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Almost finished an audio visual resource on networked learning.

Used Flickr to host the presentation slides, created using pictures generously licensed to creative commons. I created an audio track to go with it, using backing music generously licensed creative commons.

I’ll be using this down in Tasmania when I give some sort of key note at their Learnscope Showcase conference. Am really looking forward to a trip down to Van Deimen’s Land.

This presentation is licensed creative commons, I hope you’ll use it.

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Another beaut post by Botts:

And so we see the same thing now…blogs and wikis and sms are all way too serious when used properly. So our kids find ways to subvert their use, pissing off we elders along the way, and yet only continuing a tradition that i was continuing 30 years ago.

If you are having difficulty accepting the ways your students are responding to the technologies we think will change the world, then read botts.

Regarding the laptops… I’m not concerned with the developing world’s use of them. I’m sure there are people over there ready to pull them apart, improve them, use them and start the ball rolling that started for us and ICTs over 15 years ago. I don’t want to pretend I know what’s good for them. I understand that their divides are far more than digital.

What I’m interested in is how the concept influences us here in Australia, and other wealthy countries. “Gee, if they can do it for $100, we must be able to do it for 200!!” If we in Australia can start a project for ourselves (seeing as MIT laptops will not be available to us) we might conceivably be able to distribute laptops (or something similar) to school kids here. Similar to the distribution of calculators 30 years ago.

I use the $200 figure a lot in talks. I might bring up the scandalous waste of money NSW spent on the WebServices project. 100 million for that! How many cheap laptops or portable networked devices would that have bought the teachers and students in NSW schools? Or the millions on LMS? or the millions on Microsoft Office and Windows?

I’m not saying that we should go out and buy 100’s of thousands of devices in one swoop. I’m saying we should fund research and development like MIT’s laptop project, and improve the conditions in our own schools. Smaller class numbers, better network connections, more teachers (that are real people), more networked devices, etc. Hopefully MITs high profile laptop project will inspire this thinking here again.

I actually don’t think a kid under the age of 12 will benefit that much in having their own PC. And I don’t think real advantage starts to become evident until 16 or so. But in tertiary ed it should be obvious.

But in all, I want people in education to start thinking way outside their square a lot more. I have already witnessed a head teacher suggest that their section buy and give away PDAs. They were able to justify it with savings in photocopying and bolted to the floor PCs, but the management blocked the idea. No reason as far as I know, just didn’t like the words, give away and computer in the same sentence.

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There’s been a bit of talk around the world about a new web based service called SuprGlu. I have to agree and reckon its pretty cool. Its very easy to set up, its free and its web based. Big tick so far.

What it does.

You set it to capture all the web feeds you like on a topic, and displays them all in a single blog! Then it generates a single web feed from that. A tricky dicky way to simplify your bloglines for a start.

What I’ve done.

The easiest thing for me to do was set up a SuprGlu on myself. You might think I’m ego-testical, but I do it largely to review what links, comments, pictures and stuff I have processed in the past. Reinforcing my own learning, keeping track of my head. What a weird thing to do…

I found, technorati (actually it seems technorati feeds are copyrighted, so SuprGlu doesn’t use them??), furl, flickr, and many other RSS and Atom feeds on or to do with “leighblackall” and set them to feed into my suprglu page. Then I took that suprglu page’s RSS feed and dropped it into my bloglines. Now I have one central feed on everything that I do and what others may say about me. So watch out. But mostly its a second chance for some of the stuff I write and link to to sink in and reflect on a bit – its a personal learning tool. Here’s the feed if you want to tap into my head for a day or so:

Obviously this would be useful for any manor of subject or online discussion. I hope some day that TALO will be able to move on from being an old school eGroup, and start being more of a suprglued RSS feed… for example

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Edward Smith is one of those legendary students who make working for TAFE worth it! Only a few weeks ago, Michael, Colin, and I were talking about how good it would be to host a LAN party at the IT barn. In part as a marketing campaign for the college, but also to start exploring gaming in education. That conversation sprouted from the TALO swap/meet.

