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Bronwyn Hegarty of Otago Polytechnic has announced the early stages of a significant development over here in New Zealand – The Online Information Literacy resource development. I have seen it demonstrated and must say I’m so far impressed with what it can do, including in situ editing by users to export later… Everything is being done by the book, including intensive user testing and feedback, and even though it is geared towards an LMS delivery mode, they are still managing to producing an interesting and open resource. I witnessed the SCORM package neatly import into Moodle, and initial feedback I have seen gives it a thumbs up. All it now needs is a Creative Commons statement on it and we’re away!

So far the team has developed 1 of 9 modules, and needless to say I hope to influence at least 1 module at some stage with a bit of work on digital networked literacy… 😉

Good work Bronwyn and the team 🙂

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synchronous communication tools have been the flavour of the month in the TALO eGroup lately. Sean FitzGerald has been getting us organised to meet every second Wednesday night. So far we have met once in Skype and then Active Worlds.

Personally I’ve never been a big fan of synchronous communications online, much preferring the more considered and flexible asynchronous, but after experiencing the communications with the healthy TALO community I’m just about converted.

Last night we followed Sean into Active Worlds and it totally blew my mind! I took loads of pictures with my print-screen button, and have loaded them to Flickr. About 6 of us went into many different worlds, using the instant messaging tool to communicate. Active Worlds has quite a few virtual worlds to go into, offers standard avatars and instant messaging for free, and targets educational users. Straight away I can see great potential for it. Imagine if you could go in to an Active World, walk around before hand as a teacher, click signs and objects and get prompted to upload your own images and slides around the place! It would be easy to do from the Active World developer perspective, but probably not something they’re going to offer for free 😦 Any game developers out there wanna build this for us?

But the search for a free, voice over the internet tool that can support conference calls and run on low bandwidths continues.

Shaggy may have found the grail with TeamSpeak. Its freeware for non commercial use and apparently is proven popular in the online gaming communities. Unfortunately it does require a server to host the conference, and for users to download and install the Team Speak client (5 Mb) but if it can handle a group conversation then we have it!

We’ll be able to go into Active Worlds, use Team Speak to communicate vocally, and skype as our emergency backup. TeamSpeak even has a record feature, so we’ll be able to record our group’s conversations too. Here’s hoping it will work for more than 5 users… join the TALO eGroup to get announcements of the next meeting, download the TeamSpeak and ActiveWorld clients and get ready…

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Derek Wenmoth has posted another useful chart depicting the changing nature of education, and I find this one particularly useful for my work at Tekotago. With this chart I can clearly lay out the changes that are proposed by socially networked software and hopefully help teachers understand the significance more clearly. One thing I have suggested to Derek, is to add in Constructionist Learning theory between Connectivism and Social Constructivism.

I gave a 1 hour talk through Elluminate to the KnowTips Conference on Open Networked Learning today. I think it went pretty well, although we did experience a small problem with everyone not realising they they were meant to control the slides their end. To be honest, I thought I had control too. But eventually that was clarified and everyone was on the same visual page with regards to the presentation slides.

I was able to get through the presentation in 30 minutes and open the mic up for questions and discussion for the remaining 30 minutes which was good, we had some very good questions and discussion – thanks Bronwyn for being there and for the questions and comments, having you there calmed my nerves a bit.

So, you can listen and watch the recorded Elluminate session if you like. If you have trouble with getting Elluminate recording, download the MP3 audio recording (7mb) and follow along with the presentation slides.

The supporting Moodle space is also avaliable where you can find the introductory text for the talk, preliminary reading, and discussion forums currently running.

Hope you have the time to have a look and listen.

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Uncanny coincidences in thought have happened online so often for me now that I am ready to accept that singularity is here! (I’m still waiting for my birthday wish list to come in with a copy of Singularity is Near), so while I wait for that, let me ponder singularity’s arrival already…

This morning I was laying awake wondering what I might talk about at the Global Summit. Needless to say, when you see the line up there,I feel a little out of my depth… I stand out like a sore thumb – but I like it 🙂 Anyway, I was thinking about a conversation I had the day before with some colleagues at work and a guest from up North. While talking about standards, guidelines, the post LMS age, failures of sharable learning object theories and SCORM technologies, I made the claim that educational organisations have been far too proactive with technology and not reactive enough. They have invested too heavily in their own technological developments and lost site of what is happening outside their schools, in the real world, in the hands of the average citizen.

I’ll expand on that in a tick, but first I want to finish my story of amazing coincidence in thought.

