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There are times when I feel like my feedreader is talking to me… “go on Leigh, did you read that, its says what you say, say it again, here you go, read this, and this, and don’t forget this, say it again…” Its a strange sensation hearing these little voices – am I going schitz? No its a reminder of how small our little band of web2/elearning2/networked learning enthusiasts are…

Chris Sessums has posted an extension to Will Richardson’s frustrations at not seeing real changes in the educational settings he witnesses. Chris is suggesting Action Research as a way to help solve the problem. I suggested the same last year – but now I’m not so sure. I tend to think that action research (while admirable and certainly a method I would prefer working with) does not appreciate the extremely political and unfortunately hierarchical bureaucracy of institutionalised education. Such conditions in my opinion render results yielded through action research impotent. See DOPA and various educational departments banning all things Web 2 for a start. Then see mass implementation of learning management systems, intranet communications and secured content repositories for a second.

As regular readers of Learn Online know, I’ve chimed in on quite a few occasions when the despair for lost web2 potential in schools sets in. When I post a rant like the one about to follow, I always get the, “..but Leigh, you must be more patient”, or “you’re not seeing where the changes are happening..” not to mention the anonymous troll comments. Just quickly, I’d like to knock those first two off before I flog the dead horse laying in the trough again.

Patience is waiting to die
The internet has been around for over 10 years now, and by and large all I can see for it – in a tertiary ed sense – is vast quantities of money spent, I mean VAST quantities!! in content creation and “PD training”, resulting in a clear majority of teachers who still don’t know how to use a web browser effectively, who can’t resize an image before they attach it to email, who struggle to see the potential of the read write web, and fail to see the use of wikipedia (if they’ve even heard of it) at first glance.. etc

And now whole education Departments are recoiling in fear – banning mobile devices, censoring the Internet, debating open source benefits but never trying it, then attending conferences on digital game based learning – simply for the political photoshoot with a celebrity.

Rather than me offering hyperlinked references to those sweeping statements above, how about you copy each of them and drop them into google and see what turns up. BTW, if you’re blushing with the feeling that I might be looking at you when I write this – right clicking your mouse when you click those search results will give you the option to open the link in a new window – yes, you can have more than one website open at a time – but please, just do yourself a favour, get firefox. Tabbed browsing is just so much easier!

So, no – I don’t have much patience left. I am seeing yet another communicative medium with immense potential, being lost to mediocre and mostly bureaucratic mud wallowing. I still have all the patience in the world for someone who wants me to show them how to set up a blog and edit a wiki, I have endless patience for people willing to give it a go. But I snap at people who have never honestly experienced themselves in the read write web – yet have all the cliche lines against it… “how can we verify it?”, “how can I rely on this service”, “how do you know its the truth?”, “but we use Blackboard”, “what about my privacy and intellectual property?”, “why would I want the world to see me?” Amazing to think academic minds can be so unimaginative.

I see the positives
For a fella who reads an excruciating quantity of information coming online about education, and much of it filtered through the communiques of other people who passionately read through even more excruciating quantities of information – I’d say the chances of me catching the encouraging stories are farley high. When I see’m I post about them. So before you close this browser tab, or hit your IE back button (if you’re teacher still struggling to learn how to browse) – please go back through my blog and try and find numerous pointers to exciting developments in small pockets of the world. I do see exciting stuff at times, but rarely is it ever from within the walls of a school, college or university.

I am someone who works in or for an institution tasked with helping to develop educational practices to be more in line with current and future trends not to mention potential. I get employed to help maintain the institution’s relevance through change in practices (at least I think I do). And I do still believe that that this objective is important, despite my sound offs. I have they privilege of working first hand with a wide cross section of teachers from all types of subject areas. I have worked in this role at many different institutions for 5 years now.


Action not research

As much as I would love action research to be a means to which we might work to solve the serious shortfalls in teacher staff’s digital and network literacy, I tend to agree with Stephen Parker when he focuses more on the hierarchy, trying to get management bye-in and modelling desired communicative behavior… before those managers go and cut off the tails of the few long tail teachers that are already read write web savvey.

Last Friday I had the pleasure to meet Jacob and Dawn McNulty from orbitalRPM. OrbitalRPM offers consultancy services to business and corporations on how to improve their staff training, general communications strategies and leverage informal learning. Jacob has apparently been lurking in my blog for some time now. He and Dawn recently married and chose New Zealand for their honeymoon. Good choice I reckon. Jacob, being a typical Web2 obsessive dragged poor Dawn to Dunedin so we could meet. Needless to say, it was a pleasure, we talked Web2 to each other based on our respective lines of work.

I was excited by Jacob’s simple but perceptively effective idea of how to improve communication in an organisation and at the same time leverage informal learning via the networked learning model. He claims high millage for his thinking with client work he does, and I was certainly impressed enough to want to get him back here to talk to my own senior managers.

