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I gotta say, I’m a bit nervous posting this, but if I was Stephen I’d want to hear it if someone disagreed with me, and I’d do my best to set the cocky little upstart straight (in the nicest possible way).

Last week I was listening to Stephen’s latest, and very interesting audio recordings from the Grand Yellowhead Seminar. In Part 3 he talks a bit about spam as the reason why educational organisations need to take control of content management. Best you listen to the audio, because my summary sentence doesn’t seem quite right.

I pretty strongly disagree with Stephen on what he says about spam management though. Stephen suggests that educational organisations need to think about spam and consider hosting and serving their own content management systems to combat it. Stephen hosts and manages his own blogging and wiki software, where as I use free web based services. Stephen suggests that using free web based services leaves you open to spam and other sorded attacks on content, but I think hosting and managing your own software leaves you open.

I use Gmail, for example. I almost never get spam. Actually, I get a sh!t load, but Google’s filter is working very well. When I worked for an educational organisation they expected me to use their email system, and I got a lot their too, but their filters weren’t so good and most of it got through!

I use Blogger, and while it started off pure and beautiful, soon enough comment spam was creating quite a problem. Within a week or 2, Blogger offered not one but 4 ways to control unwanted comments.

Wikispaces was hit by spam once. And it was not light either. I think they learned from that. I haven’t seen another hit since.

Basically what I’m saying is that schools and other educational organisations by themselves, even their State departments, have a very limited capacity to keep up to date with effective content controls as well as running the systems they have in place. From my experience, having used their systems, and now the free web based ones, it seems to me the free web based ones offer a whole heap more peace of mind compared to getting, hosting and managing your own server and apps.

But who know, maybe all these free web apps are part, or soon to become part, of the evil media empire and all the information I have posted along the way will leave me open to a much more effective form of spam advertising. But then, if that is a conspiracy going on at the moment, I really doubt the IT support section of my local school is on top of it either.

So it seems to me that the use of free web based applications offer simplicity of use and an ease of management that is hard to beat when compared to the systems in place within schools and colleges at the moment.

If I was an IT support dude, I’d be finding ways to work into these web app projects. Finding the open source versions and working with them to better service educational needs and keeping the bastards honest while they host the service and manage the content for you.


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Jason Plunkett, yet another valuable edu blogger from South Australia has done a much needed preliminary evaluation of Nuvvo – an exciting new approach and web based learning management system. Jason’s a self confessed Moodle man, and it shows a bit in his evaluation. Dave Witter from Nuvvo has come in with comments thanking Jason fro the feedback, and the over all post has evolved into some insightful discussion on Nuvvo’s development future.

Dave points out Nuvvo’s belief in the philosophy of less is more, which is something I like very much about Nuvvo. It is very simple! From what I can see from it, I would be interested in using Nuvvo to manage enrollment and centralise course communications and stuff. With that taken care of, it’d be small pieces of blogs, wikis, RSS, tagging and networked bookmarks etc all used in different ways custom make the feature rich online course I needed.

I have been eagerly awaiting the course I have enrolled in, to test out Nuvvo from a student perspective – (note: there are heaps of free courses stacking up on Nuvvo!) . For my style of online learning, networked learning, Nuvvo looks very promising. So I hope it holds onto its simplicity and sticks to what it is offering to do best and leave the features of blogs, wikis, forums, and all the other stuff to the other web app providers that do it best.

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Bill Kerr (that’s him on the left), a high school teacher and all round good bloke from South Australia is alerting us to some unbelievable censorship going on down there at the moment. A one size fits all filter that has effectively ruled out everything Web 2.

Now I’ve been reading Bill’s blog for a few months now and all I can say is it’s a darn shame that such an innovative and progressive teacher like Bill has had to put real work on hold and fight a very backward system indeed.

Some might say, “take it to the media Bill, blow the lid off it” – but from what I’ve seen and heard on the mainstream media toilet papers, teleblindness and radio monotony, they’re buying into the fear frenzy and are not interested in representing a range of views on Internet censorship in schools.

What to do… Bill is aiming for alternative filtering software to start with. One that can differentiate between different users, so adults and children can work with different levels of “risk”.

Jason Plunket has come in on Bill’s post with a great comment pointing out the filtering is in fact increasing the risk to students and unsavvy teachers.