We’re all talk! Edward was listening and within a week or two, had modified a game engine and produced a game to make quiz type route learning more fun.

Fun indeed! Any chance we get, we set a LAN game up and play away. We discuss at length how to improve the learning outcomes without detracting from the game fun. We have been challenged to come up with a “non violent game”, and how to get others involved in the spontaneous project. Already Joe has created a cool sound track for it…

A great example of students creating their own learning content and environment I reckon. Read more about this via Michael’s blog, then get to Edward’s blog to download the game!

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Photo by Meesta Chaddaboks

It’s a relief to be home today. Enjoying the last frontier of Internet freedom – I never want to step into a NSW classroom again!

Yesterday I was working with a bunch of kids we call BlacktownYoof. Like me they hate school, so we hang out and take and edit digital photos and load them to Flickr.

It took me 3 weeks to get IT support to approve the installation of the basic image editor Picasa, another week for GIMP, and I’m still waiting for OpenOffice and FreeAvid. I only got Picasa and GIMP because I called the IT Boss man myself telling him to come in and teach the BlacktownYoof himself he he wouldn’t let us have the software. Quick as a flash it was done, but I don’t think me and IT Boss man will ever be friends…

yesterday the BlacktownYoof and I unshackled the computer room, fired up the bolted to the floor computers (2 yoof to 1 computer), excitedly punched in and got this!


I’ve added the url text for graphical effect. Quick as a flash the Yoof where swearing at the system (as was I) but with noone to kill standing close by we proceeded to see what else was blocked. Blogger, bloglines, myspace – Access DETnied; Ourmedia, googleVideo, googleGroups – Access DETnied. Really flamed now, the boys started experimenting. Within 20 minutes they had found a bit of a way around this wall – they used Google Translate to get some of the blocked sites through. But with no one to blame for this outrage but a red DET logo on the screen (why red?), the nearest DET thing to f**k up are the stupid computers, and the stupid chairs, and the stupid building. It was all they needed to start acting up. I couldn’t blame them.

So I grabbed a couple of the boys and we went for a walk – in search of an open network. We found other people, wondering in the corridors looking for someone to kill, but we didn’t find an open network. The walk calmed them a bit, and me, and we resolved to edit some pictures at least.

By the end of the day however, I witnessed several games getting downloaded and installed, and several porn sites getting through. In particular seemed to have no hassle with the wall at all.

Here I was with a bunch of KIDS agitated by this blockage and successfully downloading porn and crap anyway – the games I liked, but the porn was too much even for my sexual insensitivity…

Even with the tightest filter the world has ever seen, it took this group of 8 less than 2 hours to work it out! In fact, because of the filter, these guys were making a special effort to subvert it, devoting all their time and energy into finding all the dodgy stuff they could!

What’s that tell you about control?

This net filtering is a joke. It always has been a joke, its a waste of time and money, and not helping at all. ‘Protecting’ kids from the big bad world is not at all what true education is about! In fact, at the end of the day the badest boy in my class felt bad for the things he’d seen this day. He had been listening to the passing remarks I mad at him as he gleefully downloaded hard core carnage. “Porn does make you blind” and “At some stage we have to draw a line for ourselves” is what I kept saying to them. In the end, this fella – of his own accord – told me he’s not going to do it anymore. He’d had his day he said, he’d seen enough and now realised what he had to do for himself. He had drawn a line for himself.

When I found my way home that night, I kissed Sunshine and patted the dogs, cracked a beer (still left overs from the TALO swap/meet!) and glanced at my computer to find a more than usual volume of email. The TALO eGroup was cooking over this filter.