Like Stephen, Jacob reckons we must have managers and leaders modelling the desired behaviour, then offer incentives to subordinate staff to do the same. That is to communicate openly and frankly about their thinking, their job progress and their concerns. In other words to blog. There, now I (a subordinate) have no reason to say I have no idea what management are thinking, the minutes from their meetings will become more readable, hopefully to a point of interest and engagement that I might even WANT to read them, the public can see what we are up to and the newspaper can more easily gather their press releases.

Then the managers need to create incentives. Jacob and I talked a little about what this may look like and where it might come from – we thought the following was realistic:

  1. $200 per month bonus to every staff member who regularly maintains a blog for their work. In it should at least contain notes and reflections on training sessions and other learning, issues and concerns, ideas and solutions, links to resources etc.
  2. The money for this come from a fraction of the formal training budget. Call it small money for big informal learning.
  3. Coupled to this incentive are efforts to forge communicative networks between these blogs. Support agents who monitor the blogging and make introductions to emergent synergies.

The long and the short of this post is that action research will not achieve a speedy enough result, and while there is a disconnect between the workers and the bosses, change is made impotent. I think the modelled behaviour from leadership with incentives will set up the infrastructure and potential for an action research culture to develop.

I hope Jacob offers a more detailed idea to this post when he’s back from honeymooning with Dawn.

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For a while now I’ve been thinking to return to the good old days of screencasting – plain old screen grabs with text. Easy to follow along to (so long as the person creating the screencast is thorough) and very portable when printed. Video is quick and easy for the creator, and handy for people who just want to get the scope of something, but when detailed step by step stuff is required (say, for complete newbies) then I think the good old screen grab is needed.

A long time ago Vivian Evans pointed me to ScreenHunter Free for Windows. I never really got into it at the time, I think I was searching for a free video screen recorder, but in my born again screengrab thinking a went and fetched it this time and boy is it light and fast. It is a free and simple little application that will initiate when the key of your choice is pressed. It will either capture the screen, an active window or a region of your choosing, then automatically turn it into either a JPG, GIFF, or BMP image file and save it where you set it to save. It makes for rapid screengrabbing compared to having to paste into an image editor.

Here’s a demo:

Go to the website: http://www.wisdom-soft.com/products/screenhunter.htm and choose the Free option.

Find the little blue button for Downloading

Fill in your details (just an email address will do) and click the “join and download” button.

From the list of options find the option ScreenHunter 4.0 Free and click the link ending in .exe This will set your computer to download an .exe file which is generally a file for installing software. Sometimes virus software comes as exe, which is why your computer will probably ask you if you are sure you want to open the downloaded file and install the program. Just say yes and you will get a new window which is the start of the installation process.

Go through the easy steps to install ScreenHunter.

After the installation process is finished (and it is a very quick process so don’t blink) you will see a window with three tabs across the top. Tab one is displaying and it is called “From”. In this tab are option for you to set such as which key would you like to use when wanting to take a picture of your screen and what region of the screen would you like to picture.

The “To” tab has settings for what type of image file you would like the picture to be saved as. I have chosen JPG which is a very common file type for pictures – especially photos. The “To” tab also has the setting for which folder you would like to send your screengrabs to. I have mine set to go to the desktop.

Once you have set up ScreenHunter, press the key you designated as the photo button and click OK when the little window pops up to confirm.

There! quick as a flash you have a series of images taken from the computer screen.

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I just got off the phone with Peter Shanks, creator of the Training Packages Unpacked tool. It is a system that reaches into the MSAccess data base of the Australian National Training Information Service NTIS (a place that manages expressions of Australian competency standards or training units for qualification), and pulls it out of the PDFs and RTFS and redisplays the information that teachers and learners need on a web page for us web people to more easily reuse. Then he goes the full 9 yards and makes the newly formatted data available for those of us using wikis, Moodle, html, XML and an assessment spreadsheet. Now its just a simple process of finding the competency unit you are using for learning, teaching or assessment and copy pasting your prefered format into your prefered system.

Here’s me extracting out an overly verbose unit statement from the Training and Assessment package – Design and Develop Learning Resources. Now, it is still a big wad of text, but now it is in Wikiversity where I and many others can chop down and make it more realistic. Peter and I agree that this statement alone should be enough for people to structure their learning around. Students could work together building up this wikiversity entry with resources and the like.

Here’s the audio of Peter and I talking about all this today (3.5meg – 30 minutes – ogg file). I couldn’t get an MP3 through to Podomatic or Odeo, security settings here prevented my uploading it. But a through way to Wikimedia commons who rightly only accept open standard media formats like Ogg was A OK.

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Graham Stanely has published an excellent video that overviews educational uses and ideas of Web2.0 and Web3D. Quite useful if you are still introducing people to the concepts, or trying to motivate people to stay on it.

Many thanks Barbara Dieu for sending this through.


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At last! an alternative to this back breaking, arse flattening, nerdy looking laptop interface!

Nokia’s N770, Internet tablet.