I have suggested before for a more democratic system of content management, where teachers (and maybe even some students) can participate in training filters by flagging inappropriate content, and having the ability to unblock other content. Or a system a lot like some of Flickr’s approach to managing content on their servers. Sure! some stuff may get through, its not like extreme filters work any better, but at least the liability is shared by the community, not taken on by the few.

Or perhaps schools should consider releasing their liability all together! They offer an Internet connection and that’s it. Laptops are given out to the needy (and yes, with the money I’ve seen wasted on admin projects, we could afford to do that) and its up to the parents and community to decide what measures they will take to protect their kids. I know I’d prefer my kid to learn how to manage in the real world quite frankly, not some artificial world full of taboo and fear at every corner.


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I’ve been thinking of where networked learning works best, and while I think it can work in almost any situation, it is clear that it is working best of all in the professional development and training of teachers and educationalist around the world.

It is hard to convince people who make directional decisions for educational organisations of the benefits and opportunities in networked learning, because to properly appreciate networked learning you need to be engaged in a networked learning community of some sort. Getting directors and managers engaged in a networked learning community is difficult to say the least – time, or the lack of it, are usually the responses from such people when encouraged to communicate with the TALO fold for example. The few who do come along, do so for a little look/see and eventually ask to be unsubscribed from the egroup because their email has over loaded, and few ever get around to keeping a blog, sharing resources via networked bookmarks, contribute to editing a wiki resource, or subscribing to feeds with a socially networked news reader.

Now, I’m beginning to hear the chorus. “But Leigh! Not everyone wants to blog, socially network their book marks, edit a wiki, or subscribe to RSS..” Basically that means not everyone wants to network their learning. And I hear the “time” factor again (or is it more accurately a want and priority thing..?) I guess I’ll have to accept that, what can I say – my way or the high way? Yeah right, but the anecdotal evidence of the benefits of a networked learning to the professional development and training of so many teachers now seems compelling, and would certainly justify further research and attention.

If you’re not already part of a networked learning community you might find yourself asking, “what anecdotal evidence?” How about the growth and current health of the TALO eGroup for example; the amazing increase in professional blogging in Australian education; the willingness and ability all of a sudden for so many of those Australian edu bloggers to communicate via RSS through their respective blogs; the curiosity at least, by units within many organisations, in networked learning models. There is clearly a sharp rise in the use of a networked learning by many individuals in the Australian education sector, but organisations, and particularly professional development units within organisations are still perplexed as to how to effectively use and manage netorked learning.

I think we need to do 3 things to help organisations consider networked learning more clearly:

  1. Sustained and participatory research to define and assess networked learning
  2. Case studies and documentaries
  3. Development of open network, digital literacies in our communities of practice

I have already started a wikipedia entry for networked learning, so the sustainable and participatory research for a definition at least has begun.

Development of case studies and documentaries will help assess networked learning and also help stimulate the ‘want and prioritisation’ in our organisations to fund and develop open network, digital literacies.

Once the capacity building via literacy development reaches a critical mass, I’d suggest that we go through those 3 steps again. A cycle of investigative, participatory, action research.

I think if we adopt those three projects (research, case studies and literacy development) then examples of networked learning will grow outside the arena of professional development in the education sector and into industry sectors, higher education, and community organisations. I would say, by then the directors and managers of educational organisations will be able to ‘want and prioritise’ networked learning in their work, and maybe even feel safe enough to openly engage with a community themselves.

So I know we have the funding opportunities here in Australia, will we have the collective ability to win that funding and apply it to something like this?


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A new style in Flickr presentations, Brian Lamb and Alan Levine join up as Looking for a Fish Taco, to give us: Beyond the Blog: Ready for Prime Time

Great slides, informative descriptions, all Creative Commons, non commercial, share alike.

Thanks guys…

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Interesting and important research coming out of New Zealand that I am finding quite challenging in terms of where I stand on the use of ICTs to improve social divides:

Free internet as an agent of community transformation

Does the internet empower communities or perpetuate the status quo? Can universal internet access resolve education, employment, and other social gaps? We report on our longitudinal assessment of low income community access to free internet in New Zealand, in terms of new internet users’ (1) community belonging, (2) internet connectedness, and (3) civic engagement. Findings show internet connectedness may have only a minimal impact on community capacity due to constraints such as family transience, difficult domestic circumstances, inadequate project resourcing, and poor literacy. Internet ubiquity may not be a strategically useful social objective unless contextual limitations are recognised and addressed.