  • Jude wrote in to tell a similar tale to mine with her school group.
  • Tony Lorriman with his IT classes
  • Stephan and Sean’s R&D work in Sydney, Stephan labeling it “TAFE bans Web 2.0”
  • Jock is preparing a letter to the Bosses
  • Maria is doing similar

I think anyone half aware of the bigger picture and who was inside a NSW classroom or admin office yesterday (and those outside looking in) were flatly outraged by this ramping up of State control. It was bad enough a few months ago, but this has got to stop! Not just stop, gotten rid of all together!

Rose suggested:

maybe they should just give everyone (including students) a cheap laptop and
just focus on providing wifi services, tech support and access to “safe’
shared folders/systems for staff for any stuff that warrants existence
behind closed virtual doors. cos it’s eventually going to come to that

I suggested:

Why can’t I, (a child protection cleared teacher) have a key to unlock what
is blocked so that my classes may go on uninterrupted. If I had a key, I
could help lock out sites like that somehow still manage to slip under the wall…

and Alex had a witty go at it all with Digital laxatives… mr acting deputy speaker

I hope we can kill this fascist beast once and for all, and find better ways to teach our kids (and teachers) how to draw a line for themselves. Isn’t that a better form of protection?

Photo by Meesta Chaddaboks

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Craig Botts just added a vision statement to his blog. A powerful addition that inspires me to do the same (perhaps a shorter one that replaces the joke of a disclaimer in my footer). Good on you Botts, it reads beaut!

I am passionate about improving the educational opportunities and outcomes for rural and remote students with an emphasis on the provision of quality, low cost, high impact, easily accessible resources.

We live in an ever expanding universe of informational opportunity and i believe that the freedom and power afforded by knowledge should not be limited to the affluent in our society, but rather should be made readily available to all who desire it. and i wish to be an outspoken, disturbing, advocate for those who are unable to speak out for themselves offering them the chance to find a voice of their own through the confidence that comes from knowledge.

As an educator i wish to continue to subvert the notion that all approved learning must take place within the walls of established institutions, with the blessing of incumbent governments, delivered by professionally trained teachers. Instead, encouraging students to explore the spaces around them, developing networks of sustainable learning environments, from any available sources. Bringing with them to the conversation that is their classroom, the collective experience and knowledge of the vast world around them, to be recognised for the wisdom they have gained on their journey.

Photo by Huasonic
I’ve been thinking about the PLE (Personalised Learning Environment) project, and Scott Wilson’s recent presentation Architecture of virtual spaces and the future of VLEs

The PLE project recognises the fundamental flaws in Virtual Learning Environments or Learning Management Systems (VLE, LMS), but falls short in its vision of an alternative. At this stage in the project it is suggesting that the PLE be a desktop application for a student (sounds a bit like my old Perfect LMS idea) or a singular portal online.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll have to repeat my defining question about Internet enhanced learning, but this time in response to the PLE.

Question to the PLE: Why do we need a PLE when we already have the Internet? The Internet is my PLE, ePortfolio, VLE what ever. Thanks to blogger, bloglines, flickr, delicious, wikispaces, ourmedia, creative commons, and what ever comes next in this new Internet age, I have a strong online ID and very extensive and personalised learning environment. Actually I think the PLE idea is better envisioned by the futurist concept known as the Evolving Personalised Information Construct (EPIC). I think we already have EPIC, so why do we need the PLE?

To extend the statement: We insignificant little teachers and our out of date schools and classrooms don’t need to be investing in media projects like VLEs, LMS and even PLEs. Our dam walls of knowledge have burst! and no amount of sand bagging will stop the flood that is clearly discrediting our authority over learning. Media, and with it communications, will evolve (as it certainly has in the last 50 years or more) well beyond the limitations of our classrooms, with investments and broadcast influence we can’t even fathom. Why waste our precious money and time on projects that only serve to suspend our true position within that media scape. The PLE makes me think of ELGG, and it all makes me wonder why it is we educationalists still think we are even relevant anymore. The people (yes that includes us) are learning how to read and write for themselves, and in an amazing act of collective generosity, the people are teaching each other – why do they even need our classrooms… is it perhaps only credentialism that we offer? Or is it also sense of security and safety? Is it false?