I fired up the laptop in bed this morning, intending to post something on my proactive/reactive idea, and while I was distracting myself from resolving the concept in any way, I happened on another beautiful post from Doug in Alaska called Diffusion. In it he has posted his thoughts on a similar concept, but instead of using proactive and reactive he has used instrumentalist and determinist.

Instrumentalists say that Education Reform is made possible by new technology, while determinists see Change as a process that is driven by new technologies.

Doug points to a screen by VH Carr Jr (can’t find his/her full name), called Technology and Diffusion that makes me wanna go arh! In it are gems like,

None of these technologies, however, has been generally available for individual or private use due to cost, scope or application. This deterred a “grass roots” technology adoption cycle as it was nearly impossible to generate movement from the bottom up by influencing faculty peers and administrators with demonstrations of successful applications.

Did you get it? Could you see me in back waving a sign “proactive or reactive”? OK, maybe not… let’s see what else this Carr Jr has to say while I look for some more back-up to the proactive reactive idea…

Unlike most earlier technologies which were thrust upon the education community, Internet technology is individually available to faculty and students who can use their own systems to serve their own purposes. The impetus for the innovation frequently grows from individual users of the technology, and as their communication and influence moves laterally through their contacts, a body of support can grow and exert “pressure” on the institutional administration to commit to adoption of the technology. There is, therefore, a high potential for a “bottom-up” or “grass roots” adoption process to succeed.

Come on! Surely you can see me and my sign there now? While I think Carr Jr is spot on in identifying the communications renaissance we are going through now, I think he’s too general in saying Internet technologies. You can take the principle though and apply it within the idea of “Internet technologies” and it starts to work even better. Take free blogging v’s pay a web designer and buy a server with software approach. Take mobile phones v’s laptop computers that need electricity and Internet connectivity, take wikipedia v’s the National library’s closed reference section… take a Learning Management System v’s small pieces of free web based applications loosely joined…

That’s what’s going on now. In the early days of Internet enhanced teaching and learning we had experts creating SCORM compliant content, for Learning Management Systems sitting on expensive servers maintained by expensive server administrators. We still have it, its rediculously entrenched. But now days we have a trend emerging not from the management and their systems, but from the grass roots of part time teachers and all sorts of students. Based on an opening up of content and a largely free and accessible Internet of communication tools, a grass roots revolution is being fueled that will surely draw those managers and systems into question.

But at this point we should return to Doug’s important observation,

The subject of internet technology and education reform (ie. blogs, wikis, podcasting, videoblogs, games, Wikipedia, Google,…) is frequently coupled with the observation that many teachers don’t seem to recognize the wave of Change that is rushing toward us, traditional classrooms are becoming obsolete, new forms of communication are requiring new definitions of literacy, etc …and the question: How are we going to get them to see it? Because, according to the edublog evangelists, seeing it is a mark of progressive visionary practice that will prepare kids for the future.

He’s right, there has to be an awakening in the school culture before the grass can grow. Education needs to attract a different type of person, evangelists like me will have to become more patient, and managers will need to step back and be less prescriptive with technology implimentation and policy.

So, I’m still unresloved with my proactive/reactive idea. Perhaps I’m toying with the wrong words, maybe even the wrong ideas. What I’m trying to find is a simple way to explain the need for grass roots development instead of standardised managed systems, and cynical staff development programmes.

Perhaps another night’s sleep and another occassion of singularity will emerge the idea for me a bit more. So I’ll finish with Doug’s final dark word on it, which I have experienced myself more time than I care to remember:

I made a presentation about blogs to a group of teachers last summer. After I talked for probably too long, a woman raised her hand and asked, “Why would anyone want to do this?” I didn’t know what else to say. You either see it, or you don’t. We lack consensus – not only for technology – but for our vision of schooling.

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… deleted …

…That’s what sux about working for an organisation. Your colleagues don’t take the time to look you up out find out more about who you are, what you’ve done, and as a result can all too easily dis what you say. To them, your just some face you has just introduced themselves in one of those almost pointless round table introductions before the meeting, and that’s it. When I said things like “social networking software” you could literally see minds shutting down around you. when I talked about using available services on the Internet, and not rebuilding the Internet the way we want it – people fold their arms, sit back, and ask who is this punk?