It’s the versatile Wi-Fi web browser with possibilities to spare. The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet is built on a Linux-based open source platform, which means you’ve got the power to transform your device into virtually anything. Now your options are as wide open as your imagination.

Internet Calling

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet includes pre-installed Google Talk, Google’s free instant messaging service that lets you chat and make calls using Voice Over IP technology. The upgraded software platform also supports SIP-based VoIP solutions, perfect for broadband business use.

Instant Messaging

Whatever your instant messenger of choice, the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet will keep you connected to your buddy list when you’re on the go. With Gaim, a multi-platform instant messenger service, you’ve got instant access to friends and co-workers while you’re out and about.

The Gaim port for the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet supports the following clients:

  • AOL Instant Messenger
  • Yahoo! Messenger
  • MSN Messenger
  • Gadu-Gadu
  • ICQ (via OSCAR)
  • Internet Relay Chat
  • Jabber (XMPP)
  • Lotus Sametime
  • Novell GroupWise
  • OpenNAP
  • Zephyr
  • SILC
  • Google Talk, IM only (using the Jabber protocol)
  • QQ, 3rdparty plugin
RSS Reader

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet’s desktop comes equipped with an intuitive RSS reader, designed to render feed items with ease. The device supports scheduled retrieval and gives you a convenient way to check headlines at a glance. And by downloading the latest version of FBreader, you can turn your Nokia 770 Internet Tablet into a handy e-book reader — choose up to 18,000 free texts to peruse on the go.

Video

Enjoy your favorite video clips stored on your device, memory card, or streaming from the web. The large format, high-resolution screen and on-board speakers (with headset jack) deliver a movie-going experience on the go. There’s even a built-in USB 2.0 for easy uploading and downloading.

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet supports the following file formats:

Image: BMP, GIF, ICO, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, SVG-tiny
Video: 3GP, AVI, H.263, MPEG-1, MPEG-4, RV (Real Video)

Music

It’s the ultimate mobile music player. Listen to music tracks and other audio files stored on your device, memory card, or streaming via the web. The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet’s audio player supports many popular sound formats and enables you to create and manage all your playlists. Just plug your favorite set of headphones into the 3.5mm headset jack and you’re ready to rock. And if you’re looking for a bigger sound, you can hook up your device to your compatible home stereo system. You can also enjoy a wide variety of Internet radio channels streaming anytime, day or night.

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet supports the following file formats:

Audio: AAC, AMR, MP2, MP3, RA (Real Audio), WAV, WMA
Internet Radio Playlists: M3U, PLS

Keyboard

The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet offers a number of options for text input. On-screen, users can choose from a full-screen fingerboard, a half-screen stylus-tap keypad, or handwriting recognition. Bluetooth HID support also gives users the option of an external Bluetooth keyboard, purchased separately.

The full-screen fingerboard enables users to write longer text, like emails and documents, in a convenient and natural way. The QWERTY interface mimics that of a regular PC or laptop keyboard, making text input simple.

An edit menu gives you quick access to copy, cut, and paste functions, while the handy special character mode lets you enter in symbols and foreign language characters. An optional predictive text system makes typing fast and easy. Both keyboard functions also support typing in multiple languages at the same time, and a numeric keypad allows for the quick entry of numbers.

In handwriting recognition mode, the movement of the pen is recorded and compared to a library of characters. When a match is found, the character is input to the text field. The Nokia 770 Internet Tablet recognizes several different handwriting styles, but you can also train the device to recognize your personal style with a built-in training program.

So, what I wanna know is: can I plug in a monitor and hardrive for when I need to do a big type up? and does it take a microphone?

Please please please be so!


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I quick demo of the starting features of Picasa2
I quick demo of the starting features of Picasa2
A screencast on how to use Flickr to source Creative Commons pictures

Another free video encoder. It is amazing how many formats SuperC can encode to and from. A must have on your PC, ready for you-never-know-when.


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Stephan Ridgeway alerted me to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday that is definately worth looking at – Youtube is a class act – a refreshing look at the positive adaptation of undeniably popular communication into some Australian school curriculum. Certainly a more informative counter to an earlier SMH article that should shame not only the paper and its ‘journalist’, but a doctor, the NSW Department of Education and some schools.

Stephen Hutchinson, a technology and society journalist worth following up on has told of a Melbourne School students,

…dissecting the fare on the world’s most popular video-sharing website, they’re creating their own mini movies and uploading them onto the site.

In fact they are doing interesting market research by the sounds of it

His class is about halfway through an eight-week project in which students – with parental consent – compile and upload videos to YouTube.

Then they wait and watch to see which ones take off and which sink without a trace – as is the lot of most of the 65,000 videos that are uploaded to the site daily.

They examine how, for instance, one of their videos with the title Hot Chix rates compared with another one called Funniest Cats You’ll EVER See!!.

And its Funniest Cats’ that is in the lead!!

Make sure you follow the link to the blog entry that supports the article for some interesting questions to Stephen from the students (on youtube video of course) which Stephen answers by text of course 🙂

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