Thanks Jude 🙂 a gem of a link.

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As some readers of this blog know, I’ve been slowly writing a book using Lulu to self publish. I received my proof copy in the mail the other day, talk about a great feeling! A years worth of blogging, comics, photos, screencasts, all condensed into one highly portable, always on, reusable device! A book.

I’ve made some minor changes to the TALO book (making pictures larger, font smaller, spelling etc) So I’m waiting for the second proof to arrive before I do a launch. But I wanted to post about my renewed interest in the book for communication and learning, thanks to my experiences self publishing one through Lulu.

For the cost of a week’s worth of mobile phone calls, or a month’s worth of Internet, or a single CD, you can have a years worth of condensed content in text and pictures. $45 for a full colour book, $25 for black and white – printed on demand, delivered within 10-15 days. I don’t have to worry about a network connection, battery life, or mysterious headaches from a screen. My book is light weight, always on, photocopyable, well bound, strong, versatile. For content, not much beats it! For communication, no arguments – the network is the goods.

But, I reckon more of us edubloggers should consider self publishing a book in Lulu. I’d be very happy to have a year’s worth of Stephen Downes’ blogging (with a CD of audio in the back) to catch up on. The years before I was on the scene especially. Getting it all through screen interactions is one thing (painful as it is at times) having it in a neatly bound, portable book is another. Having it in that format so I can get my grand dad (a retired school principle) up to speed with new ideas, a format that is still more tangible for old school managers needing a nudge ina new direction, a format that will still be respectable for many years to come.

I could still join in the discussion of course! Its not as though what Stephen said last year is not still worth talking about next year. I could read and listen to his older work, and perhaps draw him and others back into fresh perspectives on the stuff. I could read on the bus, in a tent up a mountain, in a boat on a river. And consider my responses on the way back down the mountain and into a network zone. mLearning meet book and outdoor recreation.

So, get ready to buy my book will yas. Test it out. There’s a years worth of stuff I’ve done – much of it I bet you haven’t seen due to the difficulty of flicking through the “pages” of a blog and hypertext resources. And I hope others will do the same with their work. I’m ready to buy more books. In the end, when the oil, gas and nuclear wars are over – it may be all we have left as a record to this amazing era in electrified communications.

PS. The picture shows a book with a black and white cover… not so. The black and white version comes in a colour cover – its the inside that is black and white.

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Click the images to view their original context. Nice one Peter, you Mac head.

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Brian Lamb of Abject Learning fame has put out the humble plea for assistance in proving the value of social connectedness in blogging (et al). So, I thought I’d jump on the opportunity to work a bit with Brian and add my response to his pretty hard questions:

  • What is most significant about the emergence of blogs and/or wikis?

The growth of a creative class

  • In your mind, what is most misunderstood (or little understood) about these tools?

The interconnectedness of it all and the long term benefits to engaged individuals

  • Are blogs and wikis evolving into something else?

Certainly! Just as when they become popular in 2004 and we saw an amazing array of creative interpretations (as well as a hell of a lot of basic, bland, low brow). Now, with the convergence and accessibility of technologies like mobile phones, images, audio and video – not to mention ready made widgets to add to ones blog – individual blogs are becoming a lot more media rich with vast depth in content and interconnectedness. Of course this will sprout yet another round of innovation and creative interpretations on established norms.

  • What are the implications of these publishing tools on ideas, public opinion and free speech?

A French revolution perhaps (printing press). A ‘silent majority’. A class of people at odds with their local and national governments due to a deep chasm known as the digital disconnect.

  • What are a few of your essential blog reads or wiki communities?

It ebbs and flows. But I must say, that in the 14 months I have been blogging, I have witnessed a radical increase in the local (Australian/New Zealand) use of the technologies. As a result, I am finding myself reading less and less of what has been a very North American perspective, and reading more and more of my local network has to say.

  • Anything else?

I think your shout out for participation in this feedback/proof of social networking is an excellent and simple demonstration of what you are trying to show Brian. Good luck, and good on you for opening your floor up like this. Good luck.

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I nice bite from an interesting post from 2 Cents Worth:

That it is not appropriate and even counter-productive to say that we are educating our children so that we can compete in a global economy. It is more productive to say that we are preparing our children to cooperate in a global economy.

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