Having an online community and a voice within it always lures me into a false sense of security. I look at it as My preferred classroom. But its one in which I have chosen my classmates (more or less). When online, that security isn’t false at all. We swap links, encourage each others work, nurture each others ideas. But in the day job, in an organisation that thinks face to face meetings are productive, where everyone has been schooled and socialised, there is no online – only you, what you look like, and what you sound like. And I’ve come to realise that what I look and sound like can really work against me in these situations.

Given the floor, I can do alright. I have some time to dispel the prejudgements on my age, gender, clothing choice, race. I have some time to establish what I’m on about, I have some time to make a point. In a meeting, where respect is back to zero, and where it is common to cut people off and interrupt them, where organisational politics plays a part – the luxury of having the floor, backed up with hyperlinks and like minded comments just isn’t there.

This is in my mind, where the school and the classroom – where you can’t choose your learning community, where bullying is an element as common as the weather, were politics prevails, and where power is the currency – is totally at odds with networked learning.

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Derek Wenmoth has posted his take on the future online learning environment. Derek says he is working with the Ministry of Education on this one, so its a relief to see someone who seems to “get it” informing a Ministry in this way. I see the LMS still features in this future, but I’m pleased to see not only is that LMS not central to online learning, but that it might be an open source one.

Perhaps I’ll go a bit further into the future and stake claim in New Zealand to the idea that the LMS will dissolve from its role as a learning manager into more of a Student Management System (enrollments, assignments etc), while the learning moves more towards the original small pieces loosely joined idea, social networking software, and other communications technology such as the mobile.

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From the Creative Commons blog:

Duke Law School’s Center for Study of the Public Domain has released an amazing 76 page copyright education in the shape of a documentary filmmaker and form of a comic book: BOUND BY LAW?

A collaboration between cartoonist Keith Aoki, law professor (and CC board member) James Boyle and CSPD director Jennifer Jenkins, the work is available for viewing online, download, or hardcopy purchase and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license.


Bill Kerr has posted an important question, considering that by taking on board a diversified understanding of literacy we risk diluting the development of deeper understanding of text. Bill seems to be undecided on the question, or seeking a debate, so I thought I’d have a go at answering:

I tend to think its time to expand our expectations of what it means to be literate, beyond text. Not to dilute the importance of text, but to promote the importance of other communicative mediums, that in many ways serve to enhance text.

Being able to read and write text is one thing. Being able to read and write txt digitally is the same thing but in another dimension. Being able to read and write digital images, sound, semiotic compositions, music, video etc, is the same thing again, but at another dimension again.

Its all about the intention of communication and having the skills and awareness to employ the appropriate communicative dimension. So yes, text is important. Knowing how to read and write hand written text is important. Knowing how to read and write text with a keyboard and thumbpad is important. Being able to read and write images is important, and so on and so forth.

While talking about fluency is relatable I don’t think it is same thing. Literacy is firstly an awareness of need, an understanding of importance, then an ability to perform, and here is where fluency, competency and expertise comes in. Being literate is before being fluent and competent.

So literacy in golf is the same as literacy in cars. Its the ability to engage in a communicative process about them. The more mediums, the more diversified your literacy. The more diversified your literacy, the more chance you have of finding the best communication channels. The subject of what is being communicated has little to do with it other than helping to determine what medium/s are used to communicate it with.

In short, don’t stop teaching forms of communication at text.

I agree that reading and writing text is important, so we teach that for the first 3 years. I don’t agree that hand written text is so important that it should need another 3 years of practice at the expense of learning how to keyboard and thumbpad. I don’t agree that text is so important that for yet another 6 years we focus on writing essays for the sake of learning how to take photos, record audio, and edit video. And I don’t agree that text is so important that we should dogmatically continue with fine arts of it for another 6 years again, practicing PHDs into incomprehensible peer review dialects. At some stage in all this we should be given the opportunity to diversify our literacies, and the respect to be able to bring what ever communicative process we like to a subject.

In saying all that though… did we lose God when we began painting pictures of The Words?

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A few months ago, MIT’s $100 laptops project impressed me, not so much for what it has to offer those in the “developing nations” that MIT are trying to reach, but for the inspiration and political influence such an ambition gives people in the “developed nations”.

But the MobilED project looks set to totally surpass MITs efforts and impact.

Its obvious really! Delivering on the constant chatter and promises of mobile learning, MobilED has cracked it I reckon. A simple concept, made possible by free and open source software – mobilED is the use of a phone to txt message a search on a wiki and receive a call back with a robotic voice reading the results.

But MobilED is much more than that, as its very stylish videos demonstrate.

MobilED is doing everything right with this project. I am totally inspired and politically charged!

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