum and teacher training. Soon enough I had developed my own reading list and started quoting from Postman, Weingartner and Illich in essays and online forums. I nearly failed for it too! I never got an answer as to why Illich and ‘Subversive Teaching’ were excluded from our readings. And I just accepted that any current Internet discussions would not be there, “they had not been checked for quality” – yep, school isn’t about being relevant in the real world.

The only thing worth teaching, is in fact how to learn. It seems overly simple doesn’t it. But it’s exactly that skill that was missing for me and most of those years spent at school – that is until I found that little book. I suppose it was in fact the teachers that stopped me learning this key bit of knowledge. The all knowing expert who would provide me with my readings, design and assess my assignments, and grade my knowledge (or skill in representing it). The “ah-ha moment” or the realisation of knowing how to learn didn’t come to me in all that. This was almost 30 years since Teaching as a Subversive Activity was first published, the strategies proposed in that book for helping kids to learn how to learn were radical back then, and dismissed by now. Anyway, they are unlikely to work in today’s schooling mayhem. Postman and Weingartner would have had little idea of the massive changes about to happen to learning in the form of a teleconnected International Network. Learning how to learn would be a whole new kettle of fish compared to the days of the cane, library card indexes and microfilm!

Now days technology offers a hell of a lot more to the ways in which we learn. I kinda think knowing how to use the recent technologies is similar to knowing how to read and write. If you can read and right, you’re obviously well on your way to learning how to learn. But now days, its knowing how to read and write to the network. Knowing how to engage with the Internet, to participate and converse with information sources, that’s setting yourself up for learning how to learn in today’s world.

But technology has little to do with why teaching is flawed. Sure, a teleconnected international network does pose a few questions as to the relevance of a traditional approach to teaching, but there are more fundamental reasons why teaching is flawed then that. How do you, should you, can you teach how to learn? I think its time we revisited the ideas of Postman, Weingartner and Illich to understand why. Their ideas are perhaps more relevant these days then they were before. At the very least we should see that their names be put back on the reading lists at teacher training. We should take another look at their ideas in light of the new technologies we use today, and ask the question again: what does it mean these days, learning how to learn?

Perhaps Connectivism has part of the answer…

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I’m looking forward to when Google maps includes links within the area being viewed to all the latest content related to that area on the net. Find the latest phone photos, blog entries, meeting spots, tourist information, street directions…

Good to see Australia in Google maps. This screengrab is of Katooomba. Its the urban centre of the Blue Mountains. Development follos the road and rail lines that weave their way up the narrow platue to pass the otherwise rugged terrain. The cliffs in shadow look over the Jamison valley. The famous Three Sisters and the views into the valley are from that cliff edge.

Novell has signed a national agreement with the New Zealand Ministry of Education to provide all state and state-integrated schools with a range of Novell software, including SUSE Linux operating systems.



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