Photo by Charybdis
What is it I am missing here that everyone else seems to be getting. Why do we need a PLE? Why are ePortfolios so popular? Why are LMS still not dead? Why are teachers so afraid?

Scott Wilson is more cautious than I am. His presentation attempts to bridge this gap between the supposed radical position I take and the reluctant position of institionalised edcuation. He suggests that it is fear that drives current educational decision making in regards to the Internet. He takes time to explain the division between open and closed systems, but tries to balance between the two camps. And in the end he promotes the PLE with a gentle preference for open systems.

So while I whole heartedly agree with the PLE and Scott’s reasoning for rejecting the LMS/VLE, I can’t say I’m with them on their alternative. In my view, the VLE, LMS and PLE are the same. A suggestion that the Internet, and informal networked learning are not enough. That people still need to come to school to learn. That people need to distinguish learning from life, that people need to download and install an application that will solve their learning needs.

Photo by StefZ
My thinking is that we need to build media literacy in our institutions, and not prevent it by building replicas. If it is fare to say that the open Internet has liberated information, and to a large extent knowledge, and that media is all pervasive, then we need people working within education who are media and network literate. Such people understand what is meant by liberated information and knowledge, and should be able to comprehend the new relationships between teaching and learning. I would rather see more projects invested in firstly recognising this literacy need (honestly and openly), and then addressing it out in the real world Internet, not with replicas, desktop classrooms, or virtualised portals.

Perhaps teachers are not the best people to be teaching anymore!

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Was flicking through the Adbuster Magazine today (note that the magazine is a better read than the website dunno why) and came across their ad for the Media Empowerment Kit for teachers.

High school teachers! Inspire, inform, excite and challenge your students with this multi-media literacy kit.

is their line. The magazine does better with:

Teachers – inspire your students to break out of the media consumer trance and start creating their own meaning. The Adbusters Media Empowerment Kit is a grab bag of readings, discussion starters, activity ideas, posters, and handouts. The kit also includes a CD of music and our new Production of Meaning DVD. Designed as a flexible teachers aid that can be used in exciting ways with your current curriculum. Show your students how to jump over the great divide between passive consumpyion and the empowered production of meaning!

US$125 plus shipping.

Great news (I think), all new teachers in NSW, Australia will be required to undergo a minimum of 100 hours of professional development over 5 years, and will be required to keep an “online log” of their PD! according to New measures for quality teaching in New South Wales schools, a statement put out by Carmel Tebbutt MP, Minister for Education and Training, New South Wales

The Institute will develop a public register of approved professional development courses. All teachers will maintain an online log of their participation to track their professional learning needs and to use as evidence of their professional commitment. All registered courses will be evaluated online by teachers, which will provide valuable feedback for others. These changes will apply to approximately 10,000 new teachers over the next three years, which will grow to 75,000 teachers over the next decade or so.

Examples of the types of courses that will be registered include:

  • Managing adolescent behaviour in the classroom for better learning
  • Using information technologies in the classroom
  • Best practice in the classroom: updating your teaching skills
  • What’s happening in the world of science?
  • Playing the numbers game
  • Firing up literacy in the classroom
  • Teaching Shakespeare for the 21st century
  • Improving literacy in the classroom
  • Listening to your students: how to use class discussion to promote learning

Seems the classrooms will be here to stay 😦 and to be honest, this “online log” could mean anything to the chain of command, and probably won’t mean open networked blogs. We all must take this opportunity to praise Carmel for her visionary leadership and call for blogging and ICT training!

Now, off to find any record of that “extensive consultation process” Carmel mentioned…

This entry linked to Wikispaces page (testing bloggerwikispaces)


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